Building Strategic Partnerships to Foster Community Engagement in Education


>>LINDSAY TORRICO: Thank you all for joining
us for the fifth installment in the webinar series Achieving Excellence in Innovation
in Family, School, and Community Engagement. My name is Lindsay Torrico and I am the moderator
for this webinar. For those of you who are joining us for the first time, this webinar
series features different approaches to promoting systemic family, school, and community engagement
in support of student learning. This webinar series is brought to you by a partnership
that includes the US Department of Education, the United Way Worldwide, the National PTA,
SEDL, and the Harvard Family Research Project. Today’s webinar topic explores how better
strategic community partnerships could help foster community engagement and education.
Community based organizations play an important role in helping to connect schools to the
families and their communities and enhancing the learning opportunities students have by
providing enrichment opportunities that are aligned with what students learn in school.
Community partners also serve as a valuable bridge between schools and families and can
help schools reach families who may not feel comfortable interacting with the formal school
structure. As President Obama noted in the blue print for reform: Communities and families
have vitally important roles to play in supporting their children’s education. Effective education
reform must support families, schools, and communities efforts to work in partnership
to help promote student achievement. As policy makers become more aware of the importance
of family and community engagement, we can help them understand how to incorporate these
elements into education reform initiatives by highlighting examples of successful community
partnerships that can serve as useful models. Recently, we’ve seen recent research emerge
from the research field in support of the family and community engagement as a core
component of Webinar – Building Strategic Partnerships to Foster Community Engagement
in Education This webinar series is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education’s
Parental Information and Resource Center program. The content of this webinar series does not
necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Education. Page 2 effective
school reform. Tony Bryk and his colleagues from the Consortium on Chicago School Research
found that parents, school, and community ties represent one of five essential ingredients
for effective school reform. This study, based on rigorous methodology, found that family
and community engagement must be present in order for other essential ingredients to work.
These elements are interconnected and the effectiveness of each one depends on the presence
and strength of the others. These families provide a strong argument for making family
and community engagement a cornerstone of education reform efforts rather than an add-on
or something that’s done if time or funding allows. As the studies showed, without this
essential element the other ingredients of school reform simply do not work effectively.
Today’s presenters will discuss the work they’ve done to build effective community
partnerships that help connect families and schools to enhance student achievement. We
know that families need to be engaged in order for students to experience academic success.
The presenters for the webinar include: Reverend Brenda Girton-Mitchell, Director of the Center
for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the US Department of Education. Jane Quinn,
Director of the National Center for Community Schools at the Children’s Aid Society. Irasema
Salcido, Founder of the Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy and a Promise
Neighborhood Grantee. Helen Westmoreland, Director of Program Quality of the Flamboyant
Foundation. Michelle Mittler Crombie, Vice President of Community Development at the
United Way of Lake County in Illinois. It is now my distinct pleasure to introduce our
first presenter, Reverend Brenda Girton-Mitchell. Reverend Girton-Mitchell is the Director for
the Department Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships whose mission is
to promote student achievement by connecting schools and community based organizations,
both secular and faithbased. Reverend Girton-Mitchell brings more than 30 years of experience to
the department. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from All State University,
a master of Elementary Education in Indiana University Purdue, a Juries Doctor degree
with Honors from the Chicago Kent College of Law, and a Master of Divinity degree from
Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington DC. Prior to joining the department, her experience
includes being an elementary Webinar – Building Strategic Partnerships to Foster Community
Engagement in Education This webinar series is funded in part by the U.S. Department of
Education’s Parental Information and Resource Center program. The content of this webinar
series does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Education. Page
3 teacher, legislative assistant to former Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana, and Director
of the Washington Office for the National Council of Churches of Christ in the US. Reverend
Girton-Mitchell will share some opening remarks about how community partnerships help to address
the needs of schools. Please note that we will be taking questions at the end of each
segment of the presentation, so be sure to submit your questions through the Q&A chat
room. This webinar will be recorded and an archived link will be made available. So without
further ado, Reverend Girton-Mitchell.>>REV. GIRTON-MITCHELL: Good afternoon, everyone.
It is my pleasure to join on this webinar call this afternoon to share with you some
of the work of the Department of Education Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
The president established through executive order just about two years ago, on February
5, 2009, these White House offices and the Center offices. There are eleven agencies
in addition to the Department of Education that have an office of Faith-based and Neighborhood
Partnerships. Our responsibility is to build bridges between the Federal government non-profit
organizations, both secular and faith-based, to serve Americans in various points of need
and education is one of those areas where we know if we can improve the quality of education,
we can improve our entire society. We’re focused on bringing together partners in local
school districts. We have many organizations that are already doing good work in schools,
with schools. So to find ways to increase that capacity for people to work together
for our children is one of our main goals as we rally the community so that everyone
is ready to champion the education issue. This past year we’ve been visiting communities
to stand with them to celebrate what they do and encourage them to do even more to make
sure that we’re strengthening the capacity of our schools. We know that there’s a tremendous
achievement gap in many of our communities and yet we know if we pull together identifying
the issues, we can encourage cradle to grave education and get everybody to realize that
we’re to be lifelong learners. We have many faith leaders and community organizations
that have come to the center to say we’re doing good work. So if we can lift up that
work and we can show some models that are already in place, we think we can have Webinar
– Building Strategic Partnerships to Foster Community Engagement in Education This webinar
series is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education’s Parental Information and Resource
Center program. The content of this webinar series does not necessarily reflect the views
of the U.S. Department of Education. Page 4 many more communities that have hands on
commitment to improving our schools. It is a fact that many people will come to a faith-based
organization, a church, or a mosque, or center to say they want help with mentoring. They
need to be tutored before they would even go necessarily back to their own teacher sometimes.
So we’re trying to help these organizations know that there is a role for everyone to
play. Families will often go to a faith leader to say that the family has needs because they
see that as a source for encouragement and moral support and emotional support as they
go through the challenges that just come naturally with life. Over the next several months in
fact, we’re going back out into the community after having had listening sessions for the
past couple of years. We’re going back to a select number of communities to look at
best practices, to share data, to help people see what the most effective ways are, and
to show the government as a partner even though we may not be providing direct financial support,
we can help people attract attention to their work and very often that will put the right
partners together to help us achieve for our young people at every level. One of the major
objectives of the department this year is to work with the reauthorization of the elementary
and secondary act, which has previously been know as the No Child Left Behind Legislation
which was designed to help reform our schools. We believe that has to be a Grass Roots initiative
and people have to believe that they’re being heard and the remedies that are put
in place have to be flexible enough to meet the needs of every child and every community.
So it’s my desire as director of this center to help make educational success kind of a
household mantra. Everybody’s going to be talking about, “What does it mean to be
the best student that I can be?” and we want to help both churches and community groups
be partners in that work. The president said in the State of the Union that the responsibility
for education doesn’t just begin in the classroom. It begins in our homes and our
communities, so we’ll be lifting up that message as we join in the race to win the
future for our kids through education. There are some wonderful examples that – I’ll
just lift up a few. Many of you may have already heard about the Harlem’s Children Zone.
