It is my belief that students do well when they can, not simply when they want to. Furthermore, students learn best when their physical, mental and emotional needs are met. This type of scenario is ideal for schools, but it is not the reality. What does it look like when a student’s needs are not met? Avoidance, distraction, disengagement, defiance, disrespect, aggression, truancy, anger and the list goes on. Educators have seen the impact of unmet student needs within their classrooms and report, that the impact is greater than ever.
The rural landscape of the Cattaraugus-Allegany Region presents a unique set of barriers that increase the complexity of existing systemic barriers for school districts, educators, students, families and communities when it comes to ensuring that all students have access to necessary resources. Despite the pressure, barriers and growing scope of student needs, is it possible to create conditions that enable every child to succeed?
Not only is it possible to create such conditions, it is necessary. This school year, with the help of 17 of our component school districts, Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES has begun the work of building the brand new Community Schools CoSer within their Instructional Support Services Division. The community schools strategy, is an exceptional, evidence-based school improvement tool that enables schools to create supportive conditions for students by sustaining an integrated focus on student support services, expanded learning opportunities, family and community engagement and collaborative leadership.
Each community school is unique and defined based upon needs and assets specific to the respective local context and community. Therefore, the Community Schools CoSer will also be unique as it grows and develops to fit the needs within the local context of our rural, regional area. In an effort to influence the region in a meaningful way, we are working collaboratively to complete a thorough assessment of needs and assets, at the district level, as well as at the regional level.
Simultaneously, while working directly with school leaders within each district, there have been ongoing opportunities to meet directly with community partners that provide supports and services to students and families. The Community Schools CoSer hosted the first Service Showcase in September, bringing community partners and school leaders together to learn about specific services available to districts. School leaders were provided more information about school based dental care, substance abuse prevention curriculum and a mentoring program. As a result, six additional districts have school-based dental services available to students and four additional districts have begun preparing to implement a mentoring program for students.
Students do well when they can. Period. Through continued collaborative work and problem solving, our region can provide all students with equitable access to resources that allow them to exceed our highest expectations.
By: Kathryn Mendell, CA BOCES Community Schools