We Get By With Help From Our Friends
Community Support Key to the District's Success
Back in the day, when I was a kid (yes, there really WAS a time when I was a kid), the Beatles had a song, “With a Little Help from My Friends.” In a significant way, Kalamazoo Public Schools is able to cobble together services for children “with a little help from our friends.”
Michigan school districts, including KPS, underfunded by the state legislature over the last 15 years, are understaffed relative to their needs, and nowhere is this more apparent than in districts that are responsible for the education of large numbers of poor students, special needs students, and students who are English language learners. Four Michigan studies in the last three years have concluded the same thing: that Michigan substantially underfunds its public schools, and that it particularly underfunds those schools with significant numbers of these three groups of young people.
The School Finance Research Collaborative (SFRC), of which I am proud to be a member of the Steering and Technical Committee since the collaborative’s inception, has been making the case for more adequate and more equitable state funding of our 1.5 million students in the state since the release of its 358- page report in January 2018. But until school funding IS more adequate and more equitable, what do we do?
That’s where the Beatles — and our community partners — come into play. I shared at an April Kalamazoo Public Schools Board of Education meeting that we have more than 250 community partners, groups that partner with the district on mentoring, tutoring, food, clothing, after-school programming, mental health services, physical health services, and literacy supports, as well as other areas. Among the extraordinary partners in and around Kalamazoo, no partner is more impactful than Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS).
When I came to the community 12 school years ago, Pam Kingery, the executive director of Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo, reached out quickly to welcome me, to invite me to a CIS event, and to inform me that the KPS superintendency came with membership on the CIS board.
Under Pam’s leadership, CIS has grown since that first meeting from a presence in nine of our 22 schools to a force in 20 of our 26 facilities. CIS oversees site coordinators who, during the school day, help manage many of our volunteer tutors and mentors, food and clothing distribution, and physical and mental health supports. CIS staff members provide services both directly to children and indirectly through other organizations. In addition to its work during the school day, CIS has partnered with KPS over the last five years on three federal 21st Century Learning Center grants that have funded after-school programming in 15 of our schools.
Each year, during the school day and after school, CIS serves thousands of KPS students, either directly or indirectly.
Last month, I began highlighting different partners that have an impact on our KPS children. We are very fortunate to have a vibrant tradition of support for our schools and school children in Kalamazoo. We are especially fortunate to have Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo as a partner in our schools on a daily basis.
Pam Kingery has served as the founding executive director of Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo since 1999 and is retiring at the end of the school year. She and her team have been integral partners in the school district’s efforts to improve student achievement in reading, writing, math, Advanced Placement participation and success, and high school graduation rates — the five long-time Board of Education established goal areas. Without CIS, our students’ progress, in the face of inadequate resources, would not have been as significant. Without Pam, there would be no CIS in Kalamazoo, at least not as we know it today.
Please take a moment to thank Pam for her years of service to the Kalamazoo community and to thank CIS staff members for their contributions to the quality of education our young people receive.
As promised in my last column, below please find several more of our KPS partner organizations, several more of our “friends,” all of whom we appreciate for their support of students and staff.
Greater Open Door C.O.G.I.C.
Great Lakes Peace Jam
Greg Jennings Foundation
Hands Up Thanksgiving Meals
Heritage Community Center
Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan
Housing Resources, Inc.
ISAAC - Interfaith Strategy for Advocacy and Action in the Community
Jack And Jill
Kalamazoo Astronomical Society
Kalamazoo Ballroom Academy
Kalamazoo City Water Reclamation Plant
Kalamazoo Civic Theater
Kalamazoo College Baseball Team
Kalamazoo College Mary Jane Underwood Stryker Center for Civic Engagement
Kalamazoo College Career Fair
Kalamazoo College Sisters in Science Kalamazoo College Tutors & Lunch Buddies Kalamazoo Valley Community College
Kalamazoo Community Foundation
Kalamazoo Community Mental Health & Substance Abuse
Kalamazoo County Health Department
Kalamazoo County Ready 4s Kalamazoo Counseling Center
Kalamazoo Counseling Connection
Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety
Kalamazoo Education Association
Kalamazoo Girls on Track
Kalamazoo Gospel Mission
Kalamazoo Arts Integration
Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
Kalamazoo Junior Honor Society
Kalamazoo Junior Girls
Kalamazoo Junior Symphony
Kalamazoo Nature Center
Kalamazoo Parks & Recreation
Kalamazoo Literacy Council
Kalamazoo Public Library
Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra
KSO - Kids are Special & Marvelous Music
Kalamazoo Township Police
Kalamazoo Valley Museum
KAMSC Sizzlin’ Summer Math & Science (SSMSP/KAMSC)
Kalamazoo Gospel Mission
KVCC Food Innovation Center/Culinary Arts
Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity
Kellogg Biological Center
Kids’ Closet - CIS Kids’ Hope
League of Women Voters
Let Me Run
Lift Up Through Literacy
Loaves and Fishes
Local Interagency Coordinating Council
Metropolitan Kalamazoo Branch NAACP
Cutline: Kids' Hope volunteers organize an end of the year party for El Sol Elementary School students. The special guests were a ferret rescue group.