Peter C. Blake

Community schools program may expand beyond Bellamy

Published Jan 19, 2018 at 4:00pm

A new community schools program that so far has focused on Bellamy Elementary School is aiming to expand to other Rome district schools, with the help of a $100,000 contract approved by the Board of Education.

The community schools contract for services that was awarded to the non-profit Rome Alliance for Education may be used as “seed money” to help fund further services, school district Superintendent Peter C. Blake said after the board meeting Wednesday night.

Among activities that began this school year are “Homework Diner” events at Bellamy that have included tutoring assistance and homework sessions plus catered meals for invited students and families. Representatives of some community organizations also have attended.

Other initiatives, Blake told the board, can include providing families with at-school connections such as information about legal services, health care and insurance, and clinics.

Joseph Eurto, Rome Alliance for Education board president, said today when asked about the $100,000 contract that “we are preparing to work with all schools to begin dialogue about the needs of each school.”

He added, “our plan is to take a comprehensive look at the school, and working collaboratively with the principals and staff, identify needs that we can address. The needs assessment will determine the services or partnerships that we will work toward providing.”

The community schools concept involves having schools act as “hubs” to provide on-site links for local agencies to help meet student and family needs.

Such services could include health, mental health, nutrition, counseling or legal help, school district representatives have said.

The Rome Alliance for Education has been managing a $135,000 American Federation of Teachers grant awarded to the Rome Teachers Association in September 2016 for the community schools program. The alliance has hired a project manager and Bellamy site coordinator among its steps in addition to launching the “Homework Diner” program.

Meanwhile, the state has designated “set-aside” funding for community schools, and the Rome district has “money in our budget” to provide services through a community organization, said Blake.

As part of the agreement, the district funds some staff as well as “for activities and things we want to do with students in our schools,” he added.

Board member John Leonard asked what would happen to the $100,000 contract allotment from the school district if it is not used up by the alliance organization. Blake said unused funding would carry over to the next year for the alliance’s usage.

The school district can decide each year how much funding to provide for the alliance program, said Blake, adding that this year “I allotted $100,000 to start with.” Alliance representatives “put in writing what they’ll do” with the funding sought from the school district, he added.

The proposed 2018-19 state budget lists $369,655 in community schools set-aside funding for the Rome district.