Our First Year as a “Lean, Mean, Promise Machine”

Written by Amanda Cote

On July 13, 2011

Dear Friends – It’s been a little more than a year since CPN opened its doors last July and what a whirlwind it has been! We thought it would be a good time to share a quick program-focused year in review.

Conducting Community Surveys
Beginning in August, CPN surveyed nonprofit organizations that are currently providing services to the children and families who live within the Neighborhood. Thanks to assistance from Trident United Way and the Coastal Community Foundation, requests for survey responses were sent to 500+ nonprofits. The services were arrayed along six areas of community focus (parenting, education, employment, community revitalization, housing, and healthcare) and along nine age groups from prenatal to seniors.

While we continued to add to the survey data, we were simultaneously identifying unmet needs and areas of service duplication and fragmentation that need to be addressed as we create systems that will allow the most effective service providers to scale up to serve more children.

Establishing School-Based Priorities
Throughout the fall, we worked with the Charleston County School District and the principals at the four elementary schools (James Simons, Mary Ford, Sanders-Clyde, and Chicora) and began creating plans for resource infusion into the elementary schools to address priority needs in six areas:

  1. Strengthening School Leadership, Including Building a College-Bound Culture
  2. Cultivating and Retaining the Best Teachers
  3. Enhancing Parental Involvement
  4. Providing High Quality, Coordinated In-School Support Services
  5. Providing Safe , Outcomes-Focused Extended Learning Environments, Including After-School and Summer Programs
  6. Stabilizing Funding Streams for the Programs and Services in the Five Areas Listed Above.

Researching Best Practices
To ensure that we began addressing these priorities effectively and efficiently, we also partnered with the College of Charleston and the Citadel to create detailed research briefs on best practices for policies and programs along the six general strands of focus (parenting, education, employment, community revitalization, housing, and healthcare), and within the six school-based priority areas. Each college recruited and generously provided in-kind funding for graduate students to assist us in this critical research which will help us ensure that our work moving forward relies on the best available evidence for known programs that produce measurable outcomes for children and families.

Forming a Community Engagement Council
In December, we expanded beyond “research” mode, and began to work within the Neighborhood directly. We formed a Community Engagement Council composed of Neighborhood residents modeled after the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s best practices for Sustaining Neighborhood Change and the Council has meet every two weeks since that time. Throughout the Winter and Early Spring, members met with key Neighborhood leaders to develop a strong understanding of the Neighborhood’s assets and priority needs. In April 2011, the CEC chose three priority areas of emphasis for their work moving forward: (1) Creating a YouthPromise leadership initiative for middle and high school students within the community, (2) Hosting leadership and advocacy skill-building training for Neighborhood residents, and (3) Creating an information network designed to ensure that residents receive regular updates about issues impacting them and the Neighborhood as a whole. The CEC, with CPN staff support, is continuing to meet this Summer to plan the launch of these initiatives in the Fall.

Conducting Detailed School Baseline Evaluations
From January through March, 2011, we conducted detailed site-based evaluations at all four of the CPN elementary schools. Concurrently, we used the best practices research that we had done in the Fall to create a template for the “Ideal CPN Elementary School” which, like most of the rest of our work, we made publicly available on our website. We then finalized a “Cross-School Resource Infusion Plan” designed to help take the schools from where they are today to becoming among the best elementary schools in Charleston County within the next five years. The first year of that plan, for the 2011-2012, is focused on (1) providing pediatric health and wellness services at all four schools, piloting an optional teacher incentive program tied to student achievement that also include additional professional development, and targeted literacy and numeracy supports for students who are below grade level, and creating a college-bound culture designed to set high expectations for achievement for every student at the school.

Infusing Early Resources At the Schools
Throughout the Winter and Spring, we also partnered with the Charleston Philanthropic Partnership (CPP) to provide a variety of resources to the schools, including mini-grants for professional development and a hand-on science project for 3rd graders at Mary Ford, funding support for several parent involvement and literacy events at James Simons, and after-school tutoring for 4th graders at Chicora. In addition to financial support, CPP and other key strategic volunteers have provided us with immeasurable program support, feedback, and guidance that have helped us finely tune our plans moving forward.

We’re tremendously proud of our program accomplishments for our first year operating as a “Lean, Mean Promise Machine” and we’re excited to be at the point where we’re converting plans into action.  In just a few weeks, we will be co-hosting (with CCSD) a full-day kickoff with all of the teachers at the CPN schools that is designed to update them on our first year planning and kick off our school-based initiatives for our first year of intensive school-based partnership.

We look forward to sharing ongoing updates as we roll out our 2011-2012 initiatives, both within the schools and within the Neighborhood as a whole!

On behalf of the entire CPN team, THANK YOU for your continued support!