Nothing characterizes the health of a community as much as the opportunities for its youngest members to learn. Great teachers and schools, great libraries and museums, a wealth of engagement in cultural/artistic events and physical activities, an excitement about science, technology, engineering and math, and a network of supportive adults, provide children and young adults with the skills and perspectives that open the world to them.
Not all communities can offer this array of learning riches, but Flagstaff can. Historically, the Flagstaff community has strongly supported its schools and children through passage of bond issues and overrides, personal and corporate donations, volunteer efforts and other means.
The problem is that Flagstaff is program rich and infrastructure poor; put another way, we have many good programs and organizations often working in silos in a way that produces mixed results. The data shows that this lack of infrastructure has created opportunity gaps and disparities that prevent our kids from reaching their full potential.
2013 saw completion of the first Coconino County Education Report. The report was a result of a year-long study sponsored by the Coconino County Education Service Agency (CCESA) and United Way of Northern Arizona (UWNA). The intention was to establish a benchmark against which future progress of our schools could be measured.
In the wake of this report, CCESA and UWNA formed the Flagstaff Commission on Excellence in Education. Approximately 36 community entities were represented among the members of the commission upon its inception. This group was asked to study many aspects of early learning and K-12 education in the Flagstaff area and make specific recommendations for improvement.
In early 2016, the group rebranded itself as LAUNCH Flagstaff and identified the following five educational outcomes that are guiding our research and analysis. Those five outcomes are:
- Kindergarten readiness
- Third grade reading at grade level
- Eighth grade math proficiency
- High school graduation
- Establishment onto a post-secondary career path
Now, with the generous financial support of the Arizona Community Foundation of Flagstaff, The United Way of Northern Arizona and the Wharton Foundation, the partners of LAUNCH Flagstaff commit to building cross-sector relationships and use a data-driven collective impact framework to improve these core academic outcomes for every child, from cradle through career.
Within this collective impact framework, LAUNCH Flagstaff has partnered with the Arizona Town Hall organization to convene a Flagstaff Town Hall event on Oct. 1, at Coconino Community College. This half-day event will bring together 180 community leaders, policy \makers, educators and students around the topic of Funding for Pre-K – 12 Education. The results of the event will become part of the state-wide 110th Arizona Town Hall in November. Attendance to the Flagstaff Town Hall will require pre-registration, which will become available in mid-August.
As part of the effort to increase awareness about the issues impacting our educational system related to public funding of pre-K – 12 education in Flagstaff, LAUNCH Flagstaff will host a free educational documentary film series at the McGee Auditorium at Flagstaff Medical Center through the month of September. We will present the films Beyond Measure (Sept. 8), Paper Tigers (Sept. 15), and Rise Above the Mark (Sept. 20), all starting at 6:30 p.m.
Major funding for the Arizona Town Hall event is provided by The NARBHA Institute, the City of Flagstaff, Northern Arizona University, and Coconino Community College, with additional support from Coconino County.
As a result of these efforts, the partners of LAUNCH Flagstaff intend to increase community awareness so that community members will be better prepared to take action not only locally, but also at a state level when it comes to educating our children for their future. FBN
By Paul Kulpinski
Paul Kulpinski is the Partnership Director of LAUNCH Flagstaff and has more than 12 years of leadership experience working in public education policy and governance in Arizona. For more information, visit LAUNCHFlagstaff.org