Now in Orlando there’s a similar program going on that’s built after that model.
We’re talking about being able to measure the dropping crime because young Webinar – Building
Strategic Partnerships to Foster Community Engagement in Education This webinar series
is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education’s Parental Information and Resource
Center program. The content of this webinar series does not necessarily reflect the views
of the U.S. Department of Education. Page 5 people have more attention being paid to
their educational need and multiple community centers are being built in the community so
that the children have constructive things to occupy their time. in Fredericksburg, Virginia
there’s a faith-based and education council that came together to create a model for organizations
to assess the needs of the community because there’s not a one size fits all solution
to this and one of the things that has been the most beneficial is having family engagement
events. Family engagement doesn’t mean the same thing now that it meant 30 years ago.
Some parents may never get to go into the school during the day, but that doesn’t
mean they can’t be engaged in the activities that their children undertake around education,
so expanding our mindset of what it means to be engaged and giving people tools will
be one of the measures of success of the work that we’re trying to do. So I’m looking
forward on the call today to hear remarks from others and just most of all, I want you
to know that the Department of Education is serious about the work of engaging communities
to work with families and schools, to lift up our children and to inspire them, and to
be the best that they can be and what we do from cradle to career will make a significant
difference in improving the quality of life for everybody in our nation.>>LINDSAY TORRICO: Okay. Thank you, Brenda.
We’re now going to turn over to the question portion of this webinar. We have several questions.
Our first question is how does the Department of Education Center for Faithbased and Neighborhood
Partnerships work with the other Federal centers for faith-based and community initiatives?>>REV. GIRTON-MITCHELL: Wonderful question.
First of all, we have a daily telephone call with the staff of all to the departments to
find out what our major initiatives are and where there’s overlap in our work. For example,
when we look at HHS, Health and Human Services, they have the move on program. When we are
talking with schools in community groups, we also lift up the work of the other departments.
I was at the Department of Justice yesterday. We were talking about anti-bullying. How do
we help churches and communities organizations spread the message? The things that have to
be done to help people know that bullying is not accepted and tools to get people involved
in more Webinar – Building Strategic Partnerships to Foster Community Engagement in Education
This webinar series is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education’s Parental Information
and Resource Center program. The content of this webinar series does not necessarily reflect
the views of the U.S. Department of Education. Page 6 effective ways. So we talk to each
other on a regular basis and we actually do program planning together.>>LINDSAY TORRICO: Okay. Thank you. Our next
question is: How does the Department of Education plan to use the information gathered at these
site visits in 30 cities?>>REV. GIRTON-MITCHELL: Well, we’re already
using that information and shaping the pilots that we’re setting up. So for example, if
we’re in a community where we heard that we have people who want to volunteer, but
they haven’t been trained. They don’t know how to get into the school system, so
then you build a partnership with the principals, the local community leaders, and they work
together to shape the way to prepare people to work in the buildings. So whether they’re
working at the administrative side or they’re working hands-on with children, we work that
out on a school-by-school basis with the school district and the groups that have come together
in that community, so there’s not a template that we’ve put together. We’re actually
doing needs assessment with each community.>>LINDSAY TORRICO: Thanks, Brenda. We’ve
received quite a number of questions asking what a CBO is. Can you talk about that and
maybe give some…?>>REV. GIRTON-MITCHELL: Yes. It’s a community
based organization and that can be boys’ or girls’ clubs, that could be a YWCA, any
organization that’s developed in a community to help meet needs of that community, so it’s
a very broad term and we at Community and Faith-based, so that you know we’re talking
about faith-based as well as secular organizations in the community.>>LINDSAY TORRICO: Great. Thank you so much
and thanks again, Brenda. It was great to hear about how the White House offers the
Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships is engaging communities into development of
education reform plans and other initiatives. I would now like to introduce Jane Quinn.
Jane Quinn is a social worker and [youth] for four decades of experience that include
direct service with children and families, program development, fund raising, grant making,
Webinar – Building Strategic Partnerships to Foster Community Engagement in Education
This webinar series is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education’s Parental Information
and Resource Center program. The content of this webinar series does not necessarily reflect
the views of the U.S. Department of Education. Page 7 research and advocacy. She currently
serves as the Vice President for Community Schools at the Children’s Aid Society in
New York City where she directs the National Center for Community Schools and contributes
strategic planning and sustainability expertise to the Children’s Aid Societies, 22 local
[communities]. Prior to that, she served as program director at the Wallace-Reader’s
Digest Funds and directed a national study of community-based organizations for the Carnegie
Corporation of New York. Jane co-edited a book entitled Community Schools in Action:
Lesson from a decade of practice and writes a regular column on youth development practice
issues for Youth Today. Jane will share about the value of the community schools’ model
and the importance of creating effective partnerships. Jane?>>JANE QUINN: Hi everybody all across the
country. I can see that you are indeed coming from all across the country and that is so
exciting. So I work for one of those CBOs, one of those community based organizations,
that is partnering with public schools in New York City, so the advice that I’m going
to be giving you is very much practice based and also I work for and direct a National
Center for Community School, so I’ll be sharing some advice that comes from some of
our colleagues in other parts of the country. I will be talking about this strategy called
community schools, and that is really a proven strategy for putting all these pieces together
that we’ve been talking about in this webinar series – that is putting together family,
school, and community partnerships. The first thing I want to say is that when we talk about
community schools we’re talking about a strategy, not a program. Now there are programmatic
elements to most community schools and I will be talking about that, but what I want our
listeners to be thinking about is that we’re talking about a strategy here and what we’re
talking about is a strategy for organizing the resources of the community around student
success. That’s a definition that I heard from a former school superintendent and I
thought that it was so concise and so on point that I am sharing it with you all across the
country. So I’m going to give you four quick definitions of community schools. These are
not four different definitions, but really four snapshots of the same thing. So the first
definition is our definition from Pat Harvey. The second definition I want to share with
you is a Webinar – Building Strategic Partnerships to Foster Community Engagement in Education
This webinar series is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education’s Parental Information
and Resource Center program. The content of this webinar series does not necessarily reflect
the views of the U.S. Department of Education. Page 8 definition from the Coalition for Community
Schools, which is a consortium of groups all across the country – 170 national, regional,
State, and local initiatives that represent about 5,000 community schools, so this is
really a consensus definition from the field that emphasizes that a community school is
both a place – that is it’s a school – and it’s also a set of partnerships that the
school has with a variety of community resources. These partners and the school have an integrated
focus on improving student learning, strengthening families, and improving community well being.
So I think this is a good definition, a kind of standard definition that is represented
in the field and now I’m going to move on to a third snapshot. Another way of thinking
about this work – we call this the developmental triangle. What this picture represents is
that in the community school we are endeavoring to wrap all the good stuff around children.
