May 2023 – ETAC
The Power of Cross-School Collaborations:
Lessons from the Salome Urena de Henriquez Community School Visit
Members of Schenectady CSD Community School Implementation Team with Dr. Cortes, and members of Salome Urena de Henriquez Community School along with members of the ETAC.
The ETAC team is committed to supporting and empowering community schools within the eastern region school districts. Indeed, cross-school collaborations and visitations to other community schools are powerful tools to enrich professional learning opportunities. In December of 2022, the ETAC and the Schenectady City School District’s Community School Implementation Team visited the Salome Urena de Henriquez Community School Campus located in Washington Heights. Dr. Midgalia Cortes, a long-time community school pioneer and director, hosted the visit and provided a vision and paradigm of a well-established and successful community school model. Other panelists included the principal, school-based health center administrator, and parent liaison.
The visitors had an opportunity to speak with several key stakeholders to discuss current challenges and goals within the community school arena. The key concepts echoed by Dr. Midgalia and her colleagues included the importance of having a community school (CS) coordinator, the importance of building a strong relationship between the CS coordinator and principal, and practical ways to integrate and include family engagement in the CS strategy. Additionally, panelists emphasized the need for infrastructure with clearly defined roles and responsibilities, appropriately assessing and aligning your programs and services when needed, and collaborating with partners in the community to match the needs of your students, family, and the community.
Following the discussion, a tour of the campus provided the Schenectady Implementation Team with first-hand experience of the various healthcare facilities located on the school premises. These facilities included a full medical staff of nurses, dentists, and mental health care professionals. Recognizing that all children enter school with a different set of needs, the health center administrator stated that by providing access to healthcare facilities, the school has created optimum conditions for student growth and learning. School attendance has increased,and families are actively involved with the school as partners.
After a year of planning and just days before the Schenectady City School District’s official ribbon-cutting ceremony and launch of community schools, conducting this field visit was both timely and fitting. With a new chapter in place, the ETAC team and other community schools such as Salome Urena de Henriquez fully support Schenectady CSD’s efforts to implement and develop a community school strategy.