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Stage 2: Milestone 2

Stage 1 | Stage 2 | Stage 3 | Stage 4 | Stage 5 | Stage 6


Chicago, IL
Multnomah County, OR
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Milestone #2: Distribute Leadership

Some things to think about:

Assess and build leadership capacity.
The initiative has already begun developing community-wide leadership. Now, look at ways of both furthering leadership at the community level and building functional capacity at the school-site and intermediary levels.

Community-Wide Leadership

Key role: Vision, oversight, and resource and policy development

Identify strengths and weaknesses. Consider whether your current community-wide leadership group represents the major players from all sectors of the community with access to the resources needed to influence public opinion. Ask if anyone else should be involved; make plans to engage those individuals. Does your current community-level leadership include the following:

  • Influential public and private sector representatives granted decision-making authority by their respective institutions?
  • Representatives of local and state government bodies and agencies, philanthropies and businesses, school districts, higher education institutions such as community colleges, community- and faith-based organizations, and civic groups, along with student, family, and community leaders?
  • Champions with access to information that can significantly affect scale-up planning and the ability use the information to sustain the initiative?

School Site–Level Leadership

Key role: Implementation, practice knowledge, data, and policy feedback

Include site leaders in scale-up planning.
Communities with already operating community schools enjoy the strong site leadership of principals, site coordinators, and site teams composed of school and agency staff, parents, students, and community members. It is important to involve these leaders in scale-up planning. Their input will ensure that the initiative’s first steps reflect on-the-ground knowledge about what is needed and what works. In addition, it is helpful to draw in leaders from potential community school sites as rollout strategies are developed and sites for scale-up are identified. In Stage 5, those leaders will be responsible for implementing the initiative’s work at community school sites and gathering the information needed to demonstrate progress. The development of early ownership builds later capacity.

Intermediary Entities

Key role: Management, strategic planning, communication, alignment, and feedback

Develop clear criteria for selecting an intermediary. Your initiative may already have developed mechanisms for managing, planning, and communicating across a relatively small number of existing community schools. Does this arrangement provide the capacity needed to develop a substantially scaled-up system? The choice of a skilled intermediary depends on the following:

  • Legitimacy in the community. Will the intermediary adhere to its stated mission and professional standards?
  • Credibility as a change agent. Does the intermediary have a successful record in working on collaborative initiatives?
  • Community relationships. Does the intermediary enjoy productive relationships with the school district and other partners?
  • Technical capacity. Does the intermediary demonstrate strong administrative and management capacity in planning and evaluation, finance, resource development, marketing, and communication?
  • Staff. Are the people who will do the work politically astute, flexible, and skilled in balancing top-down and bottom-up decision making?

Consider the range of possibilities for intermediary entities. Community schools initiatives have developed successful intermediary relationships with a wide variety of entities, including the following:

  • Community planning councils
  • Higher education institutions
  • Local education funds
  • Local governments
  • Non-profit organizations
  • School districts
  • United Way chapters

Working groups of mid-level managers redirected from the organizations noted above and other partner agencies may also serve as the intermediary—whether independently or as support to one of the aforementioned groups. Typically, mid-level managers are well-connected, multiskilled professionals who are empowered by a consortium of organizations to advance an initiative’s work. These managers bring their organizations’ unique perspectives and skills to the work and rapidly find and build on common ground. In the best cases, cross-agency management models encourage the type of collaborative relationships that community schools seek to promote. The successful involvement of intermediary entities requires the following:

  • Clarity about which participants will be accountable for which functions and the steps to be taken to ensure that these responsibilities are a priority for the respective participants
  • Sufficient involvement of school district leaders to align community schools activities with the other work of the school district
Key Characteristics of Intermediary Leaders
A look at the characteristics of people who support community schools at the intermediary level suggests a set of criteria for consideration when filling this crucial capacity-building role. Intermediary leaders have an intuitive understanding of the "small p" political environment in which they operate and know how to support and move key leaders. They know how to articulate a clear message that focuses public interest on the initiative. Their eclectic backgrounds cut across education, social welfare, and community development, giving them an interdisciplinary perspective.
Some might say that intermediary leaders are "unique heroes" and that their expertise in one sphere does not lend itself to expertise in another sphere. The rise of community schools across the country belies this notion. Every community can point to boundary-crossing leaders with the right mix of political and technical skills to make community schools a reality.



In Cincinnati, Ohio, district-level delivery of enrichment services is the work of partnership networks rather than of a single intermediary organization. A Cross-Boundary Leadership Team consists of leaders of networks concerned with a range of needs and opportunities from after-school and mental health services to physical health to tutoring and mentoring. To ensure coordination with the curriculum and increase efficiency, organizations interested in partnering with the public schools become part of a partnership network that responds to specific school needs. Site-based governance teams and resource coordinators at individual community schools work with the partnership networks to select the providers most suited to meet the needs and culture of a given school. Such an approach gives the provider "exclusive rights" to a school, prevents service overlap with other providers, and ensures that all schools have equitable access to services. The networks support implementation in line with school plans, provide ongoing quality control and professional development, and develop business plans and financing strategies to sustain their work. Some networks are staffed by volunteers; others have sought foundation support as non-profit entities.


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Be flexible. In the initial stages of developing a scale-up initiative, the arrangement for an intermediary may be informal, with one or two organizations taking the lead. Over time, community leaders may recast the arrangement to meet changing needs. Ultimately, regardless of the organization selected, the intermediary needs to earn the trust of community leaders. 




In Multnomah County, Oregon, the SUN Service System builds partnerships at three levels. A Coordinating Council provides system-level governance, guidance, policy recommendations, and support to the community schools initiative. It orchestrates policy alignment among agencies and organizations to reduce duplication of effort, streamlines service delivery, and strengthens impact. The Coordinating Council nurtures relationships with primary partners to keep them engaged, including local school boards, local municipalities, CBOs, and businesses. The development of the Coordinating Council grew out of an original group of city and county and school district leaders who realized that a more permanent and broad-based body was needed to deepen partnerships and guide the system’s development.

A midlevel operations team is "the glue," says Diana Hall, program supervisor for the SUN Service System. When the composition of top-level leadership on the Coordinating Council changes, staff at the "operations level" – such as Peggy Samolinski and Diana Hall (employed by Multnomah County) and Mary Richardson (employed by the city of Portland)—provide and consistency to the work. They helped develop the initiative’s top-down and bottom-up alignment and communication by working closely with members of the Coordinating Council as well as with principals and SUN Community School managers at the site level (the third level). The third level identifies needs, develops partnership opportunities, and implements activities at individual schools.

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