So you can see in our picture that we have a young person at the center of our attention
and we never take our eye off that prize. We are connecting three big sets of things
that we know makes a difference in children’s learning and healthy development. On the left
hand side of the triangle we have a core instructional program, which is what schools are primarily
responsible for and the partners connect two big sets of things to the core instructional
program. They connect enrichment that is academic, social, cultural, and recreational. Partners
do that largely through before and after school programs and summer camps, summer enrichment
programs. Then on the bottom of the triangle we have a set of services that are designed
to remove barriers to children’s learning and healthy development and there we’re
talking about things like medical, dental, mental health, and social services. As you
can see, we are connecting the corners of the triangle. We’re managing these corners
and connecting these three big sets of services so that they are aligned with one another
and really promoting children’s school success and their healthy development. Finally, my
fourth definition, the fourth snapshot of this phenomenon we call community schools,
is what I call the cocktail party definition or the elevator speech that a community school
compared to a traditional school has extended services, extended hours, and extended relationships.
The school has a swinging door. It reaches out to the community to serve the community
and it brings the community in to Webinar – Building Strategic Partnerships to Foster
Community Engagement in Education This webinar series is funded in part by the U.S. Department
of Education’s Parental Information and Resource Center program. The content of this webinar
series does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Education. Page
9 serve the children and families in the school. So I hope that that’s clear and if it’s
not, I know that you’ll bombard me with questions that would be great. I’m looking
forward to hearing from you. Now I do want to say that we know a lot about the key ingredients
of a community school. We know that education is first. The reason that community partners
are working in the school is that they want to promote children’s learning and healthy
development. In most of the models of community schools, and there are a number of terrific
models around the country, in most of the models there is a lead community agency that
is the primary partner with the school staff and that lead agency is a partner, not a tenant.
The lead agency generally is there during the school day as well as during the non-school
hours, and so the lead agency has a full time presence. The lead agency does joint planning
with the principal and with the other school staff and the lead agency is fully integrated
into the governance of the school district, into the school leadership team, the school
safety committee, the pupil personnel team or whatever the table is called where the
needs of individual children are discussed. Although we say that community schools is
a strategy, not a program, I’m showing you some of the typical program components that
you do see in a community school. You can see that there’s a lot of emphasis on those
two legs of the triangle that I talked about and lots of emphasis on parental involvement,
but also services for parents that include adult education, so these are typical program
components that you see. Many elementary schools also have early childhood programs that are
fully integrated into the kindergarten and early grades. So we get to the, “So what?”
question. You know, this strategy is based on research but it has also been the subject
of numerous evaluations around the country. Some of the work of the Children’s Aid Society
produced some of the first results. I would say the results have been coming out and mounting
over the last fifteen years and I’m going to give you a summary of those results, which
you can see in front of you that community schools definitely have an impact on academic
performance. They also have an impact on attendance rates, and that includes both student and
teacher attendance rates. Lots of evaluations have showed improvements in school safety
and school climate – greater parent involvement in fact, significantly greater Webinar – Building
Strategic Partnerships to Foster Community Engagement in Education This webinar series
is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education’s Parental Information and Resource
Center program. The content of this webinar series does not necessarily reflect the views
of the U.S. Department of Education. Page 10 parent involvement. Often, partners who
come into community schools are organizations like ours that have a lot of competence around
working with families. In one of our own evaluations, an external team from Fordham University found
167% more parent involvement in our community school middle school than in a control school
– that’s beyond statistically significant. The last bullet point I think is really important.
All of them are important of course, but the fact is that teachers in community schools
say that they are now free to teach and that the higher teacher attendance rates in community
schools are directly related to the fact that teachers are saying, “Now we don’t have
to be the social worker and every other kind of professional. We can be the teacher and
we have other professionals whom we can partner with,” but I do want to say that you don’t
get those results if you don’t follow these principles of effective partnership. So I’m
going to give you nine quick principles, and these really come out of the practice of folks
like us who have been working in community schools over the last fifteen to twenty years.
The first one is about being strategic. This is advice for schools to get the partners
you need, not the ones who are most readily available. We always advice that a needs assessment
should drive the selection of the partners and the needs assessment really should be
looking at both school data and community data to make sure we understand who the children
are and who the families are at the school, so being strategic means getting the partners
you need who can help you achieve your goals. There is no substitute for joint planning
and that is not a one-time event. Joint planning really is an ongoing event, but the initial
joint planning is tremendously important. The third piece of advice is making sure you
are all on the same page as you work together. So clarifying your vision and mission is an
important part of that initial planning and then checking in with one another to make
sure you stay on the same page. Principle number four is to start small and build gradually.
The needs assessment should drive decisions about what are the most urgent needs and it
pays to have some quick wins to start with success and take time to build trust among
the partners. Strategy number five or principle number five is bringing parents into the planning
process early and thinking of parents as assets and partners and key informants, not only
as clients for services. Principle number six is to share decisionWebinar – Building
Strategic Partnerships to Foster Community Engagement in Education This webinar series
is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education’s Parental Information and Resource
Center program. The content of this webinar series does not necessarily reflect the views
of the U.S. Department of Education. Page 11 making. We saw in the Tony Bryck research
that was referenced earlier that strong school leaders have an inclusive leadership style.
They know how to share the leadership with others in the school including their community
partners. Principle number seven is preparing team members to work together. That is doing
joint professional development both at the outset of a partnership and on an ongoing
basis because collaboration requires skills. Principle number eight is to stay flexible.
Even though you may have done terrific planning, you can’t always account for every eventuality
and we know that our schools are operating in a very dynamic environment. Finally, principle
number nine is keep developing your team’s capacity. Again, we saw that in the Tony Bryck
research how important it is that the school has the ability to build professional capacity
and that is true whether we’re talking about the faculty of the school or the school and
its community partners. We recommend having annual planning retreats and doing some team
building during that retreat and we also know how important that is to account for the turnover
on both sides of the bridge – on the community side and on the school side. So that is what
I wanted to say to you and I’m happy to entertain your questions and I think my job
now is to turn this back over to Lindsay.>>LINDSAY TORRICO: That’s right, Jane.
Thank you and thank you for your enlightening presentation. I’m sure that many of the
schools and organizations joining us appreciate hearing about the lessons learned from the
community schools’ model and the general principles of effective partnerships. I’ve
received several questions from our participants. The first question is: Are community schools
K through twelve and what age or grade range are community schools most successful?>>JANE QUINN: Great question. There are community
schools at all of those levels. The strategy is effective at all of those levels and the
strategy often includes elementary that is pre-K programs. In a couple of our own community
schools in New York, we have early head start and head start which of course works on the
whole issue of school readiness and on the school family connection, so I would say that
I know about community schools at all of those levels and all of those levels are producing
very impressive results. Of course what you focus on at the Webinar – Building Strategic
Partnerships to Foster Community Engagement in Education This webinar series is funded
in part by the U.S. Department of Education’s Parental Information and Resource Center program.
The content of this webinar series does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S.
