Business, education partnership advances in San Rafael

An effort to foster a mutually beneficial partnership between the business and education communities in San Rafael has reached an important milestone with the formation of a 12-member business advisory group and the first meeting between that group and leaders from the San Rafael City Schools.

The effort, known as the “114th Partnership,” is meant to foster the same sort of collaborative culture that helped an internationally recognized and highly diverse school district in Maryland accomplish staggering student outcomes. The Marin Community Foundation has lent financial support to the endeavor, named for the longitude of the Great Continental Divide.

“The synergy that’s created as things get going -- there’s a lot of excitement about being a part of this,” said Dr. Michael Watenpaugh, superintendent of San Rafael City Schools. “It’s quite refreshing to have a group of business folks being very supportive of what we’re doing.”

The school district in San Rafael became the first to take part in the 114th Partnership late last year, an effort that founder Jane Kubasik said will result in a “demonstration site” for other school districts interested in the approach. Unlike other business and education partnerships, she said, the partnership leans heavily on creating a culture of equals and common goals.

With the overarching objective of increasing student readiness for college and careers, business and education leaders established three mutually beneficial goals during a meeting early this month: employee engagement, district reputation and the improvement of student outcomes during changing needs.

“We were able to immediately agree that everybody was able to learn from each other,” she said.

The group is currently exploring options for pro bono support of the effort, including a soon-to-be completed Gallup survey to determine employee engagement in the district, she said.

One goal, said Dr. Watenpaugh, is to develop a plan beginning in kindergarten that puts students in the diverse Marin County district on track for high school graduation and continuing success. As part of that endeavor, the district is close to completing a study of the past six years of graduates in hopes of determining the common benchmarks among those who were successful.

While many members of the business advisory group live in Marin County and have company operations there, Ms. Kubasik said that she is hoping to add representatives from other locally headquartered businesses to the team.

Staff from the 114th Partnership will spend the next 12-17 months working with the district.

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