On November 15, Community Service Council’s Center for Community School Strategies coordinated a day-long study visit at Union Public Schools for more than 40 participants representing regional school districts, including Fort Worth, Midwest City, Oklahoma City and Jenks, to understand how Union is implementing the Community School philosophy throughout the district.
Participants heard from district administrators Dr. Kathy Dodd, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning, Lisa Witcher, Executive Director of Secondary Education, and Sandi Calvin, Executive Director of Elementary Education, on how Union believes in the concept of process over program, detailing how the philosophy of Community Schools is embedded in everything the district does, from child nutrition, to athletics, to academics, to the actual school buildings themselves. All are designed to ensure every child’s needs are met.
The group then toured the Union Collegiate Academy, listening to high school students speak about the Career Connect Program and the Community Service Council’s Carrera Program. During lunch, Lisa Griffin, Union’s Director of Child Nutrition, spoke about feeding students through the Community School philosophy, which involves bringing in community partners, hiring chefs to improve quality, and including children in the selection of the food.
After lunch, the group toured Rosa Parks Elementary, where learned from school administrators about operating the school’s onsite OU Community Health Clinic, integrating community partners into the school, and implementing shared leadership practices. Before ending the study visit, participants listened to a panel of Community School Coordinators discuss the importance of their role, how it is funded, and how the U.S. Department of Education’s Every Study Succeeds Act (ESSA) plans to include language for supporting the function of the Community School Coordinator.
The study tour sparked two Op-Eds on the power of the Community School model, one by John Thompson, retired teacher and historian, in the Huffington Post, and another by Sue Parton, president of the Federation of Indian Service Employees in The Oklahoman.
CSC’s Center for Community School Strategies is organizing a State Network for Community Schools. Please contact Erin Velez at firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the contact list.