New Partnerships Forming in Evergreen School District

on Tuesday, December 02, 2014 Posted in Stories, Happenings, School Partnership Network

These are exciting days in the Evergreen School District. SPN is partnering with Superintendent John Deeder and his staff to host a gathering of the district's principals and other administrators with local area pastors on January 14, 2015. Supported by the newly forming East Vancouver Faith-Based Coffee coalition, this event is the culmination of efforts from numerous sources both inside and outside of the district offices.

Just over 18 months ago the district launched their first "Family Resource Center," which seeks to partner with community organizations to meet the needs of underserved families in their community. Melanie Green was tasked with opening that first center at Silver Star Elementary school. She immediately began to connect with local community partners, starting with Crosspointe Baptist Church, located about a mile from the school.

Approximately 59 percent of students at Silver Star Elementary qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. "The church has been an incredible partner to Silver Star, supporting students, families and staff," said Green, who directed the school's Family & Community Resource Center for its inaugural two years. "Having these partnerships in place makes it possible to provide for families in distress."

At the planned January gathering it is hoped that many other such partnerships will be launched or strengthened. According to Larry Whittlesey, Executive Director of the School Partnership Network, "These Pastor and Principal gatherings have created enthusiasm and energy throughout the districts where we've hosted them." New relationships are formed as faith leaders and school administrators realize they can work together to better serve the families in their community.

Evergreen is just the latest on a list of school districts that have already hosted similar events, including the North Clackamas, Reynolds, Parkrose, Gladstone, Beaverton, Centennial, and Vancouver Public School Districts. Two other districts, Hillsboro and Gresham-Barlow, will also host "Pastor and Principal" gatherings in January sponsored by SPN, and plans are already in the works for these events in Portland Public, David Douglas, Tigard-Tualatin and other districts throughout the metro area.

The current efforts by the Evergreen District to find sustainable partnerships with local faith communities for their schools demonstrates the growing realization that the laws protecting the separation of Church and State do not forbid such collaborative efforts. As the Beaverton Superintendent Jeff Rose said a similar meeting less than two years ago, "....we're serving the same families!" The members of a church can serve effectively at their local school in many ways as long as they do so "without an agenda." At SPN we're excited about what is happening at Evergreen, and anxious to share this incredible opportunity with as many other districts as possible while we move forward.