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The “Chat and Chew” Book Club: Help Hope-Hill Launch It!

Paula Morris, Media Specialist at Hope-Hill Elementary, is asking for our help in launching the “Chat and Chew” Book Club. Donations in any amount are needed to purchase fiction books for club members.


According to Ms. Morris, “Our students love to read.” However, low family income make it virtually impossible for many Hope-Hill kids to have books of their own at home. While it’s the norm for most kids from middle and higher income families to have books and other reading materials at home, this is not the case for many Hope-Hill kids.

When students become Chat and Chew Book Club Members, they receive an age and grade level appropriate book of their very own! Club membership is approved by each child’s teacher and their parent(s).

Click on the website below to:

  • learn more about the “Chat and Chew” Book Club Project,
  • see the titles and the costs of the books to be purchased, and,
  • make your donation in any amount.

Special Note: Donations received by Saturday, December 14th are matched dollar-for-dollar by Disney. Don’t delay! Make your donation today!

Reading is fundamental to achieving career success and in becoming a life-long learner. By helping with the launch of the “Chat and Chew” Book Club, you are creating an opportunity for Hope-Hill kids to have a meaningful, satisfying life.  Thank you for considering this request.  

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December 13, 2013 · 1:41 pm

Here’s where our food sharing project stands as of Monday, Nov. 11:

Food Insecurity – #4 in a series (Read all the posts about food insecurity. Click “like” at the bottom, and you will get them automatically.  )


“Love thy Neighbor – especially when s/he is hungry”


“Will there be enough food for dinner tonight?” 


Imagine you are a mom, and you don’t know if you will have enough food for yourc hildren’s  next meal. This is food insecurity. 

Among the children at Hope-Hill Elementary, FOOD INSECURITY is a living, breathing factor of daily life. 



 Here’s where our food sharing project

stands as of Monday, Nov. 11: 

 Shoppers: We have about 60 families covered so far.  We’re going for 130….  70 more to go.  (Remember, while you are shopping for one family, you could shop for several!)  

Cash Donations:  As of today, we have about $1100 in cash donations.  We need about  $1800.  (Remember you can donate any amount, not just $20!)

Packers:  We have enough packers.  But here’s what we can promise you. If you bring your food bags on Sunday, Nov. 24, your children will be able to put the food they brought into a food box and see it head for the delivery truck. 


 Here’s how to participate. Let us hear from you by Thursday, please.  

 Opportunity 1: Be a Thanksgiving elf!

 You and your family can sign up to shop for Thanksgiving items for one Bedford Pine family. You’ll get a grocery list of items to purchase for no more than $20While you are shopping, sign up to shop for several families!  You can drop off your food on Sunday, November 24, or alternatively, Sunday, Nov. 17 or Wed., Nov. 20

Register here to shop for groceries.

 Opportunity 2: Make Thanksgiving dinner a feast! 

If you want to help, but cannot shop, you can make a cash donation. We need to raise some cash to purchase the hams or chickens for all those boxes!  It’s FINE to donate more than $20!!!   

Register here to donate money.

If you want to help UUCA explore how to DO MORE about Food Insecurity, we want to know you!!!  

Drop a note to: 


On Sunday, November 24, UUCA members will pack and deliver 130 boxes of Thanksgiving and other food to families living in Bedford Pine,

a low-income community that is home  to a large number of children

who go to Hope-Hill.

 This project is being coordinated by UUCA/s Promise the Children Advocacy and Action Group

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Who is hungry in Bedford Pine?


Food Insecure – unable to afford enough food for a healthy life.

In this month of Thanksgiving, UUCA is undertakinga BIG food sharing program ( think of 130 food boxes – a pile 10 ft. long x 4 ft. wide x 5ft high… BIG!!)  This is a project for all and we want you to help!  Details at

The food we collectwill go to families in the Bedford Pine neighborhood in the Old Fourth Ward.  Very many of the Hope-Hill Elementary students UUCA members tutor live in this very poor neighborhood. 

But, you may ask, WHO is hungry in Bedford Pine? 

 We talked to friends at Operation PEACE who live and work in the area and who know the families well…

“Bedford Pine isa federally subsidized housing project with 689 units and 1368 occupants.  Bedford Pine covers 17 city blocks starting at Boulevard & Wabash Ave to Ponce De Leon Ave.  From Parkway Dr & Wabash Ave to Ponce De Leon.

“EVERYONE who lives here is poor99% of the Bedford Pine families  have income below $10,000.00 yearly,  the Federal category of extreme poverty. 

