Yesterday, The Wallace Foundation released Better Together: Building Local Systems to Improve Afterschool (A Conference Report). This report shares lessons from national experts and teams from 57 cities who came together in February 2013 to share lessons on expanding access to high-quality afterschool programs, especially in low-income areas, through coordinated citywide systems. Watch a video of the conference’s opening session.
In the following post, the Honorable Paul Soglin, Mayor of Madison, WI, reflects on how participation in the Better Together conference impacted his city’s efforts to build an out-of-school time system.
Guest post by Paul Soglin
In 2012 the city of Madison, The Madison Metropolitan School district and our non-profit partners started exploring Out-of-School Time (OST) systems. At the end of the year, an invitation arrived to attend The Wallace Foundation’s conference, Better Together: Building Local Systems to Improve Afterschool. The timing could not have been more opportune.
The City of Madison’s joint committee with the school district and Dane County was interested in piloting a version of an OST system. Around the same time, I met with a host of neighborhood center directors and articulated a vision in which all children and youth were within walking distance of OST activities. The center directors agreed to take a lead role in developing a system that would adequately serve youth throughout Madison.
There was already momentum in our community to provide system-wide programming that focused on improving attendance, lengthening the school day, involving more parents, and combating hunger and trauma. While all of the partners were experienced and committed to serving youth outside of the school setting, the development of a comprehensive system was challenging.
A team of representatives from local OST providers, the Madison Metropolitan School District, the County of Dane, and the City of Madison attended The Wallace Foundation’s Better Together conference in Baltimore. It was attending that conference that provided us with the focus and direction necessary to build what we hope will be a robust and comprehensive OST system that effectively reaches and provides for the children and youth throughout Madison.
We assembled a broad coalition of OST providers along with a dedicated action team and an Education Committee with school district, county, and city representation—all committed to creating an OST system. Further, during the 2013 budgeting process, a new part-time position in our Community Development division was created to assess youth needs and opportunities in our local Brentwood neighborhood. We are hoping to utilize joint financing to expand staffing for the creation of this system.
Our team is now working toward putting on a small summit in the fall for our local providers to learn more about how OST systems work, what they offer, and how to build them effectively. We look forward to continued engagement with The Wallace Foundation and the many partners we met in Baltimore for guidance and collaboration as we move forward in this exciting and promising effort.
Paul Soglin is the Mayor of Madison, WI.