Diantha Swift

Flex Academies President Joshua Chernikoff interviewed Diantha Swift, principal at Sligo Creek Elementary School in Silver Spring, Maryland. Principal Swift talked about how the partnership with Flex over the last five years has had such a positive impact on the school.

Flex Academies: From the principal’s perspective, how does the partnership between Flex and your school’s PTA work?

Diantha Swift: We have been working with Flex Academies for the last five years. Prior to the partnership with Flex, our afterschool programs were run by volunteers in the PTA, which meant that it truly was a full-time job for a PTA volunteer. Over time it just got to be more than anybody wanted to take in. When volunteers are running these programs, you don’t have the accountability or maybe some of the structures in place that you do with a professional organization that is running your after school programs. Ours has been very successful. We have been very happy with it from the standpoint that there is an onsite supervisor that manages the program, that takes attendance, that is responsible for all of the things that we as a school don’t have to be responsible for.

It provides children with multiple opportunities to be engaged in afterschool programs that are recreational as well as educational. It’s made a real difference in the life of the school as far as the afterschool programs and what we are able to provide for children.

Flex: Talk about what do you see as a principal after school when you walk around your school and all these different activities from yoga to astronaut training to cooking are going on. How does that make you feel?

DS: As a principal, part of my role is developing the whole child in whatever capacity that may be. We support art, music and PE and have a strong program because I believe that is important in the development of children. So when I am in the building after school and I see karate going on in the hall or basketball going on in the gym or some of the other activities that are going on, I see happy kids that are learning and developing and growing to supplement what we are doing at school as part of important childhood development.

Flex: What are parents expecting from an afterschool program? What do they expect from you? What do they expect from the school?

DS: Parents expect me to know what’s going on. If there is a concern they come to me and want to know whatever that concern might be that we address, that we are in touch with the provider of the program and that we are working together to make it as strong as it can be. Parents want to know what the program is about. They want information, they want to know what is coming up. We also want to know who is here and who is not here. Is there a child that is supposed to be in the afterschool program and is not? What’s happened to him? That accountability piece is important, because you’ve got kids coming from school right into an afterschool program and we all want to know where the kids are that are supposed to be there. Are parents getting their money’s worth? Are they getting what they signed up for? Is the program living up to what they said they would give the children?

Flex: I think one of the reasons we have been such strong partners for so many years is we are perfectly aligned in what we want to deliver and what you expect from us. Let’s talk a little bit more about the safety aspect and then about Leslie [Stewart, onsite coordinator]. Leslie is one of the greatest onsite coordinators that we have and she is an important part of this as well.

DS: I’m in a former high school. I’ve got a big building — you’ve been here and know what it’s like. At dismissal I’ve got close to 700 kids that go on 19 buses to multiple places after school. Many of those children are staying with us for an afterschool program. Where do they go once we let them go and release them into an afterschool program? The onsite coordinator has our attendance roster. She has the list of kids that are supposed to be in whatever program is taking place after school. If we have a child here in school and they do not show up and sign in at the afterschool program then the first question is, where is this child? That tight accountability, that security piece is important, because we do have kids that may decide that today I am going to go home with Ted down the street, I’m not going to the afterschool program. We know it in a split second and parents trust us. They want to know that their kids are safe and the onsite coordinator is the person that makes that happen.

Flex: Leslie has been a part of our team for a long time, you have been a part of our Flex team for a long time and I think we’ve got many more years to go. Thank you for supporting Flex. Thank you for your time today.

DS: You are more than welcome. The pleasure is ours.

To watch this interview, please visit our Video On Demand site.

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