April 2022 – C/W CSTAC Community School Spotlight:

We Couldn’t Do It Without Them:
Leveraging Community Partnerships

A spotlight on Syracuse City School District (SCSD)

Supporting students and families through a Community School approach has led to many successes for the Syracuse City School District (SCSD), located in Syracuse, NY. SCSD currently operates nine Community School buildings, and eight of those sites are operated in partnership with Peaceful Schools, lead partner for SCSD. Over the past five years, the SCSD has built strong allies and partners in the surrounding community to support the needs and goals of students and families. Partnerships are formed by first identifying families’ needs and interests,and then seeking community partners with resources and programming to meet those needs. Once partners are identified, the collaboration is launched with a “boots on the ground” development strategy to build bridges between the partners and the families. Using this approach, Community School Coordinators have been able to retain partnerships year after year, continuously building a network of resources. As of March of the 21-22 academic school year, 25 partners have collaborated and contributed to provide resources and supports to families in the SCSD. The following examples demonstrate how a community school is more than just a place in the building, but a set of partnerships to leverage resources. 

Rise Above Poverty, a Syracuse-based organization led by Mr. Reggie Kelley, aims to provide youth in the community with basic hygiene needs to support their success. Through Rise Above Poverty, Community School Coordinators have been able to support students and families with necessities such as soap, deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and feminine care products. Mr. Kelley responds quickly to identified needs, and brings hundreds of dollars of products to school sites to be distributed to students and families through requests of the Community School Coordinator, School Nurse, School Social Worker, or other in-building community partners. These resources are distributed through the Community Schools family engagement room and through on-site clothing closets. In a recent interview, Mr. Kelley talked about the mission of Rise Above Poverty and the importance of having a connection at individual school buildings: “Our focus is on helping students, so the more we can have relationships with schools that have needs, the more we want to come alongside and help.”

Similar to the relationship with Rise Above Poverty, the Community Schools effort has led to lasting relationships with other local organizations and businesses. A Community School Coordinator at SCSD developed a partnership with Sky Zone, a local trampoline park. By developing this relationship, many schools in the district have been able to host Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) meetings and/or student success events, increasing family engagement. Sky Zone offers free, employee-supervised jumping for students and $1 pizza and soda while their family attends the PTO meeting on site, with building administration and support staff. In a letter from Pam Tuohey, Managing Franchise Partner, she states: “We are always looking for ways to support our community, and the Community Schools Coordinator was the perfect advocate to help us do that.” The relationship with Sky Zone allows families to participate and have a voice while managing childcare and providing students with physical activity. 

Rise Above Poverty and Sky Zone are examples of two partnerships that have grown in scale and scope over the last five years, expanding the footprint of buildings, families, and students they are able to support. 

Building on the belief that a community school is a place where families can access resources, community partnerships with local organizations, and businesses has proven to be a critical component of successful family support. While donations from large national chains are sought out and appreciated, the untapped potential and value of local small businesses and agencies are rich resources that want to support their community, as well. We couldn’t do it without them.

Families from Frazer K-8 school attend a PTO meeting at Sky Zone while their students enjoy free, employee-supervised trampoline jumping.
Students from Frazer K-8 school enjoy free Sky Zone staff-supervised trampoline park jumping while their family attends an on-site PTO meeting.
Montell Lyles, Community School Coordinator at Syracuse STEM @ Blodgett Middle School organizes hygiene product donations from Rise Above Poverty.
Mr. Reggie Kelley of Rise Above Poverty drops off hygiene product donations to Community School Coordinator, Nicole Bembry, at Clary Middle School.

Do you have a community school story that you would like featured in our e-newsletter?

Email Liz Anderson at cstac@binghamton.edu or call 607-777-9383.