Needs and Capacity Assessments
Conducting a Needs Assessments
Community schools have the capacity to address many of the community’s needs, and so the programs and supports that your school offers should be targeted towards those needs. Assess what the needs of your students, families, school leaders, and communities are and develop a plan to address them effectively.
Conducting an Assets Assessment: Existing and New Partnership and Programming
Along with the principals, coordinators take inventory of existing partners, programs and services within the school and reach out to new partners to help support students’ unmet needs. Ask yourself: how many partners are there within the school already? Who are those partners, what service or program do they provide, who are they serving, and are they serving them well? Is there any overlap in children served across various partners? Are there programmatic and population gaps that can be filled by other partners within the community that haven’t been tapped?
An effective partnership agreement should include the following: clarification of the capital investment by the partners; arrangements for maintenance and repair; programs or activities covered by the agreement; assignments of operational costs, such as utilities; assignments for staffing and supervision; access by the partners and hours of operation; and/or assignments for safety and security. See examples of Memorandums of Understanding below:
Brokering Services and Programs
Many lead agencies, whether districts or community partners, use their community school coordinators to broker community partners to provide programs and services within the school. In Cincinnati, coordinators use the partnership organization chart at the school level to broker, manage and coordinate their partners. Partners are organized into teams based on the various services they provide who is assigned a coordinating partner. For example, the Mental Health K-8 Team is coordinated by a representative from St. Aloysius Orphanage who coordinates seven partners at the schools. Partners can belong to more than one team. The overlap between teams help create more accountability and awareness of activities across the team. Review the structure of partnerships and their relationships with the coordinator and see if it works for your community school.
Some lead agencies, including community based organizations, provide direct services. The Children's Aid Society (CAS) currently operates 21 community schools in New York City. These community schools are the result of partnerships between CAS, the New York City Board of Education, the school district and community based partners. In many of their community schools, Children’s Aid Society directly provides services and programs for their students and parents. They also broker many other community partners to fill gaps in services and programs they are unable to provide.