Strengthening Partnerships for Out-of-School Time
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Strengthening Partnerships for Out-of-School Time
Building sustained support for out-of-school time programs is another critical element for developing a strong citywide system. In many instances, municipal leaders have successfully made the case that a well-functioning out-of-school time system helps cities meet multiple goals: keeping children and their neighborhoods safe and healthy, decreasing juvenile crime, supporting working families and improving the city’s education system. Vocal support by the mayor and other high-level municipal leaders can raise the visibility of out-of-school time programs and help the city engage additional partners. Mayors and councilmembers can keep out-of-school time on the public agenda by developing a clear communications plan highlighting the impact of local programs, capitalizing on high-profile events and regularly seeking authentic community input to ensure that system-building efforts are grounded in local priorities.
USE THE “BULLY PULPIT” TO HIGHLIGHT NEEDS AND INCREASE PUBLIC AWARENESS
Whether led directly by the mayor’s office, a city agency or another organization, the process of developing an actionable, citywide out-of-school time agenda requires the commitment of high-level municipal leadership. In addition to bringing other partners to the table (and keeping them there), the mayor can use his or her “bully pulpit” to advance an out-of-school time agenda — even when competing needs and interests could divert the city’s focus.
Jacksonville, Fla.: Anti-Crime Initiative Targets Additional Funding Toward Out-of-School Time
In December 2007, Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton convened a diverse group of more than 140 business and community leaders, violence prevention experts and citizens from all geographic areas of the city to “take a step” toward eliminating violent crime in Jacksonville. Following this convening, Mayor Peyton issued an executive order establishing five action groups and asked each group to spend 120 days implementing and expanding successful strategies in the following areas: law enforcement and deterrence; neighborhood safety and stability; education (including literacy and dropout prevention); positive youth development; and intervention and rehabilitation. This community collaboration resulted in the creation of an anti-crime initiative called the Jacksonville Journey.
Mayor Peyton and the Jacksonville City Council reallocated more than $40 million in the 2009 budget to fund Jacksonville Journey. As part of this anticrime initiative, the city devoted an annual amount of $3.8 million to create and completely fund 15 new afterschool programs. The seven middle school and eight elementary school sites serve 2,850 additional students, bringing the total enrollment in afterschool programs managed by the city’s Children’s Commission close to 10,000 children. Mayor Peyton’s focused attention on the city’s crime reduction goal was a critical reason for the increase in afterschool and summer programming for children and youth.
Using a “state of the city” address to promote an out-of-school time strategy
Mayoral “state of the city” addresses are now a common, annual event in cities across the country. Mayors use these addresses to review the successes and challenges of the previous year, present their priorities and highlight promising strategies and future initiatives. This event provides the mayor with the opportunity to speak to a large audience of key stakeholders and potential partners and to receive significant media coverage. Unlike a typical press conference, the “state of the city” address also allows the mayor to define his or her complete agenda for youth and to challenge community partners to help the city achieve its vision. Increasingly, mayors are using their annual “state of the city” speeches to advance out-of-school time programs as a strategy for addressing multiple city priorities.
During her 2008 “state of the city” address, Southfield, Mich., Mayor Brenda L. Lawrence announced plans to replicate a successful afterschool initiative in Detroit. “I am working to enter an exciting new partnership to create ‘Mayor’s Time – Southfield,’ an afterschool initiative to increase our students’ participation in afterschool programs,” Mayor Lawrence said. “Once completed, parents and children in Southfield will have a complete listing of all afterschool programs that serve our youth as well as several new opportunities to get involved in extra-curricular and summer activities. We are looking forward to working with the Parks and Recreation Department, the City Council, our new Youth Center, the Southfield Community Foundation and our Southfield Public Schools, as well as our entire city, to get this initiative moving forward.”
DEVELOP A COORDINATED OUTREACH AND COMMUNICATIONS PLAN
In order to keep out-of-school time on the public’s radar, municipal leaders can develop a forward-looking communications plan that outlines the city’s message, the methods for sharing those messages and a clear timeline for transmitting the message to the public. City officials can also reinforce their message on out-of-school time when discussing related issues, such as high school completion rates, the educational achievement gap, substance abuse, juvenile crime, childhood obesity rates, quality of life and workforce readiness. For each of these priorities, city leaders can highlight a comprehensive out-of-school time system as part of a broader set of potential solutions. Cities have used a variety of outreach and communication strategies, including:
- Press events highlighting high-quality afterschool programs;
- Out-of-school time summits, which bring together local elected officials and other community leaders for one or more days of high-level meetings;
- Public service announcements or other media-based public outreach campaigns;
- Large public “celebration” events like Lights On Afterschool;
- Important policy speeches like the “state of the city” address;
- Joint brochures and program guides on out-of-school time opportunities; and
- A task force or mayor’s council on out-of-school time to raise the visibility of the issue.
