Freelance journalist Melanie Bavaria has received a fellowship from the Education Writers Association to work with the Notebook to cover innovation in education – specifically, the Philadelphia School District’s efforts to create inquiry-focused and project-based education opportunities for students who have been chronically underserved by traditional schools. The EWA sought applications on “efforts to rethink and reinvent the American High School experience.”
Bavaria will work with Contributing Editor Dale Mezzacappa during the second half of the 2016-17 school year. The culminating series of stories will most likely be published in June.
“These new high schools are being led and staffed by talented and dedicated educators committed to enriching learning opportunities for students who are so often left behind, pushed through a school to a meaningless graduation or ‘pushed out’ by their boredom,” wrote Mezzacappa in the application letter.
“These educators are basing their schools on mutual trust, rigorous learning, and faith in their students’ ability, what they have to offer, and their willingness to adapt. Their yeoman efforts deserve coverage, as do the students who have taken a leap of faith to enroll in these schools. We are eager to record the victories and uncover the challenges.”
Bavaria, a graduate of Columbia Journalism School, has been freelancing for the last several years in Philadelphia and New York. She plans to spend considerable time in some of the schools, which include Science Leadership Academy, Workshop School, U School, LINC, Building 21, Science Leadership Academy @ Beeber and SLA Middle School. She will also cover the creation of a new high school in the old Vaux High School building in North Philadelphia that is being developed with the Philadelphia Housing Authority and Big Picture Inc.
Reporting on reentry
The Notebook is proud to be a part of the Philadelphia Reentry Reporting Collaborative, launched late last year to examine challenges facing local citizens returning from incarceration. The project brings together a broad spectrum of news organizations.
The project site, reentryreporting.org, hosts nearly 100 articles that cover topics from job training and employment to treating addictions and expunging criminal records. Visitors can also subscribe to receive a free weekly email newsletter.
The Notebook has contributed articles and a video to the collaborative and plans to complete several more pieces before the project ends in the fall. Most of the Notebook’s focus will be on the effects of incarceration and reentry on students and efforts to minimize the negative impact.
Notebook publisher Maria Archangelo said the project is exciting to be part of.
“It is great for the Notebook to partner with such a diverse group of media organizations – many of which we have not worked with in the past,” Archangelo said. “In addition to collaborating with great people, we are really able to learn from each other and expand the reach of our work.”
The initiative is funded by the Knight Foundation and the Solutions Journalism Network, which supports rigorous reporting about how people respond to problems. The network has advised the project from the beginning.
At a recent event at the Pen & Pencil Club in Philadelphia, project editor Jean Friedman-Rudovsky talked about what makes the collaborative interesting.
“Partnerships must be grounded in relationships of mutual respect and trust,” said Friedman-Rudovsky, who led the planning committee for the project last summer. “Putting together a collaborative project is time-consuming — lots of one-on-one meetings and, at times, slow progress.”
Friedman-Rudovsky previously trained local journalists in her role leading the Philadelphia chapter of the Solutions Journalism Network.
Readers who have story ideas related to reentry and students should email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.