Design Team

The purpose of the design team is to take as a starting point the output of the two community sessions and transform it into an aspiration, to discuss and recommend the definition of community for our purposes, and to propose action teams to bring about the community aspiration, and to propose to the community forum the results. See the Design Team Slides. Note that Jay showed several ways of organizing the work of various communities, encouraging us to invent a structure that works for our community/communities.

The team met immediately after the September 15 community session, and twice more at about 3 week intervals. Reports of those meetings follow:

Community Aspiration for Education
Design Team Meeting
October 6, 2011
Orange County Chamber Office - Montgomery, NY

In Attendance:

  • Shirley Adams, Catharine Street Community Center
  • Carol Chichester, Orange County Government
  • Donald N. Hammond, United Way Serving Dutchess & Orange Counties
  • Oliver Johnson, Hudson Valley Focus
  • David Jolly, Orange County Government
  • James McGuirk, Astor Services for Children & Families (via email)
  • David Noriega, Newburgh Enlarged City School District
  • Jay Connor, Rubicon Partners, Consultant

Review of Community Input

Members of the Design Team received a compilation of the comments of the two Community Conversations (attached) and studied them individually, looking for trends, concerns and highlights. Each member was asked to note which comments would lend to a community aspiration.

Aspects of an Aspiration

Jay coached the team that multiple considerations had to be made for the aspiration. The aspiration must:

  • Stimulate action
  • Not be a list of activities or programs
  • Pass the "Why?" test (addressing why a proposed statement is important)
  • Be compelling!
  • Act as a focal point for all
  • Motivate people to share their resources and support the work

Jay shared some aspiration statements that have worked in other communities and broke the group out into small groups.

Small Group Work

Within groups, members shared thoughts on the community's comments on an aspiration. Key in these comments were:

  • Attention to emotional, intellectual and social supports
  • Not by-passing the critical years of 0-6
  • Having all in the community feel responsible for each other
  • Focusing on more than the traditional education system
  • Including our older youth
  • Being able to measure and communicate success

The groups focused in on the comment "Live in a community where everyone feels responsible and invested in helping all children to be successful in school and life" noting that it is inclusive, focuses not just on school but also life in general, and starts with children. Jim's input via email aligned completely with that direction.

Jay then led the groups through a test stage for the draft statement. Would the statement be:

  • Motivational on a 'water tower' ad?
  • Understood by the 'person on the street?'
  • Inclusive of all sectors (education, health, big business, etc.)?
  • Inclusive of all ages?
  • Illustrative of active engagement?
  • Able to stand the test of time?

Draft statements include:

  • "A community where all people achieve" - this will be a thriving community and we'll know that when jobs are plentiful. Jobs will be plentiful because people will be experiencing life-long learning and improvement.
  • "A community that aspires for greatness in our children" for this and future generations.

With these statements in mind, Jay sent the groups back to discuss target audiences. Who were these statements aimed to support? What did the community say they wanted to support? One looks at all people for their whole lives ("all people") and the other focuses in on children.

The groups reviewed various target audiences, including:

  • Cradle to grave
  • 0-21
  • 0-5
  • Those about to be born
  • Those seeking alternatives to college

With these statements and target audiences in mind, the groups spoke about community engagement in the aspiration. This effort must be something the whole community can see itself in; it must be measurable; rather than attacking the traditional education system, the community should align itself to allow the education system to be even more successful (for example, working to lower teen pregnancy rates, increase children's Kindergarten readiness, scholarships and mentors); it should provide for not just a career plan, but also for an education plan.

The group was then challenged to look out over the course of the next five years. How would their aspiration serve the youth in our region? If over the next five years, we strengthened the newest generation - how do we hold up the cohorts already in middle and high school and have them be successful? How do we create a supportive system for those entering school while at the same time, enrich those who are already involved in the community? Then, how do we hold ourselves accountable for assuring that competency continues over time (for example, if 80% of kindergarteners are deemed ready for school, how do we assure that for that same cohort, 80% are ready at first grade, second grade, and so on.)

With these challenges in mind, the group focused on kindergarten readiness, fourth grade reading attainment, and education and career planning in the eighth grade. This can be seen as establishing the cohort; sustaining each successive cohorts' progress; while supporting those already in school.

One group reported statistics around reading ability:

 4th grade8th grade

Jay charged the team to continue thinking about and listening to the community in preparation for our next meeting, October 27, 9:00-11:30 AM at the United Way office in Poughkeepsie.

