The Community Care Team at Boulevard Elementary talks with principal Shelley Pulling.
Feb. 24, 2016 -- Community Care Teams, launched at the beginning of the 2015-16 school year, are aiming to connect resources and organizations already serving our schools with each other.
“There are so many organizations and programs serving students in and outside the schools, but they weren’t always aware of each other, or communicating about redundancies or how to share resources and support each other. The goal of Community Care Teams is to address those issues,” said Lisa Hunt, Assistant Executive Director at Reaching Heights.
The idea came from Hunt and , who were concerned about the lack of volunteers from the broader Heights community. Parents stay pretty engaged but, “Community engagement within the schools shouldn't be PTA dependent,” said Krista Hawthorne, Executive Director of Reaching Heights. “One of our aims is to fully support the building PTAs. Parent volunteers can’t do it all, and shouldn’t be expected to. And we are also supporting principals with their community engagement goals.”
The initial goals of the Community Care Teams are simple. The first is to share contact info and calendars with each other, among organizations serving the school communities. The second was to create some kind of visual communication for each team, accessible by parents, the school community and general public. Early ideas included headshots and contact and organization information for each Team member on a display board inside each building. A digital version on each school’s district website page, for wider access, is another possibility.
Community Care Teams were originally launched in the elementaries, and have since been extended to all levels. Reaching Heights volunteers— (ECAG), Many Villages Tutoring, Role Models 5th Grade Speaker Series—are joined by some combination of Parent Ambassadors, Kindernet, , , PTA, Families and Schools Together (F.A.S.T.) and .
Teams generally consist of 8-12 representatives, as large or small as necessary in each building, and according to need and desire. For example, Noble’s Community Care Team includes a rep from The Refugee Response, and the Boy Scouts. Roxboro Middle invited Open Doors Academy, an after school program at St. Paul’s Church in the Roxboro neighborhood.
At the high school, the Community Care Team is larger. Reaching Heights program reps are joined by Heights Youth Club, , , CTE Community Working Group, VAPO, BOPO, CHHS athletics and representatives from all three city police departments.
While schools are benefiting from bolstered support and connection, so are the participating organizations. Heights Libraries have been thrilled with the Community Care Teams. The Library’s long-standing connection to high school English teachers had been disrupted recently. The Care Team has reconnected them, which will help support the summer reading program.
“The Library is very much a part of the school community,” said Nancy Levin, Directory of Heights Libraries. “By participating in the Community Care Team we know the individuals to contact, the activities being planned, and the issues facing our students and teachers. The Care Team allows us to improve all of these relationships so that we can support learning and enrich the lives of all involved. Our library staff makes more than 200 school visits a year!”
“Reaching Heights is a connection organization; our mission includes connecting our community and resources to our schools,” said Hawthorne. “This is not a new program or more work, it’s about working more cohesively and smarter. We hope to lift up and promote existing programs. For example, a Community Care Team could help support the F.A.S.T. program by recruiting families, or Open Doors and the Heights Youth Club could encourage families and students to attend PTA events—anything to undergird programs already in place. In some cases, communication seems to be the main need.”
Communication not only connects schools to service organizations but helps parents better navigate the district itself. The is a four-year-old Reaching Heights program active in every building, thanks in large part to last year’s addition of Parent Mentor Amy Kerr-Jung, who helps special needs parents through the IEP process. There is an ECAG rep on every CCT Team as well.
“Parents from all around the district, preschool through 12th grade, come together to share their experiences as well as information pertaining to special needs programming, adapted recreational activities, transitional services students,” said Michelle Moehler, ECAG Team representative for Canterbury. “I have found it to be very helpful and informative.”