The successful development of a community school requires the
identification of core partners with sufficient resources and a
willingness to commit to a long-term partnership. It requires
a commitment from all partners to work together, share resources,
solve any and all issues that arise, and work to ensure that all
services and activities are fully integrated into the
Since the full support of the school district, school board and
leadership of a proposed community school is the most critical
component for success, the initial step should be the decision by
the school system to fully commit to the development and
implementation of a community school.
Equally important is the identification of the core partners who
will also commit to a very different way of working
together. A community school is not a program or a grant with
a defined period of time. It is a commitment to share
resources and work together to improve the school and life success
of students, their families and the larger community.
UCF received funding from the Florida Legislature to promote
additional community schools in Florida similar to Evans Community
School. The university has established the Center for
Community Schools and has three planning grants of $75,000
available (with a $25,000 in-kind
A community assessment is a key component of the emerging stage
of community school development. Without a systemic and
comprehensive assessment, a community school is far less likely to
provide needed programs or foster the partnerships that will
address the risks and promote opportunities for students, their
family and the larger community. Important elements of a good
community assessment include the following:
1. Identifying the team that will collect the
data. The group should include partners and other key
stakeholders from the school and its neighborhood.
2. Conducting a resource inventory of existing programs and
3. Reviewing data (such as school suspension and attendance
rates, after-school attendance, and community health
statistics). This process should be helpful in identifying
patterns, revealing gaps in information and generating questions
for further exploration.
4. Implementing surveys with key constituent groups,
including parents, teachers and students, to obtain their views on
the strengths and weaknesses of the school and the unmet needs of
students and families.
5. Interviewing key stakeholders including school
administrators, faculty and staff, parents, students, and community
leaders to secure their interpretation of the data and suggestions
for addressing issues identified.
6. Facilitating focus groups of stakeholders to allow for
deeper exploration of the questions raised in the data review,
surveys and interviews.
7. Analyzing the data gathered to generate an action
8. Sharing finding and recommendation to stakeholders.
The analysis of the assessment will set the stage for the
development of goals for the partners to agree on. Some will
focus on short-term outcomes (increasing after-school tutoring) and
others will aim for long-term outcomes (improving the economy of
the neighborhood). New and existing partners may have to
change the way they work in order to build collaborative
relationships. Schools will have to share decision-making with
other members of the team. Evaluation of the partnerships goals
must be ongoing.
and Sustaining the Partnership
Without the right partners with a commitment to invest their
time, resources and contacts on a long-term basis, a successful
community school cannot happen. Decision-making and
communication is critical. Evans High School • A Community
School established a Cabinet comprising the principal, the
president/CEO of the Children's Home Society of Florida (the
not-for-profit lead organization, the dean of the College of Health
and Public Affairs at UCF, the president/CEO of Central Florida
Community Health Centers, the chairman of a community business and
faith leaders development group, and the president of the Evans
student-led community school support group. Other key staff
from the school and key partner organizations attend. The
Cabinet meetings typically have been held on a monthly basis and
are used to track progress, address critical issues and provide
direction to community school staff.
Evans also employs a Community School Leadership Team comprising
the community school director (an employee of the lead
not-for-profit) and key staff from all of the partners to work on
implementation issues and communication within the school and out
to the broader community.
Planning Your Community
The job of implementing a community school takes a strong and
sustained commitment from all partners to their shared
responsibilities, as well as an approach that accommodates both
short- and long-term results.
To begin the process you will need to identify the people and
organizations that will form your collaborative team. They
• A lead partner. This critical role
is utilized in a variety of community school models including
Children's Aid Society of New York, Beacon Schools, Communities in
Schools and University Assisted Schools. This partner will be
the organization that will serve as the primary intermediary
linking the partner organizations, school population and the
community. The organization leads the community involvement
for the principal, helps with the identification of partners and
resources, organizes meetings, and helps with fundraising. In
some community schools this role is filled with a district employee
that serves as the site coordinator. Due to the size of Evans
High School • A Community School (over 2,500 students),
this role is filled by the community school director employed by
the lead and a community school administrator employed by the
• The principal and other district and school
officials. There is consensus among community school
models that the principal drives change in the school and works
with partners to build capacity within the school to transform its
culture and climate and to effectively integrate all community
• Parents and other community
members. They are also key partners in community
schools. Parents, business owners, local officials, faith leaders,
homeowners and others all have a stake in the success of the school
and their community.
