- A principal who uses extracurricular programs to help turn around a low-performing school, another who focuses on expanding opportunities for students to earn a two-year degree while in high school, and a third who began her teaching career at the school she now leads are among the Baltimore administrators being recognized as part of a community-wide effort to support school leaders.
- Since 2016, the Fund for Educational Excellence has managed the Heart of the School Awards program, which involves nonprofit organizations, businesses, foundations and individuals in supporting principals in the Baltimore City Public Schools and drawing attention to the challenging work of leading a school. Five award winners will each receive $2,500 for school-related needs, and five honorees will receive $1,000.
- The Fund also operates a year-round grant program that supports principals’ efforts to improve school culture and student success. Paul Wolman, a Baltimore entrepreneur and civic leader, worked with the Fund to create the award and grant program..
With many schools still feeling the effects of the recession, education leaders have increasingly turned to outside sources, including foundations, the business community, local nonprofits and crowdfunding sites to subsidize special projects, expand classroom technology and provide training and learning opportunities for teachers. And it’s helpful when a community partner steps forward to offer such resources.
Some schools find sustainable support and services for students through the community school model in which formal partnerships are created with outside agencies and organizations to provide non-academic services, enrichment opportunities, other wraparound programs and, sometimes, basic school services. One Heart of the School honoree, Wolfe Street Academy Principal Mark Gaither, worked with a local neighborhood association a few years ago to create a functioning library, which the school lacked. And in Philadelphia this week, city and school district leaders announced that five schools are joining Mayor Jim Kenney’s community schools initiative, bringing the total number to 17.
When city and business leaders work in partnership with school leaders, they are also more likely to understand the challenges schools face and focus on solutions instead of placing blame on educators when schools don't meet expectations. School-community partnerships can also help fill gaps for students outside of school.
A case study prepared as part of the National Commission on Social, Emotional and Academic Development featured the Tacoma (Washington) Whole-Child Initiative, in which city agencies and nonprofits work with schools to provide additional learning opportunities during and after the school day. Mentoring, internships and after-school programs are among the efforts than have resulted from the partnership.