Under the umbrella of the Fordham Graduate School of Education’s Center for Educational Partnerships, the New York City Community Schools Technical Assistance Center (NYCCSTAC) established the groundwork for building communities of practice across the five boroughs. NYCCSTAC hosted regional meetings in the Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens; and the Community Schools Technical Assistance Center at Fordham provided the opportunities for principals, assistant principals, community school directors, and parent coordinators to discuss important topics for today’s emerging and successful community schools.
Fordham CSTAC’s Critical Issues Conversations, held in May 2019, covered three main and interwoven topics: collaborative leadership, community school impact on the classroom, and parental engagement. Each participant surfaced challenges and successes on each topic, participated in open discussion, and shared and learned from each other. To ensure the conversations flowed and met the objectives of the day, two recently retired, successful NYC principals facilitated the day’s professional development.
The participants across all meetings indicated great support for the NYC Regional CSTAC at Fordham’s Critical Issues Conversations days as they were “unique experiences that allowed professional development to be ‘flipped’ indicated one participant. In these regional meetings, the experts are the attendees themselves along with their peers and colleagues. As the days unfolded, it became clear that the practical results of the conversations would be applicable to each attendee when they were back in their schools. One principal stated that the day’s conversations were “very powerful and productive.”
Ultimately, the gathering concluded with each participant walking away with ideas, suggestions, input, and an opportunity to share their own success stories. The goal of the regional meetings was to ensure that each participant gained insights into a new way to lead their schools in day-to-day operations, with an orientation towards continuous improvement of the community school strategy. It became very apparent that the goal was achieved, evidenced by the engaging conversations and full participation by all in attendance.
The CSTAC at Fordham University is one of only three in New York State and serves more than 200 New York City Department of Education Schools. CSTAC’s purpose is to:
- Provide technical assistance to school districts establishing or operating Community Schools;
- Disseminate information on effective and promising practices in Community Schools through multiple communication modalities, including a website and virtual meetings;
- Provide tailored professional development and on-site technical assistance to schools and their partners to aid in the implementation, management, and sustainability of Community Schools;
- Provide schools with tools to design, assess, and implement needs and resources assessments in order to target resources for schools;
- Increase state capacity to establish effective community schools.
Community Schools are defined as public schools that emphasize family engagement and are characterized by strong partnerships and additional supports for students and families designed to counter environmental factors that impede student achievement. Fundamentally, Community Schools coordinate and maximize public, non‐profit and private resources to deliver critical services to students and their families, thereby increasing student achievement and generating other positive outcomes. Eligible school districts target school buildings as ‘community hubs’ to deliver co‐located or school‐linked academic, health, mental health, nutrition, counseling, legal and/or other services to students and their families in a manner that will lead to improved educational and other outcomes.