A big part of Austin Voices’ work is developing “Community Schools” in Austin, Dallas, El Paso and Houston. These schools do whatever it takes to reduce barriers to learning and build strong community partnerships.
Austin Voices started its work in 2007 and 2008 at Webb Middle School and Reagan High School, building partnerships to support students and teachers. For example, AVEY started Family Resource Centers at both schools to provide “wraparound supports” for at-risk families, including support for basic needs, housing, employment and access to healthcare. The FRCs also provided adult education classes, including ESL, GED and computers. Combined with effective leadership and hard work by teachers, community school partnerships have reduced barriers to learning that supported student success.
In 2014, AVEY began efforts to expand community schools to other Reagan Vertical Team campuses, with the support of Education Austin, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association. Four elementary schools (Barrington, Brown, Hart and Pickle) went through intensive planning processes with participation by hundreds of parents and teachers. Plans were refined and presented to AISD board members in Spring, 2016. Campuses are now implementing new strategies, included expanded after school programs, support for refugee families and increased parent engagement. Webb also renewed it community school planning process, and has started two new academies for sixth graders, the Innovation and World Cultures Academies.
In 2015, AVEY was also awarded a 5-year federal Full Service Community Schools grant. This grant provides $500,000 per year to support community schools at Lanier High School, Burnet Middle School, Cook Elementary and Wooldridge Elementary. Both Lanier and Burnet now have fully staffed Family Resource Centers with social workers and adult education classes. Other funding goes to support after school programs and other student supports. The four schools are developing their community school plans in 2017-18.
In the fall of 2016, AVEY also worked with nonprofit, city, county and school district partners to launch the “Greater Austin Community School Coalition.” Launched with a press conference on October 10, 2016 at Reagan High School, the GACSC will increase expansion of the community school model across central Texas, and will increase the leveraging of city, county and other resources to support schools.
On the state level, AVEY has led the way in developing community schools, with pilots schools in Dallas (John Neely Bryan Elementary) and El Paso (Bowie High School, Guillen Middle School, Hart Elementary and Zavala Elementary). Starting in November, 2017, AVEY began collaboration with the City of Houston, Houston ISD and TEA to explore the development of community schools in Houston. AVEY has also, through its Save Texas School project, developed legislation that has supported the development of community schools statewide.