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Tracey Roberts

Tracey Roberts, principal at Pulaski Elementary, recognized the need for her staff to improve relationships with students’ parents and the community of the school. Thus was “Pulaski on the Prowl” born, an initiative that sent staff out into the community even before the first day of school. Bringing donated book bags and supplies, teachers visited homes of incoming students, leaving school lanyards with bilingual messages when no one was home. Not only was the community excited to see the staff, but the story inspired individuals across the state.

“Pushing the envelope means challenging myself and others to do things that go above and beyond what’s always been done.”

Tracey Roberts
Principal, Pulaski Elementary School

In her own words…

Excellent public education is important because it levels the playing field for children. They have a better chance at survival and success when they have an excellent education.

I am a Delaware educator because fate and marriage brought me here. I moved from Baltimore, where I served as an elementary principal as well. When I arrived in Wilmington, I was assigned to an urban school in Delaware because that’s where my passion lies.  Wilmington children are very much like the children in Baltimore and like me. I grew up and was schooled in Newark, NJ and understand the issues of poverty, crime, and diverse communities. Therefore, my work at Pulaski is my destiny. I want to impact the lives of my students and staff in ways that were provided for me by caring educators and leaders who wanted me to be successful.

My most memorable moment as a student was when I didn’t get a full scholarship to college—even though I had been the Valedictorian of my elementary class and Salutatorian of my high school class!  My SAT scores were low and that determined that I was not eligible for a full scholarship to college. Instead, I received many private scholarships from businesses and fraternal organizations. Since I was determined to go to and complete college, I worked hard the first year at Morgan State University to PROVE that I deserved a full scholarship, and I was awarded one for the next three years. The experience taught me to work as hard as possible all the time.

I created Pulaski on the Prowl because I understand the importance of educators knowing and understanding where our children come from and what they have to go through in order to reach them and teach them in school.  Pulaski on the Prowl was intended to open the eyes of everyone involved. Educators needed to see the other side of their students’ lives. Students, parents, and community members needed to see that we were willing and interested in coming into the neighborhood to learn more about them and where and how they live. They needed to see that we want them to be a part of our school in order to enhance education for the children in the community.

This project is innovative and unique because we were “on foot” (walking–for the most part) and because everyone did it at the same time. I know other principals that plan for teachers to take the bus or walking tours around the communities to see where the children reside. Many teachers individually and voluntarily do home visits to get to know their pupils’ families. However, Pulaski on the Prowl is unique because this was a “mandatory” (unstated) activity for all staff members. We knocked on doors and distributed book bags with school supplies. We introduced ourselves to new students and families. We visited corner stores, restaurants, delis, barber shops, pharmacies, and car repair shops in hopes in forging partnerships and better relationships. We were intentionally visible with a purpose: to do public relations for Pulaski Elementary School.

The students know we care enough to learn more about them so they work harder. If we know more about our students, we can change our teaching and management styles to positively affect their learning and behavior. If parents and teachers meet/speak more frequently about academic expectations, the students see a connection between home and school that will help them to perform better. When businesses and community members partner with or volunteer in our school, children benefit by having mentors or increased funds/resources to enhance school programs.

The future of this project is to do it AGAIN! Teachers are already asking if we will be doing this again. The answer is YES!  We are also planning to “prowl” again during the school year to share news with parents about their children’s academic and social progress. We will attempt to partner with community centers like the Latin American Community Center, the Boys and Girls Club, and Girls, Inc. so that we can meet parents in their neighborhoods instead of having them come to the school all the time.  This will help to break down barriers and to increase the usage of these community centers by parents and children.

The most exciting thing others can learn about this project is that it was successful only because the staff was willing to participate. Although it wasn’t presented as an option, no one objected to being involved.  Even though some felt apprehensive in the beginning, they learned more about the neighborhoods, their pupils, their colleagues, and themselves.  They bonded with their grade level team members because they walked together to homes. The specialists (teachers of art, music, physical education, computer, and library media) were involved and made connections with some students who they teach. I think one thing that can be learned from this project is that if everyone works together and moves forward, progress can be made.

Pushing the envelope means challenging myself and others to do things that go above and beyond what’s always been done; to force myself and others out of our comfort zones in order to do what’s best for children.




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