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SDCOE Chosen as Regional Lead for Community Schools Work

The San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) was recently selected by the State Board of Education as a regional lead for the statewide work to build a network of support for community schools.

Community schools are campuses where every classroom is focused on high-quality teaching and learning, every student is connected to the services they need to thrive, and every family is empowered to partner in decision-making.

As the lead for a regional technical assistance center (RTAC), SDCOE will help emerging and existing community schools create support networks with like campuses, share best practices, plan for success, leverage funding, and coordinate services.

“There’s nothing more vital and urgent at schools than ensuring that our students come to school ready to learn in a safe environment,” said Dr. Paul Gothold, San Diego County superintendent of schools. “This work with community schools aligns perfectly with our commitment to serve all students through an equitable and justice-focused lens and prepare them for a future without boundaries.”

The $4 billion California Community Schools Partnership Program is the nation’s largest investment in the success of high-needs students through a whole-child approach. Community schools partner with education, county, and nonprofit entities to provide integrated health, mental health, and social services alongside high-quality, supportive instruction with a strong focus on community, family, and student engagement.

Research shows that community schools can result in better school attendance, better grades and test scores, higher enrollment in college-prep classes, and higher graduation rates.

Community schools are a key initiative of California’s historic transformation of public schools that includes universal free school meals; universal transitional kindergarten; before- and after-school learning; and investments in teacher training, coaching, recruitment, and retention.

“There are so many resources and insights that are regularly ignored or devalued in traditional school systems,” said Dr. Tony Smith, deputy superintendent of Innovation for SDCOE. “The community school strategy starts with the assets, needs, and aspirations of students, their families, and the broader community, then coordinates, aligns, and leverages all the energy in ways that fortify young people, families, and the whole community.”

The State Board of Education approved contracts to eight county offices of education to serve as RTACs: Shasta, Sacramento, Santa Clara, Monterey, Fresno, Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Bernardino. SDCOE will support San Diego, Orange, and Imperial counties.

“Much of the work that SDCOE does to support our schools and districts encompasses the pillars of a community school, but SDCOE will be focusing more intentionally on this work to increase the likelihood of success for our students and improve life outcomes for children and their families across San Diego County,” said Dr. Gloria Ciriza, assistant superintendent of Student Services and Programs. 

Community schools have existed for years, but the California Community Schools Partnership Program is California’s first statewide initiative to provide funding, support, and standardization of the program through common guiding pillars: integrated services, including trauma-informed health services; expanded learning time and opportunities; collaborative leadership and practices for educators and administrators to support school climate; and engaging students, families, and the community.

“I am grateful to CDE, our county offices of education, districts, and schools for stepping up to take on this important work to support students, families, and educators,” SBE President Linda Darling-Hammond said. “Every school must be a joyful, healthy, instructionally supportive learning environment for children.”

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