September 2020 updates from the NYC CS TAC

Collaborative Leadership and Practices:
Providing targeted supports and meeting needs in the Bronx during a health crisis.

PS 85X – The Great Expectations School is based in District 10, the Bronx, NY. An elementary school serving Grades Pre-K-5, PS 85X has a student population of over 800 students. As one of the boroughs hardest hit by the Coronavirus crisis, the challenges facing the school community were immense. Through the leadership of its Community School Director, Dawn Johnson-Adams, PS 85X contributed to the overall success of the community and the students and families involved in a variety of ways. 

Through assistance with food insecurities, family and community engagement, resource flyers, attendance outreach, social emotional support and academic support, PS 85X has done an outstanding job in providing key stakeholders with all available resources. Using a Summer Planning Template (SPT) created by Fordham University, PS 85X’s community-based organization (CBO), ensured that the Four Pillars of Community Schools were implemented, meeting the tenets of: Active Family Engagement, Integrated Student Support, Collaborative Leadership and Practice, Attendance and Academic Support. The SPT is used to provide targeted, focused and direct support to the school and families. PS 85X supports are documented to ensure that they are able to provide data/information to support both initiatives and outreach efforts.

In order to address food insecurities that both students and families in the school community experienced, PS 85X purchased 100 food care packages to support families in their school. Funding from the community school budget was used to support this initiative. In a show of solidarity with their community, the food care packages were distributed over two days by the Community School Director, Principal, three School Aides and four community members/volunteers. Families expressed their appreciation for the support that was provided to them with numerous “Thank you!” telephone calls. Families even sent in photos of the food they made with the donations. 

PS 85X strives to support family and community engagement. To achieve this goal, PS 85X continues to share community resources, materials and information through several media venues, such as website postings, phone-blasts, and emails. Additionally, an Asset Map and resource flyers—which list collective resources that are within the community that promote social inclusion to help improve the health and well-being of the community-at-large—are uploaded onto PS 85X’s website and regularly updated as information becomes available. The Asset Map and resource flyers include organizations, associations and agencies that are able to support families (i.e., hospitals, clinics, mental health/mental wellness supports and facilities, faith-based organizations, food pantries, educational institutions, libraries, et al).

To address attendance outreach and social emotional support during the summer, PS 85X communicated and followed up with students and their parents who were registered to attend summer school, ensuring that the students were logging onto their classroom portal (iLearnNYC) every day. PS 85X also used these phone calls as an opportunity to document attendance, share resources with parents and conduct parent check-ins to inquire if assistance was needed, as well as to survey any challenges.  

PS 85X values social emotional support through mental wellness as well as academic support. To support mental wellness during the crisis, the social workers provide mental health support and attendance support to students, teachers and parents/caregivers. They communicate with each group weekly and keep in contact with bilingual students and families on a regular basis. The social workers log into the iLearnNYC portal to work with students during class time, and work collaboratively on these endeavors with the school administrators, the parent coordinator, and guidance counselors. The CBO, Fordham University, provided academic support staff to teachers who were working with students who attended summer school, focusing on the NYC Department of Education’s ELA/Literacy, Mathematics and Social Emotional curriculum.

All of this was accomplished within the limitations of distance learning during one of the most challenging times in New York City’s history, a testament to the collaboration between the school leadership and the CBO.

Community School Fact Sheet

School Name: PS 85X – The Great Expectations School

Location: Bronx, NY

Enrollment:  800 Students, Grades Pre-K – 6

CBO: Fordham University

Principal: Sara Medino

Community School Director: Dawn Johnson-Adams

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

Email Kevin Coyne at or call 212-636-6100.