DCPS Connected Schools provides service to families

Kiley Hatcher, Contributor

DCPS Connected Schools, a community school model, is directing new resources and accelerated learning programs to disadvantaged DC public schools. 12 schools currently have Connected School Managers who coordinate with principals to connect school communities with needed resources.

A community school model is a new approach to education, aiming to connect education and community. Jackson-Reed is not a part of the cohort as of yet.

The Connected Schools team works with various DC government agencies, the Department of Education, and hundreds of community partners to improve the school experience for kids at elementary, middle, and high schools. Christie Atlee, Regional Manager of Community and Family Engagement for DCPS, has been a central part of the team since its creation in 2018.

“Our mission is to provide support in order to meet the needs of students and families,” Atlee said. “Whether that’s basic needs, from food to mental health resources like grief counseling, to academic enrichment like after school tutoring.”

Every Connected School has a Connected Closet which keeps food supplies, uniforms, hygiene kits, and anything else a student or family could need. 

“Recently, I was visiting a school when a girl had gotten her period for the first time and didn’t know what to do,” Atlee said. “She walked into the Connected School Manager’s office, and the CSM already had feminine hygiene kits in her Connected Closet, and she talked her through what was in it, and what she would need.”

The model has shown great success so far. The team has over 240 partners according to its website, and student and family satisfaction scores at Connected Schools have increased, outpacing growth of DC public schools overall.

“That’s huge because the majority of our cohort joined Connected Schools because, back in 2018, they were identified as schools in the bottom five percent of the district,” said Atlee. “Their [parent satisfaction] scores were significantly lower than the district’s average, so the fact that they are outpacing the district is a pretty incredible turnaround.” 

The schools involved in the program include Anacostia High School, Dunbar High School, and Cardozo Elementary School, among others. Atlee hopes that every school in DC could one day be part of Connected Schools, including Jackson-Reed. Currently, there are no plans for Jackson-Reed to become part fo Connected Schools. The addition of Turner Elementary School and Hendley Elementary to the Connected cohort was announced on Wednesday, January 18 at a press conference at Turner with the US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.

“The Secretary of Education just announced that we are receiving a $2.5 million grant to add more Connected Schools,” Jasmine Stewart, the Connected School Manager at Ballou High School, said.

As said on the website, the elements of the Connected Schools model are authentic community and family engagement, strong student support systems, and academic enrichment. 2,480 students have already been served in the five years the program has been in place. 

“Having more Connected Schools gives parents and students greater access to resources drastically increasing the success of our students and building the partnership and capacity of our greatest stakeholders, our students and families,” Stewar said. •