December 2019

December 9, 2019

“When a Flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.”

— Alexander Den Heijer

Community Systems Statewide Supports (CS3)

The CS3 team has two exciting opportunities for collaborations with upcoming deadlines:

  1. 2020 Partner Plan Act Conference Request for Proposals: Our 2020 conference planning is underway and we have a fantastic keynote speaker set to continue the racial equity conversation: Ijeoma Oluo, author of the New York Times Best-Seller So You Want to Talk about Race. If you think your community or organization is doing great work around community systems and racial equity, we want to hear from you! Please consider submitting a conference breakout session proposal. You can find the application here. Submissions are due December 19, 2019.
  2. Technical Assistance for Cross-Training: As part of the Community Systems Statewide Supports, our friends at the Ounce of Prevention Fund will support local communities in establishing and/or strengthening cross-system connections through providing technical assistance for cross-training. Please submit your online application by December 11, 2019. Questions about the opportunity can be directed to Carie Bires at or 312-291-3160.

From all of us on the CS3 team, we wish you a happy holiday season!


Collaboration Highlight

If you would like to have your collaboration’s work highlighted, please email

Three for One:  How Kindergarten Camp Prepares Children, Families, and Addison School District 4

The Addison Early Childhood Collaborative (AECC) acted swiftly three years ago when ISBE offered new funding to support summer enrichment programs. Addison School District 4, as a leading member of the AECC, applied for the ISBE funding to create a Kindergarten Camp (K-Camp). AECC staff and its Parent and Family Engagement Committee developed a parent relationship-building component, entitled Coffee and Conversation. This effort steadily grew in size and responsiveness to parents’ interests, acting as a dynamic example of the community systems development principle of continuous quality improvement.   


Each year, between 300 and 400 new students enter Kindergarten in seven elementary schools in Addison School District 4. The AECC hoped to support kindergarten-readiness by enrolling children in K-Camp who did not have any previous Pre-K experience. The student demographics for this school district are: Hispanic (63.3 percent); White (25 percent); Asian (4.3 percent); Black (2.3 percent); Low-Income (63.4 percent); and English Language Learners (40.4 percent).


To recruit families, AECC utilized spring kindergarten registration, school outreach, and special events. K-Camp is free-of-charge and transportation is provided. AECC also gives each child a free Kindergarten transition backpack with fun learning activities from Lakeshore Learning to promote learning at home. 

Last summer, K-Camp ran for three weeks for three hours daily— 75 children attended, of which approximately 70 children did not have any Pre-K experience in the district. Further, most children were Latino, many of whom spoke English as a second language.

Coffee and Conversation breakfasts were offered two days each week for families while their children attended K-Camp (6 sessions total). In these sessions, parents were given the opportunity to chat informally with other parents and collaboration staff. The goal was to help parents form relationships with each other and strengthen their support network. As AECC staff and partners listened, they heard common questions and themes emerging, so two Assistant Superintendents attended the last session to answer parents’ questions—building the relationship between parents and the district in the process. In total, 107 parents attended at least one session, with 46 attending two or more sessions.

The second K-Camp ran for four weeks this summer and 100 children (up from 75) attended. Coffee and Conversations continued, now offered once a week. The number of parents who attended at least one of the four sessions increased to 126. addison-collabhighlight2.jpg

The format changed slightly; the sessions combined informal conversation and question-asking and answering. Parents’ questions were often focused on how to navigate the school system and how to get their children ready for the Kindergarten. Because district staff attended the sessions, they were able to directly answer questions and also share what they thought was important. For instance, staff stressed the importance of routines, sharing how they are important at school and could be helpful at home too.

The Coffee and Conversation culminated with a special session with the District 4 Superintendent and several elementary school principals. Mary Haley, AECC Project Director, described that session this way: 

“The last session was the most heavily attended by parents. It was exciting and gratifying to see so many parents committed to helping their children be ready for kindergarten. It was also a fun, good way for parents and school leadership to begin to connect, get to know each other, and start their partnership in support of the new Kindergarteners!”

We can’t wait to hear about the 2020 version of K-Camp.

For more information, contact Mary Haley, Project Director, at


Data Equity Walk Toolkit

educationtrust-cs3.pngA Data Equity Walk is a 45-90 minute activity for any size audience to engage with data and discuss equity issues. Participants explore the data individually, before collectively discussing implications and identifying solutions to address disparities and improve outcomes. Data Equity Walk participation does not require prior experience with data and is geared toward all audiences. Collaborations can use this activity to engage any of their stakeholders, including parents and community members, in examining their early childhood community system’s data

The Education Trust-West has resources to assist collaborations in preparing for a Data Equity Walk including ready-made slides and do-it-yourself slides. Click here for more information.dataequity-cs3.jpg

Upcoming Trainings and Events

Engaging Families in Early Childhood Collaborations

The Community Systems Statewide Supports (CS3) team at Illinois Action for Children is committed to supporting early childhood collaborations in developing and strengthening their family engagement efforts. As part of this commitment, we are excited to offer the training, Engaging Families in Early Childhood Collaborations, in Wheaton and East St. Louis. Register today!

Beyond the Basics: Facilitation Mindsets and Practices for CSD | Bloomington

On February 21, 2020, join Chris Foster from Foster What Matters, Inc. and the CS3 team for this upcoming training opportunity. The complex nature of leading community systems development efforts requires an expanded repertoire of leadership, facilitation, and system thinking capacities. In this workshop, you will strengthen your abilities to convene meetings that deepen engagement, foster shared agreement, and generate aligned collective action. A combination of traditional facilitation and art of hosting practices will be offered for designing and facilitating effective meetings.

For more information and to register, click here.

Partner Plan Act Annual Conference

Save the date! The 2020 Partner Plan Act Annual Conference will take place in Bloomington, IL on June 11 and 12, 2020. This annual conference is FREE and a great opportunity for all those working on community systems within the early childhood sector. This year, our conference title is Equity from the Start: Shifting from Intentions to Outcomes. We want to continue the conversation around racial equity and ensure that it is explicitly embedded in all of the work we do.

To help us with that discussion, author Ijeoma Oluo joins us as the conference keynote, best known for her book, So You Want to Talk About Race.