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Turning the Page for Change: Notebook community gathers to celebrate

By the Notebook on Jun 13, 2012 12:50 PM
Photo: Harvey Finkle

The Notebook's community bloggers! From left, Timothy Boyle, Frank Murphy, Peak Johnson, Samuel Reed, Ron Whitehorne, Helen Gym, Len Rieser, Nijmie Dzurinko.

by Katie McCabe

The Notebook community gathered Tuesday night to celebrate our 18th year of independent coverage of Philadelphia public education at our annual Turning the Page for Change event.

More than 300 activists, students, teachers, administrators, parents, and city and District officials joined us as we presented our annual awards to student journalists and celebrated the strong community of dedicated individuals and organizations that work to support quality and equity in Philadelphia schools.

"The turnout and the enthusiasm were great,” said Notebook editor/director Paul Socolar. “It felt like a terrific outpouring of support for the work that we do ... to try to inform and connect diverse audiences to discussions about the schools and to build some common understanding about the problems and how they could be fixed."

Among the attendees were School Reform Commissioners Pedro Ramos and Wendell Pritchett, as well as Chief Academic Officer Penny Nixon.

Students from the Girard Academic Music Program serenaded community members as they arrived at University of the Arts’ Hamilton Hall. One table at the event provided a space where attendees could write words of support for the Notebook.

“I love the Notebook because it arms me with the information I need, and connects me to a community that cares deeply about education,” wrote one attendee.

“There is no other source for in-depth coverage of this foundation of democracy,” added Harris Sokoloff, a professor at Penn Graduate School of Education and Director of the Center for School Study Councils.

Four student journalists won awards and three received honorable mentions for excellence as high school newspaper writers and editors. Students came from high schools including the Academy at Palumbo, Maritime Academy Charter School, the Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush High School, Overbrook High School, Parkway West High School, and Science Leadership Academy.

The awards were co-sponsored by IKEA South Philadelphia and the local publication Al Día. The winning students each received a cash prize and an e-tablet, and each student’s school newspaper received an audio recorder.

The Notebook also honored its eight community bloggers, who contribute regularly to our site: Helen Gym, Len Rieser, Ron Whitehorne, Samuel Reed, Frank Murphy, Timothy Boyle, Peak Johnson, and Nijmie Dzurinko.

In the spring of 2011, the Notebook received the second-place prize in the community blogging category of the Education Writers Association’s National Reporting Awards – a testament to the hard work and dedication of our bloggers.

As the School District of Philadelphia faces a significant transformation, the Notebook’s mission to keep the Philadelphia community informed and involved in public education is now more important than ever.

During the event, several attendees showed their support by signing up to become Notebook members. Members included individuals and organizations who make an annual membership gift of $30 or more, support that is critical to our sustainability as a nonprofit.

If you were a guest, thank you for your support! To all of our readers, please consider supporting the Notebook in any way you can, including becoming a member. We look forward to seeing you at our next happy hour in the fall, to celebrate the release of our fall guide to high schools and October edition!

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Comments (11)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 13, 2012 4:19 pm

No July happy hour?

Nice work Katie.

Submitted by Erika Owens (not verified) on June 14, 2012 9:39 am

No, no July happy hour, sorry! We have them to correspond with the publication of a new edition and we won't have a new edition till September. Keep an eye out for more details later this summer. If people want to have their own casual meetups though, please do! And let us know if we can help.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on June 13, 2012 4:28 pm

I have to give everyone props and I really enjoyed seeing old friends and meeting new friends.

I also give props to Wendell Pritchett and Pedro Ramos for mixing in with the Notebook community and conversing with so many of us.

As the Notebook community showed so well last night, "It's about the community of us all...."

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 13, 2012 5:28 pm

Given that the SRC was in Harrisburg last week trying to get legislators to give them the right to eviscerate the PFT contract and continue the starvation of public schools at the same time as they are giving millions of dollars in breaks to charter schools, I do not see any "props" in them showing up. I see a supreme arrogance. What does it take for us to get angry about what is being done to the School District of Philadelphia? Isn't there enough pain and misery yet??

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on June 13, 2012 7:40 pm

That is why I give them props for showing up and conversing with us. They know that issue is controversial and they know we are the first ones to raise that issue.

They could have taken the cowardly way out and not shown up at all. They get the message and their actions speak louder than words.

All leaders are fallible. The effective ones admit their fallibility and listen to their followers. Leaders reap what they sow and leadership wisdom comes with experience. Leadership wisdom is not learned in graduate schools and it certainly is not even taught in law school. We are all learners.

As we move forward, we will see the true character and mettle of all of our leaders.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 13, 2012 7:56 pm

I agree with you not Rich. These guys simply don't care who knows what and their arrogance is stunning. Their going to that party is about disrespect and disregard nothing even remotely positive, akin to party crashers.

