Letter: A response to columnist's school criticism

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I am writing in response to Julie McDonald-Smith’s column regarding community schools (“The Right View: Beware the ‘Community Schools’ movement in Maine”). During my six-plus years on the Cape Elizabeth School Board, two major points became crystal clear: Our schools are expected to address more and more of our society’s challenges, and that not all students come to school with equal family support and care.

The community school model is a powerful tool to address these realities. This common-sense approach is to bring all community stakeholders together: schools, citizens, churches, law enforcement, arts groups, businesses and health services. As a group they perform a needs assessment, outline existing resources, highlight duplications and reveal unmet needs. In a thoughtful and strategic fashion, they can redirect duplicate efforts to fill in gaps. This allows for a more efficient and effective use of our resources and allows our schools and teachers to focus on the education of our children.

The achievement gap between those that are economically advantaged and disadvantaged is real and has real economic consequences for Maine. Improving educational outcomes reduces demands on taxpayer-funded social services, lowers incarceration rates, strengthens our labor market, and even improves life time health. It is essential that we consider all approaches to make sure all of our children have an equal opportunity to succeed no matter their family situation.

State Sen. Rebecca Millett
D-Cape Elizabeth