MICAH's Education Task Force, Pres. Brisco & Sharon McMurray Receive Excellence in Education Award from MPS
Since 2009 we have focused our efforts on having the Community Schools model implemented in Milwaukee Public Schools that serve a large number of high-poverty children and families. Our role is to be a catalyst—bringing together the existing school leaders, parents, and agencies which currently provide—or could provide—health and after school programs. In this way the school becomes the center of the neighborhood’s life.
Click here for an explanation of the principles, nature and benefits of a Community School. There are thousands of such schools in communities around the U.S.
After a period of research, including with the Coalition for Community Schools and the National Center for Community Schools, we are helping develop Hopkins Street School into such a school. Through the efforts of the school’s long-time partner, Hephatha Lutheran Church, and other partner organizations of the school, such as Children’s Outing Association, we succeeded in having a merger with Lloyd Street School take place at Hopkins in 2011.
To expand the awareness of, and support for, the model, we brought Abe Fernandez, Deputy Director of the National Center for Community Schools, to Milwaukee in February of 2011. In powerful presentations to the MPS superintendent and key members of his administration, Greater Milwaukee Foundation leaders, and leaders from the community at large at Marquette University, he explained the vision and benefits of the model to almost 100 persons.
We have gained the strong support of Superintendent Gregory Thornton. At the same time, he and the Greater Milwaukee Foundation are encouraging us to expand the model to as many as ten schools in the next year or so. To do this, we are working to have MICAH congregations develop partnerships with schools in their area. We had a training session in July 2011 to begin preparing members to do outreach with school principals as an initial step in the process.
One key element in the model is a community/parent organizer, who goes into the neighborhood to listen to the concerns, issues and needs of the parents and other adults. By then incorporating these into the school curriculum (e.g. through service learning), students are motivated to learn. By creating evening groups and classes for parents and other adults around these needs, parents become much more engaged in their children’s learning—the most critical out-of-school factor in students’ achievement. Further, the neighbors see the school as an anchor in their community. Creating healthier neighborhoods is, of course, a basic purpose of MICAH.
Currently, our task force is seeking to gain funding for such organizers, and for the community school directors that develop and administer the programs, and facilitate the collaboration with the school and its partner agencies.