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Young Elected Officials Take Note of the Community Schools Approach


The Coalition of Community Schools at the Institute of Educational Leadership was recently invited to speak to an audience of local, municipal and school board officials from around the country at the 2012 Young Elected Officials National Conference.
Kwesi Rollins addressed school board officials alongside Judith Dianis from the Advancement Project and Kate Tromble from the Education Trust. School boards face a myriad of challenges from reengaging disconnected youth and lowering the achievement gap to budget analysis and facilities management. The Education Trust presentation addressed academic challenges across the US, the increased focus on state preparation for new universally adopted standards known as the Common Core, as well as various approaches to addressing the achievement gap. The Advancement Project discussed a range of issues that have come to be known as the "school to prison pipeline" and the creative ways school boards are addressing school discipline and safety policy. 
Kwesi discussed how increased collaboration and cooperation between school and community partners is key to addressing the issues raised by the other speakers. School board members in attendance had questions on issues such as poverty, cultural competence, professional development for teachers and principals and challenges related to working with local law enforcement. Kwesi urged participants to explore as many avenues as possible that facilitate partnerships and cross-agency collaboration as well as improved analysis of school district and community assets and resources. By bringing the assets of the community and the school together in a coherent, joint effort, community schools help students succeed and create conditions to ensure effective use of scarce resources. Joint professional development on key issues is one example. Community schools link effective teaching and learning practices, early childhood and expanded learning opportunities, health, mental health and family services, and targeted family and civic engagement.
Reuben Jacobson addressed a group of local officials (e.g., mayors, city and county council members, alderpersons, and others) alongside Melvin Carter, Councilmember from the St. Paul City Council and James Eichner from the Advancement Project. Reuben kicked off the discussion with an overview of the educational policy landscape and delved deeper into the concept of community schools and the important role of local officials in starting and scaling up the community schools strategy. Mr. Carter, as a city council member and a parent, spoke about his efforts to create the St. Paul Promise Neighborhood Schools. Mr. Carter emphasized the potential for local officials to play an organizing and leadership role in creating education and development opportunities through place-based strategies like community schools and promise neighborhoods.

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