School site coordinators

Michael Noll, Peñasco community school site coordinator

Last year, Taos School Zone jump-started a community school initiative in Taos by funding the first full-time community school site coordinator at Enos Garcia Elementary.

By the end of 2019, three more schools in Taos County had become community schools, each with its own coordinator. Who could have anticipated the critical role these schools would play during the COVID-19 shutdown?

Community schools look beyond academic instruction, caring for the whole child and their families. Their four pillars are active community involvement, collaborative leadership, integrated student supports and enhanced and enriched learning opportunities. It is the job of the site coordinator to bring community resources - social services, health care, after-school programs and more - into the schools.

But when the world changed this spring and summer, community schools were called upon with much greater urgency to help feed our kids and our families and keep them safe.

At Enos Garcia, the site coordinator, working with the Enos Nurturing Center and other local nonprofits, made sure food was packaged and delivered to kids and their families all summer long using Taos Municipal Schools buses.

At Peñasco Elementary, kids needing help with social and emotional learning were able to take advantage of small-group counseling conducted by Taos Behavioral Health professionals, and a new weekly newsletter reminds families about resources and activities available through the school.

At Vista Grande High School, a partnership with Taos Land Trust enabled students to learn about sustainable agriculture by cultivating food crops and distributing the harvest to local families.

Taos International School worked with Growing Community Now to provide fresh produce to kids and their families and, like the other community schools, kept in close touch with families all summer to understand and meet their individual needs.

Kids are now back in school, sort of. But they can't learn if they're hungry or worried or can't figure out how to log on. This year, our schools are having to work extra hard to make sure students and their families have the support they need from the community. But thankfully, this year, community schools have site coordinators whose sole responsibility is to make those connections.

The Coalition for Community Schools, a national organization, has designated Sept. 21-25 as Community School Coordinators Appreciation Week. Taos School Zone joins them in honoring the four coordinators in Taos County: Tanya Abeyta of Taos International School, Amanda Flores of Vista Grande High, Michael Noll of Peñasco Elementary and Paula Oxoby-Hayett of Enos Garcia Elementary. Thanks to all of them for their commitment and their hard work on behalf of students and their families.

If you would like more information on community schools, email info@schoolzonetaos.org or get in touch with one of the four community schools in Taos County.

Taos School Zone is a special project of Taos Community Foundation, whose mission is to help coordinate the efforts of nonprofits, teachers and caregivers to create measurably better outcomes for kids and our community. For more information, go to schoolzonetaos.org.

Eleanor Romero is a member of the Taos School Zone Advisory Council.

Catherine Horsey is the Taos School Zone coordinator.

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