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11/26/2018 6:13:00 PM
South Bend Community Schools officials go door-to-door to reach parents, pupils

Victoria St. Martin, South Bend Tribune

The Saturday morning sky was a hazy gray and a storybook sprinkling of snow fell intermittently. That morning, school officials said they wanted to do something different to spread the word about the district: a walking tour. They wanted to knock on the doors of families who live on the west side to tell them about school programs and listen to their concerns.

Their hope? To strengthen the lines of communication between home and school: instead of playing telephone tag, they wanted to meet face-to-face with members of the community they serve.

At the front of the line was Nathan Boyd, the system’s recently appointed director of African-American parent and student services. Boyd was hired to help improve the performance of students of color and address such issues as the disparity in disciplinary rates of black students and their counterparts. On this day, he was there with a simple message: “I’m trying to improve relationships, trying to connect bridges, trying to reestablish trust and I’m trying to chip away at poverty.

“I want to make sure that school is comfortable, that our families have support and individuals that understand some of the struggles,” Boyd said. “What Christmas might look like, what Thanksgiving might look like, what does Labor Day look like in your backyard or at your family reunion. It’s good that parents know that people connect with them. I am a former principal — and I believe whatever is good for my African American families is good for every single child that is in our district.”

In this digital age, Boyd and other school officials are taking an old-school approach to reach out to their constituents. Instead of social media, online newsletters or traditional mailings, on this day they’re trying to knock on as many doors as they can.

Superintendent Kenneth Spells said he wants parents and guardians of students to know “that the South Bend Community schools are committed to their kids.

“I want them to know that they’re a part of the family and we’re going to do everything possible to help the students,” he said.

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