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Madison Metropolitan School District

Village Builders: School May Not be Home, But it Can Be Family

Village Builders: School May Not be Home, But it Can Be Family

The Sandburg Cougars are one of MMSD’s new Community School sites; it was added via the Village Builder Project in Fall 2022. In addition to a Community School Resource Coordinator and Family Liaison, Sandburg received two Village Builders. One of them, Kara McNeill, is in her second year in the role, and is also a parent of a Sandburg student. 

Staff and families have seen tremendous growth in students as they were grounded in school routines, learning goals, and self-expression, especially in the classrooms with Village Builders. Ms. McNeill has primarily supported kindergarten classrooms, both last year and this year. For many students, kindergarten is their first experience with school. The socialization needed for community building and setting the conditions for learning in a classroom is an invaluable benefit Village Builders like Ms. McNeill provide. 

With the help of Ms. McNeill and Jarielis Guzman, Sandburg Elementary’s other Village Builder, have made school into a “family” for many students experiencing housing or food insecurity by ensuring these students are receiving extra food in their backpacks before they go home and working with other staff to support the families.

Principal Lori Lopez excitedly highlights the growth of an early learner who struggled to adjust to school structures and routines, but with Ms. McNeill’s gentle and nurturing guidance, the student is now becoming more independent , engaging in every lesson with the class community, articulating needs, and making many other strides in their learning journey. 

At Sandburg, EVERY student belongs. Every family belongs. The village matters because kids matter.