Best Starts for Kids Supports School-Community Partnerships

Mill Creek Middle School and community organizations collaborate to support students

By: Isabel Callaway, Puget Sound Educational Service District (PSESD) Best Starts for Kids School Partnerships Evaluation Team

Vaudery Frelix Brown, MA, 7th Grade Counselor and Counseling Department Curricular Lead at Mill Creek Middle School

LaTasha R. Jackson Rodriguez, MA, MFTA, CDPT, Founder/Executive Director, Restore-Assemble-Produce (RAP)

This blog is the second blog of a three-part series about the first year of the Best Starts for Kids School Partnerships evaluation.  

Mill Creek Middle School is one of nine King County schools—each with its own combination of Best Starts for Kids grants—that were part of the first year of the Best Starts School Partnerships evaluation.  The School Partnerships evaluation focuses on schools with multiple Best Starts grants to understand how and what types of partnerships are developing across different Best Starts strategy areas in each of the nine schools. 

The Mill Creek partnership includes Best Starts investments in Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Services (SBIRT) and Trauma-Informed and Restorative Practices (TIRP) strategy areas.  

One collaborative partnership example, between Mill Creek Middle School and Restore-Assemble-Produce (RAP), offered intervention services, mentors, resources, and referrals for a diverse population of historically underserved middle schoolers. In all, the outcomes of this initiative include teaching students how to achieve and how to become self-sufficient.

The Year 1 evaluation focused particularly on Mill Creek’s partnership with RAP and their role with the TIRP and SBIRT investments.  Mill Creek worked with RAP to provide a myriad of services to students. 

To ensure that its partnerships with community-based organizations are effective and integrated, Mill Creek works with organizations whose visions align with their own. Mill Creek works with TIRP and SBIRT partners with an aim to:

  • Screen for trauma needs, resources, and referrals
  • Provide equitable access for students to confidential programs and services
  • Improve school climate and school culture
  • Reduce suspensions and expulsions

Trauma-Informed and Restorative Practices (TIRP) grant

Mill Creek partnered with RAP through a TIRP grant in 2017. RAP is focused on increasing students’ abilities to cope and expand their social-emotional skills through engagement during the school day, afterschool connections, parent partnerships, and mentorship programming. Also, RAP leaders create and lead professional development for staff focused on racial justice and trauma informed practices.  

Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Services (SBIRT) grant

More recently, the Lead School Counselor also stepped into a leadership role to write a grant for Mill Creek which resulted in the implementation plan of Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral To Services (SBIRT). This anonymous screening method connected students in need to appropriate behavioral and mental health services inside and outside of school. Through the Mill Creek and RAP collaboration, SBIRT provided non-emergent and emergent referrals to RAP partners and RAP in turn leveraged their relationship with parents and students to support the students’ needs.  This partnership engaged regularly to ensure that their services were in fact aligned.

“Our RAP partner is on our student school improvement plan team. She’s on our Leadership Team.  So the work they’re doing, and the work we already have in line with our school improvement plan and vision for our school, is aligned already.” – Scott Haines, School Principal

Additionally, RAP was instrumental in introducing SBIRT to parents and attending the SBIRT Advisory meeting.  RAP’s Executive Director also attended SBIRT meetings to review and grapple with student data and ensure that students are connected to the appropriate supports. In learning, RAP analyzed the student trends and anticipated resources.

“Beginning with the administration, specifically with the principal, vice-principal, and school counselor staff, and after school programs, our innovative team meetings helped clarify our willingness to assist in any way to help each sector from the school meet their specific goals.  This helped them to see we were interested in what they cared about.” LaTasha R. Jackson Rodriguez, RAP Executive Director

By coordinating with each other, the school and its partners have created an opportunity to make lasting changes for the school’s culture and climate. While both relatively new to Mill Creek, RAP and SBIRT have already begun to influence policy changes at the school and in the district.

Collaborative work with community-based organizations have got us thinking of new work on discipline policies and procedures to get facts sooner to avoid suspension. What role might a community-based organization serve in either trying to avoid suspension or when a child is suspended, giving them additional resources that they can be referred to? I don’t think that we would have come to that same conclusion if we had not been doing this work.”  Randy Heath, Kent School District Student and Family Support Services Executive Director

Other results from the Best Starts for Kids School Partnerships evaluation, including a mini-case study of Mill Creek and its partners, are available here. A webinar about the School Partnerships evaluation, with a panel of partners from Mill Creek Middle School, is also available here

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