New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio named Dr. John Santelli, professor and chair of the Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, to an advisory board tasked with developing a strategic plan for the Citywide Community Schools initiative. In June, the New York State Department of Education announced the $52 million grant to develop 40 innovative community schools at high-need public schools across the city.
Composed of leaders from community groups, social services, businesses, and academia across New York City, the community schools advisory board will help the city innovate ways of delivering greater services and support to at-risk families and play a role in honing new models for turning schools into vibrant community hubs. The mayor tasked the board with consulting on enhancing existing programs, increasing parental involvement, and developing new community schools that reach families in need. The services that the schools will provide range from mental health support to homework help and family counseling. The initiative will include a strong emphasis on school-based health clinics.
Dr. Santelli, one of the nation’s leading researchers on adolescent sexual and reproductive health, is a staunch advocate for access to medically accurate sex education and high quality health care. His research and related outspoken advocacy have helped bring about the federal government’s decision to reduce funding of abstinence-only programs and to direct funding instead to medically accurate teen pregnancy prevention programs.
Dr. Santelli participated in a “kick-off” meeting in mid-July to provide the administration with in-depth input on community schools program models, funding, system-building, and community engagement. Board members will continue to provide input and engage throughout the year as the initiative takes shape.