This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
“Where’s My Notebook?” by Ron Whitehorne, distributor and Notebook board chair
On June 7 the Notebook community will gather to celebrate 17 years of independent publishing for Philadephia’s education community. This is the second in a series of blog entries exploring the exciting growth we are experiencing.
I had just swung a bundle of 100 copies of the latest edition of the Philadelphia Public School Notebook on to the office counter at Forrest Elementary School in the Northeast. The school security guard came in right behind me. “Where’s my Notebook?” she exclaimed. “Put them right out here on my desk, I’ll make sure all the parents get one. I tell them the Notebook tells the truth!”
For the last six years I’ve delivered the Notebook to schools, mostly in the Northeast and Northwest. We encourage each school to distribute the paper to staff and parents. Mostly I interact with school secretaries, support staff, and some parent volunteers. Occasionally I talk with teachers and principals.
I’ve seen a marked change in the attitude toward the Notebook over the years. When I first started doing the distribution, some schools were very welcoming, but the reaction at most ranged from indifference to occasional hostility. One secretary acted like I was bringing a shipment of bubonic plague.
It’s different now.
Almost everybody knows the Notebook, even if many don’t know the details about who publishes it. Now there is strong evidence in the feedback I hear that the Notebook is read and appreciated. Even that secretary who once held her nose when I put the papers on the counter now smiles at me and graciously takes the bundle. Positive comments from principals, teachers, secretaries, support staff, and parent volunteers are now common.
It’s not hard to figure out why.
The Notebook speaks intelligently and thoroughly to the pressing concerns that face schools. In this political climate, we need this information and perspective. When distribution of our recent issue on school closings was delayed because one of our distributors had a family emergency, I noticed the resulting anxiety in my rounds. Some schools with declining enrollment gave me flak for being late because they were anxious for the data and analysis the paper provided.
Of course not everybody agrees with every word in every issue. But they know the paper investigates the issues it tackles. And most people know we are editorially independent and not afraid to step on toes or challenge those in charge if the facts warrant it.
The growth of readership and enthusiasm for the Notebook is an exciting development. But it needs to be translated into material support if the Notebook is to be sustained. On June 7, we will stage our annual “Turning the Page for Change” event, where the community of Notebook readers and supporters will gather to celebrate this growth. Buy a ticket, become a Notebook member, and give what you can to keep us moving forward.
We’re blooming! Stay tuned for more information on the exciting growth at the Notebook, and join us to carry it forward on June 7.