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Bringing schools and communities together

How do community schools work? By supporting children and their families respectfully.

Erica Green's report ("Community schools serve families, neighborhoods," Oct 10) reminds us of the importance of grant making agencies such as the Family League of Baltimore City in impacting the lives of 24,000 students and their families. The partnerships from business, government, and social sectors facilitated by community school coordinators create a multiplier effect — essentially quadrupling the initial investment dollars into resources and relationships that protect and support our children and families.

Community school coordinators play an important "switchboard" role: We try to practice deep listening to our community members and to connect our schools with a diverse array of partners. When I began working as a community school coordinator at Ben Franklin High School in South Baltimore in 2009, it seemed as if I was just throwing mud on the wall and hoping that the programs will stick. Now, thanks to the United Way of Central Maryland, the Maryland State Department of Education and the Krieger Fund, we have been able to build ongoing research collaborations with faculty from the University of Maryland School of Social Work, University of Maryland Baltimore County and University of Maryland College Park. These partnerships are helping us to create new knowledge, to improve our programs and to strengthen our communities.

Woven through all of our work is listening and respect. Our communities have had enough of outsiders coming in to tell them what is wrong. Our parents, families and students have minds and solutions and brilliance of their own. The skill of community school coordinators lies in drawing this out, encouraging it and linking it with resources that can help our communities bring their ideas and solutions to fruition. There is no shortage of vision for what our city could be like, if we can only take the time and space to actually listen to the people who live here.

Dante de Tablan, Baltimore

The writer is executive director of the Ben Franklin Center for Community Schools.

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