“Here is what a  typical family faces in Bedford Pine Apartments:

“Megan Berry, who has been looking for employment since June of 2012, is a typical family in Bedford Pine. She has three children and receives $330.00 monthly in AFDC benefits.  For her four-member family Megan also receives $668.00 in SNAP benefits (food stamps). Since she is actively looking for employment, $120.00 out of the $330.00 in AFDC benefits goes back to the government towards child care expenses. (AFDC – Aid to Families with Dependent Children)

“Because SNAP benefits were cut this month (Nov), the Berry family will get $36.00 less.  That means four fewer meals for her and her three children, which of course, will result in little or no healthy food. 

“Megan is typical.  The majority of our residents receive food stamps. They are all  people struggling to put healthy food on their tables,“ explained Edna Moffitt, director of Operation PEACE.


Food Insecurity.  Defined as:The limited or uncertain availability of enough food, and nutritionally adequate foods for an active, healthy life.  or “People who aren’t sure whether they’ll have food for dinner tonight.”

Being Food Insecure.  It haunts about 20%  of our neighbors in Atlanta. It haunts MOST of the people who live in  Bedford Pine.  It is a way of life for very many of the children who attend Hope-Hill school.

In the coming days, our PTC Food Insecurity posts will consider: Hunger 101- Why people in Bedford Pine are hungry. The Hows and Whys of SNAP.  A Challenge to live a week on SNAP.  Sources of food for food insecure people. What will we do to change it.

Please follow along, and please, let the subject of food insecurity be a topic of conversation with family and friends and colleagues around you!

Here is a link to a 5 minute PBS story that reveals the struggle to eat and live on minimum wage.  It is excellent.


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Hope-Hill Elementary School (HHES) 2013 Volunteer Opportunities

The staff of Hope-Hill Elementary is eager to enlist UUCA members and other community partners as volunteers at the school.  Principal Maureen Wheeler told us, “We’ll use as many volunteers as you can give us.”woman and young boy

To help you decide when and how you’d like to help, please click  on 2013 HHES Volunteer Opportunities to review available volunteer opportunities.  After deciding what you’d like to do, follow the steps below.

Atlanta Public Schools (APS) now require volunteers to renew their background check each new academic year.  If you have not already done so, you can obtain the required background check form at the  website below.  (The form is available at the Hope-Hill table in the Social Hall on Sundays.)  In a single visit to the school, you can turn in your completed form and obtain a volunteer assignment that matches your preferences!

Here’s what to do:

  1. Go to  Click on Volunteer Release Form.  Print and complete the form as a Level 2 Volunteer.
  2. Take your completed form, plus your driver’s license or other photo ID to Hope-Hill ES (112 Boulevard NE, Atlanta 30312).  Give the form to Nicole Jones at the front desk.  She will make a copy of your driver’s license or other picture ID and submit the form to APS.  It takes about a week for the form to be processed.
  3. While at the school, ask to meet with one of the two Instructional Coaches:  Kelly Day (grades K-2) or Michelle Crawford (grades 3-5).  They will help you find the grade level, subject area, time slot, and day(s) of week to match your preferences.   If Michelle or Kelly are not available, you can call to make a later appointment by calling 404-802-7450 or e-mail: or

As soon as your background check is cleared by APS headquarters, you will be notified, and you can go to work helping kids learn.

You might want to jot on a slip of paper your contact info along with your volunteer preferences, such as grade level/age, subject, times, etc.

Please be sure to let Howard Rees, UUCA/Hope-Hill Volunteer Coordinator  know what your assignment is, and if  he can be of  help to you.  Here is Howard’s contact information:  Phone: 404-874-0500; E-mail:

Thank you for your commitment of time and for caring about the precious children of Hope-Hill.

Jocelyn Medium Pic

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TrueBlueSchools: Earn $’s for Hope Hill School!

Here is an easy way for all UUCA members/friends to help Hope-Hill Elementary earn much needed funds.


If you are a Georgia Natural Gas (GNG) customer, GNG will donate $5 per month for each new and existing customer who goes on-line ( and selects Hope Hill as their school of choice. Customers who switch to GNG from another provider can receive a savings on their monthly gas bill!**  Call 1-866-ONLYGNG to sign up by phone.

If you are are not a natural gas consumer, you can help by telling family members, friends, and those with whom you do business, i.e. dry cleaner, favorite restaurant/shop, etc., about the TrueBlue Schools Program. You can encourage everyone you know who is a natural gas consumer to sign-up and select Hope Hill Elementary.

