We Want Sustainable Community Schools

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Over a hundred people came together at Arch St. Methodist Church last night to kick of a campaign for sustainable community schools.   The event was part of a national week of action in 15 cities across the country, sponsored by the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS)

Sustainable community schools are a transformative alternative to both privatization in the form of unaccountable charter schools and the resource starved, test driven neighborhood schools that we now have in Philadelphia. It’s a vision that calls for realizing the promise of the historic Brown decision….quality, public schools for all children.

One of the strengths of this campaign is that it brings together people who are already fighting for one or another of the elements of community schools.   It brings together these strands of the education justice movement in the form of a practical demand that reflects our democratic values.

Last night’s event mirrored that understanding.   A powerful video made by the Media Mobilizing Project featured interviews with students, parents and educators involved in the fight against budget austerity and privatization.

A panel moderated by three high school students from Youth United For Change heard from Kendra Brooks, President of the Steel School Advisory Committee and a parent leader from ACTION United, talk about the successful struggle to defeat the takeover of the school by Mastery Charter and the Steel’s community’s vision of a community school.

Sakiema Wood, a senior at South Philadelphia School, a member of the school peer mediation program and a member of the Philadelphia Student Union talked about the harmful consequences of negative, punitive discipline and why restorative practices are needed as part of the sustainable community school vision

Tom Wyatt, another parent from Passyunk Square Civic Association, spoke about the effort to draw on neighborhood resources in developing “wrap around” services at Jackson elementary.

Tim Boyle, a teacher at Chester Arthur Elementary and a Teaching Consultant for the Philadelphia Writing Project, spoke on the need for a curriculum and instruction that engages students and how a school integrated with the community could provide more relevance.

PCAPS Coordinator Ron Whitehorne outlined the strategy for getting 10% of Philadelphia Schools to be Sustainable Community Schools in four years, focusing on the demand that School Improvement Grant money be used exclusively for that purpose. Whitehorne promised that this issue would be a litmus test for mayoral and council candidates in the coming year.

A petition drive aimed at the SRC was launched.   At last night’s meeting SRC meeting several people testified.   PCAPS statement: SRC statement on sustainable community schools

Check the Community Schools task force for updates, meetings, and documents related to this campaign.   And check out these pictures.   Photo credits: Harvey Finkle, Terrance Meacham

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