New York

Five quick facts about the city’s community schools initiative

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Fariña are set to announce the launch of a community schools initiative in the Bronx, but plenty of details are already circulating. We’ll have more soon, but here are a few quick facts:

  • The size: The initiative will create 40 programs, which the city says will be designed and launched in the 2014-15 school year.
  • The funding: $52 million over four years, coming from a state grant meant to tackle absenteeism and dropouts. Thirteen million dollars per year divided by 40 schools leaves each with $325,000 per year, assuming zero administrative costs. That’s less than the $500,000 per school some advocates have asked for, though funding levels are likely to vary by the size and needs of the school.
  • The logistics: “High-need” schools and the nonprofit organizations they’ll be paired with will be chosen this summer. No word yet on which schools will be chosen.
  • The resources: Each school will receive a full-time resource coordinator, and some services may be be provided on campus.
  • The timing: This initiative is long in the making. During his campaign for mayor, de Blasio promised to create 100 new community schools, and he earned some criticism in March when funding wasn’t included in the city budget.

Here’s the city’s full announcement:


City to launch 40 new Community Schools in high-need neighborhoods that bring social service providers into schools to support at-risk students and families

Wide array of in-school programming can include mental health services, vision testing, physical wellness, tutoring, job training and family counseling

NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced a $52 million grant to launch the development of 40 innovative Community Schools that will match comprehensive social services and learning programs with 40 high-need public schools across the city. By reaching students with vitally important services ranging from mental health support to homework help and family counseling, Community Schools have a proven track-record of helping at-risk children succeed in the classroom and beyond.

Coupled with pre-K for every child and expanded after-school programs for middle schoolers, the Mayor pledged to make Community Schools a key component of transforming the education system and lifting up every child.

The 4-year grant utilizes funding provided by the New York State Department of Education and will be managed in partnership with the United Way of New York City. Schools and non-profit service providers will be selected this summer through a Request for Proposals. The Department of Education and United Way will work in close coordination with parents and communities to design and launch programs during the 2014-2015 school year.

“This is one of the cornerstones of our education agenda. Along with pre-K for every child and expanded after-school programs, launching more Community Schools will help fundamentally transform our education system in a way that lifts up every child. From in-school mental health services to homework help and family counseling, Community Schools have proven to be incredibly successful at helping students thrive in the classroom and beyond. We are excited to have the United Way of New York City as partners in bringing these innovative models to more communities,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“Community Schools serve a vital need for our students and families by providing academic enrichment in partnership with mental health and social services. This monumental expansion will partner schools with community-based organizations that bring a wealth of services to lift up students and parents and create a foundation for academic success, while supporting neighborhoods with high needs,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña.

“As we continue to combat the challenges of increasing the number of New York City students graduating high school, especially students living in poverty, we look to strengthen the partnership of UWNYC and the DOE that has collaborated around servicing chronically absent students for the last 20 years,” said Sheena Wright, President & CEO, United Way of New York City. “With this new grant for Attendance Improvement and Dropout Prevention, we strongly believe that the most promising future reform in serving low attending students lies in addressing the school’s whole community.  UWNYC’s initiative will connect solutions—such as community safety, health care, and family involvement—to ensure students achieve in school, from the moment they and their families walk in the door, to the moment students walk out in cap and gown.”

At Community Schools, parents will be able to secure essential services on the school campus or within the immediate vicinity with the help of an experienced non-profit provider. A full-time Resource Coordinator at each school will help communities identify the necessary mix of services for each student body. The exact types of services and programs offered at each Community School will be tailored to the needs of students, families and the school community. Together, these programs will work to prevent dropouts and chronic absenteeism, improve academic performance, and better support at-risk families.

Children’s Aid Society, which currently operates successful Community Schools regarded as national models, will provide additional support as well as ongoing professional development to ensure that new programs are effective. The specific grant sizes for individual non-profit providers and schools will be based on the size of the student population. Organizations that are selected will demonstrate a clear understanding of the needs of the community they serve, have a comprehensive plan to provide the services, and have a proven track record in providing services to communities across the city.

“The families and communities we serve stand to greatly benefit from the Mayor’s significant investments in children,” said Bill Weisberg, Interim CEO of The Children’s Aid Society. “Community Schools bolster student success by reorganizing community resources to support the needs of the whole child. As The Children’s Aid Society works to build cradle-through-college pathways for New York City’s most vulnerable children, we are excited to partner with the administration to launch this new initiative, and work together to ensure that every child has the opportunity to thrive.”

“CEJ is excited that through this Community Schools initiative, New York City schools will finally be encouraged to support the whole child and partner closely with communities to raise student achievement. As parents who know what it takes to make our neighborhood schools work, we are excited by the Chancellor and the Mayor’s commitment to having parents and communities deeply invested and involved in the planning, design and implementation of Community Schools from the start. We know that Community Schools can build the strong partnerships that transform student achievement, through a positive school climate and a strong academic component, while also strengthening the entire community by drawing from the assets that already exist there. We look forward to working with the administration to ensure that this initiative is a success and that it reaches the districts and schools that need it the most,” said Elsy Chavez, parent leader with the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice and Make the Road NY.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”