We have an amazing potential for helping the school earn big bucks. If we generate 200 sign-ups, Hope Hill could receive $1,000 per month or $12,000 per year! How good would that be! Imagine the difference we can make:

  • Teachers able to obtain specialized learning materials for kids with unique learning needs.
  • Mind-expanding field trips.
  • Special, school-wide academic enrichment programs.

In wealthier schools, parents typically pay for or donate money to cover costs for special programs, events, and resources. Hope Hill is resource poor in comparison to other elementary schools in its cluster. Through our participation in and promotion of TrueBlue Schools, UUCA can make a substantial contribution toward helping the school earn the money it needs to better educate our Hope Hill kids.

Here are the steps to sign-up:

  •  Log onto
  •  Click on Program Details ► How It Works ► Enroll Now. Follow the instructions. You will need your natural gas service account number.
  •  Do not put a hyphen (-) in Hope Hill when you enter the school’s name. Click on Hope Hill Elementary School when it pops-up.
  •  There is an FAQ with complete details about the program on the site.

Join the call of Priscilla Borders, President, Hope Hill PTA for all of the school’s community partners to participate in and promote the TrueBlue Schools Program. To date, the school has earned $555 from the participation of PTA members, school staff, and community partners like UUCA.

Follow the lead of Joy Borra, UUCA member and leader of UUCA’s Promise the Children ministry. When asked why she signed up, Joy said, “With one SHORT online session, I got Georgia Natural Gas to donate $60 a year ($5 a month) of THEIR money, not mine (!) to my favorite school – Hope Hill Elementary! Seemed like a “no-brainer”! If GNG only donated $5 one time, it would not be worth my effort. But they donate $5 every month! $60 a year…$300 in five years…. And I don’t have to do anything more to keep those contributions going. AMAZING!”


Thanks in advance for helping UUCA make a difference in the lives of the kids at Hope Hill.

** From the FAQ on the website: “The monthly donation of $5/month is NOT added to your gas bill. In fact, it doesn’t cost you anything to sign up for the TrueBlue Schools program. GNG’s rates will not be raised to pay for this program or donations.”

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The 2013 CRCT (Criterion Referenced Competency Test) Results at Hope-Hill

Multiple controversies surround the role and significance of standardized teststress1testing in the public schools. Glib and unhelpful pronouncements abound. We cannot solve the controversies, and will try to avoid the glib pronouncements.  Several points stand out.

Some Good News

While Hope-Hill has yet to match the schools in Lake Wobegon, where all the children are above average, we are happy to report that a significant minority “exceeded expectations” for their grade levels. Among Hope-Hill fifth graders who took the CRCT in the spring of 2013, about 18 percent “exceeded the standard” in reading.[1]  These are “students [who were] consistently able to determine central ideas or themes of a text, analyze their development, and summarize the key supporting details and ideas.  They [exhibited] an in-depth understanding of how to infer and analyze various literary elements and techniques.  They [were] able to make judgments and inferences and substantiate them with evidence from the text. …”[2]

In math, 21 percent of Hope-Hill’s fifth graders “exceeded expectations” because they demonstrated “broad and in-depth evidence of conceptual and abstract knowledge of the four content domains. They [had] an advanced understanding of the place value system. They [were] proficient in performing operations with multi-digit whole numbers and with decimals to thousandths. They [used] equivalent fractions as a strategy to add and subtract fractions. …”

The Good News Qualified and Put in Context

It’s great that a fifth of Hope-Hill’s fifth graders are very proficient in reading and math, but remember this. UUCA supporters joined with many others in Hope-Hill’s neighborhood to push, successfully, for inclusion of Hope-Hill in the “Grady Cluster” of schools feeding into Inman Middle School and Grady High School.

That means that, a short time ago, when last year’s fifth graders started sixth grade with students from other schools, they were sitting next to  graduates of other elementary schools where between 42 and 76 percent of students—not 18 percent—“exceeded standards” in reading. And where between 37 and 80 percent—not just 21 percent—“exceeded standards” in math.

And What About the “Average” Kids?

They’re often overlooked, but let’s not make that mistake. In math, 51 percent of Hope-Hill’s fifth graders fell into the middle range of kids that “met the standard.” Combined with the 21 percent who were significantly better than average, we get a total of 72 percent who didn’t fail. (See, we tutors can do math, too.)

The reading picture is much the same: 57 percent “met the standard,” and 18 percent “exceeded the standard,” which meant that a total of 75 percent passed.

It doesn’t sound too bad, when you look at it like that; certainly, it could be worse. But the results from the other four schools in the Grady Cluster are much more skewed toward the upper “exceeds standards” band. For example, at Mary Lin, where 95 percent of the fifth graders passed reading, two thirds  of those who passed were in the “exceeds” category and only one third in the “meets standards” band.

