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Community Schools Leadership Awards 2016

2016 Community Schools Leadership Awards

The Coalition for Community Schools is proud to present a set of awards recognizing excellence in leadership. The list of the leadership award categories are: 

To look at our full press release on the leadership awards, including contact information, click here

Joy Dryfoos Community Schools Lifetime Achivement Award

Named after Joy Dryfoos, a tireless advocate for community schools, the award goes to the individual who has made significant contributions to the growth of the community school field.

U.S. Representative Steny Hoyer
Democratic Whip and U.S. Representative for Maryland's 5th congressional district. 
A tireless advocate for public education, Rep. Steny Hoyer has represented Maryland’s 5th Congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1981. He is a longtime supporter of community schools and is a champion for providing educational, health, and other services in schools for all members of the community. 
Rep. Hoyer has been a legislative champion for full-service community schools. Because of his leadership, community schools initiatives across the country have received federal funding since 2008. He has introduced legislation to encourage the expansion of full-service community schools throughout the country since 2007. Rep. Hoyer was also instrumental in including a provision that encourages the wider adoption of the full-service community schools model into the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which was signed into law in December 2015.  

National Partner Award

For the national partner that has made significant contributions to the work of the Coalition and toward growing the field.

The School Superintendent's Association

 AASA, The School Superintendents Association, has been an instrumental partner in the Coalition’s work to support and grow the community schools strategy. 

In 2011, AASA co-hosted, with the Coalition, the first Community Schools Superintendents Leadership Council. Over the last five years, 45 superintendents leading community school initiatives in their districts have joined the Council to share best practices and provide support and encouragement to each other. AASA has continued to co-host joint meetings of the Superintendents Leadership Council at the Community Schools National Forum and AASA’s National Conference on Education since its inception. Many of the exemplary superintendents and district leaders AASA highlights through their National Superintendent of the Year program and other channels are also community school advocates.

Dr. Steven Webb, one of this year’s Superintendent Leadership Award honorees, was a finalist for the 2016 National Superintendent of the Year, and last year’s Superintendent Leadership Award winner, Dr. Ramona Bishop of Vallejo, CA, was a featured panelist during a session at AASA’s 2016 National Conference on Education. AASA has continued to be supportive of the Coalition’s work in many areas, particularly on the programmatic and policy fronts. AASA has been a strong partner in raising awareness of community schools among federal policymakers through meetings on Capitol Hill with legislators and their staff, co-hosting webinars, and participating in the Coalition’s federal policy work group. AASA was also pivotal in the successful efforts to embed community school principles in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). An active member of the Coalition’s Steering Committee, AASA provides valuable insight and guidance to the future of the Coalition and its efforts.  

Superintendent Leadership Award

For the superintendent(s) who championed the community school strategy and led the district in the alignment and support of community schools. 

Steve Webb
Superintendent, Vancouver Public Schools (Vancouver, WA)

Dr. Steven Webb has been superintendent of Vancouver Public Schools since 2008. One of his top priorities during his tenure has been expanding the community schools model to serve more of the district’s 23,500 students.

When Dr. Webb joined Vancouver Public Schools as deputy superintendent/superintendent successor a decade ago, the district—and city—were undergoing some major changes. Just across the state border from Portland, OR, Vancouver was experiencing a rise in poverty due to the urbanization of a historically suburban, middle-class community. During the Great Recession, unemployment in the area grew to an estimated 14 percent. And, the number of students in the district who qualify for free or reduced-price meals has increased from 39 percent to a peak of 57 percent.

In 2008, as a major component of a new strategic plan crafted with extensive community input, district leaders decided to address directly how poverty was impacting so many of its students, both inside and outside the classroom, by developing family and community resource centers in schools. Led by school-based coordinators and a district-level task force, these centers have provided a range of supports to students and their families, from on-site food pantries and free clothing to GED classes for parents and on-site dental clinics. They’ve even helped to find housing for dozens of residents after their low-income apartment complexes closed. Today, 16 Vancouver schools have resource centers, a mobile van assists other schools, and the district aims to offer family and community services at all 35 schools by 2020.

