Tennessee district plans to spread community school model
- A Shelby County Schools principal has been promoted to begin expanding the community school model across the Tennessee district. Lori Phillips, who led Belle Forest Community School, the district’s first with the model, will serve as the district's director of family and community engagement, according to Chalkbeat.
- Over the next three years, the district’s goal is to establish up to 15 community schools, which work with a variety of community organizations to meet students’ academic and non-academic needs.
- The district estimates that the model will cost roughly $100,000 per school. While some questioned the cost of the model at Bell Forest, the Chalkbeat article notes that it’s still less than the district spent on other school improvement models.
A large part of the cost of developing a community school is tied to the position of a coordinator, which experts on community schools maintain is necessary in order to create strong, sustained relationships with outside organizations and to take the weight of such coordination off principals. The model works differently across the country, with some districts hiring the coordinators and in other cases, community organizations — such as a university, a YMCA or an after-school organization — taking on that role.
Community schools have been a major priority for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, with the city's Department of Education now overseeing more than 200 sites. An October RAND Corp. report shows most of the city’s community schools have lengthened the school day to offer students additional learning opportunities and have increased efforts to reduce chronic absenteeism.
To learn about scaling the model across a district, Shelby County school leaders and others can also look to Metro Nashville Public Schools, where the Community Achieves initiative, which now includes more than 23 schools, is expected to continue expanding.
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