Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Let me share more about the Alliance

There have been several questions and comments about our work. I would like to share with you some of our priority areas of work, and will do so over the next few weeks. You may or may not know that over the past few years the Alliance has gone through a variety of structural and philosophical changes, from what our priorities are, to how our board and committees are structured (and everything in between). We've changed our staffing structure and worked to strengthen relationships, both with internal SPS staff, and with external community, business and civic partners.

We are now moving forward on specific initiatives. In addition to securing private resources to support the district’s strategic plan, our staff also focuses on other areas of priority. I’ll share more information about each of those, but the four we will talk about primarily are:
· Community Schools

· College Access (includes all post-secondary education options)

· Support for Teachers and Teacher Quality

· Community Engagement

I’ll start with Community Schools. Over the past year and a half, the Alliance has been working in partnership with about a dozen other community-based organizations to explore the idea of coordinated, comprehensive services for students based upon a through needs assessment.

We are resource-rich in Seattle, with literally hundreds of community, non-profit, and government organizations working to support students in our schools. Although there are pockets of coordination, often around specific areas of service, there is not a district-wide structure in place to build strong partnerships between these organizations and schools, limiting our collective ability to serve as many students as possible.

Over the past several months, this conversation grew from just coordinating services to exploring the idea of Community Schools.

So now at the Alliance we are working with partners to explore this concept. Although defined differently in different areas, a community school is generally one that is open for extended days, say from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and provides services ranging from academic supports to family support. At a very early stage, we are looking primarily at the following categories: Academics, Early Learning, Arts, Recreation, Health, Social/emotional support, Family support, and resources for College Access.

We’ve looked at models across the nation, and you can find some really interesting (and varied) examples at this site: We’ve seen and learned many interesting things, including one in Lincoln, Nebraska. At one community school there, they have set up a WIC program right in the building. Parents were developing early, trusting relationships with schools. This transitions to early learning and students are more prepared when entering Kindergarten.

One thing that became very clear is that a community schools initiative needs to grow from the community within which it exists. So we would need to build this collectively.

This is a very large concept, not one easily structured or implemented. And there are many questions that would need to be answered before we could effectively move forward with this work. But we're asking the questions and exploring possibilities.

I could talk endlessly about community schools because such potential exists in bringing together the internal strengths in schools (teaching and learning) with the external resources that students and families need. But I can't do that here (back to work) but as always invite you to call or meet if you have any questions. (206-205-0333).



  1. While I am not opposed to community schools, it should really be put together and implemented by the District. Again, the relationship here between the Alliance and the District is particularly fuzzy, and that worries me.

    In addition, it's been proven that extended day activities have the most benefit when tied to the school itself. For example, kids might attend head start but it is more beneficial for them to attend a school that has an integrated pre-k program. I'd much prefer to see a program that is integrated within the schools.

    Lastly, we you talk about WIC being integrated in the schools, you give a hint at the sorts of services you'd like to have. How many students in the District need these services? How many are not receiving those services who would be if they were offered in the schools? I'm all for accessibility for teenagers, but I also think you can easily spend A LOT of your time, money, and energy working on things that don't necessarily improve academic outcomes significantly.

    On the plus side, I do think necessary for there to be a central location and coordination of services. I'd much prefer that work to be done by Bernardo and his team, as opposed to the Alliance.

    Actually, it would be really helpful to know how the Alliance isn't a part of the District. Because everything I read tells me that it is.

  2. Thanks for responding Limes. A community school concept could not be done without the district at the table, but the conversation also requires community partners, from service providers to civic leaders to parents. The whole concept is that the district is at the center of the work, but in partnership with external organizations. Since we're so early in the exploration roles are not yet defined.

    The Alliance's role is not to own this work. We are convening conversations, working to strengthen collaboration and always with the district at the table, as well as community partners. There are many historical examples of organizations trying to force change in the schools from the outside and we believe the best way to accomplish it is through partnership.

    In terms of my example about WIC, that was truly an example. Services should be based upon what the student needs are at individual schools. You can look at the schools demographic data on the SPS web site. And as I said, we're early in the process, so thorough needs assessments haven't been done. The district would really need to lead that part of the work.

    The Alliance is not part of Seattle Public Schools, but we would consider them a primary partner. Our work is to support the schools, sometimes challenge, and bring in outside resources to help serve the students in the schools.

    Again, I would be happy to answer questions... feel free to call.


  3. The Alliance is not part of SPS - BUT - it seems to have an inordinate amount of influence on SPS, particularly in the money-raising/spending arena... and in influencing policy... and the SPS Board President and Superintendent MGJ are on the Alliance Board....

    This attempt to put imply there is a good healthy distance between the Alliance and SPS is a little dishonest, dont you think?