Inaugural assembly of SRCUACS gathers in Elizabeth City

More than 80 public school advocates gathered in Elizabeth City to formulate a progressive blueprint for enhancing the educational system through collaborative partnerships and cross-sector programming during the inaugural assembly of the Southeast Regional Coalition of University Assisted Community Schools (SRCUACS).

students posing in front of waterfront
Students from East Carolina University, Duke University and North Carolina Central University attended the inaugural meeting of the SRCUACS.

The Southeast Regional Coalition (SRCUACS) is a collaborative partnership between East Carolina University, North Carolina Central University, and Duke University, funded by the Netter Center for Community Partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania. 

The public school advocates included school personnel, district administrators, university faculty and students, elected officials and advocacy organizations. During the assembly, they learned about the history and development of the university-assisted community school (UACS) model, which started in urban Philadelphia schools in the 1980s. Participants also toured PW Moore Elementary School, a flourishing UACS that evening.

PW Moore is the first and only rural university-assisted community school in the state of North Carolina, and serves as a research site to examine the effectiveness of community school strategies in a rural or small-town setting. The Rural Education Institute of the College of Education received a $500,000 grant from the NC Collaboratory to implement the UACS strategy in Elizabeth City, and PW Moore opened as a UACS in the fall of 2023.

During the last few months, PW Moore has shown great potential. More than 350 parents and family members regularly attend monthly Title 1 and school-sponsored events and the school community has shown outstanding support of the UACS model.

group of people standing in a circle talking
More than 80 public school advocates gathered in Elizabeth City to formulate a blueprint for enhancing NC’s educational system.

Dr. Keith Parker, the superintendent of Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools (ECPPS), has identified several areas of success at PW Moore Elementary School since August:

  • increased parent engagement
  • increased staff morale and participation in after-hours events
  • increased community involvement
  • new engagement from the school’s alumni base
  • local political support from elected officials
  • increased student achievement
  • increased student attendance
  • increased leadership capacity from the school’s administrators
  • uptick in responsively addressing racial and social inequities and disparities, in addition to advocacy for and by marginalized populations

These successes have led the ECPPS Board of Education to implement the UACS strategy across its 13 schools.

“Every school should be a community school for these reasons,” said Parker, who is also an alumnus of ECU’s undergraduate history education and school leadership doctoral program.

Part of the grant funding from the NC Collaboratory allows undergraduate students from ECU’s College of Education, College of Health and Human Performance and Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences to conduct research evaluating the implementation of the community school model at PW Moore. This research includes monthly data collection in Elizabeth City, such as participant observations, field notes and interviewing family members, teaching staff and building and district administrators. These ECU students are learning about educational policy, the structure and funding of traditional public schools in rural eastern North Carolina and social services. They also are learning how to integrate health supports, extend and enrich academic programming and engage parents and community members in collaborative leadership through their experiences alongside families, students, practitioners and ECU faculty members, Dr. Amy Swain and Dr. Jerry Johnson.

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