By Patricia Weinzapfel
In March, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement brought together its Full Service Community Schools (FSCS) and Promise Neighborhood grantees at the Promise Neighborhoods National Network Conference.
Department officials said the two programs were convened at the same conference for a number of reasons such as coordinating and pooling department resources. They also said much of the work of the FSCS grantees is the same as the work of the Promise Neighborhoods grant recipients. Both put strong schools at the center of efforts to improve the well being and long term success of children and families and both take a “whole child,” cradle to career approach to revitalizing communities. Many of the Promise Neighborhood proposals specifically include resources to support community schools.
The conference was held in Washington D.C. There were more than 300 participants, including 37 individuals representing most of the FSCS grant recipients. Sessions centered on community and family engagement, financing and sustainability, and building effective collaboration and partnerships. FSCS grantees joined Promise Neighborhoods planning and implementation grant recipients at these sessions. FSCS grantees also took part in two sessions especially designed for them. One of the sessions offered FSCS grantees a chance to talk about their successes and challenges, to network and swap ideas, and to think collaboratively about how to sustain the work as some grants are entering their final year.
The conference concluded with a presentation by Harlem Children’s Zone President and Chief Executive Officer Geoffrey Canada who spoke about the importance of community building through educational opportunities. Harlem Children’s Zone is considered a model for the Promise Neighborhoods initiative.
Patricia Weinzapfel, Director of Community Schools, Center for Family, School and Community Partnerships, Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation