"I know you know CIS is making a difference, but I hope you know to what degree.”
That is what Mary Sturge, the Principal of Reid Park Elementary, said to me in my first meeting with her. She went on to describe how John Kirkpatrick, the CIS Site Coordinator at Reid Park, has uniquely contributed to the continuous improvement of the school: three years ago 22 percent of students at Reid Park were on grade level; this past year, that statistic had improved to more than 50 percent. There’s much more to do, but the progress is impressive. Many factors have contributed to the improvement, not the least of which is Mr. Kirkpatrick, a presence in the school who not only helps support and motivate students but also reaches beyond the schoolhouse and into the surrounding neighborhood to work with families and increase parental involvement at the school. Mr. Kirkpatrick’s strength lies in his passion for kids and ability to create relationships with mothers, fathers, grandmothers and neighbors.
I have been at Communities In Schools for roughly five months, and every day has brought new discoveries about the scope of the work and the talented staff who will make possible our support of more than 6,500 students this school year. Each CIS Site Coordinator case manages 100 students – they monitor their attendance and academics and ensure that students’ basic needs are met by providing food and clothing and arranging care from health, dental and vision providers. Coordinators also connect their students with resources in the community – they link them with mentors and tutors, take them on field trips to cultural venues and college campuses, and organize job shadowing and service-learning opportunities. Above all, John Kirkpatrick and his CIS colleagues in numerous other schools build relationships – with students, families and the community.
The job of a CIS Site Coordinator is complex. The broad goal is to help kids stay in school and prepare for a successful future. But each student is unique and has individual needs, and it is through relationships that Coordinators determine the supports, services, experiences and inspiration that each student needs to succeed. Through relationships, CIS influences the future of our students.