Four Marin school systems will receive significant grants out of the state’s first round of a new $3 billion, seven-year program to finance “community schools.”
The Sausalito Marin City School District, San Rafael City Schools, the Shoreline Unified School District and the Marin County Office of Education were awarded grants from about $200,000 to more than $700,000 starting in the fall to create community schools or enhance existing ones.
Community schools, a growing movement in education, are a way to engage a school’s parent community outside the classrooms by offering a range of leadership groups, training, counseling and health support services for the whole family.
“We know that the best learning environment is one where students are healthy and happy and surrounded by knowledgeable and caring adults attuned to their needs,” Linda Darling-Hammond, president of the state Board of Education, said in a May 18 announcement after the grants were approved.
“Unfortunately, schools in communities with high rates of poverty, homelessness and food insecurity lack the funds to address student mental health issues, improve wellness and support learning recovery,” Darling-Hammond said.
In Marin, Sausalito Marin City School District was the only district to receive an “implementation grant,” one of the highest level of awards announced for districts. The district will receive $712,500 to fund a community school director position over five years.
Itoco Garcia, the district’s superintendent, said it is appealing the amount of the award because it was based on the 2018-19 enrollment of about 100 students prior to the unification of the district school and a charter school last fall. The current enrollment of the unified school is about 400 students, he said.
“We are grateful to receive the grant at any level,” Garcia said. “We will fill our community school position and create a family engagement network, although if our appeal is not granted we will need to scale back the FEN.”
The district previously ran a community school from about fall 2019 until this past February, when former director Jahmeer Reynolds resigned. The district is reviewing a job description to fill the spot for this fall. The suggested salary range is $74,000 to $104,000 annually.
“Our community school director position is essential to our ability to fully engage our families and community and to integrate student supports and collaborative policies,” Garcia said.
The director handles a range of duties that include parent meetings, surveys, data management and student attendance oversight, Garcia said.
The state grant carries with it an obligation for an in-kind match from the district. Garcia said a $344,000 award from the Marin County Board of Supervisors to hire a school social worker and an intern social worker will serve as the in-kind match.
“Having a social worker at both of our schools is a really core piece of our community school strategy,” Garcia said. “Mental health is a big piece of our community school initiative. We think it’s a really good match.”
The San Rafael and Shoreline districts and the Marin County Office of Education each received about $200,000 in “planning grants.” The grants are intended to help set up the structures and partnerships for community schools, or expand existing partnerships, over the next year or two.
Christina Perrino, a San Rafael district official, said it will match its grant with $74,000 of in-kind support. Community partners will also add a match of $30,000, she said.
“This planning grant would allow SRCS to explore expanded and centralized coordination of support services,” Perrino said. Centralized coordination is needed because the district’s family centers operate independently on a handful of campuses.
“Consequently, some families don’t benefit at all, while others experience a halt to services as they advance through the school system,” Perrino said. “A coordinated community school operating framework would ensure an equitable and seamless experience for all students.”
The San Rafael district proposes to transform six of the district’s campuses into community schools: Bahia Vista, San Pedro, Venetia Valley TK-8, Davidson Middle School, San Rafael High School and Madrone High School.
Perrino added that the district “fully anticipates” applying for the implementation grant during the next school year. The grant could total up to $1.85 million annually for five years, she said.
At the Shoreline district, Adam Jennings, the superintendent, said the $200,000 planning grant will help finance and expand work already being done.
“Our planning grant funds will be used to hire a community school coordinator who will then lead Shoreline through the process of evaluating our school programs with the hope of transitioning them to community schools,” Jennings said.
“We are already doing so much of this work at each school,” he said. “We are excited about the prospect of creating more formal partnerships within our communities.”
The Marin County Office of Education already operates Marin’s Community School in San Rafael. The office’s $199,249 state grant will be used to enhance services at the school, according to Mary Jane Burke, Marin superintendent of schools.
According to the state Department of Education, 268 school districts, county offices of education and charter schools are recipients of this year’s grants. Additional planning and implementation grants will be allocated in the 2022-23 school year, and implementation grants will be allocated in subsequent school years, the state said.