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Director Hired for Polk County Public Schools’ Community Partnership School Initiative

May 21, 2018

Polk County Public School’s community partnership school initiative has taken a significant step forward with the hiring of its director.

“We’re absolutely thrilled by the huge step forward our community school initiative has taken,” said Superintendent Jacqueline M. Byrd.

“The community partnership school will provide invaluable resources tailored to the surrounding neighborhood. It will improve the lives of students, families, and the entire community by putting healthcare and social services right where they’re needed most. I welcome the new director, Andrea Hagan, and I applaud all of our partners, who are making the community school idea a reality for Polk County.”

Polk County Public Schools will pilot its community partnership school program at Crystal Lake Elementary this fall. The aptly named program is made possible through the collaboration of five organizations, including the school district, Heartland for Children, Central Florida Health Care, Southeastern University and United Way of Central Florida. Polk Vision has also been instrumental in facilitating the project and will continue working directly with the core partners in aligning resources to support the students, families and residents of the Crystal Lake community.

Modeled after similar programs in Hillsborough and Orange counties, Polk County Public Schools’ community partnership school will serve as a hub for education, healthcare and social services not only for students and their parents, but also members of the surrounding community.

Crystal Lake Elementary was selected to host the first community partnership school program in Polk County based on a number of factors, including existing community partnerships, the physical space to create a health clinic and to sustain future growth, and the public’s ability to access services at the site.

“The community partnership school program at Crystal Lake Elementary will be implemented in phases beginning in the 2018-19 school year, and will be based on the needs of the children, families and members of the surrounding community,” said Teri Saunders, CEO of Heartland for Children.

Andrea Hagan has been selected as the director of community partnership schools.

Hagan has nearly three decades of social services experience. For the last eight years, she’s worked as a prevention resource specialist for Heartland for Children, overseeing a variety of projects and faith- and community-based initiatives. Prior to Heartland, she worked as director of community ministries for Florida Baptist Children’s Homes.

Hagan will be responsible for implementing and overseeing the community partnership school model at Crystal Lake. Her overarching goals will be to achieve gains in the academic performance of students at the school, as well as the health and financial stability of members of the community, by providing the services that best meet their needs. The community needs assessment is being funded in part through a grant from the George W. Jenkins Fund within the GiveWell Community Foundation.

She will be an employee of Heartland for Children and will report to Heartland’s chief community relations officer, Tracy Grey. In addition, Hagan will work closely with Kristan Fowler, acting principal of Crystal Lake Elementary. Hagan’s salary, benefits, training, travel and office expenses, which amount to about $100,000 annually, will be paid by the George Jenkins Foundation through United Way of Central Florida. 

“My heart and my passion are serving parents and children,” said Hagan, who received her bachelor’s degree in psychology and elementary education from nearby Southeastern University.

“The community school will be a hub for education and wraparound services that are based in the unique needs of the surrounding neighborhood. In the years to come, I expect we’ll see the academic performance of the students at Crystal Lake Elementary improve, and then their graduation rates will rise, and their health and the health of their entire family will improve. We will lift up the entire community.”

Hagan will begin in her new position later this month.

Alan Turner, CEO of United Way of Central Florida, said: “United Way of Central Florida is pleased to see the community working together to produce positive change for students, their families and the entire Crystal Lake neighborhood. We are delighted to bring the George Jenkins Foundation funding to the table, and will continue to seek support for other critical needs.”

There are currently 11 other community partnership schools in Florida. The University of Central Florida is the Center for Community Partnership Schools and its role is to assist school districts and communities in establishing a comprehensive community partnership with planning, implementation and evaluation.

“We’re very excited about bringing this proven model to Polk County,” Saunders said.

Community school partners will now turn their attention to additional key hires and preparations for next school year, leveraging the support of its many partners and the broader community. Additional information on the community school model can be found by visiting the Coalition for Community Schools: http://www.communityschools.org/default.aspx.