You can learn a lot just by listening. That's what the nine newly appointed members of Philadelphia's new Board of Education are doing in one of their first acts as an official body since the candidates were selected to lead the governance of Philadelphia schools on behalf of the city itself. As they prepare to transition into governing schools after the School Reform Commission dissolves on June 30, the members will go on a tour of community listening sessions at several sites across the city.
"Listening is one of the most important skills you can have in terms of being a good leader," said Otis Hackney, Philadelphia's chief education officer. "This allows them to get a little bit of a slice of what the public expects of them."
The scheduled meetings include stops in West, North, South, Northwest and Northeast Philly. This is just the first wave of community listening sessions, as the new board prepares to take governance and setting of policy for the School District of Philadelphia.
"I'm also a parent of a child in a School District school, so my expectations are just as high, if not higher than anyone else's out there," Hackney said. "I expect them to do a fantastic job, and I will work closely with them to help ensure that happens. … I want to make sure that they work successfully in strong partnership with the superintendent so they can continue the growth the district has made."
Basic school administration will still be run by Superintendent William Hite, who is pursuing his Action Plan 3.0, a plan that calls for, among other goals, early literacy education and increasing graduation rates.
The new Board of Education has been met with support so far, as many feel a return of Philly schools to local control, lost in 2001 when the district agreed to let the state School Reform Commission administer schools in exchange for state funds to cover shortfalls in the district's budget.
"The PFT [Philadelphia Federation of Teachers] looks forward to working with this board as we embrace the opportunities and overcome the challenges facing the education of our city's children," Philly teachers union President Jerry Jordan said when the new board members were first appointed. "We're pleased to have a school board that represents a variety of perspectives. … I'm hopeful that this is the beginning of a new chapter for our schools — a chapter that puts an end to school closures, staff layoffs and privatization, and instead focuses on supporting Philly educators and investing the resources necessary to give our schoolchildren the programs and services they deserve."
The Board of Education's nine volunteer members, appointed on April 4 by Mayor Kenney out of more than 500 applicants, are Julia Danzy, Leticia Egea-Hinton, Mallory Fix Lopez, Lee Huang, Maria McColgan, Chris McGinley, Angela McIver, Wayne Walker and Joyce Wilkerson.
Board of Education's Listening Tour
Students, parents, educators and residents are all invited to the Board of Eduation's community listening sessions. Registration is encouraged but not required. You can sign up at http://bit.ly/ListeningTourPHL. Childcare, homework help and light refreshments will be provided at the meetings, at which presentations will be held with small group discussions to follow.
- Wednesday, April 25, 6 p.m. at Dobbins CTE High School, 2150 West Lehigh Ave.
- Saturday, May 5, 2:00 p.m. at South Philadelphia Library, 1700 S. Broad St.
- Thursday, May 10, 6:00 p.m. at Blackwell Regional Library, 125 S. 52nd St.
- Friday, May 18, 6:00 p.m. at Coleman Regional Library, 68 W. Chelten Ave.
- Wednesday, May 23, 6:00 p.m. at Northeast Regional Library, 2228 Cottman Ave.