And there’s another piece of bad news for the “average” kids at Hope-Hill. In science, 54 percent of the fifth graders failed, compared with 11, 8, 2, and 7 percent, respectively for the other four public elementary schools in the Grady Cluster. The results in social studies were very much the same.

Perhaps, if a Hope-Hill graduate enters sixth grade knowing how to read and do math, she’ll be able over the coming years to make up what she doesn’t know about science and American history. But still …

Kids with Big Challenges

Our experience and our observations tell us that a minority, but a significant minority, of Hope-Hill students enter kindergarten lacking a good “number sense”—and have a vocabulary that’s much smaller than a lot of kids have at that age. It’s a major lift for the teachers to close the gap during the elementary school years. In fact, it’s a major lift to keep the gap between challenged kids and the privileged kids from growing a lot wider.

Look at last year’s results for fifth graders at the five public elementary schools in the Grady Cluster:

% Failing Reading

% Failing Math

Centennial Place






Mary Lin






Springdale Park



Our Challenge

Our congregation has been at Hope-Hill for two decades. We know the children, and we know that they are just as capable of learning as the kids at the other schools.  We also know that a good many of them face circumstances that make learning hard. Our challenge is to support the principal, faculty, and staff of Hope-Hill in overcoming these obstacles to learning.

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Maria Had a Dream—A Story for the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

The UUCA tutor met Maria, a first grader, in October. She appeared to have mlk2no English at all.

The powers that be gave the tutor a set of exercises and “games” to use with Maria. They all involved sounding out three-letter words comprised of a consonant, a short vowel, and another consonant, like “cap” or “mat.”

Maria proved to be a biddable child, and she seemed actually to enjoy the task, or at least not to mind it. As October turned into November, and November into December, Maria and the tutor kept on task. She became increasingly proficient at correctly sounding out “bat,” “cat,” “sat,” and “rat.” But when asked if she knew what a word meant, Maria would mutely shake her head.

The tutor had limited Spanish, and so was able to tell her, for example, that “cat” meant un gato. Maria seemed appreciative to learn this information, and would promptly move on to sounding out the next word.

Maria’s patience exceeded the tutor’s, but they both soldiered on. By the Christmas break, the tutor was being heard to mutter in the social hall that “We might as well be teaching her to sound out words in Old Church Slavonic.”

That’s when the Unitarian miracle occurred.

By the time tutoring recommenced after the holiday break, Maria had made a breakthrough. During the first tutoring session in January, she began demanding, in simple English, to know the meaning of every word. In some cases the tutor could mime the meaning. When Maria asked about “dig,” the tutor acted out digging a hole with a shovel, producing much merriment.

Sometimes it was harder to convey meanings. When Maria wanted to know what “tin” was, the tutor responded that tin is a metal. “What is metal?” Maria sensibly inquired. There ensued an exploration of the classroom, to find objects made of metal.

DictionaryAs the tutor left for the day, a light bulb appeared over his head. Remembering that there are such things as picture dictionaries, that “define” words for little children by showing them pictures, the tutor detoured by Barns & Noble and secured The Cat in the Hat Beginner Book Dictionary, in English and Spanish. (It works this way. To define “afraid,” there is a drawing of a little girl in fear of a mouse, followed by a short sentence, “Alice is afraid,” which is then translated into Spanish: “Alicia tiene miedo.”)

The following week, when Maria received her book at the close of the tutoring session, and grasped what it was, she was flabbergasted. After pausing to digest her good fortune, Maria looked up at the tutor and said, in a serious and determined voice, “I’m going to learn every word in this book.”

The tutor wasn’t surprised by her determination, but he did marvel at her ability to articulate that English sentence.

Kids don’t always remember to thank people for their gifts, but you may be sure that in their next session Maria, without prompting, thanked the tutor profusely for her book. The only problem, she allowed, was that she had gotten in trouble for staying up to late to peruse her new dictionary.

As winter turned to spring, the tutor and Maria were able to converse about a wide range of topics. In their last session, as the school year was about to end, Maria took the tutor’s hand and asked him to walk with her back to her class. Outside the classroom the teacher had pinned a poster of President Obama, with Martin Luther King looking over the President’s shoulder.

Maria let go the tutor’s hand and pointed to Dr. King. “That’s Martin Luther King,” she said. “He had a dream.”

“And that,” she added, pointing to the President, “is Barack Obama. He had a dream, too.”

“Yes,” thought the tutor. “And I’ll bet I know a little girl who also has a dream.”


When we tell our stories, the children are real and the stories are true, but the names are changed.

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