Thursday, May 24, 2018

Month 17: LAUNCH Flagstaff

The theme of this time of year, for all school personnel and parents, is "the best of intentions."

As a school administrator, I imagine myself writing a note to every child in the school (172 of them) about how proud I am of their progress and their glorious, unique and fantastic selves. The reality is that tomorrow is the last day of school, and at this point a high five is probably the best I can muster as they skip out of the school.

As a parent? I fantasize that I am the mom that sends a handwritten note on special stationary to each of my children's teachers and administrators (I think that would be about 18 people in sum).  Attached to each lovingly and individually crafted note would be a gift card specific to the teacher's specialty.  The reality? Maybe a "Buy 6 get the 7th Free Coffee" punch card that I found in the glove box that is at the 5th punch.  True story.

Best of intentions.

My point?  It's 24 days into Month 17 and despite my best intentions of getting this up much earlier, here we are.  

If you live in Arizona, you are well-aware of how education has dominated our headlines this month. Following the lead of other states, the #RedForEd movement resulted in Arizona teachers walking out for 6 days.  The group sought not only increased pay for teachers and support staff, but also generalized increase in education funding. The movement is in response to repeated cuts to education in Arizona in 2008 that have resulted in the State ranking at the very bottom of the entire United States. The results of the walkout are mixed, but the consensus among the movement is that change has begun and will continue into the November elections.  

Education reform is a gigantic and complicated issue that warrants a 48months manifesto. Please reference "best of intentions above."

Since Jacki and I are parents, and one of us is a school administrator and Month 17 is approaching the end, the manifesto will have to wait.  However... we are happy to introduce you to an organization in Flagstaff that is deeply committed to improving the education landscape in our community:  LAUNCH Flagstaff.

We had the opportunity to exchange emails with Paul Kulpinski, the Partnership Director of the organization.  Please take the opportunity to read the below Q and A to learn more:

{48months} What is the most important thing for our community to understand about the work that LAUNCH is doing?  

{Paul} LAUNCH Flagstaff is a partnership of existing Flagstaff organizations, community leaders and interested citizens who offer established programs and services in the sectors of education, business, government, non-profit, faith-based and service organizations.  We seek to collectively advance a communitywide culture of world-class education for every child in Flagstaff from cradle through career.  Preparing our children for life-long success does not fall entirely on our teachers and education system.  We accept our responsibility as community members to support our schools in providing equitable access to a world-class education and improve outcomes for every child.

{48months} Can community members who don't work in a school get involved? How would they volunteer their time and talents?

{Paul} Yes. The scope of work for the LAUNCH Flagstaff partnership is not just K-12 or even preschool through graduate school, but from cradle through career.  At this scale, everyone has a role to play in creating a community-wide culture of world-class education.   The areas where people can focus their passion include: early childhood and school readiness, reading and literacy, mathematics, secondary education, career training, communication and advocacy, data gathering and evaluation.

The name LAUNCH is an acronym that describes how community members can get involved: Learn, Advocate, Unite, Network, Contribute, Help.  

Learn by joining our mailing list and staying informed. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to receive updates about events, meetings and critical information on issues impacting our education system.

Advocate by taking action in your circles with the information you learn. Many small changes over time will have a big impact.

Unite by sharing the mission of LAUNCH Flagstaff with your neighbors, friends and colleagues and encourage them to get involved in our work.

Network by inviting a representative of LAUNCH Flagstaff to speak with your community group about how Flagstaff can be known as a place of world-class education for every child.

Contribute your voice and perspective at one of our Community Action Network (CAN) meetings

Help ensure our sustainability by donating or volunteering your time, expertise or resources.

You can learn more at

{48months} How is LAUNCH funded?  If people were to make financial donations how would they be utilized?

{Paul} LAUNCH Flagstaff is funded through the generous support of the Arizona Community Foundation of Flagstaff, the United Way of Northern Arizona, and the Wharton Foundation.  Individual donations to LAUNCH Flagstaff may be made through the United Way of Northern Arizona with a designation for LAUNCH Flagstaff.

{48months} How do the efforts of LAUNCH support the #RedForEd movement and increases in education funding in AZ?

{Paul} World-class teachers are fundamental to a system of world-class education, therefore LAUNCH Flagstaff supports community reinvestment in our teachers and our schools.  Through seeking a permanent statewide educational funding solution, we can ensure our education system is capable of achieving world-class status.  We desire that all community sectors engage in this conversation and find the common ground that will produce the educational results we all want.

{48months}What has LAUNCH accomplished since it's inception? What do you hope to see happening during the next school year and long-term (say 5 years from now) as a result of the work LAUNCH is doing?

{Paul} Initial conversations on what is now LAUNCH Flagstaff were first held in December 2013 after the release of the Coconino County Education Report conducted by the Coconino County Superintendent of Schools and the United Way of Northern Arizona.  About two years ago the group identified five educational outcomes as focal points for our work in the greater Flagstaff area:  kindergarten readiness; 3rd grade reading proficiency; 8th grade math proficiency; high school graduation; enrollment in post-secondary education and training.  Community Action Networks (CANs) were formed of subject-matter experts on the areas of kindergarten readiness and post-secondary education which began looking at what practices were proven to improve outcomes for kids in those areas. Shortly thereafter, the partnership with initial funding from the Arizona Community Foundation of Flagstaff and the United Way of Northern Arizona hired a full-time Partnership Director to serve as a neutral facilitator of the work on behalf of the partners.

Since then we have:
  • Released our first annual Community Education Report in February 2018
  • Convened nearly 100 community members in a town hall which generated a report of finding related to Funding PreK-12 Education in Flagstaff and Arizona
  • Expanded awareness of the issues facing our educators and students through an educational documentary film series and numerous community conversations in Flagstaff and around Arizona
  • Facilitated the organization and production of a Screen-Time Symposium on the impacts of hand-held technology and social media on students
  • Created a multi-LEA (Local Education Agency) partnership of district and charter schools to collaborate on the implementation of the state Kindergarten Development Inventory
  • Increased awareness and participation in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process
  • Increased the number of Flagstaff area high-schools that offer dual-enrollment courses so students can earn college credit for free while still in high-school
  • Facilitated improved coordination between local businesses and schools to increase the opportunity for high-school students to participate in an internship
  • Expanded our collective impact to now over 50 cross-sector partner organizations
  • Developed a plan for expanding our capacity to collect and analyze local educational data to inform and support the continuous improvement of our efforts within our partner organizations

Looking forward, we intend to further build out our infrastructure capacity by hiring a Data Manager to improve our ability to produce deeper analysis of shared information from our partners and get a clearer picture of the strategies that will produce results for our kids.  We will also work to strengthen our capacity to share data across community sectors.  By doing this the Flagstaff community can be better prepared to align existing resources in ways that cultivate a communitywide system of world-class education for every child.

What this could look like 5-years from now is best described in a story.

Nicolas is a third grader this year in a Flagstaff elementary school.  Last night, his father Luis was rushed to the emergency room of the Flagstaff Medical Center with symptoms of a heart attack.  Luis’s doctors kept him overnight at the hospital for monitoring to see if surgery might be necessary.  Today at school, Nicolas had trouble concentrating on his class work and performed poorly on a quiz. Later he got into a fight with a school-yard bully. It wasn’t until he was in the principal’s office crying, that any caring adult outside of his family knew of the trauma Nicolas had been experiencing for the past 24 hours.  As adults, we can do better for the children of Flagstaff. 

Now, imagine that over time through cross-sector collaborative efforts, coordination between major organizations across community sectors has improved. New channels of communication are established between key organizations. Local data is shared with confidence and trust prompting community leaders to ask: “what if?” 

With these types of systemic improvements, today’s outcome for Nicolas and his family could be vastly improved. Because both Nicolas and his baby sister Carla were born at Flagstaff Medical Center, hospital staff there knew that Luis was their father. A hospital case worker was immediately assigned to contact Nicolas’ school to inform his teachers of the family emergency. As a result, when Nicolas arrived at school this morning, full of fears about his dad, he was greeted with the understanding smile of his teacher. She helped reassure Nicolas that she would do everything she could to make the day go smoothly. She gave Nicolas an alternate way to demonstrate his knowledge measured by the quiz, which he passed. This boosted Nicolas’ confidence so when on the playground, he was able to walk away from the bully, avoiding the trap of a fight. Later the school principal came to check-in on Nicolas. His friendly smile and reassuring hand on Nicolas’ shoulder helped Nicolas know that he and his family were not alone. On his way home from school Nicolas, still thinking about his father, was able to share a laugh with his friends and feel a little less afraid.  This is one example of what success through the collective impact facilitated by LAUNCH Flagstaff can look like. 

{48months} What else would you like for our readers to know?   

{Paul} I encourages people to read the Baseline Education report to see some of the data and the strategies we are working on.  It is available on our website at  I also invite people to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.  I also hold a monthly introductory presentation called LAUNCH 101 every third Tuesday at 4:30 to help interested people learn more and find their place in the work.  Information and registration is available at  People may also contact me directly at or 928.773.9813."

PARENTS, TEACHERS AND SCHOOL PERSONNEL:  We see you and know you are limping to the finish line.  Your best intentions are absolutely good enough.  Enjoy your summer and get ready to fight the good fight in November!


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