LAEP Community School Strategy Grows

Los Angeles (March 2011) – Five school sites in LAUSD now implement Los Angeles Education Partnership (LAEP) community school strategy, and two more have recently included it their design plan. As this strategy expands to more schools in the San Fernando Valley and in South Los Angeles, the organization would like to share community school accomplishments and results.

The LAEP community school model brings together schools, students, families, community-based organizations and individuals to help youth thrive from birth through college. This collaborative effort works to improve schools, garner and coordinate community resources, and build powerful social networks that strengthen schools and their communities. Empowering youth to help drive programming and intervention efforts is a key component of the community school’s success model. Each school has a coordinator at the school campus, a resource coordinating council to map resources, organize services, ensure students and parents who need assistance are referred to appropriate services, and to respond to emerging needs, as well as a variety of workgroups focused on developing and implementing specific strategies. LAEP serves as a lead agency in this work. External evaluators have documented high and growing participation by students and parents, a more student-centered approach by adults at the schools, satisfaction with the collaboratives, and increased coordination and integration of services in the northeast San Fernando Valley at San Fernando Neighborhood Partnership (SFNP) and Sylmar Neighborhood Partnership (SNP).

At San Fernando Neighborhood Partnership (SFNP), which embraces San Fernando High School, community school coordinator Stephanie Marron and program assistant Cristina Patricio have focused on refining programs and systems for improving 9th grade success and facilitating the transition to high school with the support of multiple community nonprofits; supporting high-need and probation youth working with Dept of Probation, Tia Chuchas, and Youth Speak! Collective; increasing the number of student leadership opportunities by partnering with Beyond the Bell and EduCare’s ACE program; and developing linked learning activities through partnerships, guest speakers and career fairs.  Since the LAEP-led community school launched at San Fernando High, the school has exceeded its Academic Performance Index growth targets for two years, after two prior years of not meeting the targets.

At Sylmar High, school coordinator Jennie Carey has focused on needs determined by the Sylmar Neighborhood Partnership collaborative, which include mapping school and community resources, building relationships and establishing open lines of communication with school staff, community partners, parents, and students, and establishing forums for coordination of services among various stakeholder groups. Outcomes included increased linked learning opportunities, increased youth leadership development opportunities, an improved 9th grade transition strategy, and a new drug prevention and intervention strategy. After one year as an LAEP-led community-school, Sylmar High met its API target after not doing so the prior year.

Four additional schools in their inaugural year include San Fernando Middle School in the northeast San Fernando Valley, and Edison Middle School and Fremont High School in South L.A.. The coordinators and the collaboratives at these schools have accomplished a great deal since fall 2010. (Arleta High School just hired a school site coordinator at the time this article went to press.)

At San Fernando Middle Neighborhood Partnership, coordinator Gustavo Morales has helped the school open a community and parent center, held transition meetings for parents of 5th/6th graders, and provided parents with trainings, workshops, and meetings with community partners including Project GRAD.. For students, Morales started an ambassador program in which 8th grade students mentor incoming 6th grade students. Morales has recruited partners to meet pressing needs, such as mental health and opened space on campus for community partners. As part of the new PSC governance model, Morales facilitates a monthly advisory resource council meeting, and twice monthly teacher workgroups focused on resource and parent engagement and is building a parent advisory council. The SFMS community school has also innovated with Beyond the Bell to support the school’s late start by providing before school tutoring as well as after-school programs. Morales is also working with the Gang Reduction and Youth Development initiative (GRYD) to support the success of students in that program.

For the Fremont Neighborhood Partnership, community school coordinator Robert Vidana [link] began facilitating the coordination of services in October 2010 at Fremont High School. He has helped establish three workgroups around the following issues: “9th Grade Success,” “Health/Mental Health,” and “Breaking the Prison Pipeline.” Other efforts at the FNP include community resource fairs, a Parent Institute that is expanding the cohort of parent leaders, computer literacy classes for parents to increase their access to and engagement with their children’s academic success, college access support including FAFSA/College essay workshops, and a mentor program for upper classmen to mentor 9th grade students.  Vidana is working with LAEP’s Small Schools Initiative and the Health Workgroup to connect the neighborhood garden and health clinic (both under construction on the Fremont campus) to both academic, linked learning and service delivery strategies.

For the Edison Neighborhood Partnership at Edison Middle School, community school coordinator Lua Masumi has convened a monthly collaborative that tackles issues around student success such as community safety and after school opportunities. Results include a film workshop after school, a food box program, and the beginning of a neighborhood watch program. Masumi has also brought other organizations together to implement a school garden, a Healthy Community Fair, and a College Awareness Day.  Masumi is capitalizing on the unique two-block proximity of the new South LA Region High School #2, Edison Middle School and Miramonte Elementary School by focusing on student transitions between the schools, as well as the issues of families in the Florence Firestone area.

Community school progress in the San Fernando Valley has been detailed in a recent evaluation by Public Works as part of LAEP’s federal Full Service Community School grant. The evaluation examines programmatic results for the VNC, and details aspects of community school strategies such as intervention, orientation and mentoring, and increased parent opportunities. If you would like a full report on the Valley Neighborhood Collaborative, please contact LAEP. Additionally, each collaborative disseminates newsletters updated with community events, opportunities and information. To receive a specific community school newsletter, please contact LAEP with your request newsletter sign-up or visit the LAEP website.

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