Community Schools Summit provides inspiration, guidance for struggling schools

Texas AFT continues to be a leader in promoting the community schools model throughout Texas, and one of the key drivers of the movement is the annual Texas Community Schools Summit, which was held on June 6 in Austin this year. Texas AFT cosponsored the summit with the Texas Community Schools Coalition, Austin Voices for Youth and Education, and Save Texas Schools.

And what are community schools? Community schools are developed by parent-teacher-community partners who come together to identify and marshal the services the students at a campus and their families need–often called “wraparound services”–to support academic success. This model is especially valuable and effective for struggling campuses that must develop a turnaround plan that meets state requirements. “No matter what part of the country, how big or small the district is, or what the ethnic or economic makeup is of a school in need of assistance, if dedicated teams follow the prescribed protocols, the community schools model will work,” said Corina Ortiz, a Houston Federation of Teachers organizer who attended the summit.

The summit provided both an overview of successful community schools initiatives, along with nuts and bolts training on how to implement the model, and plenty of opportunities to share information. “Being new to the community schools movement, I was unsure of what to expect in attending the summit, and I wondered what I would end up bringing back to share with my coworkers back in Houston,”  Ortiz said. “Almost, immediately, I felt a sense of embrace from a very diverse and extended family of educators and community leaders. Ideas, suggestions, proposals, recommendations, plans and business cards–lots of business cards—and plenty of offers of, ‘If I can help, don’t hesitate to call me,’ were at every juncture.”

Houston ISD is one of several districts where Texas AFT locals are working to develop community schools. (You can see a great overview of the efforts in Houston News section for more information on community schools.

This month’s American Educator also takes an in-depth look at community schools, how they are defined, and examples of successful implementations around the country.