This semester marks the introduction of Communities in Schools (CIS) since Wharton ISD approved the partnership during a meeting on July 28.
For more than 28 years, CIS has been providing services in Brazoria County, positively impacting the lives of almost 70,000 students and their families.
Prior to COVID-19, CIS was providing the services that are listed above to students and their families who attend Bay City Junior High, Cherry Elementary, Tenie Holmes Elementary, El Campo Middle School and E. Rudd Intermediate.
According to Communities in Schools Brazoria County Director Harry Priesmeyer, WISD Superintendent Michael O’Guin expressed his support and value of the program, which was prompted by its success at Hays Consolidated ISD.
The partnership aims to offer a site coordinator on school campuses, who acts as a liaison to students and the community.
The CIS model starts with placing site coordinators on school campuses who work with school staff to provide services to the schools and their students.
They are assigned to a campus where they provide targeted case-management services to students that have been identified as at-risk.
“The success of a CIS partnership is having the right people to serve as site coordinators on school campuses, combined with a strong collaboration of community resources that work in unity with the school system to meet the needs of all of our students, so they have a better opportunity to learn and prosper in educational careers,” Priesmeyer told The County Gin, noting that two individuals have been training for coordinator positions in Wharton.
CIS partners with educators, outside agencies, students and parents to identify students’ needs.
The mission of CIS is to empower students to successfully learn, stay in school and achieve in life.
The CIS five basic beliefs are that every child needs and deserves a personal one-on-one relationship with a caring adult; a safe place to learn and grow; a healthy start in life; a marketable skill to use upon graduation; and a chance to give back to peers and the community.
‘Our mission is to surround students with a community of support empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.’
These beliefs are addressed through the CIS Six Components: Academic Support (tutoring, homework help, organizational skills), College/Career Readiness (expose the students to various careers and local colleges), Enrichment Activities (learning through fun/engaging activities), Health and Human Services (provide necessary referrals and basic needs), Parent/Family Involvement (facilitate and encourage involvement), and Supportive Guidance (one-on-one guidance, mental health/wellness, social, emotional and life skills).
“There may be ample resources in a community, but rarely is there someone on the ground who is able to connect these resources with the schools and students that need them most,” Priesmeyer said. “Through a school-based coordinator, we bring community resources into schools to empower success for all students by removing barriers for students at risk of dropping out, keeping kids in schools and on the path to graduation and leveraging evidence, relationships and local resources to drive results.”
These results are further assessed by the Texas Education Agency.
“Students in CIS almost always show improvement in the area(s) for which they were assessed and often in other areas,” Priesmeyer said. “When students know they have someone holding them accountable, who truly cares, the result is that their academics, attendance, and behavior improve.”
According to the director, due to COVID-19 there is an immediate need to provide basic needs assistance to a large number of students and families.
These needs include, food assistance, cleaning items, rental and utility assistance. Another need for this area is the essential technology for distance learning.
Priesmeyer said it has become clear that mental health and social-emotional needs for the students are top priorities at this time. If these basic needs are not met, these students will fall behind academically.
Priesmeyer hopes to spread the word and mission of CIS in an effort to encourage businesses and community leaders to join in support.
Individuals interested in learning more about how you can help support CIS are encouraged to contact Communities in Schools.