School & District Management

OST Conference 2: The Power of Collaboration

By Mary-Ellen Phelps Deily — December 10, 2010 2 min read
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Collaboration was another recurring theme at yesterday’s out-of-school time event at Baruch College in New York City. The daylong conference was aptly titled: “The Power of Coordination: Emerging Lessons on How Cities Can Strengthen OST Services.”

“Schools alone can’t bear the burden of success” for children, the Wallace Foundation‘s Nancy Devine told the crowd of OST providers and city officials gathered for the meeting, which was co-sponsored by Wallace, the New York City of Youth and Community Development, and the National League of Cities.

Coordination, it became clear, is particularly critical in the current tough financial climate.

Cities typically know the many organizations with a stake in helping kids learn beyond traditional school hours, said Jennifer Sloan McCombs, a policy researcher for Santa Monica, Calif.-based RAND Corp.'s education division.

A key to success, she said, is creating a shared vision for OST among the many organizations involved. The field overall is moving toward more coordination and cooperation between schools and after-school providers, she added.

McCombs said successful programs that her organization has studied shared certain crucial elements. They:

  • Created a shared vision across all organizations involved in OST;
  • Developed ways to institutionalize good practices;
  • Emphasized data quality and made ongoing investments to maintain it; and,
  • Understood that the pace of change is uneven so that the occasional—or, even more than occasional—bad day is not a cause of major discouragment.

Gwynn Hughes, a program officer at the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation in Flint, Mich., said it’s crucial for OST to leverage public-private partnerships and for cities to consider state funding as an option for their programs.Relationship-building is key, she stressed, because cities will know who to contact when they have need, if they’ve made the effort to build those bridges.

Everyone at the conference agreed that, whether it comes to data or day-to-day services for children, groups need to work together to forge a concensus around big-picture goals and how they will be achieved.

“We need intentional collaboration across the public and private boundaries,” outgoing Providence, R.I., Mayor David Cicilline told the crowd in a videotaped address. The congressman-elect knows what he’s talking about—he was cited as a mayoral leader on OST at the conference. His city, Providence, is well-known for PASA—the Providence After School Alliance—which has worked with middle school students successfully and is branching out into the high school realm.

Lucas Held, the director of communications for the Wallace Foundation, closed the meeting by reminding attendees that they had work to do on the collaboration front and elsewhere.

There is “an opportunity to plan, to lay groundwork ... and also to gain a shared commitment to quality,” Held said.

More on the conference later today or early next week.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Beyond School blog.