||MERN Forum 2, Concurrent Session 4D
||The River East Community Schools Initiative: Bringing Families, Schools, and Community Together to Ensure Better Life and Learning Outcomes for Children
“Working together, we can make a significant difference in the lives of our students”.
This statement is one of the beliefs of the River East Transcona School Division. It implies that the responsibility for the education and care of our students does not rest solely with the schools. It suggests that teaching, guiding, and nurturing our children and youth is a shared responsibility; one that is shared with parents, daycares, and a host of other community agencies.
Knowing how best to share this responsibility, however, is a major challenge for schools and teachers. School administrators may be concerned that the time and effort required to actively involve families and community agencies in the life of the school could compromise their primary responsibility, that is, to ensure the provision of effective classroom programming. A key issue, then, is determining how to establish a balance. How can a school, or a school division, be enriched and supported by partnerships while, at the same time, not become overburdened by them?
River East Community Schools Initiative
The River East Community Schools Initiative (RECSI) began as a pilot project at one elementary school in Winnipeg Manitoba in 1998. The project, funded by Healthy Child MB, has grown to include seven schools and their surrounding communities. Using the Epstein et al model (1998), RECSI mobilizes communities around healthy families through locally developed Action Teams. The teams are comprised of representative community stakeholders who meet regularly to discuss and address community issues. These groups work together to plan programming and share resources to meet the assessed community needs. The process provides schools with a vehicle for encouraging and nurturing greater and more meaningful participation and involvement of parents in the educational lives of their children. This process also promotes cross-sectoral collaboration and community involvement while building on community strengths.
McDonald (2003) states that the “tipping point” for improving a child’s learning outcomes is when each parent knows 4 or 5 other parents in the school. The unfortunate reality for many parents in 2003 is that of isolation, alienation and, often, marginalization. The model of the River East Community Schools Initiative is a means for “tipping the balance” and ensuring that all parents are feeling the sense of connection and inclusion that will enable them to provide the stimulating and nurturing home environments so neccessary
Early Childhood & Community Liaison Consultant
River East Transcona School Division
90 Bournais Drive
Winnipeg, MB R2C 3Z2
Ph: (204) 669-9412 ext. 243