A rebranding of its name and a new partnership with a local organization have been announced for the Rome community schools initiative as part of the program’s continued growth.
The initiative will now be known as Connected Community Schools, and is looking to extend to other local school districts on top of its current expansion to more Rome school district sites, said the Rome Alliance for Education (RAE).
In addition, a formal partnership with the Safe Schools Mohawk Valley (SSMV) organization was announced by RAE.
“Along with our existing partnership with CNY Health Homes Network (CNYHHN), this formal collaborative is another example of the support and commitment which these agencies will provide to our children, families and the larger community,” according to the RAE announcement. “The Connected Community Schools collaborative is seeking community schools opportunities in all districts within our area.”
The community schools program includes schools acting as “hubs” providing on-site links for various local agencies to help meet student and family needs. It was started in the Rome school district during the past three years, with an assist from Rome Teachers Association union grants through the American Federation of Teachers.
One other area school district at this point is signed on for the program and will be announced soon, plus there may be some additional districts pending more potential funding, RAE Executive Director Melissa Roys said Thursday. RAE “would love to see the three counties of Oneida, Madison and Herkimer embrace our model and look to embed it in those schools,” she remarked, adding that at some point it may look to embed the model further in the state.
Initially focusing on Bellamy and Staley elementary schools, the program now is moving into Gansevoort Elementary School plus Strough Middle School and Rome Free Academy, said RAE. An expansion into Gansevoort had been announced last November, but Roys said it had not yet been fully developed and this year it will be.
Included will be site coordinators at the schools who “will focus on truancy and absenteeism issues, providing students with resources and skill-building to gain...sense of belonging and support they need to be successful and engaged in the school environment,” RAE said. Also, a centralized referral system called LINK which supports families across the Rome district will now be overseen by a shared staff of RAE and SSMV, with supervision of the project provided by CNYHHN.
LINK “has been a vital component to effectively ensure that students and families can get direct access to all community resources such as mental, social and physical health services, emergency food needs and shelter,” said RAE.
Roys said “the addition of the consortium of agencies supplied the initiative with skills and resources the initiative was in need of to move forward....Rebranding to Connected Community Schools only made sense, for the name to reflect that all students, families, schools, school districts, communities, and organizations involved are truly connected with the same mission.”
Anne Lansing, CEO of Safe Schools Mohawk Valley, said her organization “has been working with school districts for almost 20 years providing a variety of programs and services with the goal to keep kids in school and prepared for post-graduation plans.” She added “we are thrilled to be part of this extraordinary partnership to not only expand our services but be a part of a bigger plan to help students, families and schools.”
Lansing added the collective impact is “greater and more effective when we, the schools and community-based agencies, work together.”
Rome Teachers Association (RTA) President Robert Wood said “the success of our Rome community schools is evidence that when unions join together with the community, on issues that matter, the end result is a better way of life for our children and their families.”
Among new program details cited by RAE:
• A Community Kids Market Place at Gansevoort will feature several elements, including a space for adult learning opportunities and classes on such topics as budgeting, nutrition, parenting tips and employment; a clothing closet for adults and students, plus household items and hygiene products; a resource center providing information on various community resources; and a One Big Family Food Pantry, in conjunction with RTA start-up cost assistance and with CNY Food Bank.
• The Neighborhood Center will provide a mental health satellite office at Gansevoort, allowing access to counseling services from a licensed social worker, and also will embed a satellite office at Strough.
• Two mental health satellite offices by Upstate Cerebral Pals Behavioral Health Services will be embedded at Bellamy and RFA, complementing an existing office at Staley.
“it is all about meeting the needs of our students and supplying them with the resources to ensure they can be successful within our educational setting,” Roys observed.