ACCS at Southern Education Foundation’s 2018 Conference

Two Arkansas Community Schools Coalition members joined together to present a paper at the Southern Education Foundation 2018 Forum held in Little Rock in mid-November. Jerri Derlikowski. ForwARd Arkansas, and Candace Williams, Rural Community Alliance, presented on supports for small, rural schools focused on those that have high percentages of students eligible for free and reduced lunch.  While many small, rural schools perform well, these schools facing high concentrations of poverty have limited resources to address the needs of students. 

Students in schools with high concentrations of poverty often have fewer options and less hope for fulfilling careers and futures. This was verified in a national study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). We are working with an Arkansas research organization to verify the results specific to Arkansas.  It can also be seen in access or lack of access to regional career centers.

The report proposed two solutions to student needs for community supports and relevant career training. With regional supports and programming, small, low-income districts can thrive.  These supports include support for community school design including a community school coordinator that works on one or more small school campuses but coordinates resources across the region and connects them to local needs. 

Examples of regional models include Connect 4 in Carroll County that connects three districts and the county’s business community.  In November, Saline County passed a sales tax to support a career center that will serve all six districts in that county.  The tax had the support of the business community.  Finally, in a model similar to these, Kent ISD in Michigan has operated a regional career center serving 20 or more nearby districts for one-half day training of local juniors and seniors. The students report to their “home” district for the other half day. They play sports, participate in student activities, and graduate from their “home” district.  The regional effort does not disrupt local schools. It serves and supports them by making access to attractive programming available while keeping students connected to their local district.

The state continues to do too little to turn the tide for a cohort of small schools with high concentrations of poverty that chronically underperform other districts. The current pace of change is so slow that it insures children in schools of concentrated poverty continue to stay in place behind other students. Failing to take bold action to jump start progress, to rethink education in these districts is to damn them by contentment with incremental, inadequate progress.

The Arkansas Coalition for Community Schools and ForwARd Arkansas have joined together in partnership to support the development, and implementation of Community Schools in Arkansas.

ACCS November 2018 Newsletter

ACCS November 2018 Newsletter

In October 2018 we launched our new logo, website, and Facebook page. Looking to November, we’ll share what’s happening in Arkansas with Southern and national audiences. Check out our newsletter to learn more.

The Arkansas Coalition for Community Schools and ForwARd Arkansas have joined together in partnership to support the development, and implementation of Community Schools in Arkansas.

Good Things in a Small, Rural School District

Good Things in a Small, Rural School District

Is the community school model viable in small, rural school districts? Community Resource Innovations (CRI) and the Rural Community Alliance (RCA) believe the answer is a resounding yes!  Recently, Jerri Derlikowski and Maria Jones, both of CRI, and Candace Williams, from RCA, traveled to the Southside Bee Branch School District to visit school leaders. The group discussed the amazing array of programs and services provided to local students and families in the small community. The visit was prompted by positive feedback from the National Community Schools Coalition and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.

South Side Bee Branch School District is a small, rural school district in Van Buren County, Arkansas. The district has approximately 500 students and is located on Highway 65 between Greenbrier and Clinton. An example of the district’s rural nature could be seen when it posted alternative snow routes for buses. One of the bus routes, which were described by the driver’s name instead of a route number, stated, “Mr. Jim Hopper’s bus will meet at the Café on top of Bee Branch Mountain at 7:20 and old Caldwell Feed Store at 7:30.” This prompted an inquiry from a parent about students who might not be able to get “down” to these locations.

The district was once part of the Schools of the 21st Century initiative of Yale University. (This not the same as the federal funding program for out-of-school services, called 21st Century Community Learning Centers.) According to the website for the Yale program, “Arkansas and the School of the 21st Century (21C) [initiative] have a long history. The first 21C site in the state, Paragould’s School of the 21st Century, was established in 1992. Other schools in Arkansas expressed an interest in the program, and in 1997 the Yale Center for Child Development and Social Policy started working on a statewide presence in Arkansas with the Arkansas Department of Education. Additionally, the Ross Foundation made a substantial investment in the Arkadelphia school district to enable district-wide implementation and outreach to the wider community.”

The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation initiated a five-year partnership with Yale University to support the development of a statewide 21C network, beginning in the fall of 2001. The Foundation built on Schools of the 21st Century to address early care and the ongoing education needs of children in Arkansas. Five years later, when the funding ended, many of the schools continued to operate the original programs or newly developed programs modeled on the same principals. About 20 Arkansas schools, including the South Side Bee Branch district, participated.

The 21C initiative, as part of the Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy at Yale, has been a proponent of the community school model. The Zigler Center is represented on the steering committee of the national Coalition for Community Schools.

