Building School-Family Partnerships in a South Bronx Classroom

David Bensman


Many people helped me with this project, all of whom I would like to thank publicly.

My colleagues at the Department of Labor Studies and Employment Relations and the Department of Human Resource Management at Rutgers University encouraged me and provided information and thoughtful suggestions. I would like to acknowledge the help of Joseph Blasi, John Burton, D. Sue Cobble, Steve Director, Adrienne Eaton, Charles Heckscher, Jeff Keefe, Marlene Kim, Doug Kruse, Barbara Lee, Saul Rubinstein, Lisa Schur, Susan Schurman, Ryan Smith, Paula Voos, and Kirsten Wever. Nicole Braun, my research assistant, contributed greatly with her insights and sensitivity. The staff, including Ellie Babich, Betty Lou Heffernan, Estelle Kramer, Amalia Marchitto, Carolyn Montanez, and Gail O’Brien, assisted in countless ways. Suzette Hanser of NCREST did a great job keeping the paperwork flowing through the system.

Carmen and Joel Hillman made this study possible. Although I know they would not agree with all I have written, I hope this study contributes to the educational projects so important to them.

I would like to thank my program monitor at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Research and Improvement, Sandra Steed, and her colleague, Beth Fine, for their invaluable support.

Numerous friends and colleagues around the country challenged my ideas and stimulated new insights. For this, I thank Jane Andrias, Janet Carter, Fernanda da Carvalho, Gabriel Cwilich, Blanca and Tulio Ferisin, Linda Fitzgerald, Susan Goodman, Elaine Joseph, Matthew King, Sheila Lamb, Amalia Marchitto, Deborah Meier, Jack Metzgar, Magda Raczynska, Richard Rothstein, Alice Seletsky, Lee Schlesinger, Jon Snyder, Lois Weiner, and Nancy Wilson.

Many people in the Morrisania section of the Bronx gave me aid and comfort. I made valued friends and met people whose love for family and learning I especially admire. Most people I must leave anonymous, but I thank Jenny Nouvel for her generous assistance in helping me learn about a fascinating community.

My wife, Josephine Iraldo, provided crucial help and pointed criticism throughout the project. I have learned a great deal about the Bronx public schools and how they work, and sometimes don’t work, from ongoing discussions with her about her experiences as a school social worker. My younger son, Joseph, was a central actor in this research project. He visited Mrs. Lynns’ classroom, formed relationships with several students, lent his books to the classroom library, and kept me going when the project threatened to exhaust me. My older son, José, also contributed generously to the project; his experiences as a Bronx school teacher helped me put my observations in perspective. As always, my mother, Marilyn, and sisters, Rhea and Miriam, were a source of support, ideas, and encouragement.

The staff of the Elementary Teachers Network (ETN), especially Barbara Batton and Yvonne Smith, were great teachers for me. The CES 818 teachers who participated in the ETN workshop were kind and provocative colleagues.

The members of the NCREST research team collaborated with me on what turned out to be a wonderful adventure. I have grown to increasingly appreciate their very different strengths and resources. Without Kathe, Jianzhong, and Kemly, I would not have been able to get this project underway. With their help, I have learned more than I ever imagined I would.

David Bensman
June 23, 1999


I dedicate this study to the memory of Joel Hillman,
who gave his best to educate the children of the Bronx.