Department of Education. Page 12 high school is very different from what you focus on at
the elementary school, that probably goes without saying, but I think that most of the
high schools that we’re familiar with really are focusing on keeping kids on track towards
high school graduation and of course, partners are bringing a lot to that table in terms
of working with young people around their career and education aspirations and working
on college and career readiness. I will mention that the Coalition for Community Schools of
which Children’s Aid is a proud founding partner, has a wonderful monograph on high
school level community schools. They also have resources on other aspects of community
schools. So there’s a lot of help out there for those of you who want to understand this
strategy better. Of course, resources are available from our National Center for Community
Schools and I think you’re seeing our website right in front of you on your screen. What
are some of the other questions?>>LINDSAY TORRICO: So another question we’ve
received is: How are community schools typically funded? Can you talk a little bit about that?>>JANE QUINN: Absolutely. That’s something
I think about every single day. In our own work in New York City, about two-thirds of
the funding that Children’s Aid is adding to the community schools – so we’re adding
money to the money that the New York City Department of Education is already spending,
right? About two-third of that money is public. The other third is private. So the funding
comes from a variety of different sources including, on the public side, several US
Department of Education sources like 21st Century Community Learning Centers. Of course
twenty initiatives around the country also have full service community school grants
from the US Department of Education. We are using Medicaid funding to pay for medical
and mental health services. We are using early head start and head start dollars from the
US Department of Health and Human Services. In our work in New York City we are also using
some state resources – the Advantage After School Program and the Extended Day Violence
Day Prevention Program and then on the private side, the funding is raised from United Ways
who are of course a partner in this webinar series, but also from private foundations,
corporations, and individuals. So I would say that Webinar – Building Strategic Partnerships
to Foster Community Engagement in Education This webinar series is funded in part by the
U.S. Department of Education’s Parental Information and Resource Center program. The content of
this webinar series does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Education.
Page 13 we are braiding a variety of funding sources together and really braiding them
together all around the same set of results which have to do of course, with student school
success and some of the other outcomes that I talked about.>>LINDSAY TORRICO: Great. Thank you. One
more question. The question is: What are the greatest challenges in maintaining strategic
partnerships to support community schools?>>JANE QUINN: Well, I think the greatest
challenges are that the context changes regularly, and so I think the partners have to be very
flexible, very fleet afoot. I think the funding is definitely a challenge. We are all living
in very tough economic times and so right now, I think we’re all working twice as
hard to stay in place. We just have to really work hard and be strategic about the fund
raising. I think that we can never forget that when we are working in partnership that
we have to continually work on the relationship aspect of the work. The relationship aspect
of the work is central. Many people including Tony Bryck have written books about this,
about the importance of trust. Trust has to be earned everyday in a partnership, so I
think that we can never forget how important relationships are in the work that we’re
doing.>>LINDSAY TORRICO: Great. Thank you so much.
Our next set of presenters are Irasema Salcido and Helen Westmoreland. Irasema Salcido is
the CEO and Founder of the Cesar Travis Public Charter Schools for Public Policy and the
President and Founder of the DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative. As the daughter of Mexican American
immigrant farmers, Irasema came to the United States at fourteen years of age without speaking
English. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from California
State University and a Master in Education Administration and Social Planning from the
Harvard University School of Education. In 1998 she founded the Cesar Travis Public Charter
Schools for Public Policy in Washington DC to create an institution where the poorest
students have access to the highest quality education. In 2009 she developed the DC Promise
Neighborhood Initiative, replicating the Harlem Children Zone in the Parkside-Kenilworth neighborhood
of Webinar – Building Strategic Partnerships to Foster Community Engagement in Education
This webinar series is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education’s Parental Information
and Resource Center program. The content of this webinar series does not necessarily reflect
the views of the U.S. Department of Education. Page 14 Washington DC. Under her leadership
the initiative was awarded a planning grant from the US Department of Education. Helen
Westmoreland is the Director of Public Quality at the Flamboyant Foundation, a private family
foundation which invests strategically to improve the quality of pre-k through twelve
public education in Washington DC and Puerto Rico. She is responsible for identifying and
integrating research and promising practices into the foundation’s initiatives to help
DC educators, school leaders, and schools effectively engage families in supporting
student achievement. In this capacity, Helen identifies partners, strategies, and exemplary
programs that will help Flamboyant achieve broad impact and she develops systems to evaluate
these results. Before coming to Flamboyant Helen spent almost five years working for
the Harvard Family Research Project. Prior to that, she worked with community based after
school programs in [Dorm], North Carolina. Helen received a Masters degree in Education
Policy and Management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and bachelor’s degrees
in Spanish and Biological Anthropology from Duke University. Helen and Irasema will share
about the role of community partners and carrying out the mission and strategies of the DC Promise
Neighborhoods Institute Project. Irasema, I will now like to turn it over to you for
your part of the presentation.>>IRASEMA SALCIDO: Thank you so much. What
an honor to be able to speak to those that are in the webinar that are interested in
finding out what the DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative is joined to engage residents and
families to make sure that every child in the Parkside-Kenilworth Community will be
successful in school and beyond. The task of the Promise Neighborhood on the Washington
DC area is to make sure that we create solutions that are evidence based to make sure that
we address the need of every child in that community from cradle to college to career.
The reason I believe we were selected to do this work is because we banded our community
for the past seven years. For the past two years we’ve been working very hard in the
community building trust in order for us to achieve our goal. As I mentioned, it took
us two years in order for us to gather the community so we can communicate to them that
we value the community and that our values needed to be reflected in all the work that
we do, and that is building Webinar – Building Strategic Partnerships to Foster Community
Engagement in Education This webinar series is funded in part by the U.S. Department of
Education’s Parental Information and Resource Center program. The content of this webinar
series does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Education. Page
15 capacity in that community and making sure that we will take the time to build a relationships
so they could then see that we were serious about engaging them in every decision that
we are making to make sure that when we implement the Promise Neighborhood, which it will be
next year since this year we received a planning grant, and we are engaging the residents in
the planning. In that community we have 7,000 families. 2,000 adult families are children.
This community, like many other communities, faces many social ills which is what motivated
us to want to create a very ambitious mission. Many of the families are single family – are
headed by a single-family mom and the implement rate is up to 20% – 30%. The mission then
for us is to make sure that we increase the number of children who complete their education
again, from cradle to college to career and then they are ready to compete in the 21st
century economy, but equally important, that they can come back to their communities and
make a difference. Our vision was inspired by the America’s Promise vision. We felt
that if we can come together as a community and promise the families and children of that
community that we are going to deliver the five promises that every child in America
is entitled to – and that is caring adults, feeling safe, having a healthy start, having
a quality education, and opportunities to give back; that if we could do that together
then we will definitely make the vision of the Promise Neighborhood a reality. We have
about 60 partners or more engaged in this initiative. As you can imagine, having to
develop a comprehensive approach from cradle to college to career requires a variety of
partners. What this has allowed us to do is to engage partners that otherwise when you
are only focused on education might not happen. We have partners with health, housing, early
care, foundations, higher education, developers’ and banks evaluation. Examples of those partners
are the children hospital. Now we have a van every week that comes to three of the schools
in the footprint. The Department of Housing Authority has supplied for a choice neighborhood
in order to improve some of the public health in their early care. We have aged care which
they’re going to build a [zero to five] center there. We’ve been working with the
Urban Institute to develop a strong evaluation [fee] and also with Georgetown University.
