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Posted: September 21, 2018

Community Schools and Their Amazing Coordinators

Coordinators Appreciation Week is Sept. 25-29

Community School Coordinator Andy Braman (third from right), Longfellow Principal Richard Ulibarri (second from right) and Homework Diner volunteers.

Community School Coordinator Andy Braman (third from right), Longfellow Principal Richard Ulibarri (second from right) and Homework Diner volunteers.

I’d like to introduce you to an old colleague of mine. Andy Braman used to work for a school fundraising company when I was principal at Mitchell Elementary School. Now he’s one of about 30 community school coordinators for Albuquerque Public Schools.

Andy is a busy guy. Take Wednesday for instance. He started the day early, dropping off food (that he had picked up the night before) at Highland High, where the culinary arts class would prepare it for Homework Diner later that evening at Longfellow Elementary School. Barbeque chicken and mashed potatoes.

He then headed over to Longfellow to drop off supplies for the dinner and to help arrange for a fifth grader to go home with a backpack full of food each weekend.

Next, to Eugene Field Elementary School where Andy has been working with a mom of four on getting the family out of a shelter and into a home. He also arranged for the family to get furniture, food, clothing and other supplies.

He spent a little time setting up food safety training for volunteers who will start working at a pantry at Eugene Field, and he checked in with the principal at Lew Wallace who sought his assistance with a family in need.

Back to Longfellow, where Andy and a group of volunteers set up for Homework Diner, then joined dozens of students and their families who were served a hot meal, got homework help and parenting tips and participated in fun activities centered on health and wellness. 

When the families left, Andy and the volunteers cleaned up and he loaded the dirty dishes in his car so he could take them home to wash.

A day in the life of a community school coordinator. I’d say they deserve a little recognition for all they do, wouldn’t you?

National Coordinators Appreciation Week is Sept. 25-29. According to the Coalition for Community Schools, the community school movement has grown across the country and internationally with more than 5,000 schools including 30 in APS.

Community schools improve the conditions for learning by providing students and families with resources and opportunities to succeed academically, physically, socially and emotionally.

Community school coordinators serve as the bridge between the school and the community, working diligently to create and manage partnerships that allow students to learn and thrive.

As Andy said, “We don’t want any kid to have a barrier to learning, whether it’s a pair of shoes, a meal or a place to live.”

He calls it a labor of love.

Our coordinators work with countless partners on providing a huge array of resources and services, from before- and after-school care to food pantries to hip hop dance classes. Many of our community schools provide parent classes, too, and several house health clinics.  

Richard Ulibarri, the principal at Longfellow, described it like this: “In a big place like Albuquerque, community sometimes falls apart. It’s incumbent on us to bring it together.”

I agree. One of my five priorities – the Supt’s Big 5 – is developing the whole child by removing barriers to learning so that our students can be successful in the classroom. This means working with organizations, agencies and businesses that have just as much at stake as we do.

That’s exactly what our community school coordinators do on a daily basis. They deserve our appreciation next week and every week along with principals, staff, volunteers and partners who work on enhancing the lives of our students and families and improving the community we all belong to.

Want to know more about community schools? Check out this video provided by the Coalition for Community Schools.