September celebrates Community School Coordinators, the professionals at community schools who lead and implement each school’s unique wraparound services for the students and their families and the neighborhoods in which the schools are located.
Each of the six Baltimore Curriculum Project (BCP) neighborhood conversion charter schools are also community schools. To explain this critical role and share her years of experience, BCP spoke with Sandi McFadden, Govans Elementary School (GES) Community School Coordinator since 2016.
Q: In your words, what is your role as community school coordinator?
Sandi: I see myself as a bridge between the school and the community. It’s really just that simple. My job is to connect the school to resources, workshops, and opportunities for parents and students and for the school to connect to the neighborhood, the community, and to Baltimore. I bring in a lot more than just local [neighborhood] resources. Food insecurity is a big problem in this area, so we provide weekend food bags for our families who are in need, warm coats for children, school supplies and more.
Q: Community coordinators are central to the community school model. How unique is the model among Baltimore City Public Schools?
Sandi: The community school model has grown substantially over the last few years in Baltimore, thanks to state funding. There are now 133 community schools in Baltimore City, and each one of them is uniquely defined by the needs of its students, its families and its staff. [There are 164 schools and programs in the Baltimore City public school system, including the six BCP schools.] Over the last 15 or so years, the community school strategy has sought to professionalize itself and to standardize the kinds of services that would be provided by a community school.
Even though our six BCP schools are unique in and of themselves, every community school has a common thread that connects each school. That thread is to be able to provide students and their families with activities, resources, and services that support a good education.
Q: In your role, you help GES and the Govans community in numerous ways. What is one of your favorite ways?
Sandi: Developing, nurturing, and sustaining partnership is a key strategy to community school success. One of my favorite partnerships is the Adopt-A-Family program through the Baltimore Family Alliance (BFA). This partnership matches families in need with generous donors to ensure that our children have clothing, toys, and support during the holidays. Without the support of this particular partnership, many of our families would not have Christmas. The generosity that people show brings tears of joy to our faces – I love working with BFA.
I also love working with the three universities in our corridor – Loyola University, Towson University and Notre Dame University of Maryland – that provide tutoring to our students. It’s an incredible place-based strategy in which tutors come to us four days a week to work one-on-one with our children.
Q: How has GES’s new building improved your ability to serve the larger neighborhood?
Sandi: All of Baltimore City School’s 21st-century new school buildings are built with the intention of the school being a community hub where the needs of students and families can be met in one place. GES’ community room is a wonderful space that we use for a variety of activities, events and meetings. The 3,000 square foot space houses a food pantry that provides food for families in need, and is used by our college tutors, our afterschool Govie Club and much more. Additionally, in the almost three years that GES has been in our new building, we’ve opened our doors to local organizations and hosted several community meetings.
We also offer our gymnasium for community basketball practices for one of our local high schools and opened the basketball court to a local community group for pick-up games. It’s a wonderful way to share our resources.
Q: What do you love most about your job?
Sandi: About 100,000 things. The top one might be getting to know the children and their families. I just love talking with parents and hanging out with students at school. I also really enjoy forming new partnerships and nurturing current ones. That’s very important to me. The third thing would be my community-wide engagement activities. I attend all of the community association meetings for this area. I’m actually vice president of the Mid-Govans Community Association where the school is located. My desire is to really think about long-term sustainability of the relationships between the school and the neighborhood. Every time I show up [at a neighborhood meeting], people know that I’m showing up for Govans Elementary School.
BCP Community School Coordinators
About Sandi McFadden
B.A., Bennett College, Greensboro, NC
M.A.R, Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Philadelphia
Prior experience to joining GES as Community Coordinator in 2016:
- Mission-Educator in Liberia, West Africa and Mbabane, Swaziland, Southern Africa during Apartheid
- Principal, primary and secondary school in Liberia and largest preschool in Mbabane, Swaziland.
- Director for project and program coordination, Office on Global Education, Church World Service, National Council of Churches of Christ USA
- Co-author, Make a World of Difference, Creative Activities for Global Learning (second printing
- Area Director, Baltimore City Metro Maryland Youth for Christ
- Director of Youth Services, The Door in East Baltimore (designed after school and summer programs for middle and high school students that contributed to best practices in after school programming for the State of Maryland)
- Executive Director, Franciscan Youth Center
- Director of Extended Day School program, Mother Seton Academy
- Prominent leadership roles in the Mid-Govans Community Association and the York Road Partnership
- Served on the Mayor’s Commission for Women of Baltimore City and the advisory board of Women in the NAACP
- Serves on the Friends of Dewees Committee in partnership with the Department of Recreation and Parks, overseeing a $700,000 Capital Improvement Grant to install a new playground, a community memorial garden, and a walking path around the 14-acre Dewees Park.