Ensuring systemic equity and graduating students that are college, career, and community ready are two overarching goals of the Board and Superintendent. Community schooling offers a proven and systematic model to achieving both goals. Using schools as community hubs, this strategy leverages the power created when a broad representation of stakeholders coalesce around the welfare of children. Formalizing a system-wide, evidence-based community school model for school transformation will enable the district to focus on increasing student academic achievement at its highest-need sites, while also eliminating inequities and serving the whole child through the integrated provision of services and supports aligned to student, family, and community needs.
A Community School is a place and set of strategic, coordinated and results-focused partnerships among the school and other community resources that focuses on academics, health and social services, youth and community development, and parent and community engagement, leading to improved student learning, stronger families, and healthier communities. Teacher involvement in the planning and implementation of community schools is a key aspect of this model.
A Community School Resource Teacher is an individual employed full-time by the School Board or a partnering agency, fully dedicated to facilitating the Community School Strategy in collaboration with the school and community-at-large. Community School Resource Teachers, also commonly referred to as a Community School Coordinators, employed by a partnering agency may be approved, pursuant to executed Memoranda of Agreements.
A Community School Implementation Team is a school-based team consisting of families, community partners, teachers, school staff, students, and other stakeholders unique to the school community who share in the governance and decision-making relative to their implementation of the Community School Strategy.
The HCPS Community Schools Task Force - comprised of a diverse group of stakeholders including students, parents, community partners, school-based leadership including teacher leaders, and central office administrators – will guide district-wide implementation of the Community School Strategy, as well as advise growth of the program. Responsibilities include monitoring and implementing the designation process, developing partnerships, and analyzing process and outcome data to inform continuous improvement.
Designation as a Community School
Formal designation as a community school will occur through an orientation and application process managed by the HCPS Community Schools Task Force on an annual basis. The Community School Task Force will develop a selection rubric to ensure that interested schools meet a set of requirements as well as a set of weighted criteria prior to embarking on a community school transformation process.
Elements of a Community School
The Board acknowledges that the design of each community school is be tailored to the specific needs and assets of students, families, school staff, and the larger school community. However, the Board considers the following elements essential to a successful community school:
- An annual asset and needs assessment of and by both school and community.
- A strategic plan that defines how educators, school staff, and community partners will use all available assets to meet specific student needs and improve results.
- The engagement of partners who bring assets and expertise to help implement the building blocks of Community Schools.
- A dedicated staff member – the Community Resource Teacher – whose primary job is to facilitate the development and implementation of the community school’s strategic plan in collaboration with the school and community members/partners, and to ensure alignment of solutions to needs.
- School administrators who are committed to the Community School Strategy and who view the Strategy as parallel to the school instructional program.
- Teachers who are valued for their leadership capacity and provided with opportunities to strengthen their understanding of, and professional alignment with, the Community School model.
- A strategic approach to integrating and expanding access to the following research-backed school improvement strategies and activities:
a) Rich and varied academic programs and extracurricular opportunities that utilize challenging and culturally relevant materials;
b) High-quality teachers who engage students in active learning, employ a variety of teaching strategies, create scaffolds and supports, and develop a collaborative environment with both students and colleagues;
c) Inclusive and democratic leadership structures that engage family members and community partners alongside educators and school staff as vital members of the community school decision-making team;
d) Transformative and evidence-based positive behavior practices that build a non-violent, respectful, and justice-enhancing community;
e) Authentic and robust family and community partnerships that are leveraged to create a dynamic and flexible community school environment; and
f) Wrap-around support services that follow Whole Child tenets.
- Implementation of inquiry cycles to drive problem-solving and continuous improvement.
The Board’s expectation is that a system of central office and community supports be developed to sustain and scale the Community School Strategy. Expectations for systems and supports include:
- A district administrator who ensures consistency in implementation across school sites; partners with the school-based leadership team in support of the essential community school elements; builds school-level capacity to engage in problem-solving and develop the technical knowledge to completed the needs/asset assessment; keeps abreast of best practices and networks with other districts that are utilizing best practices; and coordinates, integrates, and aligns district-wide programs and partnerships.
- Professional development, resources, and strategic supports afforded through the partnership with the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association that are specific to advancing the community school strategy locally;
- The HCPS Community School Task Force – consisting of district administrators, teachers and school leaders, students, parents, and community partners - who engage in collaborative, transparent, and inclusive decision-making; make recommendations about professional development; promote community schooling achievements; create a central office system of support for designated community schools; secure funding in support of the strategy; and routinely monitor progress towards achieving goals and outcomes.
- A procedure manual that outlines clear expectations and guidelines for consistent and high-quality implementation of the community schools model;
- A streamlined process for schools to access strategic partnerships through Memoranda of Understanding that are aligned to school needs and establish clear timelines, expectations, and metrics for success;
- Formative and summative evaluations of the Community School Strategy that drive continuous improvement efforts and measure return on investment, including reports to the Board and stakeholder groups;
- A plan to sustain and responsibly scale the Community School Strategy to additional school sites.