Boise, Idaho: Funding for Outreach Helps Connect Children to Programs
In 2006, Boise Mayor David Bieter created the Mayor’s Council on Children and Youth (MCCY). The Council includes representatives from local universities and school districts, United Way of Treasure Valley, the Girl Scouts, the local YMCA, the business community and youth. MCCY worked with the city’s Information Technology and Public Works Departments to create a searchable online database of local out-of-school time programs (www.after3boise.com). This database gave parents in the Boise area a central portal to quickly locate safe, accessible and affordable afterschool activities in their neighborhoods.
MCCY worked with a local public relations firm that donated much of its time to assist with branding and marketing of the online tool and the public awareness campaign. The firm helped create a brand for Boise’s After3 initiative by using information from focus groups, developing a press strategy, designing flyers and bookmarks for distribution and organizing presentations. The city produced out-of-school time public service announcements, purchased bus signs, and printed and distributed the flyers and bookmarks for local corporations and organizations. Several of these organizations distributed the information via their employee and community newsletters and posted links to
www.after3boise.com on their websites.
Additionally, MCCY partnered with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare to use the 211 phone line for residents without computer access. The mayor and city council have provided approximately $80,000 per year since 2007 to fund the public awareness campaign, maintain the searchable database, conduct community surveys, hold a yearly summit on out-of-school time and pay for the After3 initiative’s other expenses.
MAKE USE OF HIGH-PROFILE EVENTS TO SUSTAIN PUBLIC ATTENTION
Communities may offer a variety of venues and existing public events in which mayors and other local officials can make the case for a citywide out-of-school time system. For example, with support from America’s Promise- the Alliance for Youth, cities and states across the country have held high-profile dropout prevention summits. America’s Promise intends to hold summits in every state and more than 50 cities by 2010. These summits provide municipal officials with an opportunity to link improvements in graduation rates with out-of-school time programs that promote greater attachment to school, enhance student skills and help them gain confidence.
Municipal leaders can help identify public events where diverse partners can discuss the role of out-of-school time programs as part of the solution to a local challenge. For instance, former Tulsa, Okla., Mayor Kathy Taylor, in collaboration with U.S. Attorney David O’Meilia, has built multi-agency support for an anti-gang initiative. Mayor Taylor and U.S. Attorney O’Meilia convened a Building a Safer Tulsa Summit in September 2006 to focus on gang prevention, intervention with gang-involved youth and re-entry for those who have been incarcerated for gang-related crimes. Following recommendations from the summit, Mayor Taylor developed the Mayor’s Mentoring to the Max! initiative and facilitated the creation of new afterschool programs.
Lights On Afterschool
Municipal officials can play an active role in supporting local Lights On Afterschool events, which are part of a national campaign sponsored by the Afterschool Alliance to raise awareness about the importance of afterschool programs. Numerous mayors and city councilmembers speak at these annual events and issue proclamations declaring a Lights On Afterschool Day.
In October of 2009, the Afterschool Alliance kicked off the 10th annual Lights On Afterschool celebration in Washington, D.C., with an address from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, a parade of youth and the release of new nationwide data on “America After 3:00 p.m.” showing an increase in the number of young people without access to afterschool programs. The celebration coincided with hundreds of community events in cities across the nation.
During a 2009 Lights On Afterschool stakeholder breakfast and celebration, Columbia, S.C., Mayor Robert Coble and Richland County School District One Superintendent Dr. Percy Mack pledged their support for local out-of-school time programs. The event raised awareness among policymakers and stakeholders from the educational, faith-based, business, health and nonprofit communities. Celebrity Chef Marvin Woods of the “Droppin’ Knowledge” Youth Obesity Prevention Afterschool Program in Atlanta gave the keynote address. Woods emphasized the important role that afterschool programs play in combating childhood obesity.
