Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Remembering Joy Dryfoos

More than any single person, Joy Dryfoos was the inspiration behind the revitalization of the community schools movement in this country and the development of the Coalition for Community Schools.

Joy was a rigorous researcher, who sought to help people understand the truth about the lives of disadvantaged young people. Joy was not content just doing the research; she pushed people to act and make changes to better the lives of young people.

I remember meeting Joy nearly 20 years ago as part of the development of the Together We Can Guide. She joined our last study panel meeting and pressed hard for simplicity and clarity in our effort to describe how education and human services must work together. She wanted us to get the ‘nuts and bolts’ straight so people in the field would have a clear picture of what to do.

Joy did that in her first book about community schools published in 1994, Full-Service Schools: A Revolution in Health and Social Services for Children, Youth, and Families, helping people begin to see the potential for change in joint action by schools and human services organizations of all kinds.

And her book Inside Full Service Community Schools, written in 2002 with Sue Maguire, an elementary school principal, Joy took the next step using Sue’s experience to give people a road map for action.

By then Joy had become a founding partner in the Coalition for Community Schools. She was the only individual that the Coalition, a network of organizations, ever had as a partner, and she fulfilled that role for many years, helping the Coalition get organized, develop a coherent vision, and move to action.

It was Joy who first brought the American Federation of Teachers in as a Coalition partner, and now the AFT is among the most important resources in the community schools movement.

Most of all however, I will remember Joy as an endlessly positive and warm person. The picture you see of Joy tells the story – a woman having a good time, toasting community schools, and celebrating life.

She was always grateful for what we were trying to do to organize more community schools across the country to help kids succeed. And Joy was especially full of pride about what people in local communities were doing. She never failed to have a kind word about what the Coalition was doing, but always pushing us to do more.

Every one of us involved with community schools today owes a debt to Joy Dryfoos. She will forever be a giant in our field, and I will always hear her asking me…and you…how is it going? Can’t we do more?

May her memory, and her inspiration, be a blessing to us all.

Martin Blank

President Institute for Educational Leadership

Director, Coalition for Community Schools

1 comment:

  1. It is with great sadness but even greater gratitude that we note the passing of Joy Dryfoos, who served as instigator, revolutionary, mentor, critic, thinking partner, supporter, rabble rouser, comfort, mother, and guru to thousands... She provided the solid research that powered the community schools movement - but more than research, she was the one who pushed, pulled, inspired and insisted. We are ever in her debt.

    One day in 1995, sitting in the Governor's Office for Children, Youth and Families, reading "Full-Service Community Schools" to help me prepare a R.W. Johnson grant for the State of Maryland's school-based health centers... I just was so moved by the power of Joy's words that I picked up the phone and called her. Sight unseen and never having heard of me, she spent nearly 2 hours on the phone going through ideas, research references, and helping to shape the kind of proposal we would make. It was nearly 6 years later that I finally met Joy at the first Coalition Forum in Kansas City, with Jane Quinn, on the hotel mezzanine. I will never forget it. "You have a lot of work to do!" she said, the first of hundreds of times I heard that phrase!

    Joy was the most direct, the most kind, the most encouraging mentor and friend - she literally mothered me through years of professional and personal change - from developing community schools to navigating my own teenager's rocky road. She called to each and every one of us to be our best, never to rest on one formulation of community schools but to push it to the next level, expand past the next frontier. She never minced words when she disagreed - and she wanted us to be just as rigorous in our thinking as she was.

    In her last years, since her re-written "Adolescence" was published, Joy found less and less purpose for her daily life. She adored her grandchildren and enjoyed the political machinations of her residential community, but she did not feel "useful" and that galled her. Last fall, when we discussed ways in which she could speak through some of us and continue to contribute, she said, "I had my run. If my work meant anything, it will be because all of you will keep doing yours." She was terribly, terribly proud of each initiative in the community schools movement, of her beloved Children's Aid, the Coalition, and each and every one of us - she kept tabs on what you were each doing and she was deeply moved. I am so glad we will be together in May to celebrate and remember Joy together. But her true memorial is what each and every one of us is trying, every day, to "do more"...

    I am so grateful for having had Joy in my life.

    Jessica Strauss