This morning the Mayor’s Office of Education (MOE) released the names of the first 9 schools that have been selected to become Community Schools: William Cramp Elementary, Murrell Dobbins CTE High School, F.S. Edmonds Elementary School, Edwards Gideon Elementary School, Kensington Health Sciences Academy, Logan Elementary School, Southwark Elementary School, South Philadelphia High School and Tilden Middle School.
As an organization that has fought consistently for high quality public education for all students, it is encouraging to see concrete momentum in the MOE’s efforts to improve conditions in the City’s public schools through this initiative.
However, having been catalogued as one of the community organizations whose input is included in the MOE’s “Community Schools: Hearing from the Community” report, which was released last week, we must once again voice our concerns with the City’s implementation plan:
- The report states that the MOE is prioritizing the need to “empower parents and community members” (pg. 7). It also states that their explicit aim is for “community members and families [to] make decisions together about the priorities in the community school plan” (pg. 5). It is clear to us that the vague language used here is representative of the City’s lack of commitment to ensure that community stakeholders have actual power in determining how the model is implemented in their neighborhoods. For example, the report suggests that parents and families called for community school coordinators to work closely with School Advisory Councils (SACs), “Friends of” groups, and Home and School Associations in order to determine how to do this, but the District’s new SAC policy ensures that community members have no real decision-making power in determining how schools will educate their children. Furthermore, we also know that communities (predominantly Black, Latinx and Asian) who live in poverty do not have access to the kind of school associations listed above.
- Another point highlights that “people believe that community schools can help […] connect families to schools and schools to families” (pg 6). In the neighborhood we organize in, parents must find out about school lockdowns and allegedly stolen weapons in schools through Facebook and traditional media outlets, because the schools their children go to do not have a plan in place to notify them during emergencies. While it is encouraging to see a focus on the importance of the community school coordinator position in the implementation plan, it is simply not realistic to believe that one staff person can unilaterally mend years of strained relationships between schools and parents who live in the hardest hit neighborhoods.
We have clearly laid out that in order for Community Schools, as well as any neighborhood school, to be able to fundamentally improve learning conditions for students living in the harshest conditions, parents, students, educators, and community members must have spaces to make real and concrete decisions about how schools operate. Anything less than real decision-making power for communities will not lead to the kind of transformations the MOE claims it is striving for.
Youth United for Change