Carrie Reeves is a coordinator with the West Virginia Department of Education who works with the community schools model. Carrie’s background is in public education where she has worked as a classroom teacher, graduation coach, and high school administrator.
West Virginia Department of Education
Problem: Community schools provide access to services for students, families, and community. Schools become centers of the community are open to everyone – all day, every day, evenings, and weekends.
Project Description: A community school is both a place and a set of partnerships between the school and other community resources. Its integrated focus on academics, health and social services, youth and community development, and community engagement leads to improved student learning, stronger families and communities.
How the project got started: The concept of schools being the center of the community can first be traced to the reform era of the early twentieth century in America. It has long been recognized that schools cannot meet children’s needs alone. The initial cost to get a community school up and running is the salary of a community school coordinator. Other expenses would be varied depending on what services are indicated as a need through the completion of a needs assessment survey completed by various stakeholders.
5 steps to start this project:
- Acquire knowledge of critical domains of a community school: tour current community schools, provide PD for staff around the community schools model, complete a school and community needs assessment
- Begin developing capacity through partnerships: this can be provided by a variety of organizations, agencies and/or individuals. Begin to explore funding and hiring of a community schools coordinator.
- Implement the community school strategy: principal and coordinator set goals and strategize, develop memorandums of agreement with each of the collaborative partners, principal and coordinator organize monthly community school advisory team meetings
- Fully integrate the strategy into the school through the engagement of students, families, and the community.
- Complete a review and assessment annually to determine the status of development and needed areas of enhancement.
What did you learn? Schools are increasingly charged with tending to the whole child. Schools have a unique opportunity to be able to offer wrap around services to their students and services to families and community members using this model and establishing partnerships with community organizations.
Did you have a “A-Ha or Light Bulb” Moment? Students’ attendance, behavior, and academic performance will often improve if we can offer them services that they need that extend beyond the traditional school model.
What was the biggest challenge and how did you overcome it? The biggest challenge to the implementation of this model is probably the financial component for startup costs and the organization of getting the program started. The financial component can sometimes be address through county funding or grant programs. The organizational piece can be overcome be hiring a coordinator for the program.
What resources, videos, websites did you use?
How have you engaged the following partners in your strategy?
…parents and grandparents? Once adapted, parents and grandparents appreciate the community schools model since it provides services to kids making it easier on the parents.
…students? Students are the largest beneficiary of this model. Students should be involved to the extent of suggesting needed services in the school.
…teachers and support staff? Once teachers and school staff have buy in of the community schools model they will see that they can benefit from services offered and ideally see improvement in their students’ behavior, course performance, and attendance.
…principal/administrators? Principals are key to the success of this model. The principal has to support the model and work closely with the coordinator to ensure proper services are being offered.
…business/labor/community partners? Local business and community members are also integral to the success of this model. Schools will rely on business and organizational partners to assist in offering wraparound services to the students, families, and community.