Monticello School District Partners with a Rural County to Provide School-Based Access to Family Services
Navigating complex county and state systems of support just got easier for Monticello families. In February, the Monticello Central School District (MCSD) located in upstate rural New York teamed up with the Sullivan County Department of Family Services (DFS) to launch a Community Resource Center. Located in the district’s middle school, the Center is open two days per month for families to meet with caseworkers who can connect them with a range of services from employment counseling to food resources to affordable housing.
MCSD is using collaboration to remove barriers to learning. Superintendent Tammy Mangus emphatically noted, “Hunger, poverty, lack of adequate shelter – these are all barriers to student success. Fortunately, most barriers facing our students are breakable, especially when you are surrounded by like-minded organizations and agencies.”
With nearly 70% of MCSD’s students experiencing generational poverty, the partnership helps to meet basic needs. “We believe Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs should be viewed more as a foundation than a triangle; without the basics, we can’t expect kids to learn; and DFS offers the assistance our families need, from parenting skills, to food security, to adequate housing,” said MCSD Executive Director of Special, Summer, and After-School Programs Dana Taylor.
Taylor cited human capital as the greatest barrier the district had to overcome to make the partnership happen. “The County is as impoverished as the school district and can barely keep up with the needs of the community. Finding an actual person to manage the newly formed Community Center was a challenge and we had to work together to figure it out,” said Taylor.
Because of the DFS partnership, Taylor said that families will become more aware of County services, will have easier access to them and consequently will help remove barriers to student learning. “We believe that that if we help our students and their families through this partnership, we have the opportunity to improve attendance, behavioral, and academic outcomes,” said Taylor.
Taylor gave one piece of advice when establishing partnerships with county agencies: “Do it! Don’t let barriers stop your efforts and meet your partners halfway. We found that partnerships like this are win/win – agencies meet their goals and children and families reap the benefits.”
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