The Value of Community Collaboration
The longer I am in education, the more importance I place on the value of collaboration. The school cannot solve today’s problems alone and relies on community partnerships to fill gaps. West Fargo Public Schools (WFPS) has had the privilege of working with many outside entities to solve problems like poverty, childhood hunger, closing the achievement gap, mental health, and preparing today’s learners for tomorrow's world. This month’s article will highlight just a few of the great partnerships we are so grateful to have.
The first partnership I’d like to showcase began in the fall of 2018. United Way partnered with WFPS and the YMCA of Cass and Clay Counties to provide new pre-K opportunities for children at the Lodoen Kindergarten Center. Because of United Way’s investment, scholarships for low-income working families were made available to ensure that they can access high-quality early learning opportunities for their children. Early results are showing that 97% of children are developmentally on track with literacy skills and 87% are on track with social-emotional and cognitive skills, demonstrating they are more prepared to enter kindergarten ready to succeed. It’s necessary for our school districts to have partners like United Way who have the willingness and resources to open doors for our students and families. Early intervention means we have a chance to close the achievement gap and put an end to poverty in our community. We would not have public preschool today if it were not for our partnership with the United Way and the YMCA of Cass-Clay.
Just a few years ago, WFPS created the Profile of a Graduate (POG), which outlines eight essential skills that all WFPS graduates are expected to have attained prior to graduation: collaboration, compassion, resilience, responsibility, reflection, communication, creativity, and critical thinking. The development of these skills is critical to our district mission of preparing today’s learners for tomorrow’s world. Students need the opportunity to practice these dispositions in authentic ways, which is where the second partnership I’m going to touch on comes into play.
Our business community expects the district to send them employees that have the skills and dispositions to fill their job needs and serve our communities, and we need help from the businesses to provide authentic learning experiences so our students can practice and develop these skills. Students need opportunities to not only show competency on essential skills, but to also engage in community service hours, complete work-based learning experiences, and to show competency in 21st century skills. By partnering with community businesses, we can have opportunities for business leaders to come into our schools and share their knowledge and expertise, as well as to provide internships and shadows for students to take part in outside of the school.
Most recently, the pandemic brought partners to our table that I did not know I would need. Essentia Health and Fargo Cass Public Health have spent many hours each week providing district leaders with guidance and resources to help us navigate the incredibly challenging decisions we must make. We are educators, not medical experts, so having our medical partners at the table gave us the confidence that we were making sound decisions based on the best information available at the time.
On March 1, the district will hold its third annual State of the Schools event. During this virtual event, stakeholders will have the opportunity to hear from three West Fargo senior students about how they have applied and strengthened their profile of a graduate dispositions. Following these presentations, stakeholders will meet with School Board members to provide feedback on the district’s strengths as well as areas for improvement. Additional information on our State of the Schools event can be found on our website and district Facebook page. We encourage both existing and potential district partners to participate in this event, as it’s through your feedback and support that we continue to be the district of choice in North Dakota.