Monday, April 21, 2014

Mini Plenary: Dual Capacity-Building Frame for Family-School-Partnerships

By Jennie Carey, Community School Coordinator, Social Justice Humanitas Academy. Jennie joined the Coalition for Community School at the Community Schools 2014 National Forum in Cincinnati, Ohio last April.

The Community Schools National Forum was a roller coaster for me. Though inspired by the vision clinics in schools, youth creating videos, teachers sacrificing it all to reform their schools, and district and state level policies supporting our movement, it was difficult for me not to be a little self conscious.

Am I doing enough? Am I being effective?
With roadmaps in hand from all of these promising, effective practices, the work still didn’t feel 100% doable, it didn’t feel that simple. I didn’t feel like I could just go home and put them in place. It didn’t align with my approach to my work, but I also didn’t want to be “that person.” You know, the one who says, “that may work in your community, but not in mine.”

That was until I heard Dr. Karen Mapp’s mini plenary session about her story of how she and the Department of Education have wrestled with the question of why it has been so difficult to cultivate and sustain effective partnerships.  

The answer: it’s all about capacity. It’s all about having a compass, not a roadmap.

When I heard that, I began to feel relief for the first time since the National Forum had started. Yes, this is the challenge I’ve been facing. Inspirational programs, people, and policies aside, the issue of capacity is the real challenge I wanted someone to address at this forum.

Dr. Mapp provided me with validation. Capacity IS the overarching challenge of partnership building in 2014, a challenge that gets me past whether or not a strategy or program will work in your community or in my mine. Naming the challenge as being one of capacity building is the reframing that that the community schools movement needs. 

So, as I left the National Forum, I felt like perhaps the roller coaster of emotions finally slowed down. Having heard from Dr. Mapp and her colleagues, and having been introduced to the framework, I felt like I didn’t have to worry about the question of whether or not I was doing enough. The question was more about “how” I was doing the work—changing processes, redistributing power, building capabilities, connections, cognition, and confidence. The DOE’s new framework ( could be my compass in school-family partnerships, and ones with the community too.

And, if I had any other questions, well, apparently I’m supposed to turn to twitter: Dr. Mapp now has one of those too. Be on the lookout: my new community school coordinator twitter handle is coming soon.

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