The Need to Align Values of Schools, Family Services Providers

Opportunities abound for educators and nonprofit partners in California to align values between schools and community partners.

With the adoption of the local control funding structure, California began to require each school district to create a Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) responsible for ensuring the academic growth of students with disabilities and addresses the unique needs of students who live in poverty, students who are English language learners and students who are in foster care.

In addition, the California Special Education Task Force released its report, “One System: Reforming Education to Serve All Students,” in March 2015, making recommendations aligned with the LCAP legislation. Most significantly, the report highlights the need for a unified, coherent education reform movement recognizing that all students must be considered general education students first, and that students who struggle with academic and/or behavioral challenges deserve to receive specialized support as soon as they need it.

To accomplish this, the task force recommends that each school implement what it calls a Multi-tiered System of Supports (MTSS) where all students have ready-access to the academic, behavioral and social-emotional supports they need to succeed.

Our organizations – Change Public Schools and Seneca Family of Agencies, both located in Oakland – are collaborating to implement Seneca’s MTSS model called Unconditional Education within charter schools, enthusiastically embracing these statewide reform efforts.

These current and proposed education reforms reflect the necessity to more effectively align funding, services and expertise with the needs of school communities and individual students.

This however, does not go far enough. There is also a significant need for closer alignment of values between schools and school-based service providers. Many urban school districts and public charter schools struggle to meet the academic and social-emotional needs of their students because the resources available to them are insufficient and/or inefficiently allocated among city, county, state and federal agencies.

This makes it critical for schools and service providers to work as partners to efficiently share and target their respective funding, expertise and additional resources in order to improve student outcomes.

What does it mean for a service provider to be a partner, rather than just a vendor of a school or school district? Vendors operate according to a previously agreed upon scope of work, while partners go “all in” to collectively solve problems that are not covered by the typical scope of work. Vendors rarely go above and beyond, while partners strive to do whatever it takes.

In concrete terms, a true partnership between a school and a service provider means:

  • Service provider staff are integral and valued members of the larger school team.
  • The service provider is equally committed to the well being of every student on campus, as well as the success of the larger school community.
  • The school principal can call the service provider at any time. For example, if a traumatic situation arises on or off campus involving a student, together they can develop an immediate plan for intervention.

This work is equally challenging and complex, and it is necessary for school administrators and educators to trust they have a committed partner in finding solutions and managing crises.

Ken Berrick is Chief Executive Officer of Seneca Family of Agencies. Hae-Sin Thomas is the Chief Executive Officer for Education for Change Public Schools.  

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1 Comment

  1. I wholeheartedly concur with the sentiments expressed in this article. In my experience in over 30 years as both a public and private sector executive this “partner” vs “vendor” role divergence extends beyond just the school system and permeates social services, mental health and a wide array of other programming. Thus all of the ills enumerated here extend to these sectors also. Unless both entities understand and adopt the principles outlined in this article we, both public and private, are doomed to perform at less than optimal levels. In our work this underperformance has a substantial impact on the wellbeing of children and families. Which is all the more reason for a more vigorous approach to bridging the divide between partnership and just being a vendor.
    Gene Howard
    Executive Director
    Orange County Alliance for Children and Families

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