A History of the Davenport Community Schools Approach
Community Schools is a concept and process that creates opportunities for all local community members, schools and organizations to become partners in addressing educational and community concerns.
Davenport has used this concept for over seventy years, dating back to the early 1940’s when the position of Director of Adult Education was first recorded. This program was more than the traditional adult evening high school approach; it included courses set up and taught by union tradesmen. The apprenticeship classes were taught in the school buildings as well as academic, leisure arts, home arts, business classes, horticulture, and other vocational courses. During World War II the high school building was open 24 hours a day as a machinist’s shop. Students learned during the day with the skilled workers but the “plant” was running all the time. Also in the early ‘40’s, six elementary buildings were built across the city. Each of those buildings housed a community room where a branch library was set up and community meetings could take place any time. Each of these schools also had an auditorium that was used by the public as well as the City’s Park and Recreation Department. Approximately 7,500 citizens took classes each year and the schools were busy places, day and night.
The school district has a long history of building partnerships with the community. Historically, the list includes the Red Cross, Friendly House, the Scott County Family Y, DADS Club, Putnam Museum, City Park and Recreation Department, Eastern Iowa Community College, as well as the Universities of Iowa and Illinois, and Iowa State University Scott County Extension. Davenport schools have been recognized as leaders in the nation for innovative partnerships with the union trades and businesses. The community was a part of the school picture.
In 1985, a diverse group of education leaders traveled to Flint, Michigan to learn about and discuss the Community Education model employed there. They came back invigorated and invited many others to join them. The Community Education Task Force was formed and became advisory to the Office of Community Education and district administration. Their first task was to complete a needs assessment survey, not only with the public but with various community agencies as well. Two of the early missions were to reduce the amount of duplication of services by various agencies and make the schools more accessible to the community. Adult Continuing Education classes expanded, as did apprenticeship programs. A tabloid was distributed to every postal customer in the Davenport School District biannually. The program was self-sustaining. The Task Force encouraged the “Adopt-A-School” program in 1987 which grew into the Partners in Education group. The Task Force also developed a “summer opportunities” for students brochure that was available at each of the agencies. In 1989 a task force for intergenerational experiences was formed as a sub-group of the Community Education Task Force. The Community Education Office also offered significantly more craft classes that were well received.
During the 1990’s the Task Force developed a Community Resource Matrix of community services available to adolescents, identified resources and developed a brochure on Parent Support “Education” Resource Opportunities, and reprinted the Child Abuse Council’s Parent Resource Directory for all teachers. Additional classes for families were offered. A Task Force sub-committee researched and compiled “Service Learning…A Working Document,” which was distributed to all school buildings. The Community Education Task Force was instrumental in the creation of “The Youth Agenda,” a youth advocate organization. The mission of The Youth Agenda was to provide youth with opportunities to express their views and develop appropriate community responses to quality of life issues affecting the community. The Community Education Task Force served as the “Coalition of Youth Service Providers” component of The Youth Agenda.
In 1992, the first city wide “Youth Fest” was planned and coordinated by the city, the schools, and agency representatives from the Task Force. The “fest” celebrated positive summer youth experiences. Later that year, the Task Force became the Community Education Advisory Council and bylaws were adopted. The Council hosted the first bi-state Iowa-Illinois Community Education Conference. The schools were still busy day and night and did not have enough gymnasium space or pool space for all the needs. The summer of 1993 brought flooding to the area and the school district again opened its doors and kitchens to the Red Cross for disaster relief operations. The development of the School Based Health Initiative in three schools and the creation of the Scott County Teen Center were accomplished that year.
In 1994, an alternate to expulsion program was developed and jointly sponsored by the school district and the Center for Alcohol and Drug Services, Inc. This program has created an option for students who have been expelled from school to take course work until they return to the regular classroom. Agency representatives collaborated to sponsor the first annual “Taking Back Our Families…A Conference on Parenting, Families and Neighborhoods.” The Community Involvement in Education Awards Program was initiated at the local level.
In 1995, the community education office worked with a number of community agencies in identifying multiple funding sources to develop community collaborative summer camps. In 2000, the National Community Development Association presented the program with the Audrey Nelson Community Development Achievement Award at their national conference in recognition of the “exemplary and innovative use of Community Development Block Grant funds to address the needs of low and moderate income families, homes and neighborhoods.” This was the model used in designing thirteen successful 21st Century Community Learning Centers.
In 2002, the office formed a Community School Health Advisory Council composed of district health teachers, nurses and a variety of community representatives. And in 2003, the office partnered with the American Red Cross to get all health teachers certified to teach CPR to our students and purchase the necessary equipment. As a result, the American Red Cross awarded the district the School and Community Award for Youth in Health and Safety at their national conference.
Through 2006 the Community Education Advisory Council continued to serve as the oversight group for Community and Adult Education, Service Learning, Afterschool and Summer Programming, Volunteerism, AmeriCorps, and 21st Century Community Learning Centers.
At the outset of the 2006-2007 school year, with budget cuts and increased pressures on school facilities, the Adult Education program was blended with other Adult Education providers, including Black Hawk College, Eastern Iowa Community College District, Davenport Parks and Recreation and the Scott County YMCA. During this period the Community Education Advisory Council conducted a thorough needs assessment and strategic planning process to create the structure and focus it currently holds in the Davenport community with a focus on the needs of youth and families. An extensive work plan guides the council’s work with a series of school district stakeholder committees, community partners and the community at large. Monthly council meetings and staff and committee work groups keep the program evolving to meet the changing needs of the Davenport community.