ETAC Region Community of Practice Updates
ETAC’s Family Engagement Community of Practice hosted its first meeting last November on a sunny, crisp school day in the Thomas Edison Elementary School located in Port Chester, New York. Rockland 21C/ETAC Executive Director Rebecca Christner, Principal Ivan Tolentino and Community School Coordinator Carmen Parker welcomed everyone to the school’s library, where members were able to warm up and settle in with coffee, fruit and pastries.
Eight districts teams came to learn more about the four pillars of Community Schools, specifically focusing on the pillar of Family Engagement. Rebecca led the group with a discussion on the four pillars. Following that, the district teams learned from Ivan and Carmen about the implementation of the Community School model at the Thomas A. Edison Elementary School and how working with its partners facilitates the model’s execution. After rich discussions and presentations, participants worked with their specific district team and the ETAC team facilitators to determine program and service gaps for their schools using the Hexagon Discussion & Analysis Tool.
Effective partnerships were the focus of the latter part of the day. A panel of Edison’s partners discussed their roles in the school working with parents and other key stakeholders. Key strategies of effective partnerships were illuminated in the work, which included: 1) identifying and agreeing on core values; 2) taking into account needs that are specific to the community; 3) building relationships between families and educators based on caring for the whole child; and, 4) providing on-site access for families to educational and health professionals.
District team members were given a tour of Thomas Edison highlighting its on-site medical, mental health and social services. Along with seeing smiling, energetic children, participants were able to see how much-needed services are integrated within the daily operations of the school, enabling students not to miss out on their learning.
After returning from the tour, district team members were provided with a working lunch, and ETAC team members then divided the group into district teams to use the National Implementation Research Network’s “Hexagon Discussion & Analysis Tool.” The Hexagon can be used by communities and organizations to better understand how a new or existing program or practice fits into a site’s existing work and context, and is used typically when exploring a program or service.
District teams had strategic, prolific discussions with ETAC team members. By the end of the planning session, team members were ready to move forward in developing the community school model in their schools. One participant said, “One of my favorite sessions of the day was hearing from the partners and how they worked together so cohesively. I took away some ideas on how to build a good team.” Another participant added, “The discussion around best practices for after-school programming was rich and meaty.” And a third participant asked, “Can you please offer this again in the Spring?”
Interested in the Hexagon tool? You can find it here.