A community school unites the most important influences in a child’s life – school, families, and communities – to create a network that supports their development toward productive adulthood. Although there is no single uniform  model, community schools share a common vision to  “create an integrated set of learning opportunities,  physically and socially.” (University of Central Florida,  College of Health and Public Affairs) Through partnerships with key resource providers, the school serves as a center for health care, social services,  enrichment opportunities, and other support to students,  families and the community. Recent studies of community schools in operation for five years or longer have demonstrated higher standardized reading and math scores, increased rates of attendance and greater parent engagement. (University of Central  Florida, College of Health and Public Affairs)

In the fall of 2016, inspired by work of the UCF Center for Community Schools, a group of interested citizens from across Polk County began exploring the potential of transitioning a public school to a community school.


Working collaboratively with Polk County Public Schools,  Polk Vision established the group as a LEAD Team. Over a period of 9 months, the Team attended information sessions, reviewed research and coordinated visits to successful community schools operating in Orange and  Hillsborough counties. During this process, the Team met with representatives from UCF, community school principals, key partners in social services and healthcare,  as well as community school staff members.

A meticulous process was followed to determine which of the 73 Polk County elementary schools had the best chance for success as the county’s first community school.  Sub-committees were established to independently evaluate and rank objective data.

The committees’ work encompassed factors such as school grades, transportation numbers, free & reduced lunch rates, teacher retention rates, suspensions, expulsions and feeder patterns as well as the locations, building capacity,  sidewalks, parking, public transportation, and the potential for expansion.

In the coming months, the work of the Team will be focused on developing a comprehensive model implementation plan and solidifying community partnerships and resources.


"Crystal Lake Elementary Community School - Community Engagement Grant Recipient"


Team members review data on a number of factors in order to identify which elementary schools in Polk had the best chance of succeeding as a community school.


During a July work session, the  Team submitted its findings to the Polk County School Board.  Board members selected  Crystal Lake Elementary as the community schools pilot.

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Community School Team 

Ed Shoemaker, Ph.D. -  Co-Chair, Family and Education Intervention  Services

John Small - Co-Chair, Polk  County Public Schools

Leslie Allore - Community Volunteer

Marcia Andresen - Polk County BoCC

Deborah Badertscher - Polk County Public Schools

Melony Bell - Polk County BoCC

Penny Borgia - United Way of Central Florida

Wendy Bradshaw - Children’s Home Society

Carolyn Bridges - Polk  County Public Schools

Creigh Brown - Community Volunteer

Marianne Capoziello - Polk Education Association

Ann Claussen - Central  Florida Health Care

Sheryl Cooper - Florida  Department of Health in Polk  County

Susan Copeland - Polk  Education Foundation

Pam Craven, Ph.D. - Learning  Resource Center

Jeanette Crowley - Polk  County Public Schools

Kim Daugherty - Heartland for Children

Rob Davis - Polk County Public Schools

Tammy Durden - Florida  Department of Health in Polk  County

Dr. Michael Ham-Ying -  Central Florida Health Care

Kelly Hansell - Polk County Public Schools

Debbie Henderson - Polk County Public Schools

Wanda Howard - Polk County NAACP

Dr. Joy Jackson - Florida Department of Health in Polk  County

Joy Johnson - Polk County BoCC

Jenna Kaczmarski - Polk  County Public Schools

Loretta Lee - WISP Community

Jenna Levine - Florida  Department of Health in Polk County

Doug Lockwood - Straughn &  Turner, P.A

Maria Longa - Polk County Public Schools

Colleen Mangan - Florida  Department of Health in Polk  County

Lisa Martin - Community Volunteer

Lori Martini - GiveWell  Community Foundation

Jim Maxwell - Polk County Public Schools

Eliza McCall-Home -  Children’s Home Society

Donald Painter - Polk State College

Lauren Parkes - Lakeland  Regional Health

Dawn Robertson - Polk  County Public Schools

Teri Saunders - Heartland for  Children

Hazel Sellers - Polk County School Board

Cory Skeates - Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce

Lana Swartzwelder - Sylvan Learning Centers

Jane Waters-Thomas -  Community Volunteer

Lea Ann Thomas - Polk  County BoCC

Alyssia Totten - Lanier  Upshaw, Inc.

Michelle Townley - Polk  County Public Schools

Becky Troutman - Community Volunteer

Katie Worthington - Greater Winter Haven Chamber of  Commerce

Dee Dee Wright - Polk County  Public Schools

Kathleen Wright - Polk  County Public Schools