Over the past 15 years, The Children’s Aid Society has hosted visitors from 40 different countries, all of whom wanted to see a community school in action. The earliest visitors came primarily from Western Europe and were interested in learning how the community schools strategy could be adapted to their increasingly heterogeneous populations of students and families. By the late 1990s, we began to see another trend − requests for visits from colleagues in former Communist countries who sought to understand how the community schools strategy could help their schools model and promote democracy.

On December 16, 2008, President-elect Barack Obama nominated Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan to be Secretary of Education. As Education Secretary, Mr. Duncan would preside over the 4,200 employee, $68.6 billion US Department of Education. Among his many responsibilities would be the reauthorization of the nation’s seminal K-12 education law: No Child Left Behind.

The recent presidential election demonstrated that grassroots efforts to register voters and create political awareness work. New voters, as well as young voters, Latinos and African Americans overwhelmingly voted for change. The Children’s Aid Society believes that these non-partisan efforts should start at the school level, to instill in students, as early as possible, the value of voting as a key civic responsibility as well as a powerful tool for change and to encourage parents and the broader community to participate in the democratic process.

We are happy to offer the inaugural issue of Partnership Press, an electronic newsletter designed to provide updates and analyses about community schools in New York City as well as across the nation and around the world. We timed our launch to coincide with the presidential inauguration in the U.S., and we chose the theme “Community Schools: Democracy in Action” as a way to highlight one of the key benefits of the community schools strategy − its focus on active citizen engagement in supporting student achievement, family well-being and school success.