Dr. Webb has led the charge for building collaborative relationships between the district and community organizations, businesses, faith-based groups, and public agencies, which also provide invaluable services to Vancouver students through the resource centers. The Boys and Girls Clubs of Southwest Washington offer out-of-school programs, the Vancouver Housing Authority and the Council for the Homeless find housing for displaced families, and the Foundation for Vancouver Public Schools provides much needed financial support to help families meet their basic needs.

The community schools strategy has helped to create an environment that fosters academic growth and social success by reducing barriers to learning, and the positive outcomes are evident. The achievement gap for English language learners has narrowed by 20 points since 2008, the 2015 graduation rate is above 80 percent, and low-income and minority students are achieving at higher levels.

Inspired by the change he’s seen in his district, Dr. Webb has become a tireless advocate for state and federal community school policies, and he works with national organizations to understand the positive impact of community schools. Even as he’s widened his influence, Dr. Webb still focuses on growing the community schools approach in his district, working to make the strategy one that is supported by the entire community.

Dr. Webb is co-chair of the Coalition’s Superintendents Leadership Council. Education Week named him and VPS Chief of Staff Tom Hagley 2016 Leaders To Learn From. Dr. Webb also was selected as the 2016 Washington State Superintendent of the Year by the Washington Association of School Administrators and as one of four finalists for the 2016 National Superintendent of the Year by AASA, The School Superintendents Association. 

Teresa Neal
Superintendent, Grand Rapids Public Schools (Grand Rapids, MI)

Teresa Weatherall Neal leads Grand Rapids Public Schools, a district of 17,000 students with 12 community schools offering social services, health and dental services, and family support services to students, families, and community members.

Neal has found the community schools strategy to be one that is able to help the district tackle many of its most pressing challenges. With a growing number of low-income children and families in Grand Rapids, and more students who are English language learners, Neal and the district saw community schools as a way to leverage the assets and resources of the Grand Rapids community to serve all students and their families and allow them to thrive academically and in the community.

Building upon the relationships with community partners she established while serving as an assistant superintendent in Grand Rapids, Neal used the community schools strategy to connect to like-minded individuals and organizations in the area and formalize a collaborative approach to serving students. Neal was a key stakeholder in the creation of the Kent School Services Network (KSSN), which provides social supports to children and their families throughout the county. Starting with implementing supports at six schools in Grand Rapids in 2006, KSSN now provides resources to more than 5,000 students at 12 schools in the district, along with 18 schools in 8 other Kent County school districts.

The community schools strategy has seen such growth throughout the district under Neal’s leadership that the Grand Rapids Community Foundation has partnered with the district to launch the Challenge Scholars program in 2014. This program, which has nearly 300 registered students, aims to increase the number of first-generation college students who successfully complete a college degree or high-quality credential by providing students with targeted academic, social, and health supports beginning in sixth grade and covering their college or trade school tuition after they graduate high school. The partnerships developed through the district’s community schools efforts and with KSSN have been a vital part of the success of the Challenge Scholars program.

While the implementation of the community schools strategy in Grand Rapids hasn’t been completely smooth—Neal has mentioned that it can be challenging to encourage institutions to think holistically about serving children and the community—it has proven to be effective. Chronic absenteeism throughout the district has decreased by 22.5 percent in the last three years. Graduation rates have increased by 5 percent over the last three years, and by nearly 10 percent among African American and Hispanic students. Parent engagement continues to increase, and this year, Grand Rapids has increased student enrollment for the first time in two decades.


Neal is co-chair of the Coalition’s Superintendents Leadership Council.

The Superintendent Leadership Award is co-sponsored by our partners at AASA, the School Superintendents Association.

Community Schools Initiative Leadership Award

For the individual(s) who have pushed their initiatives to new heights over the past two years. Leaders also have made important contributions to their peers and taken on leadership roles within the Coalition.

Adeline Ray
Senior Manager, Community Schools Initiative, Chicago Public Schools (Chicago, IL)

Adeline Ray has been leading the community schools efforts in Chicago Public Schools since 2005, launching more than 200 community schools where over 35,000 students and 5,700 family members are served annually.

