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Jan Creveling and Genie Shannon: Building for the Future from the Beginning

10/02/12

Jan Creveling and Genie Shannon’s professional relationship has become so intertwined that they finish each other’s sentences.
 
For over three decades, the two have worked on family support and child abuse prevention initiatives and, most recently, jointly developing award-winning community schools in the Tulsa metro region.
 
"Genie and I have known each other since the 70s. It’s been fun to have a buddy to share this journey with," said Creveling.
 
"Jan’s ability to see the big picture not only nationally but locally [has been a tremendous asset]," Shannon said. "She’s been a fabulous leader for this."
 
The two are hard at work putting the final touches on a primer on the Tulsa Area Community School Initiative (TACSI), a joint community school initiative with the Tulsa and Union Public Schools. The report will serve as a guide on the initiative’s protocols, partnerships, and how it has become a model community school system since its formation in 2007.
 
"There’s power in relationships," Shannon said. She adds that TACSI has shown community members and organizations that partnership is "not what you can do for me, but what we can do for each other for the good of the community."
 
Indeed, TACSI’s formation was very organic. It was something that community and education leaders in Tulsa and Union were exploring simultaneously, though they didn’t know it at the time.
Leaders of the Community Service Council of Greater Tulsa (CSC) began searching for a more preventative and holistic way to tackling hunger, poverty and access to quality health care. Creveling discovered community schools while researching possible strategies that would meet new challenges.
 
"We wanted to be more preventive in nature and not problem-oriented," Creveling said. 
 
Creveling and CSC Director Phil Dessauer decided to attend the Coalition’s 2005 National Forum in Chicago. Both were surprised to see the principal from Roy Clark Elementary School in Union County at the event. Back home, Creveling and Shannon brought together the necessary stakeholders, shared what they had learned, and the work really took off.
 
The following year, Tulsa area leaders sent a contingent of nearly three dozen school and community leaders to the Coalition’s National Forum in Baltimore. Superintendents from both Tulsa and Union counties took note and in partnership with CSC, they began implementing community schools the following year. They built the DNA for TACSI from the conditions for learning outlined by the Coalition.
 
TACSI has been nationally recognized for its achievements, including Roy Clark which won a Community School Excellence Award from the Coalition in 2011.
 
Creveling and Shannon have been integral to growing the initiative. They have been thoughtful about expanding in a sustainable way since the beginning. They value research for improvement as well as for demonstrating success. And they’ve certainly done that. A study of Tulsa’s community schools found that students in high-implementing community schools outperformed non-community schools in math by 32 points and reading by 19 points.
 
Both said that community schools look different in every place they are found but being a part of the Coalition and connecting with others that are doing the work around the country is a tremendous asset for leaders seeking to grow the strategy in their own communities.
 
They also caution to stay above the fray and politics when developing your initiative.
 
"Remain laser-focus. Always go back and put children in the center," Creveling said.

Read about TACSI's story in our Scaling Up Community Schools Guide


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