[UPDATED] In Overtown, Hard Work Makes for an “A” Grade at Phillis Wheatley Elementary School

You've come a long way baby! Teachers from Phillis Wheatley celebrate a successful 2010-2011 school year in our private dining room last month.

UPDATE: We found out late this morning that Michael was to be invited to appear at this afternoon’s “Back-to-School”  Miami-Dade Public Schools board meeting with fellow chefs Michelle Bernstein (Crumb on Parchment, Michy’s, SRA. Martinez)  and Kris Wessel (Red Light Little River) to receive special recognition from Superintendent Alberto Carvalho as he announced new products including the Chef’s Partnership for the 2011-2012 school year.  We (literally!) dropped everything to be there and thank Mr. Carvalho for his passionate support of the program (and our restaurant, which stayed open late for him last night!) Here are the photos, and a quote:

“It has been such a growth experience for the Phillis Wheatley community to have Chef Michael Schwartz on board as part of the school family. He has been able to emphasize the importance of good food and nutrition as a part of student success, and the kids are totally absorbed in watching him perform magic with basic ingredients and the produce they grow in their garden. We are eternally grateful that Michael would share his time and talent to help move our school district forward.”

– Alberto Carvalho, Superintendent of Schools

On July 5, I was thrilled to receive an email from then assistant principal Yvonne Perry of Phillis Wheatley Elementary, the Overtown school Michael adopted last year as part of his commitment to the Chefs Move to Schools initiative of The White House. It went like this:

I’m sure that you have heard by now that Phillis Wheatley moved from an F to an A this school year. Thanks so much for being a part of our success. :)

Wow!  Michael and our entire staff were over the moon at this news.. And what an honor to be recognized as contributors to this once struggling school’s achievement. It was tremendously gratifying all around.

“I believe I was at school when the grades came out,” explained Ms. Perry via email.  “I was ecstatic! We knew we were probably an A because we had calculated the grade as soon as all of the scores were released, weeks before. It was good however, to see it officially in writing. It means that there is nothing the students in Overtown cannot do with the help of dedicated and committed teachers and staff.”

Ms. Perry and Principal Catalina Flor, whose vision first brought Michael to Phillis Wheatley, chose to celebrate with us; Faculty gathered at the restaurant on July 7 to  enjoy snacks, pizza from our wood burning oven, and, of course, champagne.

As Back-to-School time quickly approaches, we are inspired to work even harder in our role to excite students to more healthy eating habits, continuing to affect real change in the cafeteria through the leadership of Penny Parham and the Miami-Dade Public Schools Food and Nutrition Department. The first of those changes for the 2011-2012 school year will be announced at Miami Beach Senior High School on August 19, as more than 99,000 high school students in Miami-Dade County, the fourth largest school district in the United States, will experience healthy lunches delivered in a high tech fashion when school begins on Monday, August 22.

And congratulations to Ms. Perry, who is now Principal of Kelsey Pharr Elementary. We’ll miss you, but wish you lots of luck in your new role with your new students.  They are lucky to have you!

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