Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Let me share more about the Alliance

There have been several questions and comments about our work. I would like to share with you some of our priority areas of work, and will do so over the next few weeks. You may or may not know that over the past few years the Alliance has gone through a variety of structural and philosophical changes, from what our priorities are, to how our board and committees are structured (and everything in between). We've changed our staffing structure and worked to strengthen relationships, both with internal SPS staff, and with external community, business and civic partners.

We are now moving forward on specific initiatives. In addition to securing private resources to support the district’s strategic plan, our staff also focuses on other areas of priority. I’ll share more information about each of those, but the four we will talk about primarily are:
· Community Schools

· College Access (includes all post-secondary education options)

· Support for Teachers and Teacher Quality

· Community Engagement

I’ll start with Community Schools. Over the past year and a half, the Alliance has been working in partnership with about a dozen other community-based organizations to explore the idea of coordinated, comprehensive services for students based upon a through needs assessment.

We are resource-rich in Seattle, with literally hundreds of community, non-profit, and government organizations working to support students in our schools. Although there are pockets of coordination, often around specific areas of service, there is not a district-wide structure in place to build strong partnerships between these organizations and schools, limiting our collective ability to serve as many students as possible.

Over the past several months, this conversation grew from just coordinating services to exploring the idea of Community Schools.

So now at the Alliance we are working with partners to explore this concept. Although defined differently in different areas, a community school is generally one that is open for extended days, say from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and provides services ranging from academic supports to family support. At a very early stage, we are looking primarily at the following categories: Academics, Early Learning, Arts, Recreation, Health, Social/emotional support, Family support, and resources for College Access.

We’ve looked at models across the nation, and you can find some really interesting (and varied) examples at this site: We’ve seen and learned many interesting things, including one in Lincoln, Nebraska. At one community school there, they have set up a WIC program right in the building. Parents were developing early, trusting relationships with schools. This transitions to early learning and students are more prepared when entering Kindergarten.

One thing that became very clear is that a community schools initiative needs to grow from the community within which it exists. So we would need to build this collectively.

This is a very large concept, not one easily structured or implemented. And there are many questions that would need to be answered before we could effectively move forward with this work. But we're asking the questions and exploring possibilities.

I could talk endlessly about community schools because such potential exists in bringing together the internal strengths in schools (teaching and learning) with the external resources that students and families need. But I can't do that here (back to work) but as always invite you to call or meet if you have any questions. (206-205-0333).


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