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Baltimore Sun: Next schools CEO will have a foundation of community support on which to build

Baltimore, MD - June 7, 2013 - We wholeheartedly agree with The Sun's recent editorial urging the Baltimore City school board to seek a superintendent whose strategy will take into account the "issues of poverty, violence and family instability" that affect student performance ("Whatever it takes," June 2).

If children arrive at school hungry, needing eyeglasses, fearful of walking home or worried about family problems they cannot focus fully on learning.

Indeed, if they miss school because of these or similar issues, their prospects of a bright future are dim. We know that these are the realities for far too many of Baltimore's students.

We also know, however, that each community in the city holds many social and cultural assets that can support young people's learning and development.

We agree that schools can't address all these issues alone and that models like the Harlem Children's Zone are worth examining. But a new superintendent can build on Baltimore's existing "Community Resource School" strategy, a public-private collaboration between the city schools and non-profit community organizations, managed by the Family League of Baltimore City and funded by the mayor and the school department.

We already have 38 Community Resource Schools, each with a site coordinator working with students, families, teachers, administrators and community-based partners to link their schools with existing resources in the community. They bring those resources into the schools and offer after-school, weekend and summer programs that provide a wide range of supports for learning.

Many other schools also have partnerships that help address a wide range of needs among children and their families, but they lack the resources to coordinate their efforts for maximum impact.

Thus the new schools CEO will not have to start from scratch. We are still far from having available all the comprehensive academic and non-academic resources young people need to be healthy, safe and ready to learn. But we are working on it. And we agree with The Sun that leadership from the new schools CEO on this strategy will be a major step in the right direction.

Nadia Clarke, Director of Field Operations, BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life)

Karen DeCamp, Director of Neighborhood Programs, Greater Homewood Community Corporation

C. Mark Gaither, Principal, Wolfe Street Academy, #23

Erin Hodge-Williams, Executive Eirector, Higher Achievement Baltimore

Nicole A. Johnson, Senior Director, Elev8 Baltimore

Elizabeth Obara Piedramartel, Community School Coordinator, Patterson Park Public Charter School

Carol Reckling, Executive Director, Child First Authority, Inc.

Larry Schugam, Chief Development Officer & Executive Vice President, Baltimore Curriculum Project

Robert Seidel, Senior Policy Director, National Summer Learning Association

Jessica Strauss, Executive Director, Alliance for Community Teachers and Schools (ACTS)

The writers are members of the Baltimore Community and School Engagement Strategy Steering Committee.

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