So we feel very fortunate that we have all those resources to make sure that we do make
that community a Webinar – Building Strategic Partnerships to Foster Community Engagement
in Education This webinar series is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education’s
Parental Information and Resource Center program. The content of this webinar series does not
necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Education. Page 16 Promise Neighborhood
community. Obviously, key to our success will be the engagement of community especially
families in that community. It’s really important that we empower them to believe
that they are the ones that are going to change that community/create opportunity for the
children that grow in that community – that’s critical to us. The way we are achieving that
goal is we have a structure that allows us to have other residents as equal partners.
To us from day one two years ago, we knew that we needed to go out to the community
and be transparent about the work that we were doing. So two years ago we committed
to doing monthly community dinners where the seven neighborhoods of our footprint are able
to come and hear from us and for us to hear from them how we’re going to shape this
Promise Neighborhood. We also committed to doing retreats. We just had one two weeks
ago where the residents were able to tell us what is their vision of a Promise Neighborhood
because a Promise Neighborhood requires that we address ten goals – five academic and
five community goals, so we needed to hear their voices. Also, very important to the
process is the fact that there are ten goal and we form ten groups for each of the goals
and in each of those groups we require that we have a resident that is co-chair because
we want them to feel that they are equal partners in this process and each group is required
to have a one-third resident representative. So when they’re discussing solutions, they
need to hear from the residents and the solutions have to be evidence based, so they have an
institute in place, a role making sure that we have the data that we need to make these
decisions in each group. Then what the residents will input will let the principals of those
four schools that are in that footprint know what solutions they think that they need to
implement and then the principals have to make the decision or propose the solutions
that they think they can implement in their schools, but also what’s really key to this
is that we have a partnership with a traditional school. Travis is a Charter School and for
the first time, which is not very typical to see traditional schools and charter schools
work together, this is a great opportunity to make the commitment to create strong schools
in strong communities. So I will now pass it to Helen to explain in detail how a working
group works. As you can see, what guides the work of each of the ten working groups is
that it’s really important that we build Webinar – Building Strategic Partnerships
to Foster Community Engagement in Education This webinar series is funded in part by the
U.S. Department of Education’s Parental Information and Resource Center program. The content of
this webinar series does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Education.
Page 17 relationship, that that matters a great deal. It has taken this long. At least
for Travis, seven years to gain the trust of that community because in that community
many people come and make promises and don’t deliver. Once we build the relationships and
people are willing to commit everything to achieve a goal and then more importantly,
we have to have the right structures for that to happen so Helen will explain in more detail
how we make it happen in the working groups. Thank you so much for your time.>>HELEN WESTMORELAND: Hi everybody. Thank
you for being with us today. Irasema has just talked about family community engagement in
really the systems level of this initiative. As many of you know, we all have very different
definitions of family and community engagement and we are going to, in fact, jump back and
forth across those systems and a little quickly, so I apologize if I speak
fast. Irasema has given you an overview of family and community engagement in the initiative
of Promise Neighborhood, which encompasses four schools in the footprint, so I’m going
to really bring it down to the planning level of what family and community looks like in
those partner schools. We are getting off the ground now, so a lot of our lessons learned
are very early lessons learned and most of our reflection questions for you are meant
to be things to think more of rather than concrete answers. So our membership is made
up of one-third residents. We believe very strongly that community voice needs to be
at the table in doing this. We’re also encompass families, community based organization and
community leaders, and current and former school staff building on the asset of the
community. So for example, the community has told us in retreats they’re very proud of
father’s involvement and there are really outstanding male role models in the neighborhood,
so we recruited them to be a part of this team. We’ve also made an effort to ensure
that the perspective of each of our partner schools is represented so we have a window
into what family and community looks like in quite different settings. Lastly, we’re
lucky enough to have some great national leaders in family and community engagement in Washington
DC including Appleseed and the National PTA and some of their senior leadership is part
of our membership team for this as well. Holding the group together is the leadership team
of four people. First we have a Webinar – Building Strategic Partnerships to Foster Community
Engagement in Education This webinar series is funded in part by the U.S. Department of
Education’s Parental Information and Resource Center program. The content of this webinar
series does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Education. Page
18 resident co-chair who is a long time veteran educator in one of our partner elementary
schools. We also have another co-chair who’s a local expert and that is the DC Parent Information
Resource Center who has provided technical assistance to schools in DC and in this particular
neighborhood for many years. Urban Institute is our partner that provides data and evaluation
support to the team. Everything from, “We’re going to need you to ask these three questions
in the focus groups you’re holding across the neighborhood,” to, “Can you help us
find baseline data?” They’re there at the table to help do that. Lastly, we have
a facilitator. Irasema, in starting this initiative years ago, recruited in kind staff support
to keep these working groups kind of working along. My role at Flamboyant Foundation is
to do that. So let me give you a little bit of background about what that means. Flamboyant
is a private family philanthropy here in DC. We are focused exclusively on family engage
and education advocacy that drives student achievement. So my role is not just to keep
the agendas moving along, but also to really bring to bear some of the research and promising
practices that we have learned and we’ll be using in our work. So this slide, applying
research to practice, is a little bit of the nuts and bolts overview of what that looks
like based on our fairly expensive review of research including what types of family
engagement matter most were not always very clear on our definitions as well as what we
can glean from the very little implementation research that’s out there. I’m not going
to go over this citation by citation but if other folks have questions at the end, I’ll
give you my contact information and I’m happy to answer those. Let me premise this
slide by also saying that our work focuses on family engagement at the school, classroom,
and child level and that this is a piece of family and communities supporting learning
within the Promise Neighborhood initiatives but not that whole thing. So in that more
narrow definition, specifically around what we’ve come to and what impacts academic
achievement, we’ve sorted out and found it’s helpful for schools to know: If we
have to make tradeoffs, what should those be related to family engagement? So you can
see here that some of the higher impact strategies for student achievement are personalized and
are largely teacher driven. The lower impact strategies are offered [siloed] off as something
else, not directly connected to learning or Webinar – Building Strategic Partnerships
to Foster Community Engagement in Education This webinar series is funded in part by the
U.S. Department of Education’s Parental Information and Resource Center program. The content of
this webinar series does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Education.
Page 19 driven more by getting parents to show up rather than figuring out: How can
we help parents really guide and support their kids learning in really specific actionable
ways? So the lower impact things for student achievement are actually critically important
things for schools for other outcomes, but this is what we found for if you’re trying
to move the needle for [kits]. So given this background on family engagement, let me tell
you a little bit about how we’re applying this to the family and community support learning
working group for the Promise Neighborhoods. So to start, a little bit of context for this
in DC. If any of you have read the news about education in DC, you know that we have had
quite a few contentious reforms here. So that has created a very polarized context from
community to community within the district so much so that we have to make a tremendous
effort to reach consensus and get over our differences. Second as Irasema mentioned,
there’s been an incredible churn in absences and sustainability for education programs
particularly in the Parkside-Kenilworth neighborhood where we’re focusing. I was in a meeting
last week where a community resident actually used the word “prostituted” for how they
felt when the biggest, newest research based program comes to town, so there’s real need
to kind of build capacity and sustainability along the way. Third, DC school system has
not always embraced the voices of families and community members and given how quickly
recent reform efforts have moved, many folks feel like they just want to be heard. Lastly,
when it comes to implementations, schools will need a lot more information and technical
assistance in how to best invest very limited time and resources in ways that will help
kids. So given this context, this is what our planning process has looked like for family
and community engagement in these four schools. We are trying to ensure that it achieves something.
