Terri and Mike at Commodore John Rodgers School.

As the community school coordinator of Commodore John Rodgers Elementary/Middle School, Mike Glenwick wears many hats.

“It involves juggling a lot at any given moment. To me, being a community school coordinator, particularly at Commodore, with such a diverse community in just about every respect, means identifying needs of students and families,” Glenwick said, now in his fourth year at Commodore. Community school coordinators develop partnerships with external organizations such as municipal agencies, nonprofits, universities, and businesses to bring resources and programming into their school.

Glenwick started at Commodore as a Spanish teacher during a time of transition in 2010. Marc Martin became principal that year as the school was struggling with low enrollment and poor performance.

Since 2010, test scores have improved and enrollment has skyrocketed. Glenwick attributes this to high staff retention and “incredible students and families.” Over the years, Commodore has transformed into a neighborhood hub in East Baltimore. “Our families trust the school. They want to spend as much time as possible here. They're familiar with the people; they're familiar with the programs here,” Glenwick said.

Now, Commodore leadership and teachers collaborate with staff and leadership from four Baltimore schools through The 100% Project. The initiative’s mission is “to turn around inequitable public education—one school at a time” by using a community-focused approach with each school.

Since 2014, Commodore has been one of the school partners for CAH’s core research project. As part of the Center’s core research project, students are taught the Botvin LifeSkills Training health education curriculum. Center faculty and staff developed new lessons on sexual health to complement the lessons on how to handle difficult situations related to drugs, alcohol, smoking, and violence.

In Baltimore City, each community school is supported by a community-based organization (lead agency), which provides funding and supports the community school’s efforts.  

The community school approach emphasizes that a school is a place, not only for education, but a resource hub for all aspects of child and family life. According to the Coalition for Community Schools, community schools partner with organizations to provide students and families with academic, enrichment, health, and social services supports. The premise behind the community school approach is simple: barriers to academic success are removed by providing support, resources, and after school programming.

Terri Powell, lead investigator on CAH’s core research project, said the Center had built a strong relationship with Commodore’s leadership and staff through working together on LifeSkills Training, so she agreed CAH could serve as lead agency for the community school program. Powell has served as Glenwick’s supervisor and primary liaison with the Center since CAH became lead agency in 2016.

“Our role is really to support the things that are going on in the school [and] leverage whatever resources we have to make sure that they can be the best learning space and the best space for services for the students and families,” Powell said.

The Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners adopted a strategy on community schools in 2016. The policy requires community schools to develop an action plan that complements the school’s improvement plan with a “core focus on creating a more equitable community through increasing opportunity and access for students, families, and communities to the services that help provide basic human needs.”

“The community schools approach is one that tries to provide wrap around services. It acknowledges that kids are not just people in desks. We cannot make the assumption that everyone's home is doing well, everyone's coming to school ready to learn, because there are so many issues that kids and families may be facing outside of the school,” Powell said.

Commodore’s community school program has increased participation in after-school experiences; increased the number of students receiving necessary health services; increased the instances of physical and mental health into all whole school/family events through partnerships, volunteers, and internship programs; increased college/career readiness/preparedness through implementation of the Commodore to College Project; and increased the number of students who are engaged in formalized mentoring programs through collaborations with partner organizations.

Glenwick and Powell are passionate about continuing to grow Commodore’s community school strategy by seeking relationships with organizations all over Baltimore, with a focus on Johns Hopkins University. “Partnerships with schools can benefit a community and can benefit neighborhoods. A university is more than just a traditional academic institution. There's so many resources there and there's so much opportunity there,” Glenwick said. Powell added, “It has always been our intent and the school's intent to really elevate the presence of Commodore John Rodgers to the Hopkins community.”

Powell views the Center’s role as lead agency as constantly evolving. “There are always ways for us to improve this relationship, improve the school so that students are achieving more, feeling comfortable and have access to more things in this city,” she said.

Glenwicks summed it up best, “We're going to have to work and not lose that momentum. I think it's exciting, and there's a natural fire that kind of starts when you build.”

If you’re interested in volunteering at Commodore John Rodgers Elementary/Middle School, please email Mike Glenwick (mglenwick@jhu.edu). 

Facebook.com/TheCJRSchool

Instagram: @TheCJRSchool