Parents are an active part of our community and culture. The Parents’ Association plays a key role in organizing the annual auction—the school’s largest fundraising event of the year. The Parents’ Association also runs the school’s book fair, and helps to facilitate Screen Free Week, when teachers, students and families work together to come up with fun ways to lessen our dependence on TV and other electronic devices and increase “family time.” Parents and grandparents are invited to join the classes on field trips or to come into the classroom as guest readers or project coordinators. The school hosts a variety of at-school and out-of-school events to bring the community together: Grandparents’ Day, Fall Family Fun Day, Winter Family Fun Day, VIP Day, Sibling Workshops, the annual Arts and Science Exhibits, Sports Day and various musical performances. Fundraising events for the wider community include the school’s Annual Benefit, and a gala co-hosted with Autism Speaks.
Student culture is enthusiastically supported at a school-wide level. All students have the same school-wide expectations of being ready, responsible and safe. Students are encouraged to accept each other’s differences and are explicitly taught that “everyone is working on something” at Gillen Brewer. Individual classes organize fundraising drives for charity and engage all students in these efforts. The staff encourages students to become more engaged with their peers during community lunches and during the end of the day activities that cross classroom boundaries.The school uses the term “community of learners” to define and reflect the culture of the school. In every aspect of the program, from staff development to parent training, the Gillen Brewer community is in a state of reflection and learning, putting what we have learned into practice. Through reflection and action, the school is able to individualize the program to meet the needs of each child and family.