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The Baylor-Waco partnership is still going strong.
Waco Independent School District, the City of Waco and Baylor University are collaborating with other local organizations to create a new community-wide position that will tackle poverty in Waco: the chief administrative officer for community and family outreach.
The Waco ISD board will choose a person to fill the position early next spring. The Waco ISD approved the position last Thursday night.
Superintendent Bonny Cain said the position was approved with the need for a collaborative family and community outreach program in mind.
“All of us have been working on poverty solutions,” she said. “We’ve been doing so in a disjointed way. We’ve let individual school campuses do it, but we would like to have a person that reaches out into community instead of doing it on the side.”
Cain said the person who is chosen must have a doctorate degree and teacher and principal certification to qualify for the job.
She said having such qualifications will help them to better work with families in the community.
The chosen person will also need to have experience in working with families and communities that are impoverished, said Jon Engelhardt, the dean of the School of Education at Baylor.
“One of those tactics is identifying a person who is an expert to interface with the community and working with families and communities by working with the sponsors,” Engelhardt said.
Cain described the position as hands-on. “The person will go out in the community to make these innovations work and to make sure we can prove them through metrics that we are making progress.”
Cain said the position will act as another link between Baylor University and Waco.
“The position oversees the whole Baylor-Waco collaborative and brings it all together, so that all the partners speak with one voice,” she said.
Engelhardt said students enrolled in the School of Education at Baylor have been working on addressing poverty issues as well.
“The way the School of Education is involved in that, by virtue, is that Baylor is providing for the person and will work with pre-service teachers so they will be prepared to work with children that come from poverty,” he said.
Engelhardt said students in the education school will complete internship opportunities at Waco schools through Baylor.
The Baylor School of Education is also working with one of the affiliate organizations-Greater Waco Community Educational Alliance, a community organization located in Waco focused on creating plans to ensure all students’ educational achievement.
Engelhardt said the person chosen by Waco ISD will be housed at the Educational Alliance organization office.
The Baylor School of Social Work is also working with Waco ISD and other Waco entities to combat poverty.
“We work with all of entities in Waco, school, churches, social agencies,” Professor Gaynor Yancey said .
Yancey said the class she taught several years ago created the poverty initiative plan, which was part of the ongoing 4 -5 year effort by the city to reduce poverty.
Yancey said students of the School of Social Work are addressing poverty by participating in internships at schools in the Greater Waco Area, which will be affected by the new position.
“They actually work in after-school programs, some in helping to strengthen the children in how they get along in the class rooms and working with the teachers to strengthen children so they can do better in the class room,” she said. “They help them become better students and have a better life overall.”
To be sure the right person is chosen for the job, a consultant will be hired before the school board interviews prospective people, Cain said.
“We’re still in the planning stages,” she said. “What we are going to do is hire a consultant to make sure we are laying the ground work and making sure we know what we want the person to do and to post it early spring. We’ll post the job description and set out the expectations.”
Cain said Baylor will be very important as a collaborative partner in the future.
“We want the students and the professors working with everyone else in helping the community collaborative to lift community out of poverty,” she said.
Yancey said now is a great time to be in Waco due to the new initiative. “It’s all about us working together so our community can be a better place to live,” she said. “It’s wonderful that we are working here together.”