Deb Swink was at the South Side school district during the 21C grant period. Ms. Swink is now the special education director at the Clinton School District. She is also a member of Yale University’s The School of the 21st Century Leadership Council and serves as a national trainer for the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum. She has recently been appointed as a Senior Associate and National Trainer for the Yale School of the 21st Century. Mutt-i-grees is a learning curriculum using interactions with shelter animals to build social and emotional skills in students.

Ms. Swink says that South Side Bee Branch did not implement the full community school model with a community coordinator. But, staff within the South Side schools adopted that function by building resources at the school and connections to programs off-site. It was an informal way to accomplish the same purposes. The best thing about the 21C work was periodic phone calls with schools from around the country to share new ideas, according to Ms. Swink.

In our meeting, the staff members shared a lengthy list of programs and family resources in the district that they organize, manage and access.

Examples of South Side campus programs and resources include:

  • Boston Mountain Rural Health Center
  • Outpatient mental health services through Methodist Family Services School-based Counseling Program
  • Students transported for services to a dental clinic in nearby Clinton
  • Pre-K
  • Infant-toddler care for teachers/staff – the community also has an Early Head Start program
  • Food pantry for students on weekends and breaks
  • Hygiene product pantry in the boys’ and girls’ restrooms
  • Student mentoring programs where selected high school students help younger students with homework and social problems
  • Community Service Learning class
  • EAST lab

The school works with the community to meet needs through businesses, churches and community organizations. The district has revamped some of its old WPA-era buildings and built new ones through income brought to the community as a result of the shale-oil boom. This has created space to house pre-K and health services. Although the shale-oil boom era is closing, the district has used the opportunity to invest in their school facilities. A large part of the district’s success in meeting student needs has been through collaborative efforts to create new solutions, seek grant funding and integrate the surrounding community into school programs and services.

The Arkansas Coalition for Community Schools and ForwARd Arkansas have joined together in partnership to support the development, and implementation of Community Schools in Arkansas.

Rural Community Alliance’s 15-Year Movement

Rural Community Alliance’s 15-Year Movement

Celebrating 15 years of rural advocacy, Rural Community Alliance reflects on its accomplishments and looks toward the future.

Rural Community Alliance is a nonprofit organization with 2,200 members in 66 chapters across Arkansas. The following video highlights some of its work over the past 15 years since it began engaging rural residents to become advocates for rural Arkansas schools and improving Arkansas communities.

About Rural Community Alliance

Rural Community Alliance is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to helping rural schools and communities survive and thrive.

The Arkansas Coalition for Community Schools and ForwARd Arkansas have joined together in partnership to support the development, and implementation of Community Schools in Arkansas.

The ForwARd Partnerships at Little Rock School District Toolkit

The ForwARd Partnerships at Little Rock School District Toolkit

The following is an excerpt from The ForwARd Partnerships at Little Rock School District Toolkit:

The ForwARd Partnerships at Little Rock School District Toolkit provides step-by-step processes that teachers and administrators in the Little Rock School District (LRSD) can use to develop school-community partnerships. There are several types of partnership models, including service-learning partnerships, wrap-around service partnerships, and volunteer-based partnerships to name a few. However, this toolkit is designed to facilitate the development of any type of school-community partnership.

At the time of the creation of this toolkit, the LRSD central office tasked each of its middle schools with developing a project-based learning partnership with an organization in the community. The district’s definition of project-based learning reads:

Project-Based Learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge. Buck Institute of Education, 2018

Research has shown that creating school-community partnerships can increase student retention, engagement, and academic success. Project-based learning, in particular, was selected to foster higher order thinking, innovative problem solving, and workforce preparedness.

It is important to note that through the Partners in Education program all of the middle schools in the Little Rock School District have existing partnerships with community organizations, including: churches, banks, insurance agencies, local universities, youth mentoring programs, and more. The number of partnerships and the nature of the partnerships varies greatly from school to school.

While Superintendent Poore and Dr. Whitehorn recognize and value that many partnerships already exist, they believe there is still a need and an opportunity to create more formalized school-community partnerships that are positioned to make systemic change by retaining students in the district, creating more engaging and relevant course-work, and fostering community buy-in in the middle schools; this tailored school-community partnership toolkit will aid in the creation of these formalized partnerships.

Start Using the Toolkit Today


Check out The ForwARd Partnerships at Little Rock School District Toolkit to start building school-community partnerships where you live.



The Arkansas Coalition for Community Schools and ForwARd Arkansas have joined together in partnership to support the development, and implementation of Community Schools in Arkansas.

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