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Education coalition holds first of three forums to discuss school reform plans

By the Notebook on Oct 26, 2012 01:25 PM

by Charlotte Pope

“We are in this together. This fight you are not fighting alone.”

These are the words Philadelphia Federation of Teachers member Denise Turner used to encourage a crowd of concerned parents, educators, and caregivers who attended a meeting Thursday held by the community organizing group Action United, in support of the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS).

PCAPS is an organization that consists of members of the PFT, Action United, Philadelphia Student Union (PSU), Youth United for Change (YUC), and American Federation of Teachers (AFT). The members gathered at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center in North Philadelphia for the first of three forums designed as town hall meetings.

The forums are intended to give community members a voice in discussions about the future of Philadelphia schools and what can be done to usher in reform that works.

Dawn Hawkins, a parent leader in Action United, shared her experiences in dealing with her son’s school, Leslie P. Hill Elementary.  

“I’ve been watching his school change since he began the 3rd grade,” said Hawkins, whose son is now a 7th grader.

“He’s had five principals within four years. They continue to cut activities. He no longer has a computer class, and I have to take him seven blocks to the public library. I’m concerned that our children in low-property neighborhoods are being left out,” she said.

PCAPS was formed in response to a report released by the Boston Consulting Group last spring. In that report BCG recommended a reform plan that would close over 60 District schools and introduce a decentralized “portfolio management” model.

PCAPS members said they hope to use the forums to collect community-based alternatives to the BCG report. The plan is to present those alternatives to Superintendent William Hite and influence his final recommendations to the School Reform Commission (SRC).

At the first forum, attendees broke up into “listening sections” organized by neighborhoods. In these circles participants identified the problems they see in the District’s schools and suggested possible solutions. They also brainstormed strategies to maximize parental involvement in the coalition.

Deb Hansen, a teacher at George C. Meade School and a PFT member, is doing her part. Before the start of the forum she handed out flyers in her school.

“I’m concerned that things are going to be announced and then the community will realize what’s happening, so I’m glad we’re taking the opportunity to be proactive and trying to organize,” said Hansen.

Throughout the evening meeting, participants talked about the ramifications of school closings, such as child trauma, truancy, and the loss of a community center.

“When you’re closing schools, you’re really changing the neighborhood. We need to try to create a system that is more equitable in the way it is funded and in the way it utilizes the resources that are available,” Hansen said.

“I think that what the District is doing, this top-down approach, doesn’t really work to make changes that we would like to see. We would like to see all of our students succeed. But it doesn’t work when it’s coming from the top, or coming from the outside. Families need to be involved.”

Hawkins, who travels around the country with Action United, said the community forums are helpful to implementing real change.  

“These parents here want their children to be successful. The end goal for me is to let my voice, and the voice of my neighborhood, be heard,” she said.

“We’re trying to make a difference before it’s too late.”

The next PCAPS forum will be held at the New Gethsemane Baptist Church, 917 E. Chelten Ave. at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 30.



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Comments (24)

Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on October 26, 2012 4:03 pm

Thanks for covering this.   One factual correction.   PCAPS has over a dozen member organizations including ACTION United, a leading group which actually hosted the event.

Submitted by Paul Socolar on October 26, 2012 6:16 pm

Thanks for pointing out the error. We've noted that.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 26, 2012 7:24 pm
Too Little, too late and all by design.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 26, 2012 6:33 pm
These are the REAL community meetings. We can win this. We don't have to let the out-of-town corporate forces determine our future. Lisa Haver
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 27, 2012 12:55 pm
Ms. Haver--I know you mean well and have a stellar track record but was Jordan even at that meeting? Also, look at the Chicago Union and tell me why WE shouldn't follow their lead??
Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on October 27, 2012 2:00 pm

Leaders from the CTU and CORE will be here on Novemeber 17th to talk about their experience in transforming their union and forging an alliance with parents and the community.   Here's the link to the facebook event pages with the details.

I hope hundreds of teachers and people interested in the fate of public education will turn out to this event and engage in constructive discussion about how to move forward locally.

Part of this discussion needs to be a recognition that the PFT leadership has taken an important step forward by helping to launch PCAPS and committ energy to this campaign.   At the sametime much needs to be done in terms of developing a democratic union culture that is based on membership engagement and mobilization.   It is certainly fair to challenge the leadership to take the union in this direction, but my view is that should be done in a constructive fashion that holds out the possiblility of a positive response to this challenge.   

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 27, 2012 3:13 pm
That's the best news I've heard in some time. I hadn't been told of this meeting and it's 3 weeks away, that's a microcosm of my feelings about the PFT. In any case, I shall be there and I will pass the word around to everybody else I know.
Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on October 27, 2012 3:59 pm


The event was only finalized yesterday.  It is being organized by TAG and the Labor Work Group.  Leaflets will be available shortly.   Look for more information on the facebook page.   Glad you will be there.


Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on October 27, 2012 6:27 pm
I hope that this event will be videotaped. Unfortunately, I have two very important out-of-town family functions on the 17th, or I would be there. I attended the PCAPS event that was held on a Saturday after school started, as well as the PFT meeting last week, and I will do my best to spread news of this event to every teacher who I meet between now and November 17th. One of the things mentioned at the PFT meeting was that we should wear our PFT shirts when vote, regardless of where we live, to show our politicians that we are out there, and that we show up to vote.
Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on October 27, 2012 7:06 pm

The event will be video taped by media mobilziing project.

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on October 27, 2012 9:38 pm
Thanks, Ron. Will you please provide access information, once it's available? If there's a life feed, I'd love to have that info as well- I might be able to find time, between the baby shower and the birthday party, to get on a computer.
Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on October 28, 2012 11:26 am

will do.   sounds like you have a busy day planned.

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on October 28, 2012 12:19 pm
Oops- Live feed, not life feed. Thanks!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 26, 2012 7:01 pm
Hite and Pedro are following marching orders of Corbett and ALEC. It's all about making money and guess which kids will be collateral damage, same as it always was.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 27, 2012 1:53 pm
Anon, I am a PFT member, but I think you overestimate my power. I am not my union president's keeper. I do know that Jerry Jordan has been present at several community meetings, including the PCAPs conference in September. With all due respect, if you had been at any one of them you would have seen him there. I agree that we should follow Chicago's lead; many unions across the country are looking in that direction. It is possible that the PFT is one of them; I don't know yet. Please attend the town hall meetings being held by PCAPs and make your voice heard. I assume you were at the PFT membership meeting this past Tuesday and gave some suggestions as to the direction you want the union to take. Lisa
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 27, 2012 3:20 pm
I have been an avid PFT Member for 28 years and yes, I have been at most meetings and such. I just wish WE had had more of a sense of urgency in the past but at least, we are now doing something. I still contend the leadership of the PFT is a massive problem.
Submitted by SNE (not verified) on October 27, 2012 7:13 pm
SO...Who is willing to come with ME to Harrisburg to see the Auditor General and make Auditing Requests??? Everyone comes online to be Anonymous and Complain, Complain, Complain....BUT No ONE seems to want to really speak up about their concerns for the Educational System in the schools. The Teachers, Union, Organizations need to stop being scared ( or politically connected and not telling anyone) and start asking the RIGHT questions. Have any stories about money...Send them to me...Education215@gmail...THEY WILL BE INVESTIGATED. I happen to think Dr. Hite is on the right track, but he needs people to speak up and let him know what is going on OR ALL HE HAS IS THE PEOPLE AROUND HIM TO TELL HIM... I also find it interesting how fast the T-shirt story disappeared...NOT GOOD FOR MORALE>>> nuf said...AND YES,,,I attend all meetings, PFT, ENON, .SRC, ...
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on October 27, 2012 9:35 pm
Here's something for you to check out- Philadelphia area Craig's List- Education section- Listing for Monday, October 22- Project Director- Philadelphia Pathway to Leadership in Urban Schools The Philadelphia School Partnership has developed yet another partnership- This one is to train and certify their own principals. Hmmm.....
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on October 28, 2012 8:16 pm
SNE---This is a microcosm of what's wrong. The PFT needs to be marching to Harrisburg--10,000 of us and anybody else we can enlist. Where's Jerry Jordan and other Union Leaders????? I am tired going to the nurse protests and seeing 30 people at the most and sometimes without Jordan of all people.
Submitted by SNE (not verified) on October 29, 2012 10:25 am
You are more than welcome to join me. At least we will be the voice of the truth. And believe me, they will listen, because we have a lot to say. By the way... Does everyone know that ALMOST ALL of the Wednesday EXECUTIVE BOARD MEETINGS OF THE PFT ARE OPEN TO MEMBERSHIP???Let's get involved!!! I've brought up the idea before, but people are either complacent or fed up!!! I'm not fed up yet. I speak out for the Teachers and the Children and Communities. Some say I'm boastful....I'm not..just sharing my thoughts. Problem is they cant say they've done what I have for people!!!
Submitted by ANON 452 (not verified) on October 29, 2012 8:43 pm
Many things to be discussed! The charter school attrition (aka "counseling out") has begun! We just got a very low reading level behavior problem child from Independence Charter School this week! Will we get the money for this child? No! Yes, this child deserves an education, but if the charter school admitted the child this year they should have to keep him/her! What was the reason given? Anybody? You guessed it : "Not a good fit"!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 31, 2012 1:51 pm
Counseling a child out is illegal, unethical and immoral, but you will receive the monthly student allotment and because the child transferred before Dec. 1, you will also receive the IDEA Part B funding. And while it stinks that this happened, maybe the child will be better served by your school.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 8, 2012 1:26 pm
Considering that Ramos just borrowed 300 million dollars just for day to day expenses, 60 closures seems like a low number.
Submitted by ion (not verified) on July 22, 2014 9:08 am

I'm glad parents and teachers are standing together. Parents have a very valuable input and their voice should be louder and stronger. They are the ones who know what their children need the most. echipamente profesionale

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