The Child Opportunity Zones, Rhode Island’s community school initiative since 1995, established the Rhode Island Partnership for Community Schools (RIPCS) in 2012. The mission of this statewide alliance is to mobilize state resources in promotion of the community school model as a proven strategy for increasing student success.
Focusing on higher need communities, a community school integrates academic enrichment and enhanced health and social services into a school, using the school as the hub of activity. Community schools also focus on family and community education and engagement as a means to support student learning.
Highlights of RIPCS accomplishments:
Advisory Council. Beginning in November 2012, the advisory council has met bi-monthly, adopted operational guidelines, chosen leadership, created working committees, and offered professional development known as Dirctors’ Shares. A delegate from the Rhode Island Department of Education attends all COZ and RIPCS meetings.
RIPCS Website. Our website posts local and national articles and information relevant to the community school movement. We collect online members, register attendees for our professional development activities, connect statewide partners, and distribute bi-monthly e-newsletters.
Advocacy. A delegation from the RIPCS advisory council meets annually with members of the Rhode Island General Assembly to keep them informed of our activities and national community school news, as well as to discuss ways we can collaborate. In 2016, COZ became a line item in the state budget.
Statewide Forums and Directors’ Shares: RIPCS has hosted two statewide community school forums, a 20-year celebration of the COZ network, and four professional development Directors’ Share workshops. With funding more limited in the last couple of years, the COZ partnership has not sponsored professional development events but continues to advocate for the community school model in Rhode Island and support the ten existing COZ sites with regular meetings of both the Advisory Board and COZ site directors. Past events include:
- May 12, 2015 – Multicultural Family Support and Family Engagement Directors’ Share. Welcome by Mayor James Diossa, Central Falls. Panel members: Patricia Martinez, Executive Director, Family and Student Support, Central Falls School District; Abdourahim Akimana, Providence Scool Liaison, Dorcas International Institute of RI; Janet Pichardo, Director of Family and Community Engagement, Providence Public Schools; Candace Harper, Family Engagement Coordinator, College Crusade of RI; Channavy Chhay, Executive Director, Center for Southeast Asians; Denise DeBarros, Coordinator of Cape Verdean Students, Families and School-Community Partnerships, Central Falls School District; Mario Bueno, Executive Director, Progreso Latino. Location: Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island, Providence.
- March 10, 2015 – Just say Yes! to WINNING Strategies and No! to Summer Learning Loss Directors’ Share. Welcome by Mario J. Andrade, Ed.D., Superintendent, Bristol Warren Regional School District. Panel members: Jan Mermin, 21st Century CLC Manager & Expanded Learning Opportunity Specialist, RIDE; Joseph Morra, Senior Project Manager of Summer Learning, RIASPA; Mary Parella, Pawtucket School Department COZ, Director; Cathy Saunders, Director of Education, Providence Children’s Museum; Maria Mare-Schulz, Principal (retired), Sullivan Elementary School, Newport; Shevaun Keogh-Walker, Education Consultant. Location: Roger Williams University Global Heritage Hall, Bristol.
- January 13, 2015 – Attendance Counts! Directors’ Share. Sharing Partners: Cranston Public Schools, Dr. Rosemary Burns, District Data Coordinator, and Susan Buonanno, Principal of Gladstone Street School. Location: Cranston Central Public Library.
- May 13, 2014 – Statewide Forum. Featuring Molly McCloskey, Maryland Campaign Director at Share Our Strength and past Managing Director, Whole Child Initiative at ASCD, and Hedy Nai-Lin Chang, Director, Attendance Works. RIDE Commissioner Deborah Gist served as opening speaker.
- May 13, 2014 – 20th COZ Anniversary Celebration immediately followed the statewide forum, where appreciation awards were given to the state’s community school founders. RI ASCD and The RI School Superintendents Association also co-sponsored the forum.
- March 27, 2014 – COZ 20th Anniversary Celebration acknowledged in House Bill 7995 and Senate Bill 2836.
- May 22, 2013 – Statewide Forum. National keynote speaker Martin J. Blank, Executive Director of the Coalition for Community Schools and President of the Institute for Educational Leadership, Washington DC.
If you would like to get involved with the RIPCS Advisory Council or an RIPCS committee, please contact us.