Today’s Site Coordinator Snapshot is by Communities In Schools of the Heart of Texas’ Executive Director Doug McDurham.
In July of 1992, Nola Tatum began her work as the new Communities In Schools site coordinator at Sul Ross Elementary in Waco, Texas. Walking into a complex system that required interacting with lots of different people was initially scary, she said, but she quickly learned the ropes and the importance of building relationships within the school. As the faculty and staff began to understand Ms. Tatum’s role and the unique contributions that she and Communities In Schools brought to their students, a sense of trust and collaboration was firmly established. Helping the children was extremely gratifying, and Ms. Tatum saw her new job as a lifelong dream.
Fast-forward two decades, and Ms.Tatum still believes that being a Communities In Schools site coordinator is her dream. Sul Ross Elementary is a neighborhood school and Ms. Tatum often hits the surrounding streets to track down parents. Whether helping parents locate needed resources, talking to them about their child’s progress or providing information about how to best support their kids, Ms. Tatum is often the connection between parents and the school. In the last few years, many of these parents have come to her, and she recognizes the faces of students she once served. She says that it is an amazing feeling to meet an adult who she knew as a child and to hear the stories of how she helped students become who they are today. She loves seeing the former students as actively engaged parents and watching the chains of generational poverty begin to break.
Communities In Schools of the Heart of Texas recently commemorated Nola Tatum’s 20th anniversary of service at Sul Ross Elementary. Three of the principals who have worked with her over the years showered her with symbolic gifts (super hero T-shirts, flashlights and more) and praise. Proclamations and letters from the Mayor of Waco, the Communities In Schools national and Texas state offices, and the Deputy Commissioner of Education (also a former Sul Ross principal who had worked with Ms. Tatum) rounded out the celebration and left everyone – not just Ms. Tatum – feeling respected and appreciated.
In response to massive education budget cuts in Texas, the Waco Independent School District board of trustees recently voted to merge Sul Ross Elementary with another school. Soon after the official vote, the principal of the “receiving” school contacted me to request that Ms. Tatum join her team. I quickly agreed, assuring her that this was our hope as well. Ms. Tatum simply sees this as the next step in her amazing journey and is ready to embrace the new challenges ahead.
From my office window, I can see the shuttered Sul Ross building and the tree-lined streets that surround it. The kids playing in that neighborhood will soon load up on busses to go to their new school. And I know that they will be all right, because Ms. Tatum will be there by their side.