Partnership Pledges More Money to Community Schools

The Hartford Courant

By: Vanessa DeLaTorre

In a time of uncertainty, leaders in Hartford public schools, nonprofit agencies and the philanthropic sector say they are committed to the city’s “community school” strategy that has been cited as a national model.

On Wednesday, members of the Hartford Partnership for Student Success, a coalition that includes public and private partners, signed another year long agreement to continue the decade-old “wraparound” help that has turned a half-dozen city schools into neighborhood hubs with health services, after-school programs, clothing banks and holiday dinners.

Coalition officials say chronic absenteeism has declined at nearly all these community schools, and that math and reading scores have improved among students who participate in the after-school activities for at least three years — glimmers of progress amid the deep challenges and disparities that persist in the Hartford school system.

“Whether or not you have a child in the Hartford public schools, you have a stake in the Hartford public schools,” said Jay Williams, president of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. The growth in some areas is “encouraging, but it is not enough.”

In 2007, the Hartford school system, the city of Hartford, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving and the United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut agreed to offer financial and organizational support for a long-term approach that considers the “whole child” in some of the city’s neediest schools.

Hartford’s efforts cost more than $2 million a year for infrastructure and funding that is steered to local lead agencies, such as The Village for Families and Children and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hartford, that work directly with the community schools and act as brokers to marshal together resources that include after-school tutoring for the kids, financial literacy classes for parents, and mental health clinicians in the building, said Tauheedah Jackson, director of the Hartford Partnership for Student Success.

 

At Burns Latino Studies Academy and the Asian Studies Academy at Bellizzi, for instance, COMPASS Youth Collaborative has been embedded in these pre-K-to-grade 8 schools for years. So has Catholic Charities at Thirman L. Milner School, where school officials say attendance has improved among students who receive clinical services to help cope with the trauma and toxic stress in their lives.

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