COMPASS Youth Collaborative serves as the lead agency for Community Schools at Asian Studies Academy, one of seven Hartford schools with this designation.
Community Schools provide opportunities for extended learning, plus meaningful partnerships and resources to meet the needs of students and families. The forthcoming district redesign proposes that every school function according to the model.
In our COMPASS Questionnaire, community school principal Anthony Davila explains why Community Schools makes a difference.
1. As the principal of Asian Studies Academy, what is your vision for the school?
My vision for the school is that we have a strong connection to the parents and community, that students feel safe and supported, and that we have a dynamic learning community. The bones of that are already here. We are fortunate to have strong examples of teaching and learning here, as well as a framework for parental engagement, so it’s really a matter of nurturing it.
2. Asian Studies Academy is a community school, and COMPASS serves as the lead agency in delivering afterschool programming and leveraging partnerships. How has the model impacted your work as a principal?
This is my first time working in a school with a formal community school model, and it’s an amazing resource. We’ve been able to pull in so much support through COMPASS. We have more mental health services, we have a daily after-school program, and the program partners meet a variety of other identified needs.
We’ve also brought in tutors during the school day through COMPASS. The teachers really appreciate it, and small group instruction in math and reading is much more effective. These are supports that are sorely needed. I’m really grateful to COMPASS for being such a great partner.
3. How does that influence the way you measure success?
Measuring academic achievement is certainly a piece of it. It matters, but no school should be judged solely on test scores alone. If you can walk into any classroom and see that students are really engaged in learning, that’s important. It also matters that parents feel welcomed and able to contribute. In short, I think community schools broaden the way we think about achievement.
4. If you could thank a former teacher, who would it be and why?
That’s easy! My old wrestling coach in high school, Bill Fiore. He embodies a lot of the qualities that I admire in teachers. He had standards and he held you to those standards, but he did it with a lot of love. To this day, I think about the example he set, and it informs my philosophy as an educator. My goal is to create a culture in which every single kid has a meaningful connection to a caring adult.
5. What’s the best advice you have ever received?
The first Superintendent I worked for in Springfield, Peter Negroni, used to always say that parents are sending the best kids they have. They’re not keeping the good ones at home. Every student matters.
6. What is the one thing that you hope your students take to heart?
I hope they know that I’ll have their best interests at heart. I might be tough, but it doesn’t mean I’ve stopped caring about them. Often, we forget that love is at the center of education. As a value, it gets put on the back burner, but really, we have to love these kids.
7. Growing up, what did you aspire to be?
Pretty much like every kid, a professional athlete! Short of that, I’d say I found my calling.
8. What’s the most challenging aspect of being a principal? What’s the most gratifying?
The most challenging part is staying proactive – there are so many things vying for attention throughout the day. You can’t always operate in reactive mode. Setting aside the time to work on longer-term initiatives can be difficult, but those things are essential for running a sustainable school.
The most gratifying part is just seeing the change. When kids say thank you after they graduate, when they remember you as being a positive influence in their life, that’s what makes it worth it.