Full-Service Schools

July 1998

"A rose by any other name..."

Those who don't think terminology matters should take another look at the current controversies surrounding full-service schools.

Many educators are embracing the term full-service schools to describe school-community collaboration designed to provide for the educational, physical, psychological and social requirements of students and their families at a given site. These schools utilize their facilities as community centers to make available a host of social services and activities to their neighborhood.

But not everyone is thrilled with the idea. Those who perceive public education as hostile to their values find it incomprehensible that schools should try to be a clearinghouse for every social ill. They are afraid that these services will pull resources away from academics and put too much information and power in the hands of people they don't trust. Their deeper fear is that educators want to become surrogate parents, controlling the future of the nation through their access to its children.

While that may be far afield from the truth, a parent's reading of 'full-service schools' plays into those fears. It does foster the idea that schools are providing the services. Speaking in terms of community-school partnerships will be helpful, as will including representatives of the faith community in such partnerships. As they have opportunity to see the challenges first hand and are invited to help in the solution, you will often find them willing and eager.

Many school districts are taking concerted actions to include churches, synagogues and mosques in such endeavors and to foster a common ground approach in public education that can disarm the tensions created by American's so-called culture wars.

Don't be reticent to do so, fearing a violation of church and state. If you train staff and community or parent volunteers to respect the religious neutrality of the public school environment, there is no end to the partnerships that can be developed and the good will that can be advanced in your community.

 

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