Apter & O'Conner

Syracuse City School District hires A&O for 21st CCLC Evaluations

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A&O was recently awarded the contract for a comprehensive program evaluation of the federally-funded 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) at three schools in Syracuse: Ed Smith, Huntington, and Roberts. The Syracuse District currently uses A&O as the evaluator for their NY State Extended Day grant at Meachem and Webster schools and appreciated the participatory approach of A&O ‘s work . . . .as well as the value of A&Os rigorous analysis and practical feedback. Evaluation activities include observations at all sites, analysis of student academic data as well as surveys of staff, parents and the students themselves.  Additionally, A&O conducts 21st CCLC program evaluation at Syracuse’s McKinley Brighton Elementary and Public Service-Learning Academy at Fowler as well as a program in Watervliet, New York.


Contact Tracy Herman for more information at Tracy@apteroconnor.com

Recognizing the value and quality of A&O’s work with New York City’s First Readers, A&O is also providing ongoing evaluation design and analysis for LINC. Working throughout New York City’s five boroughs, LINC aims to surround children with literacy-rich environments and disrupt inter-generational illiteracy by training parents to help their children embrace reading. Parents become literacy ambassadors within their communities, engaging with resources, like libraries and book drives, that already exist in their neighborhoods. The entire community contributes to the goal of raising readers, creating a culture of literacy at the neighborhood level.

Cynthia O’Connor is providing consultation in best practices to build capacity for LINC’s internal evaluation efforts. The evaluation plan utilizes a mixed methods approach – surveys, focus groups, interviews, and statistical analysis of student assessment data.  Work is currently underway to evaluate LINC’s Reading Buddies program and the VIP (Very Involved Parent) Academy, which recognizes that parents have the ability to shape and influence their children’s economic future through literacy.

Contact Cynthia at cynthia@apteroconnor.com for more information

The Greater Syracuse H.O.P.E. (HOPE) Initiative received $2.75 million of NYS ESPRI funding to reduce concentrated poverty in 19 Syracuse census tracts. Cynthia O’Connor and Vicki Quigley guided HOPE’s 13 partners to create programmatic Logic Models and to articulate their Theory of Change. There are five innovative strategies designed to keep students in school, improve financial literacy and increase employment. A&O worked with the HOPE Leadership team to identify measurable indicators and refine a data collection system building on the community database housed at the Central New York Community Foundation. Additionally, A&O crafted a comprehensive evaluation plan and prepared an assessment of HOPE as a Collective Impact model to demonstrate its impact for government agencies, philanthropy and future stakeholders.  

A&O was retained to guide this 50-year-old organization’s first strategic planning effort.  The engagement is led by A&O associate Vicki Quigley who combines real world experience as a museum professional with expertise as a strategic planning facilitator.  She provides guidance on best practices for museums in areas that support the strategic plan such as governance and policies. A stakeholder survey and A&O designed retreat are a few of the other key elements in this planning process.

Cynthia O’Connor heads to Savannah next month to facilitate a board retreat for AIRA. Cynthia has teamed up with Steve Schack of Clear Blue Associates of NYC for  this engagement. Together, they are leading a five-month strategic planning and organizational capacity building process with AIRA’s senior staff and board of directors .  Our holistic approach is based on the published body of work by Susan Kenny Stevens known as “Nonprofit Lifecycles” [1]  We find that organizations often embark on strategic planning efforts that are almost exclusively focused on looking outward and focusing on their programs and services, with little consideration to the capacity that it will require. By taking this holistic view, we can help ensure that growth is managed, and efforts stay in synch.

[1] Susan Kenny Stevens, Nonprofit Lifecycles Stage-Based Wisdom for Nonprofit Capacity (Wayzata, MN: Stagewise Enterprises, Inc., 2002).

A&O has been selected by City’s First Readers (CFR) to develop and implement a comprehensive and rigorous evaluation plan. CFR, an initiative of the New York City Council, is a collaboration of not-for-profits and public libraries with the goal of implementing community-wide early-literacy immersion programs.  They offer children literacy experiences at their homes, schools, daycare centers, libraries, hospitals and other key locations throughout their neighborhoods.

