Partnering with faith and community organizations is a proven means for schools to boost attendance, improve behavior, and achieve measurable gains in learning – all outcomes we want to see from our School Improvement Grants at the U.S. Department of Education.
Not surprisingly for many schools, the task of seeking out and sustaining these partnerships frequently gets pushed to the bottom of an endless to-do list. A proven way to reap the benefits of community partnerships is for a school to designate a skilled, experienced person for precisely this job.
A school-community partnership coordinator should work as an integral part of a school leadership team and can help with:
As part of a School Improvement Grant, schools may budget funds for a partnerships coordinator who can work directly for the school or for a community-based nonprofit partner. When an external organization manages this post, it can help ensure the coordinator isn’t redirected to other pressing school needs. School partners can also help raise funds to support and sustain this position.
Staff at the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), an independent federal agency, support and facilitate community-based service programs across the country to meet all kinds of local needs. At the U.S. Department of Education, we are working with our CNCS colleagues to deploy these resources and talents to assist low-performing schools.
CNCS's AmeriCorps VISTA program is a great resource for schools and community-based organizations ready to build stronger partnerships. VISTA members complete a full-time year in service, meeting local needs and bringing lasting improvements to the communities they serve. With support from community organizations and schools, a qualified, experienced and trained VISTA member will help build enduring partnerships.
To learn more about how VISTA can help build stronger partnerships between community-based organizations and schools, contact the staff person in your state at www.americorps.gov/about/contact/stateoffices.asp.
Are you already engaging VISTAs to help improve low performing schools? Please get in touch with us at edpartners (at) ed.gov, so we can learn from your efforts.
Michael Robbins serves as the Senior Advisor for Nonprofit Partnerships, Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Education.