Partnerships between schools and community resources can vary on several dimensions: for example, from single focus to comprehensive, from light touch to intensive, and from co-located to integrated. In this issue of Partnership Press, we explore the idea of an integrated partnership − what it looks like, what makes it work, what it can achieve.
At the beginning of our community schools work in New York City nearly 20 years ago, Children’s Aid set out to develop “seamless” partnerships between our organization and public schools. For us, that meant the supports, services and opportunities offered by our organization would be coordinated with one another and fully integrated into the life of each school. We quickly learned that the key ingredient in creating and sustaining an integrated partnership is joint planning, particularly between the school’s principal and The Children’s Aid Society’s site-based community school director. In our experience, joint planning is not a one-time event but, rather, a way of doing business. Over the years, we have adopted and taught (through our National Technical Assistance Center for Community Schools) a set of practices that foster integration.
As we have done this work, our thinking has moved from the metaphor of “seamlessness” to one of “zipper,” because we have come to recognize that there are specific structural mechanisms that provide the “teeth” needed to keep the components of a complex partnership together. For example, we have learned the importance of having the community school director serve on the school’s governance, planning and assessment bodies, such as the School Leadership Team, the Pupil Personnel Team, the Inquiry Team and the School Safety Committee. The full-time presence of many Children’s Aid staff − during the regular school day as well as during extended hours (after school, summer, holidays, Saturdays) − also contributes to our integrated approach.
Children’s Aid staff are available throughout the day to partner with Department of Education colleagues in a variety of ways. For example, members of our mental health team regularly consult with classroom teachers; our health educators offer classes during the school day as well as after school; and our youth development staff assist with lunch duty and recess. We connect our after-school academic enrichment to the school’s core instructional program by employing an educational coordinator at each site.
In this issue, we will also introduce you to integration ideas we have learned from our international colleagues. For example, Scotland has created the role of Integration Manager in an effort to link its schools with other public-sector services. Finally, we explore emerging policy opportunities that support comprehensive, integrated services for students and families in our own country.
Sincerely, Jane Quinn, Director, National Technical Assistance Center for Community Schools Richard Negrón, Director, Community Schools