Latona School Associates (LSA) is the before-school and afterschool program based at the John Stanford International School (JSIS), an elementary school in Seattle, Washington. LSA seeks to create a learning environment with JSIS that respects and honors the whole child, fosters social skills, and provides experiential learning opportunities in a safe and nurturing environment. Latona School Associates’ overarching goal is to serve JSIS by providing high-quality child care and augmenting the school curriculum with international and multi-cultural projects that are delivered by multilingual staff.
For Maria Ling, Executive Director of LSA, this means consistently conveying to program staff and participants that "we are all part of the same universe--no person, culture, or country can exist in isolation in today’s world." She believes that gaining new knowledge of how the world works requires both staff and youth to get out of their comfort zone. Because this can be frightening, at LSA the focus is always on expanding your horizons to become a part of something bigger than yourself.
The John Stanford International School is a K-5 elementary school serving the local community, although it draws students from across the city. JSIS offers an immersion program in Spanish and Japanese, and therefore children who are native speakers of these two languages are given preference for admission. The school also has a Bilingual Orientation Center program, which is the first placement for 50-70 ESL students who come into city from variety of countries.
The Latona School Associates before and afterschool program serves 100-150 youth in any given year, of which a majority are white/Caucasian.
Program and Staffing Structure
Children attend LSA’s tuition-based program on a full-time or part-time basis five days per week and during school holidays and vacation. Students are grouped into “classrooms” afterschool with a 1:8 or less staff ratio. Each classroom has a staff lead who is responsible for writing curriculum standards, disseminating curriculum, and maintaining communication with parents, as well as additional staff who assist the classroom lead and share in teaching responsibilities.
Children have leadership roles as well, and student choice is a core tenet of the program. Each year, students elect a “mayor” from 4th or 5th grade based on the candidates’ campaign platforms. Mayors are elected on a monthly basis and attend a weekly meeting to participate in curriculum planning. Mayors are given veto power they can use during one day of every 2-3 weeks to either choose or pass on an activity based on the interests of the other students.
One of the key accomplishments of Latona School Associates is that they have consistently attracted staff that are highly qualified – most have BAs in education and many have teaching certificates. LSA staff members are attracted to working in an internationally focused program based at an international school that is both rigorous and progressive. Staff members are given a good deal of buy-in and power because of the close relationship to the school and the teaching responsibilities involved in expanding the school day to continuing the same education.
Staff are selected based on their global skills, including language skills and subject-matter expertise. For example, current staff bring backgrounds in public health and science, arts education, behavior and social skills development, and environmental studies. Staff are encouraged to draw on their knowledge and collaborate with each other to create curriculum.
In every planning session, LSA staff review the school curriculum maps to tease apart what happens in every grade and how to make create activities that complement school learning and are also engaging for kids. For example, if children are studying Australian eco-system in school, then the afterschool program may focus on aboriginal culture and the arts of Australia. Other curriculum activities include:
LSA staff collects samples of activities over the year and presents a gallery walk in June as a culminating activity and as a way to give back to community. The program displays samples of activities from the beginning to the end of the year. Each classroom makes a dish and parents bring pot luck dishes.
All of the staff in Latona School Associates before and afterschool program, as well as all staff in the John Stanford International School, come together over several days in August for training. Training includes topics such as cultural diversity and anti-bias, arts training, etc. LSA staff train JSIS staff on the 40 developmental assets from Search Institute. In addition, LSA staff is required to obtain 10-20 hours of continuing education each year.
As part of the Community Alignment Initiative, overseen by Seattle’s Office of Community Learning, Latona School Associates receives their school lease rent free as long as they abide by requirements and expectations of the alignment initiative. In order to achieve this, each year the Executive Director of LSA works with the principal of JSIS to write an alignment plan that addresses their engagement on multiple levels, from behavior expectations for children to translating standards of learning from the district into in-school and afterschool activities. Curriculum maps are created to help LSA augment the school curriculum by offering homework support, immersion practices, and activities that complement in-school curriculum.
Maria Ling, says, “Engagement with the school administration is key. Collaboration is essential because you both serve the same community of children, although you may have a different focus and regulatory mechanisms. The first step is to identify opportunities for collaboration, but expanding that relationship is always a priority.”