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A Community School Coordinator is not an extra set of hands, pulled in to fill gaps as they arise.
Their job is not to staff the food pantry. Or plug a hole in the lunch duty schedule. Or cover the phones at lunch (though like all other school staff, they can and will take care of these things when needed).
They aren’t the only ones to make phone calls to families when kids are absent from school (but they can help teams understand and tackle the root causes of absenteeism).
They are not the “boss” of all CS work, nor are they the ones “delivering programs.” CSCs are the people responsible for building relationships and partnerships that connect schools, families and students to resources and support in strategic, cohesive ways.
How should we really be thinking of Community School Coordinators?
Let's think of Community School Coordinators as conductors of a symphony. The conductor doesn’t try to play all the instruments – they’re not running from the cello to the french horn to percussion. They listen and guide to make sure all the instruments play in harmony with each other so the orchestra is able to work together to create a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
If community schools align goals and efforts across initiatives, the CSC is the person who drives that alignment forward.
A CSC’s job is to create opportunities for different stakeholders to contribute expertise, perspective and leadership to your school’s efforts, and move towards more inclusive decision-making structures that value and honor a range of voices.
Integrating services and supports doesn’t tend to happen organically. There aren’t any magic tricks involved. CSCs work behind the scenes, pairing partners to school goals, and making sure programs and initiatives work in conjunction with each other and towards a shared vision for their schools.
CSCs are connectors. By bringing together an advisory council composed of a diverse group of stakeholders, they connect many different voices into an inclusive decision-making structure. They ensure that multiple perspectives contribute to a shared understanding of the experiences of students and families. They help to create and achieve a blue-sky vision for their schools.
The CSC helps strengthen their schools' family engagement. They create opportunities for schools and families to develop trust, build relationships and come together around shared goals.
They are the heart of their school communities, and the heart of our movement to rebuild and transform schools.
So, let’s stop thinking of CSCs as people who perform specific, grants-mandated tasks, or fill immediate needs. Let’s use their time, expertise, and talents more wisely, and appreciate Community School Coordinators for what they really are:
✅ Leaders within their school communities;
✅ “Chief Coherence Officers” who are responsible for building the structures, partnerships and teams that align goals and create cultures of belonging; and,
✅ Integrators with the skills and ability to create lasting, effective, and mutually trusting relationships between schools, families, and the community.
The CS Coordinators Learning Series is about providing CSCs with the knowledge, context and practical skills they need to be successful in their roles. Across three sessions (two virtual, one in person), you’ll get an overview of the community school model, strategies for building trust with key stakeholders, tools you can use to access, analyze and communicate about data, and the skills you need to build, support and lead your team.
Joining means connecting with dozens of Community School Coordinators (and their teams!) for a series of interactive activities and discussions that will help build both your knowledge and your network. Space is very limited, so be sure to register as soon as you can.
Hope to see you in a few short weeks! We’re here to answer any questions in the meantime.
Melissa Mitchell is Senior Associate at the Community Schools Learning Exchange (CSLX). She brings over 15 years of experience supporting community school development, from providing coaching and direct technical assistance to schools, districts, practitioners and community partners, to working with legislators and policymakers to develop supportive-state level policies that advanced community school development across Illinois. Get in touch with Melissa via email at email@example.com.