C/W CSTAC Update, January 2021

A spotlight on Binghamton University Community Schools Regional Network:
The first county-wide University-Assisted Community School model in NYS

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When schools, parents, families and communities work together to support learning, students achieve optimal outcomes – this is a Community Schools approach. Playing a critically important leadership role in creating, strengthening and maintaining the bridge between the school and the community is the Community Schools Coordinator. They accomplish this by facilitating and providing leadership for the collaborative process and development of a continuum of services for children, families, and community members. 

A University-Assisted Community School (UACS) model partners universities alongside community resources and the school system by fostering academics, social support, and civic engagement. Community School Coordinators use needs assessment and strategic attention to building a community school model that is comprehensive, collaborative, and coherent, with an array of resources.

This month’s school district spotlight highlights the first county-wide University-Assisted Community School (UACS) model in NYS served through the Binghamton University Community Schools Regional Network. A network consisting of 14 Community School Coordinators representing 10 school districts meet weekly to network, collaborate, and build capacity within their districts by connecting university students and faculty to the needs of their students and families. 

With funding from Broome County Promise Zone, the BUCS Regional Network has been creating an innovative collaborative learning environment designed to enhance networking and ongoing professional development for Community School Coordinators since 2013. Each week, this innovative network of Community Schools Coordinators come together to process and problem solve how to develop and implement programs and services; expand partnerships with county and community providers; and strengthen collaboration among school districts to build capacity around implementing a regional community schools approach. 

This network has provided a platform for creative ideas such as virtual drop-in centers for middle and high school students that allow adolescents a place to gain social-emotional support and connections in a safe way during a global pandemic. This same idea has been offered to families and caregivers in the form of cafés where caregivers come together in virtual spaces for support and promote active engagement in the educational process of their children. Binghamton University interns provide support to schools as part of this university-assisted model as well. Under the guidance of the Community School Coordinators, children and teachers are learning mindfulness and yoga techniques as well as coping strategies to help with the stress of the unpredictable nature of this pandemic. As a Superintendent recently shared, our Community School Coordinator “has made a world of difference to so many families in the district” and then expressed gratitude for the CSC’s “positive energy” and “always going above and beyond.”  

This network also connects community partners as a way to build relationships and expand communication. Currently our partners providing food programs have come to this network to talk through the best ways to optimize and expand their resources through using a community school strategy. One CBO described how helpful it has been to connect with other food programs and strengthen their collaborative efforts while also outlining ways to improve service to area schools. A similar collaborative approach has been utilized to expand holiday support to over 170 children throughout area districts through a unique partnership among a radio station, an insurance agency, and a Community School Coordinator that then brought this opportunity to all 10 school districts within the Regional Network.  

For more information on the Binghamton University Community Schools (BUCS) Regional Network please check out their website.

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.