Programs come and go, but outcomes will persist so at the end of the day we want to support
learning and be clear about what that means for families and communities to do that. Secondly,
we believe we sell our community short if we think they’re only value added is just
to say what they need. Family community engagement is very hard work, as many of you know, so
we need to create a table where we can think through this and build capacity along the
way in a problem solving manner. I’m going to talk to you a little bit about the planning
process Webinar – Building Strategic Partnerships to Foster Community Engagement in Education
This webinar series is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education’s Parental Information
and Resource Center program. The content of this webinar series does not necessarily reflect
the views of the U.S. Department of Education. Page 20 in the next slide, but just want to
say that what we did was map out our major questions to answer over the next three months
so that we are being very transparent with our members as well as any other residents
that would like to attend a meeting of what we’re trying to accomplish when. At the
end of the day we just have to manage the process and people’s time in a respectful
way. Next. We want to assess where we want to build an opportunity to look at research
in promising practices along the way. Not in a very front-loaded way, as I’ve just
kind of given you all, but in an organic way as the planning process goes so that we can
take a chance to look and say, “What do you we have already? What are our gaps? What
do we need to build upon?” So to address these principles we are using five guiding
questions for our planning process over the next three or four months. “What does family
and community support for learning look like when it is successful? What barriers are standing
in the way of this success? What strategies must we consider to overcome these barriers?
What programs and activities within these strategy areas should we use?” Then lastly,
“What will our recommendations for implementation be?” Some of you may recognize these as
they’re adapted from United Way’s really robust outcomes based planning process. We’ve
learned, in planning with our partners, that we often want to jump to the, “What should
we do?” but we wanted to build in a foundation and a common language for really where we
are trying to head so that if we need to have disagreements and address some of the challenges
I talked to you about, we can do so really as equal partners across the table from one
another. So a couple of closing thoughts and our current reflections on this process: First,
is how do we ensure that our family and community support for learning planning process penetrates
beyond the coalition of the willing? Family and community engagement can’t be about
those who are already engaged deciding for others what they should do. Stepping up isn’t
a strategy that will reach everyone, so we really need to ensure that we’re building
in the perspective of those who haven’t traditionally been involved in their kids’
education in our partner schools. Second: How do we engage school staff and leaders
and critical reflection around family and community engagement for learning? Our group
has already talked about some strategies that implicate our partner schools in fundamentally
changing Webinar – Building Strategic Partnerships to Foster Community Engagement in Education
This webinar series is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education’s Parental Information
and Resource Center program. The content of this webinar series does not necessarily reflect
the views of the U.S. Department of Education. Page 21 their approach to families, so we
need to ensure that the full – particularly in the school leaders in these settings, are
part of the conversation so that if we come up with recommendations about what schools
need to do differently, they’re ready to move on those and feel a shared accountability
to do so. Third, we’ve been talking a lot about how we meaningfully measure family and
community support for learning as it relates to our vision of success. The Federal government
has given us two quantitative planning indicators to help guide this work, but the membership
of this team feels like we need to add to those to capture not just quantity, such as
number of teachers or parents at conferences, but also the quality of this work. So how
do we walk way knowing that families and communities feel like they are more empowered to support
their kids’ learning? Lastly, how do we ensure sustainability along the way? Irasema
and the overview site of our structure showed you we have a really robust fund raising team
that has committed to seeing the plans from these teams through, but we are always conscious
that we walk in the shadows of the other programs’ initiatives before us that may have come and
gone, so we keep that in our mind. So with those last planning questions, I will turn
it over. I don’t know if we lost some time in the technical difficulties but Irasema
and I are happy to answer questions.>>LINDSAY TORRICO: Thank you for your presentation
Helen and Irasema. It sounds like you’ve done some amazing work in forming and maintaining
community partnerships in Washington DC. Thank you all for your patience with some of the
technical difficulties we’ve had. We’ve received several questions from participants,
so I’ll start with our first question. How do you identify families and other stakeholders
to be included in the planning team and how often does the planning team meet?>>IRASEMA SALCIDO: I can talk about how we
identify the members of each of the ten working groups. As I mentioned before, we’ve been
working at this for the past two years and we have had community dinners. We also have
a resident engagement person that is from that community and through those activities
we have identified residents that want to be part of the Promise Neighborhood and we
have allowed them to have the opportunity to be in those ten groups then. As long as
they are Webinar – Building Strategic Partnerships to Foster Community Engagement in Education
This webinar series is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education’s Parental Information
and Resource Center program. The content of this webinar series does not necessarily reflect
the views of the U.S. Department of Education. Page 22 residents of the Parkside-Kenilworth
Community, they automatically become members of a working group that they feel they can
contribute something to them.>>LINDSAY TORRICO: Great. I have another
question for you, Irasema. How did you identify the needs of the students, families, and communities
the DC Promise Neighborhoods Institute is working with?>>IRASEMA SALCIDO: Through these assessments,
but as we mentioned before, we are extremely fortunate to have Urban Institute work with
us. Again, they’ve been involved with us for the past two years and the Urban Institute
has a very comprehensive data information on DC, so they’re able to look at the community
that we’re serving and for each working group, identify the number of students that
live there, the ages, what schools they go to, the DC [CASS] course, which is the standardized
test which they take in DC. So all that information is what we give to each of the working group
depending own that their goal is, so they can look and see what the gaps are and together
decide that then they need to find evidence based solutions to close those gaps. So we’re
in the process of the planning and we’re in the process of collecting the data from
the residents through the different means that I described to you – the dinners, the
retreats that we’re getting ready to do in addition to what is already available through
the Urban Institute.>>LINDSAY TORRICO: Great. We have time for
one more question. What are some of the challenges or pushback you experienced in the two years
of planning and building relationships with the community?>>IRASEMA SALCIDO: I think what Helen sort
of mentioned earlier, which I think is the experience in many of these communities that
are in great need, is really trusting that this is for real and for us, I think it has
not been much of a pushback as much as maybe a different kind of pressure when we are out
there and people believe us. They’re really expecting us to be able to deliver these five
promises. So for us, it’s more letting people know that this is a ten to twenty year project
and that it is important that everyone takes ownership. So I think the challenge is going
to be not the initiation stage. I think, again, we’re very lucky Webinar – Building Strategic
Partnerships to Foster Community Engagement in Education This webinar series is funded
in part by the U.S. Department of Education’s Parental Information and Resource Center program.
The content of this webinar series does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S.
