Nearly 100 adults and key community school stakeholders from every corner of New York came together for children at the first New York State Community Schools Network Convening on August 2 at the University at Albany East Campus. The goals of the convening were to not only have partners across the state meet for the first time but to also share community schools practice, collaborate with one another on the goals and priorities for the state network, and develop a legislative and policy agenda for New York State community schools.
The New York State Community Schools Network* is an emerging coalition consisting of a diverse group of key community school partners representing community-based organizations, advocacy groups, and unions. For the past two years, Children’s Aid has served as a steering committee member collaborating with partners across the state to influence community school policy and formulate strategies to support all local and statewide community school initiatives.
“One thing we have to keep in our minds is how powerful it is when adults can get together for children. The biggest move we can make is to make sure that the work that we do in community schools gets all of the adults to the table for children”– New York State Education Department Commissioner MaryEllen Elia
Valuable networking opportunities, thoughtful conversations, and strategic planning occurred throughout the day on August 2. The synergy among community schools stakeholders, from community school directors to school board superintendents to our elected officials was invigorating. Breakout sessions were facilitated across several topics which included defining our community schools state vision and developing our legislative policy priorities. You can view the keynote addresses that were given by New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Dr. Betty Rosa and New York State Education Department Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, both articulating their support and commitment to the success of community schools.
Martin J. Blank, president of the Institute for Educational Leadership and director of the Coalition for Community Schools, moderated an excellent panel discussion on community schools policy and practice which included an esteemed group of community school champions, including New York State assembly members Donna Lupardo (D-Binghamton) and Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D-Buffalo).
The large attendance, key representation, and overall energy from the day strengthens the infrastructure for a robust state coalition to not only grow but collaborate to sustain, build capacity, and support high-quality community schools. Chancellor Rosa said that community schools are “…very important to the solution and the issues we face today in terms of equity and social justice.” Our Office of Public Policy is dedicated to building the New York State Community Schools Network, advocating for equitable solutions supporting Children’s Aid children and families. In the next few months, the steering committee will finalize their state policy agenda for the FY18 budget cycle, actively participating in the upcoming legislative process.
*Current members of the New York State Community Schools Network: Alliance for Quality Education, Broome County Promise Zone, Capital Area School Development Association, Coalition for Educational Justice, New York School-Based Health Alliance, New York State Network for Youth Success, New York State United Teachers, Rockland 21C, The Children’s Aid Society, and United Federation of Teachers