NorthEast Schools Alliance
In 2009, the Baltimore-based Goldseker Foundation sponsored Neighborhood-School Partnership grants to encourage joint neighborhood and school improvement strategies that resulted in two positive outcomes: (1) neighborhoods that are desirable due to high-quality schools, well-maintained properties, and strong community connections; and (2) increasing enrollment and academic quality at schools serving children living in Healthy Neighborhoods.
The NorthEast Schools Alliance (NESA) brought together the local Hamilton/Lauraville Main Street Community Association (HELMS) and three educational institutions to work together towards the improvement of academic quality of the schools in the neighborhood and the quality of the neighborhood itself.
Hamilton Elementary/Middle Schooloffers a traditional, academically rigorous, zoned, public education with strong science and art programs, serving nearly 650 students in grades pre-K through Grade 8 in Hamilton Hills; City Neighbors Charter Schooloffers an arts-integrated, Reggio Emilia-inspired environment for 198 children in grades K through 8; and St. Francis of Assisi Schoolin Mayfield offers a values-based education focused on the whole-child, serving approximately 250 Catholic and non-Catholic students in grades pre-K through 8.
Each school received a grant to strengthen their core mission and vision and funds to create opportunities for collaboration.Hamilton’s grant supported the community gardening and environmental science program, with funds paying the salary of a community gardener. This gardener worked with students and local community members in a new garden in a plot behind the school that was formerly an asphalt lot. City Neighbors’ grant supported arts-integration in the curriculum, paying for artists-in-residence to work with the children. St. Francis of Assisi used its first year funding to expand physical education for children in direct response to parent demand.
In the spirit of collaboration, the schools co-marketed on the web and in print the quality of all of school options available to families living in the Greater Lauraville neighborhood. The three schools pooled a small portion of their individual school grants for collective projects of mutual benefit. One such project was the first Progressive Education Summit,organized in Baltimore City, which attracted hundreds of educators from across the region with plenary speakers and workshops at which local schools shared best practices. The summit developed into an annual event with City Neighbors hosting the second gathering in January. The three partnership schools also provided opportunities for one another’s students, such as sports programs and a summer drama camp at St. Francis made available to students from Hamilton and City Neighbors.
The collaboration encouraged the school communities to get past stereotypes they held for each other and to discover through school tours that they shared a common mission for student achievement, face similar challenges, and share a joy of working with the diverse group of families comprising their community.
Members of NESA have developed ongoing relationships and shared perspectives. They have continued to market each other’s family opportunities such as enrichment programs and summer camps. NESA is currently developing shared marketing materials and a website to highlight these collaborations.
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