First Bay Area Community Schools Fundamentals Conference

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In partnership with the United Way of the Bay Area, The Children’s Aid Society National Center for Community Schools (NCCS) planned and co-hosted a “Community Schools Fundamentals” conference in Oakland, California, on December 4 and 5.  Approximately 200 educators from across the Bay Area attended the conference, which was designed for educators and staff from community-based organizations who are new or relatively new to the community schools strategy.

Together with local community schools practitioners, NCCS ran and co-facilitated workshops throughout the conference, geared toward sharing our experiences from the past 20-plus years of running community schools in New York City and providing technical assistance to the field.  Workshops were focused around our “4 C’s”: comprehensiveness, collaboration, coherence and commitment. Topics ranged from school climate and needs assessment to school partnerships, smart use of data and sustainability planning.

During the opening plenary session, Community Schools: A Strategy, Not a Program, NCCS senior staff gave a lively and engaging overview of community schools, spiced with strategic doses of humor.  The day two morning plenary, Superintendent's Perspective: The Role of Community Schools in Serving our Most Vulnerable Youth, was a conversation among three Bay Area education leaders about the potential of community schools to increase opportunities for youth at risk of failure and dropping out.  And at the closing plenary, A Taste of Technical Assistance, six local technical assistance providers gave an overview of their capacity and areas of expertise.  After this session participants met with the provider of their choice for a mini-consultation.    

In addition to plenaries and workshops, participants also had the opportunity to go on study visits to local Bay Area community schools.  During the study tours, which included primary, middle and high schools, each team of staff highlighted its own best practices and experiences. Kudos to our United Way colleagues for the outstanding job they did with the visits. The tours were very well planned and informative; the right staff was on hand to answer questions and describe their initiatives.  

Reporter Jane Meredith Adams wrote an article for EdSource Today on how the community school strategy is gaining traction in California; her namesake, the venerable Jane Addams, mother of the Settlement House movement, was probably nodding approvingly.  

Written evaluations revealed that the conference was a great success.  Not only did participants learn from a variety of practitioners and researchers, but they were also able to see community schools in action and to hear from the colleagues running them on a day-to-day basis, in the school environment.  There is no substitute for experiential learning!

“What a fantastic experience it was to work with you. I hope this is the start of a great, long-term partnership,” wrote our colleague Ed Center, senior director of education at the United Way of the Bay Area, in a post-conference note. We’d like to echo him:  We truly hope to join our United Way of the Bay Area partners in future collaborations, and thank them for their leadership and vision in the community school field.