E2CCB holds Community Schools summit

Submitted Photo Helena Rankin, Dunkirk City School District school social worker, is pictured speaking with colleagues during the E2CCB Community Schools Summit.

LAKEWOOD — Educators, health and human services agencies and potential partners gathered at Southwestern High School recently for the first Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES Community Schools Summit.

The event, held in the brand-new community space at Southwestern High School, is a collaborative effort between E2CCB and Chautauqua County Health and Human Services to bring school districts and community agencies together with the mission of providing the necessary support for students and their families.

“How many in the room feel schools and students are facing community challenges that are easier now than they were 10 years ago?” asked David O’Rourke, Ph.D., E2CCB district superintendent. “We know that schools, teachers and classrooms are up against a lot in our communities and that our students have to overcome so much to be successful, and they really need support.”

More than 80 attendees in the field had the opportunity to meet and discuss face-to-face the issues and growing concerns they deal with on a daily basis when it comes to providing the necessary support for students and families. Group work included an ice breaker to learn and discover stakeholders in the room, an inventory of current services for school districts or agencies and a discussion on how current services relate to the multi-tiered system of support (targeted/intensive high-risk students; at-risk students; and all students).

“Every single agency has its own culture, its own funding stream … and left to their own devises these agencies and schools will not intersect effectively,” Dr. O’Rourke said. “Partnerships aren’t easy. We’re happy everyone is here because this is the conversation that makes partnerships more effective and work.”

Introduced during the summit was the Community School Resources cooperative service and Shared Community Care Specialists service now available through E2CCB. The Specialist will work to build relationships with families and students, makes regular home visits and acts as a single point of access between school districts, families and community care agency professionals.

“Twelve years ago we had 20 percent of our students on free or reduced lunch and we now have 40 percent,” said Maureen Donahue, Southwestern Central School District superintendent. “We had 1 percent diversity when I came here six years ago and today we have 16 percent diversity in our district; we’ve enrolled almost 50 students this year … and they’re all different kids. We are all very different from what we used to be.”

Beginning in the 2019-20 school year, Southwestern will utilize a Community Care Specialist to work with 15 students and families by facilitating necessary partnerships and resources to ensure the best possible student outcomes.

“We need to learn what you do as community agencies. We have to break our barriers down, which we’ve done a really good job at, but we need to go one step further because it’s not getting easier,” Donahue said. “We have districts with 70 percent poverty and it doesn’t matter, it’s all of our kids that may be in trouble. We don’t have to be in our silos because we don’t have time to be in each other’s silos, we need to be on the same team. All kids need every one of us.”

By providing external collaboration with community agencies, the Community School Resources program looks to expand on the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child model which focuses its attention on the child, emphasizes a schoolwide approach and acknowledges learning, health and the school as being a part and reflection of the local community.

Moving forward, E2CCB will catalog points of services available to families and students through data collected during the Community Schools Summit and will begin needs-assessment discussions with each of its 27 component school districts to evaluate potential partnerships.

For more information, please visit www.e2ccb.org.