Breaking out of ‘silos’ to help community schools thrive
June 26, 2023
This following was written by Rebecca Wheat, Ed.D., who has more than 40 years of experience in education.
The infusion of money at the state level for community schools is a bright and hopeful reality for public school students, staff and families.
As a former principal of a community school, I saw firsthand how community schools help families and students with so many issues: health, mental health, dental, preschool and after-school programs, and other needs depending on the specific needs of the community. Community schools can partially serve an equalizing function — a family might not be able to afford preschool, or after-school tutoring, but the community school might offer these services.
I think there is one challenge many community schools face: how to make sure each program in the community school is not working in a “silo” and how to ensure that every program understands every other program, so that programs can work together and build on each other’s assets.
We found one solution at our community school that worked very well. Many heads came together and developed a structure called the “collaborative.” This group included teachers, parents, individuals who worked on site with students, as well as representatives from the community organizations. The collaborative met once a month. Having a group that seeks to coordinate school programs can uncover repetitions and strengthen mutually reinforcing interventions. The development of the collaborative helped build a knowledgeable community that understood and took interest in the school day that is much longer and more comprehensive than the traditional 8-to-3 school day.
Community schools offer great hope and many possibilities.
Community schools offer great hope and many possibilities. By maximizing and enhancing resources, community schools can offer a big step in helping students, staff and families thrive.
Rebecca Wheat, Ed.D., has been a teacher, principal, adjunct professor, and coach to principals. She is the author of four books including “The Spirited Principal.”
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