Nashville, Tenn.: Addressing the Dropout Rate
In December 2007, Mayor Karl Dean convened a 40-member Project for Student Success task force to reduce the number of students dropping out of Metro Nashville Public Schools. The task force included parents, students, education professionals, government officials, neighborhood groups, faith-based organizations, nonprofits and the business community. One of the task force’s first major activities was to participate in a dropout summit sponsored by America’s Promise in February 2008. This summit provided a wealth of information and ideas for the Project for Student Success workgroups. Each workgroup focused on one of the four key factors shown to influence a student’s decision to drop out: student risk factors, chronic poor academic performance, family and parental roles and community risk factors.
In June 2008, after six months of work, the task force presented their recommendations to Mayor Dean. One of the key recommendations was to provide youth, particularly middle school-aged youth, with access to high-quality afterschool and summer opportunities. In November 2008, Mayor Dean created a new position for a Planning Director for Afterschool Initiatives. Additionally, the mayor unveiled plans for the creation of a public-private partnership, the Nashville Afterschool Zone Alliance, in the spring of 2009. In June 2009, the Metro Council approved a $400,000 appropriation to launch a “zone” providing out-of-school time programs to middle school students in one geographic area of Nashville. The city intends to roll out one afterschool zone per year, until six zones throughout the city provide all public middle school youth with access to comprehensive out-of-school time opportunities.
REGULARLY SEEK AUTHENTIC COMMUNITY INPUT TO DETERMINE KEY PUBLIC PRIORITIES
Mayors, councilmembers and other municipal officials frequently meet with community members in a variety of settings to hear from their constituents, communicate their ideas and obtain residents’ buy-in on a particular issue. Face-to-face and virtual opportunities to proactively solicit feedback and hear new ideas can help local officials keep the public engaged and generate public will, particularly for programs and services aimed at youth. Hearing the perspectives of young people can be inspiring and can help city leaders make better decisions and engage youth in local government and the community. When residents believe their leaders listen to their opinions, it is more likely that they will feel real ownership of an issue. Municipal leaders can gather community input on the city’s out-of-school time priorities at summits, town halls, community open-house meetings and other locations.
Bogalusa, La.: Community Conversations
Bogalusa MAGIC (Making Achievement Gains In our Community), a project undertaken in 2007 by the city with assistance from NLC and the National Education Association, was aimed at rebuilding the city’s out-of-school time options following Hurricane Katrina. A network of organizations, including the City of Bogalusa, Bogalusa City Schools, Bogalusa Association of Educators, YMCA, YWCA, Campfire, Washington Parish Men’s Club, faith-based organizations and other community organizations supports Bogalusa MAGIC.
In September 2008, more than 100 community members representing a cross-section of the city attended a series of community conversations. Municipal leaders, youth, parents, educators, business leaders, clergy and other participants brainstormed ideas and discussed ways to “bring the magic back to the magic city” through out-of-school time programs. Facilitators gathering information from the conversations identified common themes, priorities and follow-up actions for meeting the out-of-school time needs of Bogalusa’s youth. Bogalusa MAGIC has begun investigating available funding sources, compiling and disseminating information on existing out-of-school time programs and supporting the development of programs to address gaps in services. The community conversations resulted in a closer working relationship among local government, nonprofit agencies and the school system to meet the common goal of making high-quality out-of-school time opportunities available to all Bogalusa youth.
Using “market research” to understand citywide priorities
Some cities have conducted a qualitative analysis to better understand what parents and youth want out of local out-of-school time programs. Using a “market research” approach, these cities have employed surveys and focus groups to learn how families and youth make decisions about participation in out-of-school time programs, as well as what they are looking for and how they assess quality. This research can help municipal leaders understand whether programs are meeting families’ needs and if changes are needed at the individual program level or at the system level.
For example, program leaders in Washington, D.C., learned that teachers in their community exert significant influence over teenagers. In response, they worked with teachers to help publicize programs, recruit participants and work in their programs. Providence, R.I., officials opted to put more emphasis on sports programming based on the results of its market research. When it is used to inform program development and quality, the use of market research can boost participation and satisfaction and improve an out-of-school system’s outcomes.
Source: The Wallace Foundation.
A Place to Grow and Learn: A Citywide Approach to Building and Sustaining Out-of-School Time Learning Opportunities. New York, NY: The Wallace Foundation, 2008.
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