City Connects in Salem Public Schools

The City Connects model
Every student, every teacher, every year

City Connects is an evidence-based system that utilizes the existing structures present in schools and communities. A City Connects Coordinator meets with each classroom teacher and other school staff to review every student in a school every year, discussing each child’s strengths and needs in the areas of academics, social/emotional/behavioral growth, health, and family. Each student is then linked to the unique set of services and enrichments, available in the school or community, that address his or her unique strengths and areas of need. The Coordinator cultivates partnerships with community agencies, serving as a point of contact for the school. Coordinators collaborate closely with families and facilitate access to supports and enrichments.

The story of our partnership

City Connects launched in Salem Public Schools in the fall of 2017 in collaboration with the Education Redesign Lab at Harvard University and its Children’s Cabinet in the city of Salem. As we continue in our fifth year of partnership, City Connects has entered a stable and sustained phase of implementation. City Connects serves children and families in Salem preschool, elementary, and middle school settings, and has built deep connections in the Salem community. In the first year of implementing our systemic practice in schools, Coordinators established partnerships with over 100 local community agencies. By the spring of 2020, the number of community partners providing supports and services to students had grown to 193. Salem’s diverse community partners have been critical to our success supporting students. When surveyed in the spring of 2020, community partners reported especially high levels of satisfaction with City Connects: 100% think that City Connects is effective at identifying the needs of the students they work with and at matching students to their services.

Responding to the Covid-19 pandemic

The spring of 2020 brought unprecedented changes and challenges to schools across the nation. The Covid-19 pandemic shuttered schools and separated students from their teachers, classmates, and routines. As this crisis continues to unfold, the value of a systemic approach to student support has been made clear. Customized student support plans, developed as part of the City Connects intervention, provide administrators, teachers, and support staff with deep knowledge about the strengths and needs of every student and detail the various services and enrichment opportunities that each student receives.

City Connects Coordinators in Salem quickly pivoted to continue their work, finding creative ways to reach out, and bridging the gap between schools, families, and the community. Coordinators stayed in constant contact using phone calls, e-mails, text messages, and social media. They
provided support during the transition to remote learning, assisting families with acquiring Chromebooks and internet access, helping to navigate online learning platforms and virtual classroom expectations, and managing the stress of remote learning. They hosted lunch groups, meetings, and office hours online. They also worked to support families’ other needs, connecting them with food, financial assistance, virtual healthcare, social and emotional support, and other resources.

Principals, teachers, and community partners reported on City Connects’ response to the pandemic in the spring 2020 satisfaction surveys. All three groups cited the work of Coordinators in communicating with students and families and identifying and connecting them with appropriate resources. In the words of a Salem teacher:

“The Coordinator diligently worked on communicating with families which alleviated some of the pressure off of the general education teachers. Identifying and communicating with high risk students was streamlined because of pre-established connections through City Connects.”

2019-20 Salem City Connects schools

City Connects is implemented in 8 Salem Public Schools, including:

Bates Elementary School
Bentley Academy Innovation School
Carlton Innovation School

Collins Middle School
Early Childhood Center
Horace Mann Laboratory School

Saltonstall School
Witchcraft Heights Elementary School