Endorsed by the American Pediatric Association,  City’s First Readers has worked to address the literacy crisis and education disparities facing New York City.  By investing in effective, high-quality early childhood literacy services, programs, and resources for children from birth to age 5, City’s First Readers works to ensure that all children — regardless of their social and economic backgrounds — have a solid foundation from which to start school successfully.

A&O was chosen for their years of evaluation experience in early childhood and literacy related programming and is thrilled to support this important initiative. Call or email us for more information!

Data Driven Decision Making – Evaluation – Continuous Quality Improvement – Accountability –  Performance Measurement – Getting to Outcomes – Value Propositions

Whatever you call it, everybody’s talking about it . . . and Apter & O’Connor can help!

A&O is working with a wide array of non-profits and coalitions to build their internal evaluation capacity so they can measure impact, improve program planning and become more competitive for funding. We help organizations:

Articulate a Theory of Change

Define intended outcomes

Develop measurable indicators and data collection methods

Explore the data they already collect and create tools for additional information

Design user-friendly reports to document efforts and demonstrate impact

And the reviews have been positive! As one executive director recently noted:

Cynthia was critical in moving us forward with measuring outcomes of our programs. We now are able to collect data to show the impact of our programs and use data to make informed decisions about those programs. Cynthia was able to teach us how to break down this process so that it wasn’t so overwhelming.

And another offered:

We are in a different place thanks to our work with Apter & O’Connor.  They facilitated some very difficult conversations and moved the agency forward sometimes with a gentle nudge and other times with a strong shove.    I have enjoyed working with you and so appreciate your guidance and advice professionally and personally. 




The A&O team provided us with thoughtful, engaging and realistic leadership for our evaluation project. They helped us understand the data and provided recommendations and ideas for our organizational growth (to address what we discovered in the evaluation.) Our organizational culture is shifting – we are “evaluation ready” and are now using data to inform our program planning thanks to the patience, skill and talent of the A&O team!

Family Reading Partnership in Ithaca, NY is working to create a culture of literacy in which all children have early, frequent, and pleasurable experiences with books, as a special part of everyday family life, right from the start! They hired A&O to develop an evaluation framework and build an internal capacity for using data to demonstrate their impact. A&O also conducted three independent program evaluations. The FRP team worked hard over 18 months and as noted by the executive director, made great strides with A&O’s guidance.


The Gifford Foundation has announced the newest cohort for ADVANS (Advancing and Developing the Assets and Value of Nonprofits in Syracuse), a major capacity building initiative started by the Foundation in 2007. Cynthia O’Connor was asked back as one of ADVANS select consultants to lead AccesCNY through this two-year process. It starts with an extensive self-assessment and is followed by the implementation of a work plan to strengthen all facets of their organizational capacity. AccesCNY was founded in 2015 as the result of the merger of Enable and Transitional Living Services (TLS). They offer person-centered services that empower individuals of all ages and abilities to reach their full potential as part of our shared community.  This is Cynthia’s third ADVANS cycle and she noted “I am excited to get started with this new ADVANS cohort  – – – and am honored to be a part of this important work  building strong non-profits that are so vital for life in Central New York .”

. . . is how a staff member of the Northeast Hawley Development Association (NEHDA) described A&O Senior Associate Vicki Quigley. Another NEHDA director noted: We couldn’t be happier with the work we accomplished with Apter & O’Connor. Vicki was more than a consultant, she was a project team member and went far and above what we expected. Vicki recently NEHDA through a strategic planning process resulting in a new Community Engagement Coordinator staff position shared with the Syracuse Northeast Community Center (SNCC). The project deliverables included a job description for the shared position, a memorandum of understanding to codify the shared employee’s work schedule and compensation, and a Process Manual that enables other organizations to replicate the process for developing a shared staff position.