Community School Partnership

Southeastern University is excited to be partnering with Polk County Public Schools in a pilot Community School Partnership Program.

Southeastern University’s relationship with Crystal Lake Elementary will deepen this fall as the Polk County School Board implements this new community partnership school model at the elementary school, which is just a short walk away from the university.

About Community School Partnerships

Under the community partnership school model, a public school becomes a center of activity beyond just academics by serving the physical, mental and emotional needs of students and their families. The community surrounding the school will also have access to these services.

The idea is to make the school a hub for students and their families to access social services and health care right on school grounds through community partnerships. The aim of the program is improved student learning, stronger families and healthier communities.

Recent studies of community partnership schools in operation for five years or longer have found most students within these programs attended school consistently and succeeded academically. Families are also more involved with their children’s education, and ultimately communities are transformed.

“The community partnership school will provide invaluable resources tailored to the surrounding neighborhood,” said Superintendent Jacqueline M. Byrd. “It will improve the lives of students, families, and the entire community by putting healthcare and social services right where they’re needed most. I applaud all of our partners for making the community school idea a reality for Polk County.”

In addition to SEU’s partnership, community partners joining Polk County Public Schools for the initiative at Crystal Lake Elementary include Heartland for Children, Central Florida Health Care, and the United Way.

Southeastern has committed to a long-term relationship with the school. “The community partnership school is just another way that Southeastern can serve our community,” said Dr. Kent Ingle, SEU president.

SEU’s Involvement

Southeastern alumna Andrea Hagan will oversee the community partnership. She will work closely with Crystal Lake Elementary’s acting principal Kristan Fowler to provide services ranging from homework assistance and after school programming, to health care and mental health counseling.

Southeastern is already highly involved with the neighboring elementary school. University students currently participate in the school’s Big Brothers/Big Sisters program and tutor students. Students in SEU’s Reading Education courses focus on literacy development at the school, developing individualized reading plans for second grade students. Many students from the College of Education also intern at Crystal Lake Elementary or complete their field study there.

“We already have a strong working relationship,” said Dr. Amy Bratten, associate provost at SEU, who also serves on the cabinet of the community partnership. As the university partner, Bratten explained that SEU will also provide professional development opportunities for the staff and administrators at Crystal Lake Elementary. 

“The university partner in this type of school model typically spends time, energy and resources offering professional development to the staff and administrators,” said Bratten. Training will be offered free of charge and will be based on the results of a needs analysis study and input from the principal.

Bratten said some of the sessions will address literacy development, while others will be focused on helping teachers better serve children who have experienced trauma or poverty.

Benefits for All

The work is mutually beneficial, Bratten explained, since it also advances the research, teaching, learning and the service mission of the university. “The needs analysis study is a huge part of knowing what is needed in the community,” said Bratten. Several students in the Doctor of Education program at SEU worked with Bratten to provide the school with this research.

“Because of the partnership with Crystal Lake, we know there will be a push for more community partnership schools in the area,” said Bratten. Southeastern has plans to offer a Turnaround Leadership program to provide training to future educational leaders so they can lead at other schools.

“We are already weaving turnaround practices into our master’s program in educational leadership and have plans to integrate the content into our doctoral programs,” said Bratten. “We’re excited to see how this program will positively impact everyone involved.”