The Renaissance Charter High School for Innovation (Innovation) joined hundreds of schools, community-based organizations, and other stakeholders in the education world at the 2016 Community Schools National Forum in Albuquerque, New Mexico, held in early April. In this land of "Breaking Bad" and mountain beauty we learned that the best elements of the community school model are already embodied by many of the schools in the Coalition of Community Charter Schools (C3S).
Community Schools employ a collaborative school governance model to mobilize the community, within and beyond the campus: staff, students, their families, and community-based organizations (CBOs). A Community School Project (CSP) often includes a primary CBO partner that helps to identify and coordinate resources. Local social services agencies, hospitals, colleges and graduate schools, legal services organizations, food banks, and government agencies, among others, are engaged to provide for the wide range of needs presented by students and their families. Schools with a CSP also feature a strong educational model that promotes achievement, attendance and student engagement.
In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio have made financial and institutional commitments to community schools. Ironically, charter schools generally have not been included as recipients of community schools funding, even though many charters have been important players in the movement and some have created nationally recognized community schools models. In NYC, the DOE has created a Community Schools Office and Strategic Plan, which provides an outline concerning the objectives and organization of community schools.
Community-based charter schools, like the members of C3S, must be alert to the opportunities presented by the community schools model and must organize to ensure that we are represented fairly in the local and national activities of the movement.
Stephen Falla Riff
Executive Director, Renaissance Charter High School for Innovation