As one of the largest school districts—and cities—in the country, Chicago has faced a number of challenges over the last several years, including dramatic changes in mayoral and superintendent leadership. But community schools helped to provide stability in neighborhoods experiencing rising crime and poverty levels, offering children and their families with academic supports and health and food services when they need them most. All community schools in the district provide academic supports; health and wellness access; social-emotional health services; social, cultural, and recreational activities; and adult education and community engagement. Many also have extended hours and are open seven days a week to provide services and a safe space to the community outside of school hours.

Ray serves as the driving force behind the initiative, bringing her optimism and collaborative spirit to what can often be a challenging task. She leads community school efforts throughout the city, providing support to schools and their resource coordinators and partners. Bringing partner organizations and institutions into the fold and utilizing the city’s assets has been a major part of the Chicago initiative’s success—and Ray’s work. She has helped to develop partnerships with more than 50 lead organizations, as well as work with the American Institutes for Research on the development of implementation and evaluation tools, and the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, where community school coordinators are trained in a master’s degree program.

Ray is a member of the Coalition’s Steering Committee and co-chair of the Community Schools Leadership Network. She serves on the Illinois State Board of Education’s 21st CCLC Professional Development Advisory Group; the Engaged in Enrichment and Academic Activities Change Network of THRIVE Chicago; Chicago’s Cradle to Career Collective Impact initiative; and is a member of the ACT Now Quality Assurance, Outcomes, and Evaluation Committee developing statewide standards for afterschool programs. The Chicago Public Schools Community Schools Initiative was honored with the Coalition’s Community Schools National Award for Excellence in 2006.

Curtiss Sarikey
Deputy Chief, Community Schools and Student Services, Oakland Unified School District (Oakland, CA) 

Curtiss Sarikey leads the district-wide full-service community schools vision in the Oakland Unified School District in Oakland, CA. With more than 80 schools serving 37,000 students, it is one of the largest school districts in California.

Sarikey joined Oakland Unified in 2011, a year after former superintendent Tony Smith launched a community schools initiative throughout the district. Just prior to Smith’s tenure, the district was taken over by the state and was facing serious challenges due to violence and high unemployment rates throughout the city. Many families were opting to send their children to charters and other schools rather than the city’s traditional public schools, causing a sharp decline in enrollment over the course of a decade.

To combat these issues, Oakland’s initiative is a collaborative strategy bringing together academic, health, and social services for students, their families, and the community at large in full-service community schools. Now more than 30 schools have community school managers on-site, bringing these supports to those who need them most, with a goal to reach 50 schools by 2020. As part of the full-service community schools district initiative, Oakland implements 76 afterschool program sites serving nearly 8,000 students, 45 summer learning programs for more than 5,700 PreK-12th grade students, and 16 school-based health centers serving thousands of students and their families.

Maintaining the momentum and enthusiasm for community schools, even through leadership transitions, Sarikey has worked to embed the strategy in the core vision, climate, and culture of the district and within schools. He also continues to build and nurture strategic partnerships with community organizations and institutions to support students and families in Oakland, and is an advocate for including community voice in district decisions regarding the education of and services for its youngest residents.

Today, Oakland still faces many challenges: three in four students are from low-income families, and a third are English language learners. But there have been great improvements throughout the district since community schools were introduced five years ago. Attendance rates have improved and the number of students at risk for chronic absence has decreased to 17 percent. Suspensions have decreased by nearly 30 percent. These improvements are proof that Sarikey and his commitment to community schools continue to make a difference for students and families throughout the district.

Sarikey is a member of the Coalition’s Community Schools Leadership Network.

Family & Community Advocate Award 

NYC Coalition for Educational Justice 

 The Coalition for Educational Justice (CEJ) is a parent-led collaborative of community-based organizations and unions, whose members include culturally diverse parents, community members, and educators. CEJ led the push in 2013 for New York City mayoral candidates to adopt community schools into their education agendas. Building upon that success, they have worked with Mayor Bill de Blasio to build a citywide community schools vision, and there are now more than 130 new community schools in New York City. CEJ has been successful in mobilizing parents and local leaders to transform education and redefine community engagement in schools across the city.

