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Community Schools

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The Barrier Beast

Little kids cannot control their home life. Unfortunately, many face barriers that are beyond their control. United Way’s community schools initiative works to remove The Barrier Beast for children in our community. 

Community Schools represent a strategy,  not a program. 

United Way’s community schools initiative brings a wide range of resources directly into the school to support students and their families, removing barriers to learning so children can be successful in school... and life!  Community Schools become hubs, rich with resources for students and their families.

Community-based organizations serve as Lead Partners in community schools, helping to mobilize community assets and coordinate resources, in cooperation with school staff. The hiring of each Director is made possible through Corporate Partner and funding partner support.

 Download United Way's Community Schools Brochure

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Meet the Community School Directors

Community Schools Partner List

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United Way has compiled a series of videos designed to help explain each element of the community schools model here in Erie County. Please watch them below!

Watch the full playlist
 Accompanying VIDEOS 
McKinley Virtual Community School Tour


  • Bring resources into the school building that address the specific barriers preventing students from being successful. 
  • Are hubs rich with resources for students and their families.
  • Represent a strategy, not a program.

Community School Director and Personnel Vetting Process: All community school directors and community school personnel go through a rigorous interview and vetting process before they are hired. Due to the nature of this work, community school directors and community school personnel are required to obtain the same clearances and go through the same background checks as anyone who works in the public-school system and as required by Pennsylvania School Law. More information regarding this process


Community Schools rely on many partners, including school districts, social service organizations, businesses, the public sector, universities and more. Below are the key features that must exist for a successful Community School to be established. 


United Way serves as the backbone organization for each Community School located in Erie County by employing all Community School Directors, providing technical assistance, maintaining partnership alignment, driving impact, measuring results, ensuring clear communication and assuring the work is implemented with fidelity by all partners. Collaboration among multiple organizations is simple in theory but can be complex in practice.


The Corporate Partner commits to financial support for a minimum three-year cycle. They may designate a champion to serve as liaison to the Community School, including engaging with the Community School Director to identify and oversee other employees as volunteers.


Partners provide guidance and high need resources identified for their school. They also work with the Community School Director and United Way to secure additional resources to support school strategies. Community Schools have many partners in addition to a Lead Partner.


Leadership Teams are led by the school principal and Community School Director. They include a diverse group of members like teachers, parents, partners and other key stakeholders. This team collectively sets a direction for the Community School by reviewing gathered custom data and helps identify strategies to support student success during the action planning process. They then assist with the implementation of strategic problem-solving solutions to identified challenges.


Directors are employed by United Way. They work closely with the school principal and Community School Leadership Team, to guide ongoing needs, assess resources and develop an action plan that drives all nonacademic activities in the school. The Director also ensures that all initiatives are implemented according to the partnership agreement.


The Community Schools initiative is effective because it is a data-driven model with a set of built-in systems of checks and balances. All resources and initiatives brought into a Community School must align with the action plan developed by the Community School Director and United Way with input from partners. Detailed strategies, action steps, outputs, outcomes, indicators, data sources and measurements are included and evaluated regularly.

United Way community schools level the playing field for students and families

There are 16 United Way community schools serving 8,000+ kids in four Erie County School Districts: Erie’s Public Schools, Girard School District, Iroquois School District and Union City School District.

East Middle School

1001 Atkins Street
Erie PA 16503

(814) 874-6400

Principal: Matthew Koval