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Fighting for community schools in DISD

Sign TOP’s community schools petition today to Dallas ISD’s superintendent and trustees!

Community schools are public schools that embrace the idea that parents, teachers, students, nonprofits, and community partners should help run and improve our neighborhood schools.

They combine academics, health and social services, leadership, and community engagement to improve student learning, strengthen families and build up communities. Dallas ISD schools offer wraparound services, but not in a coordinated way that addresses children’s needs before they become barriers to learning. These obstacles can range from malnutrition, to not having adequate school supplies, to a parent struggling with health issues and beyond.

If a student is struggling to get to school every day, teachers in a community school don’t just write up the student for chronic absenteeism; they dig deeper to find out why. They contact the parents, they ask questions looking for a way forward. Is a child hungry? Does a child lack access to clean clothes? These issues go beyond the classroom, but can greatly affect a child’s ability to be present in the classroom and learn. Community schools are the solution

 

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Our efforts to bring community schools to DISD started in 2014
, when TOP parent-leaders at Billy E. Dade Middle School in South Dallas organized and started implementing parts of the community school model. At that time, the campus had been immersed in issues, ranging from heightened disciplinary problems, to rapid faculty turnover, to even teachers leaving the school in protest. Through careful collaboration with the school’s leadership, TOP parent-leaders played a key role in bringing stability to the once struggling school.
The Dallas Morning News even endorsed our community school turn around strategy! Dade Middle School is now on a path to success thanks to the community school model.

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In the spring of 2015, TOP parent leaders and education allies visited two community schools in Austin, Webb Middle School and Reagan High School, to hear directly from principals, teachers and students on how the schools climbed back to success after implementing the community school model. Five years ago, Webb and Reagan were academically struggling and on the verge of closing. The schools are now enjoying higher test scores, enrollment and parental engagement. A community-driven plan is what saved the schools. Read more about their newfound success and the turnaround of other community schools in this report released by the Center For Popular Democracy.

In 2016, TOP plans to replicate Dade’s turnaround at Paul L. Dunbar Elementary, also in South Dallas and a feeder school to Dade. Working together with Dunbar faculty, parents, students and community partners, we look forward to having Dunbar become DISD’s first official pilot community school by fall 2016. Click here to view photos and video from our Support Dunbar Day rally with OCOS (Our Community Our Schools) partners on February 17, 2016.

DISD school board elections are coming up this May, and we need trustees in office who will not only agree with the community school concept, but champion them as well and work to get them implemented in the district. Stay tuned for an announcement of our endorsed candidates soon!

Interested in getting involved in our community school efforts? Contact TOP education organizer Ed Turner at (469) 426-4918 or eturner@organizetexas.org.

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