Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Community School Leaders Press Toward the Future

At the recent annual Coalition’s partners’ meeting, held at the American Federation of Teachers headquarters, community school leaders paid tribute to Joan Devlin, Senior Associate Director at AFT a pioneer in the community school movement and also focused on what lies ahead.

Joan Devlin, who will be retiring before the new year, vehemently pushed for the creation of the Coalition, always stressing that the community school strategy offers a vital support to teachers, said Coalition Steering Committee Chairman Ira Harkavy. Joan was honored with a plaque for her years of service and contribution.

Thanks to the work of the Coalition’s founding members and partners, the work of community schools continues to spread in communities such as Indianapolis.

Jim Grim, Director of School and Community Engagement with the award-winning George Washington Community High School (which partners with IUPUI’s newly-created Center for University-Assisted Community Schools), told partners that advocates in Indianapolis have been holding local forums promoting the work of community schools.

“We had some (attendees) that were a part of the choir and some that weren’t,” Jim said of a recent state-wide community school forum held in Indiana.

Federal education policy was also a hot topic at this meeting. Partners gained insight into how they can shape future community school initiatives as federal policy makes its way through Congress, through a federal policy panel.

Juliann Andreen with Senator Orin Hatch (R-UT) and Maria Worthen, education advisor for Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA), stopped by the partners’ meeting for a discussion on the status of the latest ESEA legislation.

At times, partners seemed discouraged by the lack of bipartisanship to get the bills passed and lack of specific language that incentivizes community and family involvement in schools. But the Congressional staffers urged partners to send their office more feedback on the bill. They specifically asked for ideas on how the bill could “incentivize partnerships.” This is exactly the kind of feedback we are ready to give!

Coalition staff will continue to work with both local and national partners to formulate a broad statement to send to the HELP committee – harkening back to the Coalition’s ESEA Framework, which lays out eight policy recommendations to keep in mind as Congress reauthorizes ESEA. This statement has close to 80 signatories!

Partners are also helping plan the Coalition’s 2012 National Forum in San Francisco in May.

As Coalition Director Marty Blank noted, “Our partners are our most important resource in any work we do.”

Read more if you’re interested in becoming a Coalition for Community Schools Partner.

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