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Community Schools as a Model for Heart Centered Education

In the April 2015 Wow!Ed Newsletter an article by Dr. Michele Rivers Murphy, a CEI Research Associate, addressed Crossing the Boundaries of Home, School and Community with Compassion Courage and Confidence.  In that article Dr. Murphy highlighted some of the accomplishments of Dr.  Ramona Bishop, Superintendent of Vallejo’s Unified School District (VCUSD) in California. In four years 23 schools in VCUSD transitioned to become community schools.

By Michele Rivers Murphy, Ed.D., CEI Research Associate

Community schools set the pace for engaging and meaningful home-school involvement where families are partners in educational planning and decision-making. Community schools is an umbrella term used to describe the many variations of school-community partnerships. Full-service community schools are attached to more comprehensive strategies that include health, education and social services. The concept is purposefully flexible to allow communities to look at their own needs and assets and determine their own vision of school and community relationships.

Community schools have taught us since their resurgence in 2000 that most past educational reforms have produced only marginal results in comparison, largely because they focus almost exclusively on the instructional side of teaching and learning (IEL, 2014). What the 21st century is telling us is that children’s lives cannot be compartmentalized; all parts must be considered as key to the big picture of educating a child. In other words, we have a shared responsibility to meet children where they are when they enter the school steps and attend to their individual needs in the context of the classrooms.

While a whole child community education strategy should be designed to meet the individual needs of each community, Vallejo California Unified School District (VCUSD) is one example of  full-service community schools that have demonstrated that the power of possibilities are limitless. As implemented in VCUSD, community schools result in increased academic gains, increased attendance, increased parental involvement and  reduced suspensions, and reductions in the drop-out rate.  For many reasons, communities can address needs that might otherwise go unmet. We are encouraged with the gains that are being made in community schools across America.


Institute for Educational Leadership. (2014). Leading across boundaries. Retrieved from:

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