We recently sat down with GHCC’s Director of Neighborhood Programs, Karen DeCamp, and the Director of Advancing Community Schools in Baltimore (ACSB), David Hornbeck, to talk about the Community School strategy and why GHCC is partnering with David and his initiative.
What is a Community School?
DH: It’s a public and private collaborative. In our work, we increasingly see the school is a place to empower people to have a voice in things that matter to the children, the school, and the community.
KD: Conventional schools are like old-fashioned rotary phones. Community Schools are like smartphones with “apps” – extra supports and programs to help all kids succeed. This is especially important in schools with lots of students from low income families who may need health services like free eyeglasses in order to focus on learning, and access to tutoring, mentoring and free or low cost enrichment in music, arts, sports in order to compete on a level field with their higher income peers.
KD: Neighborhoods need good schools. Our partner schools all serve students with at least 80% receiving free and reduced lunch. GHCC uses the Community School strategy to bring the assets of institutions – such as universities, faith partners, nonprofits and neighborhood associations - to enrich the lives of kids and eliminate barriers to learning. The heart of the work is our full-time Site Coordinators, who leverage these resources and manage all the details of programming – all aligned with school priorities like reducing chronic absence. With David and the ACSB initiative, we are researching best practices and systems that can be applied across schools, as well as seeking additional services that will stabilize families.
What is Advancing Community Schools in Baltimore?
DH: Advancing Community Schools in Baltimore (ACSB) believes that the characteristics of a Community School are essential to student success.
Our work has three parts:
1) Supporting, expanding and improving the strategic focus of Community Schools;
2) Building a database to develop the evidence of success over time and for continuous improvement;
3) Helping create a grassroots organized voice in each school community to address issues important to the school community.
The principal function of ACSB is building an advocacy voice at each school. This might be contacting an elected official, or like the team from the Waverly School, knocking on 400 neighbors’ doors to tell them about the school renovation. We currently are working with 11 schools in the city and hope to grow that to 15-20 by the summer (there are currently 38 City-funded Community Schools).
What is an example of how it is working in other cities that stands out in your mind?
DH: In 1990 the Kentucky State legislature enacted an entirely new school system. One feature declared that every school with 20% or more students eligible for FARM as a Community School. Today the academic achievements of kids in Kentucky have raised the state’s ranking from 48th to 33rd in the nation. Community schools are widely perceived as making a significant contribution to these rankings.
Historically, Community Schools have been an afterthought. They exist in a sense at the mercy of an annual budget process and have not yet been considered an integral part of what it means to be a school. My belief is you can’t be a successful school without tending to the social, emotional, health and family issues that are barriers to learning.
How can people become involved in ACSB and advocating for Community Schools?
DH: The ACSB website has an advocacy “action engine” that enables people to sign up, receive alerts and easily act. Sign up and be part of our network of advocates for Community Schools!
Sign up on the ASCB website via the Act Now link. Register for your community school (note: select your community school or GHCC as your “affiliation”), and send an email/letter to your elected official today to support funding for Community Schools.