By: Barry Brensinger, Manchester Proud; Aimee Kereage, Granite United Way; Steve Thiel, SNHU 

Great schools of the future will be fully integrated into the daily lives of their communities; vitalized by activities during and beyond traditional school hours.  They will provide a diversity of services and supports for students and their families through strategic partnerships with community organizations and businesses.

A foundational principle of Manchester Proud is our core belief that the making and sustaining of great schools must be a community enterprise.  We all share in the responsibility to provide opportunities for ALL of our students, thereby making a better future for everyone who calls Manchester home.

It is with this essential bond between school and community in mind, that “Our Community’s Plan for Manchester’s Future of Learning: Excellence and Equity for ALL Learners” calls for the creation of a system of school-community partnerships overseen by a dedicated coordinator.

Thanks to Manchester Proud’s generous donors, this work has been among our priorities and is well underway.  For more than six months, our Partnership Network Work Group (PNWG), including school leaders, school board members, students, and community and business leaders, has been working to create a robust, city-wide Network of school partners and community resources optimized to the needs of Manchester.

The PNWG began its work by rigorously mapping existing partnerships and community resources across all 22 schools.  The objectives were to clearly understand what resources are currently available to our students and families and how they are allocated from school-to-school, in order to identify gaps and overlaps.  Interviews, surveys, and virtual focus groups were held with the leaders of all schools, teachers, students, community organizations, and businesses.

All that our mapping taught us about existing resources, capacities, access, and partnership structures was conveyed to two Sub-Groups within the PNWG:  A Network Infrastructure group led by Steve Thiel of SNHU, and a Portal Design team led by Aimee Kereage of Granite United Way.  Here’s where our work stands:

Network Infrastructure:  

There are currently more that fifty notable partners of the Manchester School District and generally each followed a different process to establish its partnership and programming.  This lack of consistency leads to ambiguity among partnerships and limits their potential.  The new Network will provide a clear and consistent process for recruiting, vetting, and developing partnerships that will enable District Leadership and our Board of School Committee, as well as teachers, students, and families, to access programming most valuable to them.  Governed by an Advisory Council of diverse community representatives, the Network will promote the sharing of best practices across partners and the cultivation of partnerships best aligned with District needs and priorities.

“Compass” – Our Community Portal:

Manchester Proud’s Compass will be a digital community resource hub, accessible in multiple languages.  Students, families, educators, and others will be able to find services and supports for: School and Classroom Supports and Resources; Out of School Programs; Health and Mental Wellness; College and Career; Professional Development; Basis Needs; and Early Childhood.  The portal will be managed daily by our new Community Partnerships Coordinator, who is expected to be onboard this summer.

The PNWG remains hard at work, preparing for a formal presentation to our Board of School Committee in June, seeking its authorization to launch the Network.  Thereafter, it will be tested in a “soft” launch prior to going public shortly before the start of school in September.

As noted by Damond Ford, the Facilitator of the PNWG, “The new Network promises to be a game-changer for Manchester – making services and resources readily accessible for all and building ever stronger bridges between our schools and community.”