Submitted by Mary Beth Hertz (not verified) on June 13, 2012 9:57 pm

To Anonymous and Anonymous---did you stop Ramos and Pritchett and talk to them about your concerns while you were at the party? Did you approach them to discuss something about which you are very passionate? I personally did not talk to either of them (or Jerry Jordan for that matter), but name calling and anonymous commenting only feeds the fire. They are part of the system and the process of change we are experiencing, whether we like it or not, and we can either engage them or stand on the sidelines and point fingers. FWIW, they probably could have been over at the Franklin with Obama, but came to the Notebook party instead.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 13, 2012 9:54 pm

The fire should be fed!

Do you really think being placid and passive is the way to confront what we are dealing with? They want the legislature to give them the power to eviscerate the PFT contract!

Do you really think they care about what we say? They have a set agenda and discussions is not the way to deal with them.

At the meeting with Philadelphia legislators last week, Ramos said he is appointed by the Governor and cannot act without his permission! So what is there to discuss?

On Monday, 89% of members of the Chicago Federation of Teachers voted to authorize a strike if negotiations fail.

Total membership: 26,502
Yes vote: 23,780
No vote: 482
Not voting: 2,240

What would the SRC do if they met that kind of oppositon? I doubt they would dare to show up for drinks and conversation if people were aware and fighting what they are trying to do.

Submitted by Timothy Boyle on June 13, 2012 10:59 pm

Who would constitute the ideal audience for a Notebook event then? Just teachers? Just SDP teachers? Just those who agree with you? I don't like what happened in Harrisburg last week anymore than you did, but I appreciate that The Notebook can put together a room of people who actually care and make decisions about the SDP. I'll share space with those I disagree with any day over pretending to build power in an echo chamber. You think that Mr. Ramos didn't get asked questions about what he was doing? Do you think Ms. Nixon didn't get asked questions  about where the District is heading? There is a time for making a scence about what you believe in and a time for civil discussion. Last night was about appreciating what The Notebook does for this community. 

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on June 14, 2012 8:23 am

You are so right that Tuesday was about appreciating what the Notebook does for this community and we should celebrate what the Notebook has accomplished. The Notebook community is a powerful voice in all of this stuff because of the credibility it has earned.

I enjoyed Tuesday so much because I see the "new leaders" of our district emerging, and I saw so many of the "old folk" who are committed and dedicated school leaders who have given their lives to the schoolchildren of Philadelphia.

Effective leadership builds community and builds relationships. By doing that, their voices become so much more powerful.

I can not influence Pedro Ramos, Wendell Pritchett, Penny Nixon, Jerry Jordan, etc., unless I earn their respect as an advocate. The truth is I like Pedro Ramos and Wendell Pritchett.

Just like the unions are not the axis of evil, neither are they. They are good people who entered this arena in the hopes of doing good things for our schoolchildren. They have risked their personal reputations as all of us do when we step into leadership positions and I respect them for that.

They know that I am the first person to step into a courtroom to do battle with some of the things they do or have failed to do. They also know that I am the first person to shake hands with them to have a friendly and civil conversation and debate about "best practices."

I would very much like to take both of them to a bar for a drink and have a "Migliore conversation" with them. Migliore conversations, in such instances, are usually laced with and dripping with honesty and passion.

They are more effective if I am looked at as a good guy who speaks up for the right reasons.

I can not say enough times, that if the SRC and our politicians take an adversarial stance and course of action, the destruction it will cause will last for years and years. Watch.

Let's just bargain our contracts in good faith, and get on with our mission of serving our children and communities.

Thank you Notebook community for being what you are -- a bunch of good people committed to what you believe in.

Submitted by Mary Beth Hertz (not verified) on June 13, 2012 10:28 pm

Yes, Anonymous, I have read the news, and I'm not sure why now you're attacking me. There are sheisty things going on right now that require educators, admins, parents and students to speak out and offer solutions. I attended one of the Imagine 2014 community meetings that Ackerman held when she first came to the district, and, as you say, you could tell that things had already been decided beforehand and that the meetings were just for show.

I am very proud of people like Helen Gym and some of my fellow teachers who have attended SRC meetings and spoken out against what is going on and offered solutions. I am proud of the way The Notebook has built a community and dialogue around this craziness and the way they have leveraged right to know laws to help keep us in the know.

As for daring to show up for drinks, the SRC/SDP folks were attending a party attended mostly by people they already knew and a party attended 100% by informed, passionate people in public ed---people they should have, could have, feared. Do NOT take this as me sticking up for anyone on the SRC, but they are politicians like any politician, so their actions do not surprise me.

The number one solution? Kick the State out of Philadelphia and take back our school system. That's something that the whole city can rally around, not just the PFT.

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