Established in 1930, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) supports children, families, and communities as they strengthen and create conditions that propel vulnerable children to achieve success as individuals and contributors to the larger community and society. The foundation’s work, at its core, is about giving all children, regardless of race, ethnicity, or income, the opportunity to thrive in school, work, and life. WKKF is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign nations. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF’s priority places in the United States are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, and New Orleans and internationally are in Mexico and Haiti.
Community Science works with WKKF as the place-based evaluator and evaluation technical assistance provider for Mississippi and New Orleans. We provide group and individual tailored technical assistance to grantees to assist them in their evaluation efforts. We also assist the WKKF team in Mississippi and New Orleans in evaluating its efforts and using evaluation to continually improve their strategies and those of grantees.
In August 2016, the Jackson Public School System (JPS) in Jackson, Mississippi, was placed on probation by the Commission of School Accreditation for violating several standards. In 2017, the State Board of Education asked the governor to declare a state of emergency for the Jackson Public School District, threatening a state takeover of the second-largest school district in Mississippi. To retain local control, JPS partnered with the Office of the Governor, the City of Jackson, and WKKF to strengthen the district through a memorandum of understanding. The partners then created a 15-member volunteer group called the Better Together Commission.
In February 2018, the Community Foundation of Greater Jackson was charged with advancing the goals of the Better Together Commission by creating a core supporting structure to provide management and oversight. Over the next year, the commission will lead a comprehensive study of Jackson’s educational system while also leveraging the expertise of local, state, and national resources. The Better Together Commission is working as an organizer in the community to include the voices of Jacksonians to improve their school district. This process is now transferring the future of the JPS to the parents, students, teachers, and administrations who will be directly affected by a state takeover of the district. Through this process, leaders have been identified along with the voices of those who are most affected by the current state of the public school system. The commission has engaged the community through listening tours, a poll, and door-to-door canvassing to create a plan of action that includes the community’s vision and voice and ensures the success of all 25,595 JPS students.
“Children are our greatest asset, making this partnership and the work of the commission critical to their well-being,” said Rhea Williams-Bishop, director of the Mississippi and New Orleans programs for WKKF.