Teachers’ Democracy Project got involved in the Community Schools Policy as a way to push for a more empowered model rather than a service provider model. TDP staff and fellows listened to teachers, parents, lead agencies, community schools coordinators and others on their thoughts about what would make this initiative better. We asked that the school system be more inclusive about discussions about school climate and to embrace more democratic decision-making—discussions that include the community schools initiative, but also look beyond the formally designated and funded community schools to look at the kinds of support that all schools need to begin the work of embracing this philosophy.
Our ultimate hope was to push people to do the hard work of shifting school culture in the direction of inclusive decision-making; we need services that are integrated into the entire school, that include teachers, and that address deep needs holistically. We believe that the solutions require a move away from a pure service model of community schools to a community-empowered model in which families and teachers are in authentic partnership, and have the power to make decisions about how to address the needs they see in their neighborhood schools. We also acknowledge that this shift necessitates thoughtful processes, which will allow for healing, support and training for community members that bear the scars of generational disinvestment and systemic racism. At the same time, this shift requires a fundamental review of district office policies and procedures across multiple offices, and a willingness to engage in training around racial equity issues and communicating across cultural divides.