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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Empowering Families to Help Themselves: A Full-Service Community Thrives

This Central California school district meets the needs of all children and families.
By Edutopia
Edutopia Team

"We've expanded the definition of student services to include addressing the social, emotional, and physical problems that can reduce a student's ability to achieve in school," says Sharon Burnis, assistant superintendent for administrative and pupil services in Modesto City Schools.

Over the past ten years, this Central California school district has built an array of school-based services that serve the primary medical, dental, mental health, and counseling needs of students, family, and community members. In coordinating services with many community agencies, district staff have successfully navigated often difficult issues, such as jurisdiction and decision-making. Services are in place at four of the district's schools and plans for additional sites are not far away.

"Our goal is to empower parents and the community to help themselves," explains Mayo Lunt, coordinator of Healthy Start at Hanshaw Middle School. Hanshaw, which serves almost 1,000 seventh- and eighth-grade students, is one of the schools providing services. In addition to health and dental services, Hanshaw offers peer conflict management and youth development activities, parenting education classes, and an intensive early intervention program for families of students with potential academic or social problems.

A hallmark of Modesto City Schools is the continual improvement of its programs and services. In the recently added Block House Program, parents walk door-to-door to link families to resources located at schools and in the community. Block House parents are connected to an electronic database of over 1,800 resources in Stanislaus County via computers and modems donated by program partners. "My vision is to offer coordinated services at every school in the district, and to build collaboration among all of the agencies in the county," says Burnis. From all indications, Modesto City Schools is well on the road to realizing that vision.

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