Department of Education. Page 23 because of the partners and our history in that community
and because of the values that we made clear right from the beginning that people have
seen our actions and believe that we have the capacity to deliver on what we are describing,
but the challenges – traditionally, foundations or other organizations – non-profit, private,
or public are not used to committing for long term to a project. I think that’s going
to be our challenge to some extent, but I think we’re taking care of that buy the
structure that we have in place. We have those ten working groups and we’ve recruited organizations
to give in kind of like the Flamboyant Foundation. They’re providing in kind to be able to
facilitate each other’s groups so organizations can see firsthand how we’re planning this
and how they can see themselves in five-ten years from now and the residents can see themselves
in five – ten years from now and they’re going to be able to see the results, touch
and feel the results, because we’re going to be there day in and day out which is, “How
do we make sure that we sustain this?” because see the result to take a child that is born
today and making sure that they move to the system are successful in graduation, ready
to go to college, and enter the world of work. That’s going to take twenty years or so.>>LINDSAY TORRICO: Well, thank you so much
Irasema and Helen. Thank you all for your questions. Our last presenter is Michelle
Mittler Crombie. Michelle Mittler Crombie is the Vice President of Community Development
at the United Way of Lake County in Illinois. She is responsible for providing vision and
leadership to the team of volunteers and staff committed to investing resources that will
prepare our children to succeed in a changing world. During her career at Untied Way she
has been an agent of change, moving the organization to focus on specific community issues and
developing concrete plans to address the needs. She has developed an education continuum that
empowers parents to engage their children at all ages and successfully engages the community
in this work. Michelle will share about how creating strategic collaborations is contributing
to the goals of the family engagement for high school success project for local United
Ways coordinating. Michelle, please go right ahead.>>MICHELLE CROMBIE: Hello, Lindsay. Can you
hear me? Webinar – Building Strategic Partnerships to Foster Community Engagement in Education
This webinar series is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education’s Parental Information
and Resource Center program. The content of this webinar series does not necessarily reflect
the views of the U.S. Department of Education. Page 24>>LINDSAY TORRICO: Sure can.>>MICHELLE CROMBIE: Okay. Great. Well, I’m
here to represent all of the United Ways, who are bringing together diverse partners
to improve education, income, and health. So if you haven’t engaged with your local
United Way, I’m here to tell you that you should. We probably all know by now the importance
of family engagement, but what if the families don’t know that they need to be involved,
simply don’t see the value of participating in their education, or want to be involved
but have no idea how to do so? Enter the community partner. I believe that developing strong,
vital, and creative community relationships is the key to empowering parents and eventually
increasing their understanding of success by increasing parent engagement in
a local high need, low income high school. In this needed yesterday world, it was certainly
a luxury to be able to spend six months to gather information and plan. The goals of
our family engagement project are to improve high school attendance rates, academic performance,
and behavior in order to ultimately increase high school graduation rates. In order to
impact fees, parents have to be involved but we found that in order for parents to be involved,
the community and schools had to show them how important it really is. Our first step
in the planning process was understanding the barriers. In order to do this we had to
talk to a lot of people. We relied heavily on the community partners for this. We found
that there were many reasons why students were not gradating on time, but they tended
to fall into three categories: Parents didn’t know the requirement for graduation or attendance.
They didn’t know how their students were doing or how to get help. In focused groups
with students, many proudly told us of how they prevented their parents from getting
their progress reports or the absentee call. The student simply can’t be the gatekeepers
for this information. A new online grade and attendance tracking system was being developed,
but with a huge percentage of the families without computers and the Internet, this too
was destined to be ineffective. Our solution to this was twofold: One, to work with the
high school and community to improve the communications, orientation, and the attendance at parent
teacher conferences. The other was to ensure Webinar – Building Strategic Partnerships
to Foster Community Engagement in Education This webinar series is funded in part by the
U.S. Department of Education’s Parental Information and Resource Center program. The content of
this webinar series does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Education.
Page 25 better usage of the online tracking system by making sure that families had computer
access and knew how to do this. We did this in two ways: We put refurbished computers
in congregations and community centers for public use and then we developed a computer
learn and earn program, which is a series of trainings for parents with no computer
at home and no computer experience. It uses corporate and community volunteers to teach
them the basics of how to use a computer and that new online tracking system. The last
session of the series is about how parents can help their child succeed in school, and
it’s actually one of the favorites of the recipients. At the end parents can receive
a used computer donated to United Way and refurbished by a community group of retired
computer professionals. Now, I have to say that we certainly would not have come up with
this plan if we had simply guessed what was needed for this group. So the help from our
community fell into two main categories: Planning and Programming. The community partners are
very key in planning any kind of intervention. Those who are very close to the families can
tell us what stands between them and attending school. Our first meetings were with those
community organizations. Make sure that when you are selecting community organizations
that you look for people who are willing to be candid with you. If they tell you what
they think you want to hear, you will never come to understand the rarely spoken realities,
and those are indeed some of the most important things. These community partners also knew
of many assets that fell under the radar screen such as the mom who tutors a couple of students
in a church basement every day after school. Finally, no plan makes sense without talking
directly to the consumers, and as our last speaker said, getting them involved in the
solution. Our community partners are invaluable at getting families to the table. Many focused
group parents showed up only because someone they knew called them and asked them to participate.
In programming, there were many, many ways that community partners were helpful. Churches
and congregations contributed sites for tutoring, computer labs often staffed with congregation
members, and they put messages supporting school events and education in general in
their bulletin. Again, because they said it, it became much more credible than if just
United Way was saying it or the school was saying it. There was also an extensive Webinar
– Building Strategic Partnerships to Foster Community Engagement in Education This webinar
series is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education’s Parental Information and Resource
Center program. The content of this webinar series does not necessarily reflect the views
of the U.S. Department of Education. Page 26 community effort to increase attendance
at the freshmen parent meetings and at the parent-teacher conferences. These are important
because they’re the places where parents find out much of the information that they
weren’t getting before and they told us that they didn’t have. Even grocery stores,
gas stations, coffee shops – you name it, put up reminders on their doors or on their
signs to tell people to remember these events. In addition, community partners can be goodwill
ambassadors, a real bridge between the schools and the families. When selecting community
partners you first need to spend some significant time defining the who you want to reach. Get
it down as narrow as possible. There’s a huge difference between high school students
and low-income freshmen who are chronically truant in eighth grade. Then you need to understand
their circles of influence. Reach out to the people, activities, or groups that are closest
to them. Find out who they talk to, who they listen to, or where they gather. The groups
I’ve listed in this slide are just examples of who parents might be influenced by. The
real list will be very long and very diverse. Here’s a hint: When narrowing down the list
of community groups that are already established, use those that are already established. Don’t
try to create your own, but make sure that they really do have a real influence over
the people that you’ve identified as your target. Some of the ones for us that we used
in this area were our high school faith council. It’s a group of pastors of all faiths who
meet monthly to decide how to work together to help youth and their families. This is
a great example of a community partner that supports the school, the parents, and the
families, all of them. When pastors of all faith reach out to give a single message to
get more involved in your child’s education, big things happen. People listen. Speaking
of people that people listen to, our community has a large JROTC and they are very strict.
If the captain tells the kids that they need to get their parents to a meeting, they do.
