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Shinnyo-en Foundation One of Eighty Key Leaders and Stakeholders in White House Convening “Turn Around Low Performing Schools”

In conjunction with the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships embarked on the challenge of improving low-performing schools by convening over 80 key leaders and stakeholders on

September 20, 2010. This large endeavor focused on community-based organizations (CBO)’s active involvement in collaborating with public schools to address the difficult challenge of turning around low-performing schools. Ineko Tsuchida attended as a representative of the Shinnyo-en Foundation and also to support this courageous effort.

Joshua Dubois, Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and Patrick Corvington, Chief Executive Officer CNCS, welcomed the committed participants. Starting with the recognition of the “elephants in the room,” the entire day of the meeting was facilitated by the leaders of the aforementioned host organizations, such as Mara Vanderslice, Deputy Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Alberto Retana, Director of Community Outreach of USDOE, and John Kelly, Strategic Advisor for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships of CNCS. The convening progressed from one important issue to another as each topic built on the previous one for nearly seven hours in the Truman Room at the White House Conference Center.

Several factors contributed to the intended outcomes, such as articulating effective approaches for districts and schools and to identify key best practices. One of the those factors was that several participants were invited to make short presentations at the beginning of each session to provide the contextual information and best practice examples. This helped the participants own shared knowledge of challenging situations of low-performing schools or best practices at schools. In addition, an educational research presentation, such as the one made by Eugene Roehlkepartain, Vice President of the Search Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota, provided valuable insight into how faith-based organizations could be an invaluable resource to schools.

After the day-long convening, every participant walked away with a few notes identifying what commitment each organization represented could make and what the representatives of the organizations hoped the other organizations would commit to do. It was just a beginning step towards addressing an enormous issue, but it was certainly a promising beginning.