U-46 and our schools have many long-time community partners—district-wide advisory councils, business partners, municipalities, organizations and agencies, places of worship, colleges and universities, and other groups. Over the years, we have celebrated the relationships that our schools have maintained. U-46 has been recognized by the state for our exemplary collaborations, and we have worked hard to keep our partners informed and involved.
Now we have a new opportunity to take our collaborations to the next level—and what’s different is that the work is led by the public schools. The model of aligning community work with the schools originated in Nashville, Tennessee, and has been adopted by ten communities across the U.S., including Rockford. The initiative is called Alignment, and recently, our own Alignment Collaborative for Education (ACE) has been established.
The ACE mission is “to align community resources in support of public school strategies to raise student achievement, improve the health and happiness of our children, create responsible, productive and contributing members of our society, and advance the economic and social well-being of our community.”
In May 2013, Elgin Mayor Dave Kaptain convened the first Education Summit and encouraged participants to see what other communities have done in partnership with their local schools. Since then, the staff of the City of Elgin has been working with U-46, the United Way of Elgin, Grand Victoria Foundation, and Elgin Community College to research Alignment and to begin the process of creating a local organization that includes U-46. Community presentations were made to numerous organizations, including the U-46 Board of Education and administration.
To date, a governing board has been established that includes representatives from the communities across U-46. Linda Deering, CEO of Advocate Sherman Hospital, is the chair; Peter Sikorski, Chief Financial Officer of Get Fresh Produce, is vice-chair. On February 4, 2015, more than 150 community members gathered at Villa Olivia for the “launch” of ACE. In the weeks following, the leaders and other volunteers participated in day-long trainings about Alignment.
• A system designed to support a public school district's strategic plan for student success by aligning community resources,
• An organization of organizations,
• A toolset designed to support a system,
• Focused on generational change.
Alignment Nashville and Alignment Rockford have been providing technical assistance as our local organization is forming. They are able to point to specific outcomes as a result of having partners focus on issues; for example, the graduation rate in Nashville has increased from 58% to 80%.
Our first three areas of work and committees called “A-teams” are Early Education, Trauma-Informed Care, and Career and Technical Education. Each committee is co-chaired by an educator and a community member.
Representing U-46 as A-team chairs are Peggy Ondera, Director of Early Learners Initiatives; John Heiderscheidt; Director of School Safety & Culture and Dr. Terri Lozier, Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Schools Instruction & Equity.
For more information or to join the Collaborative, click here.
For a Fact Sheet on ACE, click here.
To learn more about ACE, click here.