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District crafts plans to expand School Advisory Councils

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

The School District is finalizing plans to expand and improve School Advisory Councils, with the aim of introducing them into additional schools and training members and school principals about their roles.

According to Karren Dunkley, deputy director of the Office of Parent, Family, Community Engagement and Faith-Based Partnerships, a SAC working group that has been meeting since the summer continues to work on the expansion and professional development initiatives. Acting SAC members will receive technical and professional development from December through April. An end-of-year citywide summit to evaluate the work of the SACs will be held in May.

Acting Superintendent Leroy Nunery is expected to review a proposal by December that would place SACs in the 115 lowest performing schools, almost half the District total. Nunery’s plan had been to limit the councils this year to just Promise Academies and Renaissance charters because of budget and personnel limitations. News of the plan triggered pushback from activists.

The SAC model, a community process that has been part of the Renaissance Schools package from day one, is a vital component of the District’s initiative to turn around its lowest-performing schools. But taking the concept from its first batch of Renaissance Schools to schools that have traditionally functioned without it won’t be easy, Dunkley said.

"I think it’s going to take three years to get SACs right," said Dunkley.

A SAC summit in October drew some 250 parents, community members, principals, teachers, and District officials for workshops on topics including school budgets, teamwork and conflict resolution, and student voice on the SAC.

At the fall summit Nunery said the work on this effort is challenging, "but there are certain schools where community interest is off the charts. We have some schools that are not as high [so] we have to lift them."

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