Grant will allow CCPS to concentrate on developing community relationships

Published 1:30 pm Friday, November 17, 2023

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Clark County Public Schools (CCPS) announced on Oct. 17 that it will receive $1.5 million in funding from the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence over the next five years to better develop community outreach programs.

The district is one of 20 from around the commonwealth chosen to participate in the Kentucky Community Schools Initiative.

According to the Prichard Committee’s president/CEO, Brigitte Blom, the initiative is designed to produce “community schools.”

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“They are schools that ensure four pillars that research shows are critical for student success,” she explained. “Those include access to integrated services, like health services or mental health services … It also includes extended learning time, so after-school learning and summertime learning. Thirdly, community and family engagement. And lastly, all of those things to remove non-academic barriers so high-quality teaching, the fourth pillar, and learning can take hold.”

During a recent interview, Superintendent Dustin Howard expanded on how CCPS plans to do just that.

“We are going to focus on essentially reconnecting to Winchester and Clark County,” Howard said. “We are going to align resources and work through youth service centers to meet the basic needs of all of our kids. But also bringing our community in to partner with our schools.”

Beginning next spring, district officials will start brainstorming how to use the funds to better community engagement at specific schools. Then, those practices will be expanded to the entire school district over the next three years.

During the next three to five years, the district will also be expected to meet with the community regularly.

“There will be a number of community meetings with the school district and different community organizations. And, we hope to see those meetings well attended and that over the course of those meetings, individuals and organizations in Clark County will indicate their willingness to be part of the work and bring their unique assets to the table,” Blom said.

Clark County’s earlier work in community engagement shot the district up the list of the 45-plus others who applied to be part of the initiative.

“One of the things that brought us to the top was our vision of being connected to Winchester and Clark County, and that being such a priority for myself for our buildings and really for our community partners,” Howard said. “We already work with the chamber of commerce. We already work with city and county government and even the industrial authority … I think they saw what we are doing with minimal resources and felt that by giving us substantial resources, the sky is the limit for what we can do for our kids.”

And while the district has done much to lay a solid framework, Howard wants to do more to ensure that the public feels more comfortable interacting with local schools.

“I think it is paramount,” he said. “Trust and clarity, with vision and communication, are key to us being successful. Our school system is our community. The issues that we are addressing in our schools are the same issues that our community is trying to address.”

The Prichard Committee, a non-profit dedicated to improving educational outcomes, will monitor student improvement but will not take a hands-on approach to what new policies the district develops.

“We are not telling the school district how to do this work. We are providing the research and the evidence for what is effective,” Blom said.