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Stage 3: Milestone 4

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


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Milestone #4: Develop A Roll-out Strategy

Some things to think about:

Decide on the focus, direction, and scope of site-level expansion.
Eventually, a scaled-up system of community schools should spread up and out, both geographically and by grade level. Depending on available resources and needs assessment information, any or all of the following site selection criteria might apply:
  • Student need. Poverty, low achievement, English as a second language, and other student concerns are likely to be primary considerations in every rollout strategy.
  • School readiness. Schools that have already put in place many elements of a community school—willing leaders, strong partners, and staff dedicated to coordination—may provide the best opportunities for rapid scale-up.
  • High-needs neighborhood. A focus on schools within a specific geographic area offers the opportunity to replicate "a community where learning happens"—neighborhood by neighborhood—according to need.
  • Grade level (elementary, middle, high school). High-need sites that are linked by school level across the district or within neighborhoods provide opportunities for cross-school planning for curriculum and instruction aligned with community schools.
  • Existing connection to early childhood programs. Linking schools that enjoy strong partnerships with early childhood providers ensures that children entering school are ready to learn and that relationships with parents are already strong—important conditions that set the stage for higher student achievement in later grades.
  • Feeder pattern. Rollout that begins in the early grades provides community school benefits to cohorts of children throughout their school careers, from elementary to middle to high school.



In Multnomah County, Oregon, community leaders believe that making connections with early childhood initiatives is an important part of a scaled-up community schools system. With "thinking money" from the Kellogg Foundation, Multnomah County is one of three communities working on ways to make strategic connections between community schools and families with very young children. A study team composed of representatives from Head Start, child care and early intervention initiatives, the public libraries, and other agencies and community partners is looking at how early childhood education and community schools are purposefully related and what practices and policies need to be in place to support a smooth transition from preschool into the elementary grades. One simple step has been the addition of a question on community school registration forms asking parents how many preschool-age children are at home. With that information, community school leaders can work with school staff to build supports for young children who are not yet in their school building but will be in future years.


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Build a working budget for an individual community school. Community schools require a full-time community school coordinator and some flexible funds for attracting partners and supporting key positions. The expectation is that additional opportunities and supports will emerge from relationships with community partners and more efficient use of school resources. School districts provide space at no cost in the belief that schools are public facilities and that partners dedicated to the mission of the schools should not be charged for use of the facilities.

Chicago started with $100,000 at each school; Multnomah County with $110,000, plus a part-time case manager. Salaries for community schools coordinators should at least equal the salaries of starting teachers and be sufficient to attract candidates with substantial experience.
Develop a site selection process. To set the stage for success, the site selection process should ensure that prospective community schools demonstrate the basic leadership capacity for transformation into operating community schools. School data and partner knowledge, school visits, and conversations with principals, staff, parents, and teachers should inform the initial assessment. Some initiatives, such as Chicago’s Campaign to Expand Community Schools, have provided planning grants to interested schools; others have selected sites with a history of school and community partnerships. This is the time to begin engaging site leaders in continued planning for the implementation that will begin in Stage 5.

Select a site coordination approach. An important question for a community schools initiative is where to lodge responsibility for day-to-day management of school sites. Should a community partner, often called a lead agency, assume primary responsibility? Should the school system assume primary responsibility? This important question raises issues of power, control, and vision; the answer depends largely on community context.

Considerations for site coordination. In recent years, community schools have typically relied on the community partner or "lead agency" approach to coordination. With this approach, a community partner, typically identified by the initiative with the concurrence of the school, hires and supervises a site coordinator in consultation with the school principal. Like an intermediary at the community level, a site-level lead agency is usually a well-known, experienced, and highly credible partner. Depending on its organizational mission—for example, community development, health care, youth development, or the arts—the lead agency shapes its unique vision in terms of its organizational resources, relationships, and expertise. Many lead agencies bring additional resources from their own organization to the community school and capture funds from public and private sources not otherwise available to schools.

The lead agency approach is often a natural choice when site coordination is funded by organizations (e.g., city and county governments and United Way chapters) that routinely work with community agencies and do not typically fund school systems. This approach offers the further advantage of demonstrating the school system’s ability to work with community partners as well as its commitment to community engagement, collaborative partnerships, and promotion of community schools.

It should be noted, however, that the process of building effective relationships between lead agencies and schools is not without challenges. Differences in culture, goals, staffing standards, and other factors can affect these relationships, but experience shows how to avoid and resolve issues:
  • Involve the school principal in selection of the lead agency
  • Include the school principal in selection of the community schools coordinator
  • Secure agreement for the coordinator to serve on the internal school leadership team so that he or she is seen as central to the mission of the school
  • Provide joint professional development for principals and coordinators
  • Seek trouble-shooting assistance from the initiative’s intermediary or other resource when tensions arise



In Pennsylvania’s Greater Lehigh Valley, the concept of community schools "fits perfectly for us," says Art Scott, president of Northampton Community College (NCC), a lead partner agency in the COMPASS initiative. He believes that community schools and community colleges share similar goals: to educate the workforce, improve quality of life, and ensure economic development. Therefore, participation is a win-win. "We want our buildings to be open 24-7, and we want community groups to use our facilities," he explains, because "we’ll be able to provide better collegiate-level instruction if we understand better the families that we serve." Accordingly, NCC is a lead partner agency at Fountain Hill Elementary, a school largely characterized by a recently arrived Latino population. NCC pays a portion of the community school coordinator’s salary and benefits while the United Way covers a large share of the salary; the school district contributes to benefits. In addition, NCC has recently become the lead partner agency for the community school initiative in the rural Bangor Area School District. NCC is interested in increased enrollment in higher education among the rural district’s population.


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While many community schools initiatives take a lead agency approach, some communities determine that the school system’s direct management of a school site is preferable, particularly when community partners are unsuited to the lead agency role or direct school system oversight is likely to strengthen buy-in at the school site. Direct management also makes sense in communities such as Evansville, Indiana. In Evansville, the school district is deeply committed to community schools, community engagement, and collaboration. Lodging both the intermediary and lead agency roles within the district is deemed the most efficient way to spread, deepen, and sustain the expansion of community schools.

Deciding how best to provide site coordination in your community requires consideration of the following questions:

  • Is capacity sufficient among potential lead agencies in your community to plan, manage, and evaluate school-site activities to ensure alignment with the community-wide initiative?
  • What are the institutional concerns and preferences of initiative partners and potential local public and private funders?
  • What message will the decision about site coordination send to community partners, families, and the broader public with respect to the school system’s commitment to work in partnership with the community?
  • Which approach is better suited to tapping grass-roots capacity and creating long-term political support for expanding and sustaining community schools?

A few examples follow:

  • In Multnomah County, Oregon, when the city of Portland and the county decided to pursue a community schools approach, they believed strategically and politically that they could not give money directly to the school system for on-site management. The county historically has worked through contracted private non-profit agencies and community-based organizations. Instead, leaders adopted a model with a non-school lead agency at individual school sites—an approach that has resulted in strong and sustained cross-sector buy-in, a rich pool of expertise, diversified funding, and strengthened community engagement.
  • In Chicago, then–school CEO Arne Duncan recognized that CBOs had the expertise and resources needed by the school system. He therefore decided to fund CBOs to coordinate community schools and provided additional enrichment during scale-up of an initial pilot. Many of the community partners have brought valuable services and opportunities into the schools through their own fund-raising and community mobilization efforts.
  • In Evansville, Indiana, the school system is the intermediary for the entire initiative and oversees day-to-day management of school sites. The structure of the school district’s central office underscores the district’s commitment to community schools and collaborative work. Most notably, an associate superintendent for families, schools and community partnerships, supported by a director of full-service community schools, coordinates the work of the initiative, which represents a "big table" of more than 70 partners.

Establish a timeframe for rollout. It is essential to specify the number of community schools that will be phased in and to determine the criteria by which individual schools will be eligible to receive scale-up resources and services (e.g., professional development and technical assistance). Phase-in may need to be adjusted later when a funding strategy is fully developed. At this point, however, it is important to focus on the design of an effective system rather than on its cost. Multnomah County started with 8 pilot schools (sufficient to draw the attention of policymakers) and then scaled up to what is now 60 community schools.

Determine how to provide technical assistance at the site level. A certain amount of technical assistance will be needed to initiate scale-up at individual sites. Therefore, it is critical to identify the experts skilled in fostering collaborative arrangements. National experts can help build local capacity.

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