School and Community Partners Go Hand-in-Hand at Westlake Middle School

This is the first blog post in a series about the Every Hour Counts System-Building Institute.

Building a partnership isn’t always easy. But for an astounding 14 years, Principal Misha Karigaca (fondly known as “Mr. K”) and Eagle Village Executive Director Valorie Hutson have been working together to create a Full-Service Community School at Westlake Middle School in Oakland, California. And after a decade working together, they have become experts in making school-community partnerships last.

At the West Coast System-Building Institute that Every Hour Counts hosted in March in collaboration with the Partnership for Children and Youth, we had the opportunity to tour Westlake Middle School and view some of the Eagle Village Community Center after-school programs there. We saw students playing soccer on the blacktop, designing and drawing in art club, and heading off to a local park for lacrosse practice. And we were fortunate to learn from both Mr. K and Ms. Huston about what makes their partnership so strong:

  • Westlake and Eagle Village share resources and staff. Westlake teachers work after school to provide academic support and tutoring in the Eagle Village program. And Eagle Village has developed a family resource center that offers resources, parenting and financial management classes, and services to all Westlake families. Students report that they don’t know who works for Westlake and who works for Eagle Village— all they see is a seamless partnership committed to a great learning environment.
  • Westlake and Eagle Village have united around a shared mission, which includes prioritizing behavioral and mental health services. Both organizations communicate around ways they can jointly support students who are struggling in class or need additional support. When teachers, school leadership, program directors, and school counselors share data on student outcomes and tightly coordinate their efforts, they can develop plans to encourage students’ growth and success.
  • Partnerships with organizations throughout Oakland infuse the entire Westlake-Eagle Village model. Community organizations, including local sports programs and arts organizations, provide the enrichment activities to Eagle Village students. A nonprofit steps in to provide financial management classes to Westlake parents. Counselors and interns from nearby JFK University provide counselling sessions for students and families.

Down to the details, like their side-by-side offices and their Monday morning check-in meetings, Mr. K and Ms. Hutson are committed to their Westlake-Eagle Village partnership.

What does the partnership mean for students? As we were able to see during our visit, it offers students the best of both worlds: a school committed to academics, community partners that provide engaging learning experiences after-school, and a community of caring adults who truly want to see them succeed.

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