Take advantage of those kinds of things. We also found a great value in affinity groups
within corporations. The black business network IT professionals group can be really influential
especially because they are people in the community who’ve succeeded. So what’s
in it for them? Make sure that community groups get something out of their relationship as
well. Know why they get involved. Why did they get involved in the first place? Ask
them. Webinar – Building Strategic Partnerships to Foster Community Engagement in Education
This webinar series is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education’s Parental Information
and Resource Center program. The content of this webinar series does not necessarily reflect
the views of the U.S. Department of Education. Page 27 No matter why they got involved, they’re
more likely to stay involved if they get out of it what they’d hoped so make sure that
you give key partnerships frequent public mention as well. Just a note aside: remember
that publicity isn’t just newspaper releases anymore. County on bloggers, school websites
– they all can be your best friend. The number of people who want to join a committee is
shrinking and fewer and fewer people volunteer simply because they like your organization.
We have to tap into the reasons that people or groups want to be involved and then tailor
their involvement to deliver the biggest bang for their time spent. You must look for the
convergence between what they can offer and what you need and that little convergence
there is your nugget that you have to carry forward. A corporation may be very interested
in developing local youth for future workforce or a retired computer professional group is
a great example. They made it clear from the beginning they didn’t want to come to meetings.
They wanted to work on computers. When they first talked to us we had little idea how
to use them at all, but now their contribution of refurbished computers is the carrot that
gets most of the parents to the table. Poor communication was one of the first barriers
that we identified. We certainly didn’t want it to be a problem with our partners.
People are hungry to know what is going on, but again, don’t let your comfort zone dictate
what type of communication the community groups receive. This is a know your audience kind
of thing. While there were necessary parts of our work, few people wanted to read long
research report or action plans. They wanted to hear stories about successes, see pictures,
or be inspired by charts like this one that showed measureable improvement. Lately we’ve
also used video clips and we’ve taken ordinary cell phones or simple digital cameras and
interviewed partners or service recipients. With the help of almost any fifteen year old,
those can be cleaned up and are ready to spread the word. So to summarize and wrap it up,
I just wanted to show you some of the most valuable contributions our community partners
have made. The ones I’m listing in this slide and the next are creative, but all very
tangible. I just want to tell you though that possibly the most valuable contribution were
the things that these people can tell us. Try not to go into the process of engaging
families with preconceived ideas. Take the time to ask the Webinar – Building Strategic
Partnerships to Foster Community Engagement in Education This webinar series is funded
in part by the U.S. Department of Education’s Parental Information and Resource Center program.
The content of this webinar series does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S.
Department of Education. Page 28 community groups how they can help and then be willing
to use that information. Pay attention to them and you don’t have to spend quite so
much time learning from your mistakes. Don’t be afraid to engage with new partners in ways
that you never even considered. I’m here to tell you that you can learn a great deal
and your program will be better off for that bravery. So Henry Ford said once that, “Coming
together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, and working together is success.”
I’m hoping that you all have great success in this process. Now back to Lindsay.>>LINDSAY TORRICO: Thank you, Michelle for
sharing about what other organizations can do to try to build strategic partnerships
in support of their own family and community engagement work. We’ve received a number
of questions from our participants, so I’ll start with our first question: What is the
role of the local school district in driving community school development and implementation?
How did you work with school staff in making sure that they contributed in participating
keeping the online data entered and current?>>MICHELLE CROMBIE: Well, the partners that
we had the school district were extremely supportive from the very beginning. It was
a part of our grant. They had to be involved and were the key partner with us when we were
building this up. So we didn’t have to worry about their involvement. The online computer
tracking system that they used is one that is a purchased system called Infinite Campus
and it was just a mandate from on high that that was kept up to date and it’s kept up
on real time.>>LINDSAY TORRICO: Great. Thank you. Our
next question is: How did you get the pastors involved? I’d like to also open this question
up to any of our other panelists who’d like to chime in.>>MICHELLE CROMBIE: Okay. I’ll start with
this and then everyone else can also chime in, but our faith council group was one that
was already established. Use things that are already established when you possibly can.
I would say that most communities have some kind of pastors group that you can use and
we basically worked with them. We made their mission our Webinar – Building Strategic Partnerships
to Foster Community Engagement in Education This webinar series is funded in part by the
U.S. Department of Education’s Parental Information and Resource Center program. The content of
this webinar series does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Education.
Page 29 mission and our mission is their mission to really work together and we do this on
just a daily basis almost.>>LINDSAY TORRICO: Are there other panelists
that’d like to answer that question? Okay. I have another question for the panel and
that question is: How is a community school different from a Promise Neighborhood and
how is that also different from a charter school?>>JANE QUINN: I think that might be for me.
I will say that Arne Duncan, the US Secretary of Education has said publicly on numerous
occasions that he things of Promise Neighborhoods as the integration of community schools and
community development. So if you take those snapshots of community schools, those definitions
that I gave earlier, and then think about how that work interests with the work of community
development, I think you see what is happening in Promise Neighborhoods. It was nice to hear
that there are four schools in the DC Promise Neighborhood’s Planning process that are
involved in that neighborhood wide effort. I think we also saw there that charter schools
and other schools are involved in that effort. There’s no reason why every school in the
United States can’t be a community school. Thinking about a school that is open longer
hours and has these additional services and relationships and in fact, many charter schools
are in fact community schools. Charter schools are about governance. Right? That’s what
we’re talking about. A charter school is a school that operates often outside the regular
school district and has a board of directors and so charter schools and community schools
are not necessarily different, but the definitions are different because the charter is really
about how the school is governed. The community school is how the school relates to its community
and whether it has extended our services and relationships, so they’re not mutually exclusive
by any stretch of the imagination.>>LINDSAY TORRICO: Thank you. So we have
time for one more question and that question is for the entire panel. How did you get businesses
involved and what kinds of businesses were ideal to work with? Anyone want to jump in?
Webinar – Building Strategic Partnerships to Foster Community Engagement in Education
This webinar series is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education’s Parental Information
and Resource Center program. The content of this webinar series does not necessarily reflect
the views of the U.S. Department of Education. Page 30>>MICHELLE CROMBIE: I can start. This is
Michelle and I have to say that we looked for the things that businesses were interested
in and then went to them with that. For example, we had a volunteer group that was interested
in training their interns, and so we were able to use them in some kind of leadership
role and things like that. Look for the things that the community wants to make sure happen.
We had some Latino businesses within our areas that were very interested in making sure that
their customers were doing as well as everybody else, so we made use of that and they came
to the table quite willingly to help out with making sure that their customers were aware
of all of the educational things that they could participate in.>>JANE QUINN: Michelle, I thought your advice
earlier about of the faith council is also applicable to the business community, that
very often the businesses are organized around a chamber of commerce or they might be organized
as in New York City, we have an organization called Pencil that has done a great job of
organizing the business community. I think that that’s good advice, that going to the
places where businesses are already organized. Secondly, I think it is about active listening
and finding out what the business community wants to get out of a partnership and then
finding a good fit between what the schools need and what the businesses need because
we’re always looking for a winwin when we talk about community engagement.>>LINDSAY TORRICO: Wonderful. Thank you all.
Thank you for openly and thoughtfully sharing about the value of creating strategic community
partnerships and how these partnerships contribute to the development of systemic learning systems
that link in and out of school supports and address the needs of the whole child. We hope
that you all enjoyed today’s webinar.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *