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Stage 4 Milestone 1

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Milestone #1: Build Financial Capacity

Building the financial capacity of a community schools initiative poses three sets of challenges: the cost of planning and management at each school site; the cost of program and service delivery at each site; and costs to support the collaborative. The Coalition report, Financing Community Schools: Leveraging Resources to Support Student Success, provides detailed examples of how some community schools have creatively funded their work and lists common federal funding sources.

Some things to think about:

Calculate costs for school-site planning and management. Calculation of these costs during development of the rollout strategy determines the number of schools in the initial scale-up effort. Being clear about the costs for community school coordinators is essential.

Calculate costs for programs and services. Most community schools make strategic use of existing resources provided by the school and community partners and draw on funds allocated from new grant programs. In particular, current school funding streams, e.g., Title I, School Improvement Grants, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, English Language Learners, and others, provide possible sources of funds, along with grants to community partners from various federal, state, and local agencies and local private sources, including United Way chapters and business.

Whatever the funding source(s), it is important to recognize that development of a comprehensive set of supports and opportunities takes time and requires a long-range plan to guide the leveraging and alignment of existing resources. It is unreasonable to expect a school-based health clinic or mental health counselor, for example, to be located in every school over the near term. Nonetheless, faith-based institutions, business and civic groups, garden clubs, and block clubs can offer community schools their assets in the form of human and social capital. These organizations and their members are a vital part of the system of support that community schools must mobilize to support student success.

Be entrepreneurial. Encourage partners and community members to think outside the box.



In Evansville, Indiana, one of the benefits of partnership has been the development of a bulk purchasing model. As a group, the school district, city and county government, and 70 local organizations now bid on and purchase copy paper, fuel for car pools, and other consumables. By joining together to purchase items in bulk, partners benefit from the most competitive prices and then direct the savings to the schools. The community-minded leadership of School Superintendent Vince Bertram was vital to tapping the power of group purchasing.


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The COMPASS community schools initiative in Pennsylvania’s Greater Lehigh Valley spans two counties and three school districts and serves 12 schools. Functioning as an intermediary, the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley works with several lead agencies and has built partnerships with leaders in the business community, medical/health community, local family centers, preschools and daycare centers, after-school programs, and higher education community service departments, among others. Nearby districts—both urban and rural—have expressed interest in making similar community services available in their schools. The United Way chapter and its partners are excited about the possibility of sizeable expansion. At the same time, they realize that they need to expand intentionally and assess their own readiness before they launch a regional scale-up. Are the appropriate people at the table? What new challenges will arise with implementation in rural areas? What commitments are school districts willing to make? What changes in leadership need to be addressed? Partners are looking at these issues and taking appropriate steps. For example, to encourage continuing commitment in a district that will be hiring a new superintendent, community schools leaders met with school board members to suggest questions to ask candidates in order to evaluate their support for community schools expansion.


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Support the collaborative leadership structure through intermediary services and other costs. The costs related to building the initiative’s capacity extend to all the key functions needed to develop a scaled-up system of community schools. Included are the cost of personnel and related assets redirected to support the collaborative leadership structure, e.g., planning, data systems, and professional development staff.



Cincinnati uses a building-block approach to develop its community learning centers. As resources become available, it is putting in place various services through its partnership networks, e.g., school-based mental health services, school-based health clinics, and extended learning opportunities before and after school and during the summer. It is also adding resource coordinators as funds become available, with the aim of placing a coordinator in each school.

Currently, 44 of the district’s 51 schools have full-time mental health counselors who provide direct services as well as broader support around mental health issues; there are 10 school-based health centers and 32 schools with aligned after-school programs. At this point, 28 resource coordinators are financed through an array of public and private funds, including support from the school district’s Title I budget, United Way of Greater Cincinnati, Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Community Learning Center Institute, and private donors.


The Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation is unique in directing all its federal funding streams (Title I, Safe Schools Healthy Students, Title III, 21st Century Community Learning Centers) to support its vision for community schools. Instead of relying on a system of individual grants, Superintendent Vince Bertram and Associate Superintendent for Family School and Community Partnerships Cathy Gray have blended the various federal funding streams into a single source to support their overarching goal. Their integrated approach is supplemented and supported by the integration of the opportunities and supports available through a wide array of community partners.


The distinguishing trait of the SUN Community Schools initiative is the financial investment by local government—Multnomah County and the city of Portland, including Portland Parks and Recreation and the Portland Children's Levy. Together, they provided the large share of cash contributions—$5.3 million in support of SUN Community Schools— in the 2010–2011 school year. Each school is able to fund a SUN site manager through a community partner and offers academic support along with family engagement opportunities. SUN site managers broker resources and service opportunities from an array of community partners.



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