Plan’s School-Community Partnerships move forward with $120,000 grant

Even in the face of current challenges, progress on Manchester School District’s new strategic plan, “Our Community’s Plan for Manchester’s Future of Learning; Excellence and Equity for all Learners,” continues.

Working with the District’s leadership, Manchester Proud has secured a $120,000 grant from an anonymous donor to build a robust and enduring School-Community Partnership Network. For years the District’s leadership and Board of School Committee have sought to more comprehensively understand all of the community programs and resources that support our 22 schools. Meanwhile community supporters and funders of such programs have wished the work of various agencies to be better aligned for greater efficiency and effectiveness.  Now both objectives will be realized. 

At its meeting Monday night, the Board of School Committee welcomed the opportunity to partner with Manchester Proud on this important initiative and will be appointing a board member to the work group charged with developing the Network. 

“This is a tremendous opportunity for our district and our students,” said board Vice Chair Leslie Want. “We’ve long wanted to coordinate all the efforts by our community partners who have been so generous to our district.” 

Board member Karen Soule said, “I think the important piece is not only that we are developing the partnership, we have a person who can see it through.” 

Led by a Partnership Network Work Group, including District Leadership, BOSC member, and community leaders, the work of the School-Community Partnership will include three principal tasks:

  • Identify and assess community-based services and resources currently embedded in our schools, including identifying overlaps and gaps
  • Define an organizational structure to build and maintain a Manchester specific School-Community Partnership Network
  • Create an electronic portal as the Network’s primary tool to provide all users the information they need to become informed, engaged, supportive, and supported. 

Among the many benefits of the new School-Community Partnership Network will be:

  • Extended/alternative learning opportunities for our students through enhanced lessons, projects, mentorships, and internships.
  • An opportunity to complement our educator’s work and professional development through links to local subject matter experts.
  • Aligned services of our youth-facing agencies for the coordinated delivery of multi-tiered, system-wide,  supports for all learners.
  • Promotion of workforce development and vibrancy of our economy through school-business partnerships,
  • A gateway for community donations of material resources and volunteer services to our schools.

“Community partnerships make everyone stronger,” said Jennifer Gillis, Manchester School District’s Assistant Superintendent. “The urgencies of our response to Covid-19 have under-scored existing inequities and emphasized the need for partnerships that are dynamic, innovative, and effective.” 

This “Building School-Community Partnerships” initiative was a key element of the Community’s Plan for Manchester’s Future of Learning: Excellence and Equity for All Learners that Manchester Proud presented to the Board of School Committee in February. As the board and Superintendent Dr. Goldhardt work to implement other aspects of the plan, Manchester Proud is grateful that this financial support allows it to support this collaboration between the district and Manchester’s businesses, the city, community service agencies, and youth serving organizations.

Manchester is fortunate to have a myriad of programs and services, but with rare exceptions they are focused on narrowly defined populations and are therefore disconnected. This fragmentation compromises the breadth and quality of services and makes navigation and access difficult, particularly for our most vulnerable. Our new Network, with its accessible, web/app-based information center, will promote alignment and data/information sharing among a diversity of agencies, across all sectors – making them all better. This is about building the infrastructure needed to optimize all services for all of our students. 

Work on the creation of the new School-Community Partnership Network is expected to begin in August, 2020, in preparation for launching in the spring of 2021.