Anaheim Union High School District launches Community Schools Resource Center at Sycamore Junior High School

The Anaheim Union High School District (AUHSD) will be launching a Community Schools Resource Center (CSRC) during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on September 1, 2022, at 4:30 p.m. at Sycamore Junior High School. The CSRC is a school-based community resource center dedicated to providing services and opportunities to Sycamore students, families, and community members in the areas of physical health, mental health, education, family and home. The CSRC will be a hub where educational partners come together to uplift, nurture and share the many talents, gifts and assets that exist in the Sycamore community. AUHSD has been funded $24 million for community schools at 13 sites, proportionally the most in the state of California, and the CSRC at Sycamore is the first of many resources to come for students and families across the District.

AUHSD Superintendent Michael Matsuda emphasized how this is a transformational model for education in California: “AUHSD is leading the way with partners in higher education, including Cypress and Fullerton Community Colleges, Cal State Fullerton, North Orange County ROP programs, and business and non-profit partners, we are creating a new way of teaching and learning that puts teachers at the forefront. Not only do our schools offer traditional wrap-around services for mental health, food pantries, and health clinics, but also, for the first time, teachers are released to develop integrated curriculum so that students can help solve issues impacting the community such as food deserts, health care, environmental justice, housing, energy and transportation needs. No doubt about it, this is a game changer for schools and the communities they serve.”

Anaheim Secondary Teachers Association (ASTA) President Grant Schuster highlighted the importance of collaboration among various AUHSD stakeholders: “The shared leadership of our teachers, parents, students, community groups and district administration will ensure the success of this transformational program. Our equally focused efforts centered on integrated student supports, expanded and enriched learning, active family and community engagement, and collaborative leadership will provide a model for those who follow. The center of every community is its neighborhood school. Together we will make ours a place that brings folks together providing everything our students and families need with the support of our teachers and staff.”

Community Schools are public schools that provide services and support that focus on what students in the community truly need to succeed—whether it’s free healthy meals, health care, tutoring, mental health counseling, or other tailored services before, during, after school, and (when needed) on weekends. The Anaheim Union High School District defines a community school as a safe place at the heart of a community where students, staff, and families are connected and work together to expand opportunities and address the needs of the whole child so that all students can thrive and realize their unlimited potential. The majority of resources provided by the CSRC will be determined upon completion, evaluation and reporting of a comprehensive needs and assets assessment. The following are currently offered: a free monthly farmers market, community fridge program, adult English as a Second Language classes, mobile dental clinic, community health education, and case management services.

A unique element of AUHSD’s community schools approach is a strong belief in and commitment to shared power and decision making as evidenced by the AUHSD Community Schools Steering Committee and Community School Site Implementation Teams. Composed of 17 members representing AUHSD, the Anaheim Secondary Teachers Association, families, students, and community based organizations, the Steering Committee creates local governance structures and processes and provides ongoing oversight, resources, and support to the 13 AUHSD community schools.

The Community School Site Implementation Team is led by the Community School Coordinator and Community School Teacher Lead. Members include the school principal, teachers, parents, students, community partners, and site staff. The Site Implementation Team educates, informs and engages the school community in the strategy. The team is responsible for analyzing data from a variety of sources, including a comprehensive community needs and assets assessment, and prioritizing programs and services based on this data.

Guests expected at the ribbon-cutting ceremony include representatives from the office of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction along with students, parents, families, elected officials, representatives from partnering organizations, and District staff. The agenda includes student performances by the Sycamore Junior High School band, Anaheim High School drumline, ballet folclórico, and remarks by district, student, and community leaders. Refreshments will be prepared and served by Anaheim High School Culinary Arts students led by ROP teacher Chef Robert Pulice.

Some of the funding for the Community Schools Resource Center and Community Schools across the Anaheim Union High School District comes from the approval by the California State Board of Education (SBE) of California Community Schools Partnership Program (CCSPP) grants. The awards approved by the California State Board are the first round of grants in a seven-year, over $4 billion program that is part of California’s overall strategy to improve learning through a “whole child” approach. The state’s commitment to community schools is the most ambitious in the nation and key to addressing inequities that limit college and career options for vulnerable students.

Community schools have existed for years, but the CCSSP 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.

At its meeting in January, the SBE approved a California Community Schools Framework, which added four commitments aimed at centering the initiative on equity: a commitment to a willingness to share power; to using racially just restorative practices; to culturally relevant teaching practices; and to approaching school communities through the positive lens of assessing strengths versus focusing on challenges.

“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,” said State Board of Education President Linda Darling-Hammond. “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. That’s why this program is so exciting: Well-resourced community schools have the potential to transform students’ lives and improve the well-being of families, thus uplifting entire communities.”

This article was released by the Anaheim Union High School District.