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John O’Dowd, Northern Ireland Education Minister Visits a Children’s Aid Society Community School

In early October, John O’Dowd, Northern Ireland’s education minister, visited the Salomé Ureña de Henriquez campus, a CAS full-service community school in Washington Heights. He was accompanied by representatives from the New York and Washington D.C. Northern Ireland Bureaus.  The minister was on a fact-finding visit to the United States and Canada to explore common challenges in breaking the link between poverty and low educational attainment, and in preparing young people for life and work in the 21st century.

O’Dowd is proud of the strong performance of Northern Ireland's schools and is keen to share his vision with like-minded professionals within the U.S. education system. We are honored that the British Council, one of our long-term international partners, recommended the CAS community schools to be part of this conversation.

During the visit, Mr. O’Dowd met with staff from CAS National Center for Community Schools, CAS SU Campus staff and with principals June Barnett, Bernadette Drysdale and Erika Zigelman.

The Northern Ireland Executive quotes the Minister: “Salomé Ureña de Henríquez campus serves disadvantaged communities yet it delivers excellent educational outcomes for its pupils each year. It is one of a network of schools in New York that offers a comprehensive, integrated approach to education. The school has become a centre for the community, open evenings and weekends throughout the year. This type of community engagement is exactly what I aim to promote with my ‘Education Works’ campaign. Education doesn’t end at the school gates and it is vital that children are stimulated in the home environment so that we maximize the positive impact of school-based learning.”


On October 3, a group of 14 teachers, social workers, community partners and a principal from Lincoln and Hamilton elementary schools in Schenectady, NY, attended a study visit at the National Center for Community Schools and at CAS middle and elementary schools in Washington Heights. The group is on a fast track to becoming community schools.  They were recommended to us by Professor Hal Lawson from the State University of New York at Albany, a consultant for both turnaround schools.  Dr. Lawson speaks very highly of the positive outcomes of our schools and believes that adapting the cradle-to-career system framework of community schools is the best road for these two schools to succeed.  Written feedback from participants states that the study visit was “amazing, inspiring and informative.”    


David Kirp, Professor at the University of California, invited Richard J. Boyle, President and CEO of ECMC Group, to visit P.S.5 and to meet with NCCS Director Jane Quinn.  Mr. Boyle’s innovative vision coupled with his expertise in finance, business operations and marketing have transformed ECMC into a national presence in higher education finance. Professor Kirp is a renowned scholar and author. Among other books, he is the author of Kids First: Five Big Ideas for Transforming Children’s Lives; the CAS community schools strategy is one of the five big ideas.


The Children’s Aid Society Practicum 2013 opened with school visits on October 16.  Roughly half of the practicum participants (85 or so) chose to see the schools and meet with our staff and with our partners from the NYC Department of Education.  In addition to getting an overview of the partnership, the objective of the visits was to tie the discussion to the conference’s theme, Community Schools in Action:  Addressing the Opportunity Gap.  The participants’ feedback was very positive.

We commend and thank our CAS and NYC Department of Education colleagues for the excellent job they do on behalf of children and families, and for their willingness to share their deep knowledge of community schools with colleagues from across the country.