With just two months underway, the Fordham University’s Community Schools Technical Assistance Center (CSTAC) has delved deeply into the multiple ways it supports the New York City region’s community schools.

Outreach. The CSTAC has initiated and continues to provide outreach to the multiple community school constiuences operating in the Region. This includes regular, bi-weekly formal interactions with the New York City Department of Education’s Office of Community Schools as well as the almost daily informal, ad hoc communications to ensure consistency, awareness, and connectedness with the district. In addition, the CSTAC contacted to learn more about the needs of the Community Based Organizations (CBOs) that partner with the community schools in the region. The initial contact announced the creation of the Center to over fifty CBOs throughout New York City and has led to multiple contacts and in-person meetings with the leadership and community school directors. Additionally, as you will soon read, professional development offerings and Help Desk assistance has ensured a strong beginning for the CSTAC’s mission.

Professional Development. In the fall, the Fordham University CSTAC conducted two workshops embedded in the New York City Department of Education, Office of Community Schools convenings for principals and community school directors. The two presentations were conducted by Fordham’s CSTAC consultants Dr. Amelio D’Onofrio and Dr. Zsuszanna Kuraly, who presented on The Immigrant Experience and Developing Mindfullness Programs respectively.

In January, in partnership with Zone 1-2-6 (a Queens-based CBO), the CSTAC gathered interested stakeholders in an initial conversation about Culturally Responsive Education. Led by Dr. Luz Torres, the particpants discussed key challenges faced in today’s schools and the influences of the cultural climate across the region.

Help Desk. The Fordham University CSTAC has established a dedicated Help Desk to answer your community school questions. You may contact our Help Desk through our dedicated email address and phone line which are cstac@fordham.edu and 212-636-6100. Feel free to reach out to our Help Desk with any questions you may have. No question is too big or too small. Also, if you wish to become part of our email distribution list, send your contact information to cstac@fordham.edu and we will be sure to keep you informed of happenings, resources, and additional information about the community school strategy.

Site Visits to Support New Community Schools

Fordham University’s Community Schools Technical Assistance Center (CSTAC) has hit the ground running to support New York City schools in fulfilling the goals of the community school strategy. Fordham’s CSTAC is visiting schools directly to provide on-the-ground, in-person assistance for all phases of their development as a community school. The CSTAC’s recent site visits are focused on the eleven newly-identified community schools in New York City. Identified by the city’s Department of Education, Office of Community Schools, these eleven schools are now exploring their community school development, brainstorming new strategic initiatives, and developing partnership-based pathways to facilitate student academic achievement and healthier lifestyles.

To support these schools on the initial steps of their journey, the CSTAC reviewed, studied, and internalized the Asset and Needs Assessment tool created by the NYCDOE’s Office of Community Schools. The goal of this tool is to help identify student barriers to learning and the critical gaps the school may face in addressing these barriers. Additionally, the Asset and Needs Assessment is intended to illuminate the strengths that already exist within the school and its community that can, and perhaps already do, provide support. This month, Fordham’s CSTAC team conducted initial visits to schools to aid in their reflective process in completing the assessment tool. These CSTAC site visits specifically assist schools with completing Phases 1 and 2 of the tool which assesses school-based programs and services, describing the resources or lack thereof within the surrounding community, and identifying potential risk factors for students and the community. Schools appreciate the CSTAC’s ability to clarify the topics covered, facilitate meeting structure, and promote collective consensus on responses — ensuring that all are bringing their input to the table.

Fordham’s CSTAC has given further support during the visits in reflecting on lessons learned, addressing questions and concerns, and together with school faculty and leadership, generating ideas for next steps. For example, this month CSTAC Director Michael E. Pizzingrillo and Resource Specialist Erin Verrier joined in conversation with leadership and key stakeholders at Middle School 246 – The Walt Whitman School (Brooklyn). The school’s interim community school liaison, Mr. Kirth Thornhill, who is an English Language Arts Teacher at the school, led the team’s review of their progress so far. “Doing this assessment helped us to focus,” said Mr. Thornhill. As a group, the gathered team were able to prioritize essential needs for the school. Mr. Thornhill commented on the role the CSTAC played stating that “although we think we’re on the right path and we have good intent, it is always helpful to hear from an expert [on] how our ideas might work.” Under the direction of Principal Bently Warrington, Middle School 246 is already on the right path to becoming a community school. Fordham’s CSTAC looks forward to returning to Middle School 246 to support in its exploration and emergence in the process!