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More than 80 individuals were in attendance, including principals, vice principals, guidance counselors, school board members, social service agencies, state representatives, mental health providers, school nurses, economic development managers, public health professionals, home visitors,photo 3_2.JPG literacy volunteers and other interested community partners.

Leaders of the Coalition for Community Schools were keynote speakers at the forum. They explained that by adopting the community school model, public schools leverage community resources to support students' academic success, build strong families and improve communities.

Participants were asked to identify outside resources, partnerships or community supports in their school or district. While some schools are connected to one or more outside resources, some schools do not have any. When asked if schools had a system in place to connect families to resources, one school reported having a Resource Coordinator to help connect children and families to needed resources, while other schools utilize guidance counselors. There was general consensus that referrals were part of a reactive ratherphoto_4.JPG than proactive, intentional systematic approach. One guidance counselor referred to it as patchwork, “trying to fill in the gaps but often some children fall between the cracks with no real formal or intentional way of assessing their needs and connecting them to community resources.” Both schools and providers are seeking better ways to coordinate services.

Last year Penquis conducted a survey with over 800 participants, many of whom were educators. When asked about student success,respondents indicated that poverty, parental involvement, mentor programs, after school programs and a system to connect parents to outside resources were all themes influencing student success. The community school model addresses all of these areas while enriching the school and community. Penquis is committed to supporting Community Schools in Maine and is available to assist schools in our service area that are interested in learning more. If you would like more information about Community Schools, contact Renae Muscatell at rmuscatell@penquis.org.

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