CEJ has been instrumental in the creation of a sustainable community school strategy in New York City. By bringing the critical voice of families and community residents into the conversation, CEJ has helped community schools efforts to have a greater impact on the lives of young people and their families and communities. They continue to strengthen the capacity for authentic family and community engagement in community schools and keep the focus on better learning and outcomes for children. CEJ drove the passage of the community schools policy at the New York City Department of Education, a landmark policy for New York City and other large cities. 

Community Schools Educator Leadership Award

Principals, teachers, and other school staff play an important role in a successful community school. Awardees have embraced the community school strategy, as demonstrated by change in practice and leadership of their community school.

Peggy Candelaria Principal, Manzano Mesa Elementary School (Albuquerque, NM)

Peggy Candelaria is the principal of Manzano Mesa Elementary School, in Albuquerque, NM. Manzano Mesa Elementary is part of the initiative led by the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County (ABC) Community School Partnership. The school is one of the highest ranked elementary schools in New Mexico, and also boasts the largest afterschool program in all of Albuquerque Public Schools.

Under Candelaria’s leadership, Manzano Mesa Elementary has developed a robust and comprehensive menu of services that it offers to its students and families. She was one of the first principals to receive a grant from the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Community School Partnership to develop an on-the-ground community schools strategy, which has made the creation and growth of many of Manzano Mesa’s programs possible. Candelaria has been a driving force behind bringing collaborative services to her students and their families, launching the Community School Council with 29 organizations and individuals, which serves as the non-core academic decision making body for Manzano Mesa.

Candelaria helped to start the Homework Diner program, an afterschool family engagement program that brings parents into schools one evening every week to help their children with homework and provides access other academic opportunities for the whole family. The Homework Diner program, which now regularly welcomes more than 100 participants at Manzano Mesa, has been highlighted on the NBC Nightly News twice and has expanded to 11 Albuquerque schools and 11 states. In addition to providing children and families with meals at many sessions, the Homework Diner program has been effective in supporting academic success and family engagement. The school has reported more open relationships between teachers and parents, particularly among Spanish-speaking families; the creation of ESL and Spanish literacy adult education courses; and homework and tutoring services for middle school siblings of Manzano Mesa students.

A strong supporter of family engagement, Candelaria has implemented two family-focused programs at Manzano Mesa. She was instrumental in developing a partnership with the New Mexico Asian Family Center to support Asian families in her school, which has one of the highest Asian populations of any elementary school in the state. She also helped to create the Parent Pre-School Co-Op, a volunteer-run early childhood center for families in the community. In addition to providing childcare, the Co-Op has helped 11 Spanish-speaking volunteers to receive childcare certification from Central New Mexico Community College.

Amanda Reyes Teacher, Emerson Elementary School (Albuquerque, NM)

Amanda Reyes is a teacher at Emerson Elementary School in Albuquerque, NM. Emerson Elementary is part of the initiative led by the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County (ABC) Community School Partnership.

Reyes is a leader of much of the community schools work being done at Emerson Elementary in partnership with the ABC Community School Partnership. She has been an integral part of Emerson’s efforts to reduce the school’s student mobility, which saw a 15 percent reduction in one year. She also assisted in surveying 100 percent of students for afterschool programs, which led to a 300 percent increase in participation. As a member of the coordinating team of Emerson’s weekly Homework Diner, Reyes schedules teachers and learning activities for the weekly program. Emerson is one of 11 schools in the Albuquerque area that participates in the afterschool family engagement program, which brings parents into schools to help their children with homework and provides access to tutors in multiple subjects.

In addition, Reyes co-facilitates Community School Council meetings with the school’s Community School Coordinator to set goals, objectives, and action steps for its continued growth. Through the Council’s work, teachers and principals regularly collaborate with families and local organizations such as the neighborhood association, Albuquerque Public Schools district leaders, the local Boys & Girls Club, the University of New Mexico Health Clinic, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Streetwise, Inc.

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