Arkansas Coalition for Community Schools or ACCS is a coalition of Arkansas organizations and leaders committed to improving the odds for student access to equitable education. To accomplish this, we have focused on the community school model.
A community school is a service and inclusion strategy that coordinates relationships and resources through a public school to accelerate equitable outcomes for all students.
Three colleagues, already engaged in the work of strengthening equity in communities, hosted a community school interest meeting on March 17, 2017. Fifteen people showed up in person or digitally. The three founders were joined by leaders/representatives of the Arkansas School Board Association, Arkansas Department of Education, Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators, ForwARd Arkansas, Project Launch, Arkansas Grade Level Reading, National Education Association, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, Office of Innovation for Education, and Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families participated. Other organizations also indicated their interest.
The founders are Jerri Derlikowski and Maria Jones, partners at Community Resource Innovations (CRI), and Candace Williams, Executive Director, Rural Community Alliance.
Jerri works with ForwARd Arkansas serving as Director of Research. She formed Community Resource Innovations in 2015, working with individual communities and local leaders in underserved areas of the state. ACCS was a product of that work. She has also worked for Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families as Education Director and the Bureau of Legislative Research leading Arkansas’s biennial education adequacy study. Jerri has bachelor’s degrees in social work and computer science, in addition to a master’s degree in education.
Maria has 40 years of experience in Public Health serving in lead management roles in state agency administration. She has led many community organizations including serving as Past President of the American Association for University Women-Arkansas Chapter, and Past President of Little Rock Central PTSA. She has a bachelor’s and master’s in sociology and is a graduate of the National Public Health Leadership Institute.
Candace is the Executive Director of the Rural Community Alliance. She works to empower rural communities to effect change by creating opportunities in education, economic development, and youth empowerment to improve quality of life and place. She is from the Delta town of Elaine, Arkansas. She holds a degree in Family and Consumer Science from the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, Arkansas and is pursuing a Master’s in Public Administration. She has extensive training in community development through the Community Development Institute.
ACCS has continued to meet with ForwARd Arkansas joining the efforts in mid-2018 by co-facilitating the meetings. The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation provided support funding through ForwARd for the Coalition meetings. CRI funded two videos, a website, Facebook page, the first meetings, and travel to conferences and trainings for ACCS leaders. The Founder’s vision for the coalition has been recognized. We are grateful for the initiative and leadership of so many partners who joined with us to make this possible. We look forward to continuing in the work and expanding the reach of the organization.