One answer is Alignment.
Schools have had partners forever, so what makes a community school partnership unique? One answer is alignment toward common goals. Another is alignment with the needs and challenges of educators, families and students.
A partner can be defined as any group or organization providing a program, activity or service to individuals or groups of students on an ongoing basis. An aligned partner is one who delivers programs and services that support the vision and goals for success of the students and the school.
Typically, engaging and managing these partners is a primary role for a community school coordinator.
Having partners in the school is important; having the right partners in the schools, focused on the right goals, is imperative. Alignment of partnerships with school and community goals is critical in order to measure the impact of these partnerships.
The coordinator ensures that every partner has a shared sense of responsibility for student success at the school; whether a partner has committed to helping raise 3rd grade reading, improving attendance or providing enrichment through an arts program.
Beyond connecting partners to school and community goals, it is important that Coordinators integrate the work of partners with the needs and concerns of teachers, other school staff, students, families, and community members. For partnerships to be successful, they must be responsive to needs and valued by all the constituents. Building bridges among partners and all other stakeholders in the school is at the heart a Coordinator’s work.
We would love for coordinators to share strengths, weakness, and even tools related to alignment to help us all learn and support each other.
Case Study: Cincinnati CLC Partnership Structure
Cincinnati, OH - Cincinnati Public Schools is creating campuses that strengthen this link between schools and communities. These schools, known as Community Learning Centers (CLC), act as hubs for community services, providing access for students and families to health, safety and social services, as well as recreational, educational and cultural opportunities.
At the school level, coordinators use the partnership organization chart. Partners are organized into teams based on the various services they provide who is assigned a coordinating partner. For example, the Mental Health K-8 Team is coordinated by a representative from St Aloysius Orphanage who coordinates seven partners at the schools. Partners can belong to more than one team. The overlap between teams help create more accountability and awareness of activities across the team.
At an initiative level, Cincinnati uses an innovative parternship model called the cross-boundary leadership team to align partners towards common goals. Networks have been developed to bring partners together to create a collaborative focused on one area of programming. Resources are pooled and the capacity of services offered to students is maximized. An example is CincyAfterSchool, a youth development network that provides after-school academic and enrichment programs for students. Caring adults in organizations such as the YMCA, the Urban League, Families Forward and the Boys and Girls Club are committed to supporting and enhancing the lives of Cincinnati Public Schools' children and families.
This report highlights the role of cross-boundary leadership in 11 communities in finding new ways to "grow" community schools.
This paper outlines how school and community leaders develop a common vision for a community schools strategy and explores six key strategies that successful community school initiatives use to build effective partnerships with local government agencies, teachers’ unions, and other organizations. It begins by describing the elements of a community school strategy, then draws on the experiences of several community school initiatives that use the following strategies to form and maintain key relationships.