Education initiatives: ABQ has much to teach nation about value of community schools

Today starts one of the biggest national convenings our city has witnessed in recent memory — Rising Together: Community Schools National Forum 2016, and the timing couldn’t be better.

Albuquerque was selected to host the Community Schools National Forum because we boast the most innovative, effective organizational structure around community schools. We are indeed “rising together,” and it’s important that the community understand and get behind the movement.

In New Mexico, our students face many challenges. However, there is a path forward, a path that will save taxpayer dollars, allow teachers to shine in doing what they were called to do, bolster families and remove obstacles to student success.

Many have often asked, how do we solve this problem and do right by our students and families? Part of the answer to this problem is the community schools model.

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What is a community school?

In some ways it’s a revival of what schools once were — the epicenters of community development. Schools used to be a place where children, parents and community leaders all gathered around a shared vision of the future. Our model brings that epicenter back to the school.

Yet in other ways, it’s a completely new and innovative way of addressing the needs of each and every student by engaging their family, while ensuring each student is equipped to be healthy and successful.

The city of Albuquerque, Bernalillo County, Albuquerque Public Schools, United Way of Central New Mexico and the Albuquerque Business Education Compact came together nearly 10 years ago in a formal agreement to launch the ABC Community School Partnership.

Now with over 20 community schools in our school district, the partnership has been the united voice of the community school movement in New Mexico, dramatically improving outcomes through thoughtful, integrated programs and services.

This includes everything: from Homework Diner — prototyped and launched at Manzano Mesa Elementary School, and now being picked up by school districts across the country — to ESL and high school graduation equivalency classes for parents, to healthy food for families to take home for the weekend.

Our programs strive to ensure that every possible impediment that could prevent a student from succeeding is mitigated or removed.

ABC Community School Partnership is unique in the country in that it’s a true partnership of invested agencies, enabling shared resources used to help APS schools transition into community schools, as well as shared leadership. The partnership is owned by no one and by everyone, bringing to life the old adage that “it takes a village.”

I welcome you to visit our website and learn more about community schools in your neighborhood.

Brad Winter is a former APS teacher, administrator and interim superintendent, a member of the Albuquerque City Council, interim Secretary of State for New Mexico and a founding member of the ABC Community School Partnership.

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