• Students. They will be those most
impacted by the changes and their inclusion in the planning and
implementation of the community school will build a sense of
ownership. Older students can find opportunities to develop
leadership skills and a sense of responsibility to their school and
• Funders. Both public and private
funders should be engaged in the process as soon as
possible. They can provide expertise in program planning and
implementation as well as financial support.
• Champions. It is important to
identify and cultivate champions among funders, civic leaders,
elected officials and others.
Once the key partners have been identified and commit to the
development of a community school, it is important to assess and
articulate the skills, expertise and resources that each partner
brings to the table. Partners should understand that success
comes from starting small, achieving initial successes and building
gradually. As programs and resources are identified space needs to
be identified. Space should be accessible and welcoming to
students and parents.
Building an assessment component from the beginning is
important. If tutoring is added as an initial program, key
metrics such as attendance, impact of achievement, etc., should be
identified and tracked to provide ongoing information to adjust and
improve the effectiveness of all community school activities.
It is also important to understand that marketing and
communications are critical to the sustainability of community
school initiatives. From the planning stages and on an ongoing
basis, the sharing of new programs, academic improvement, health
gains and other key outcome measures through tours, presentations
and media coverage helps funders, legislators, the media and
business groups understand the value of a community school
Paying for Your Community
Due to the success of Evans High School • A Community
School and the support of a wide variety of funders (JP Morgan
Chase Foundation, Jessie Ball duPont Fund, Heart of Florida United
Way, Disney, Blue Cross/Blue Shield and many others) and
legislative leaders, the Center for Community Schools and Child
Welfare Innovation at the University of Central Florida is
available to assist school districts and communities during the
assessment and planning stages of a community school
transformation. The center can provide funding for a
comprehensive planning effort as well as coaching and assistance in
The Evans High School • A Community School
partners have identified five core positions that are key to
developing and sustaining a community school
model. These core positions with salary benefits and
support represent an annual investment of approximately $350,000.
Both UCF and the Children's Home Society of Florida have made
sustaining the core funding for Evans Community School, and any
school completing its planning process, a top legislative
priority. The core funding is sought to provide stability and
a solid base for a community school, but experience has shown that
these core positions and the commitment of the right partners can
leverage significantly more resources.
For example, Evans High School • A Community School has
secured on-site primary, behavioral and dental health facility
available to all students, their families and faculty -- Evans
Wellness Cottage; a workforce program that provides job readiness
training and placement for up to 175 juniors and seniors; a variety
of after-school enrichment activities; and most recently a grant to
develop a digital arts academy in partnership with United
Arts, UCF and Valencia College.
The support of foundations and local business has been crucial to
the development of Evans High School • A Community School,
from grants to support key positions to the funding of snack
cabinets to address hunger issues among the students.
Each community school needs to develop a sustainability plan and
recognize that while the amount of funding may fluctuate, the
commitment of the core partners will ensure that the community
school continues and thrives.
Any school district, community organization or stakeholder with
an interest in exploring the possibility of a community school can
contact the Center for Community Schools at UCF. We can assist
in providing background information, examples of successful
community schools, memorandum of understandings between partners,
organizational charts, etc.
Staff members are available to present locally and to assist in
local districts and communities through consultation and possible
planning grants once the core partners have been identified and are
ready to commit.
We are proud of this collaboration that brings additional resources to benefit the health and wellness of our students most in need.
— Brian Binggeli, Superintendent,
Brevard Public Schools
Technical assistance from UCF will determine the noneducational barriers and resources needed for students to be more successful.
— Tim Putman, Executive Director,
Western Division of Children's Home Society of Florida
The community school movement continues to grow because folks are looking at their schools and realizing that the only way to get young people the opportunities they deserve is through partnership with the community.
— Martin Blank,
Director, Coalition for Community Schools and President of the Institute for Educational Leadership