Comments from the Community Conversations on Education
By Category
June, 2011 in Poughkeepsie
September, 2011 in Newburgh


  • Our aspiration or final goal should be to have everyone ready for the "world of work" so they can be successful!
  • Statistics that kept going back to 3rd grade reading; Early intervention is suddenly so clearly important to me.
  • Intervention of support between the grades of 2-5 with the concentration of reading will make a significant impact on community future.
  • That every child has emotional, intellectual and social resources to thrive
  • To support their child with effective resources of the family
  • Starts with pre-K class and parenting program
  • Begin at pre-school - that every child has the emotional, intellectual and social resources to thrive in the community.
  • Aspiration - evidence/research based programs
  • All children can achieve
  • A very educated person
  • (Unreadable) parental capacity reading skills - Skills and supportive communications
  • What do we do to (fix?) family
  • Define early care aspiration
  • Give each child what they need to be successful.
  • Competitive ability in the global market
  • Afford to live in our community and make a competitive wage
  • Live in a community where everyone feels responsible and invested in helping all children to be successful in school and life.
  • Aspiration - cohort based; inform parents of the overall importance of education
  • Child cannot expect to do better than parent
  • All children can aspire to do better than parent


  • Definition of community is ability to engage
  • Community - Orange and Dutchess
  • Made up of sectors that have an impact on culture and environmental change - schools, business, religious groups, non-profits, youth groups, seniors, government officials.
  • Communities defined in a regional way - similar demographics
  • Poughkeepsie/Newburgh similar
  • Definition of Community - county level - Hudson Valley - Dutchess, Ulster, Orange
  • Beyond local community - (unreadable)
  • Could be geographic - or how state ed defines school district
  • Community is about school districts
  • Need to cross school district lines to get industry and agencies
  • Fit together - wider range of area more appropriate; live in one county, work in another
  • School districts cover multiple counties
  • Community - schools/parents, volunteers
  • The people, businesses, organizations, schools, colleges, institutions and organizations of the Hudson Valley.
  • Newburgh & beyond
  • School/parents/friends/media
  • More than geography
  • Regional can get too large
  • How far can you reach
  • Orange BOCES
  • Reaching out to people wanting to accomplish the same goal is a great starting point for change in Dutchess County.
  • There are "sectors" that have an impact on the culture and environment and we cannot have change without engagement from them: schools. Police, business, religious, NFP, youth, seniors, govt., economic development

Support for this Work

  • Jay made the idea of systems-thinking feel manageable and applicable to the work we do
  • Speaker is very accurate in talking about a "fragmented" system of services
  • I have seen such positive and successful efforts not realize impactful results. I agree that there are a lot of good/great folks in the Mid-Hudson Valley going good/great things but we need to keep coming together more. Maximize our resources and common/shared objectives/missions.
  • Would love to engage this process in my home community
  • Wake-up call as to the relevance of community involvement
  • PLEASE don't let this be yet another discussion that ends with the workshop. This conversation is just as important to support services to low income people. Let's keep going.
  • Will bring info back to my job and community.
  • Refreshing perspective on how to look at/take a root-cause issue and mobilize an entire community to organically solve it.
  • The Hudson valley is filled with many well-intentioned professionals working in silos. More multi-disciplinary teams need to be created and managed to work for common cause.

Cautions on Next Steps

  • Incorporate efforts already underway vs. start new
  • Use evidence-based, research-proven programs
  • A discussion about community is difficult when the sponsoring group has already defined its community.
  • I can't wait to learn about action plans to make aspirations happen. Education cannot be changed until the larger political/economic community is ready to change.
  • Developing trust between and among organizations and agencies
  • The challenge for many is in terms of ability to give to this vision when there is so much demand on the here & now
  • Orange & Dutchess are segregated by choice due to lack of willingness to unite & work together.
  • Urban needs differ from other areas.
  • Danger of too large a community
  • Youth feel hopeless and that they have no future - doom and gloom in the news
  • Immigrant community doesn't get a vision from its parents

Comments on the work to come

  • Anxious to move to next stage
  • Preschool child care starts at the age of 6 weeks!
  • I think the area of "how" needs to be detailed to guide these leaders in the right direction
  • Great message to present to our community leaders, ie school supers, corporate leaders, college presidents, etc.
  • Family support services
  • Up to the age of 25 - include college & work-life
  • Up to age 31
  • Identify problems before kindergarten
  • Pull more resources into this process

School issues

  • The schools directly are greatly challenged by state and federal mandates that only focus on test scores and teacher quality and effectiveness. How do you engage the community to support education versus attacking schools at the source of the problems. The community must own the change-not blame schools as they do now. Everyone blames schools as being a drain on community resources. We need help from the business community to support this ongoing discussion. Schools need business and community leader support to focus on education as a benefit to the entire community - not just the students in the system.
  • Emphasis is on teacher's instruction and evaluation - ugh!
  • Institutional barrier
  • Demonstrate improved education rates and showing improved reading and math rates
  • Reading in kindergarten
  • Read by 3rd grade


  • One of the great challenges we have as a community is the fact that we do not have one recognizable place for children to go. Jay opened my eyes to a lot of things that could help Poughkeepsie. The goal of Poughkeepsie City Schools is to have all students graduate. However, the major issues faced are 1.) Early childhood readiness. 2.) Parental involvement in secondary school. 3.) Negative external pressures: DRUGS, GANGS, CRIME. I attended the meeting and did not realize that I was actually representing our whole school district (Poughkeepsie). I will bring this valuable information back to the district leadership.

Observations / Comments

  • The major "players" were not present: school district, school boards, early childhood education, other major employees?
  • A lot of Head Starts in the community (missing)
  • This would be an excellent presentation for the Dutchess County Chamber of Commerce.
  • More details about the successful communities.
  • The statistics on reading as being correlated to incarceration makes me aware that we are all responsible for the actions of our community on a local and national level.
  • Would like to see more concrete examples about communities collaborating and accomplishing such goals.
  • The experimental project in Rochester, NY called Regional Academy (Regional School?). Bill Cala, leader.
  • Schools need to tell any group what a child needs to be "ready."
  • CH - if had bad credit - put in place mandatory (benefits?) classes while on a budget plan
  • Mid-Hudson Valley Data Management website (CGR)
  • Some statistics on girls and women in STEM education and careers.
  • TASC The After School Corporation; Getting Ready Academy-at-risk, collaborative curriculum.
  • Vera Institute policy brief, October 2010: Getting Teenagers Back to School: Rethinking NYS's Response to Chronic Absence.
  • Governor Cuomo's plan to reform broken juvenile justice system in NYS.
  • Forum for Youth Investment
  • Ready By 21
  • Promise Neighborhoods (federal)
  • Kids Count
  • Children's Defense Fund
  • Look at what the Youth Bureau has already done.
  • TouchStones
  • OASAS does a SAMSHA model for prevention that is similar to this approach: coalition building, etc.
  • Results-based Accountability
  • Utilizing restorative dialogue in bullying and circles in the classroom. "Re-Engaging Disconnected Youth: Transformative Learning Through Restorative & Social Justice Education," Bentloff, Amy (2011). Boyes, Watson C. 2008.
  • Peascemaking Circles & Urban Youth: Bringing Justice Home. Liveris, Andrew. 2011.
  • Make it in America: The Case for Re-Inventing the Economy.
  • Caterpillar may have helped in that one community, but what is its role in creating poverty-downsizing, eroding benefits and income of their workers?
  • Achievement gap is not race based - its class based.
  • Is Rochester, MN keeping costs low by keeping salaries and benefits low?

Community Aspiration for Education
Design Team Meeting
Oct. 27, 2011
United Way of Dutchess and Orange, Poughkeepsie Office

In Attendance

  • Shirley Adams, Catharine Street Community Center
  • Don Hammond, United Way Serving Dutchess and Orange Counties
  • April Gozza, United Way Serving Dutchess and Orange Counties
  • Oliver Johnson, Hudson Valley Focus
  • James McGuirk, Astor Services for Children & Families
  • Jay Connor, Rubicon Partners, Consultant

November 10th forum

The November 10th forum will allow for the community to first see and review the points and ideas of the design team, then will be allowed to provide input and make changes to take ownership.

There should be a feeling that there is an open seat and there is room from input. There is no hierarchy, and this will be a process of discovery. Those who step forward may not be the usual leaders which can be a good thing.

At the event, the design team will each give a 3-5 minute statement on their ideas for education, involving the community, working differently. Use the Self-reflection questions, provided by Jay as a guide.

Finalize Aspects of Aspiration

Jay had the group focus on the comments made during the last meeting "Live in a community where everyone feels responsible and invested in helping all children to be successful in school and life" and "A Community where all people achieve."

With these comments in mind, a few questions came about…

  • How do you change education and effect change for those who are already in school and in the system?
  • What is an indicator of success? High school graduation?
  • Are the current standards really measuring success?
  • Why are standards put into place? Are they working towards the future?
  • What can the Community do to help education? Business involvement?

The objective is the improve education and the group focused on these primary groups:

  • Kindergarten readiness
  • 4th grade reading level
  • life/career (8th grade planning process)
  • Grad/Post-Secondary

Finale Aspiration Concept:
Improving children's readiness, including those who are already in schools.


Jay separated the team into two groups to determine appropriate language that was appropriate for the final aspiration concept. Initial Ideas:

  • "Learning our way to excellence"
  • "Where all children succeed"
  • "Our Community reflects the success of all children"
  • "A Community where everybody believes all kids will achieve greatness"
  • "A Community where everyone feels responsible and is accountable for helping all children succeed." This phrase needs to:
  • suggest community involvement
  • make everyone feel a part of the group
  • show that everyone is working together While keeping in mind the criteria from the last meeting
  • Stimulate action
  • Not be a list of activities
  • Pass the test of "why?"
  • Be Compelling
  • Act as a focal point for all
  • Motivate people to share resources and support the work

Final Idea:

"We believe that every child will succeed in school and life. Together, we hold each other accountable for our children's greatness.

The words "succeed" and "greatness" are open for change for they can have a variety of definitions


What is the community? Is it….

  • Hudson Valley?
  • Counties?
  • Region?

What is the community definition? What is an individual's definition?

Answers may vary depending on who is asked. We left those definitions to be completed by the action teams to follow. It could conceivably vary by action team.