This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
For more than four decades, Harold Jordan has seen the fight to improve public education take many forms, so he knows a vital tool when he sees one.
He’s felt that way about the Notebook since he first saw it in the mid-1990s.
Jordan recalls spotting the newspaper for the first time while walking the halls of Powel Elementary School. An active parent of two children attending the school at that time, Jordan was frequently on site, and one day he saw the Notebook stacked against the wall.
"From the perspective of a parent, I thought it was great. It had everything I wanted," Jordan said.
After a decade of using the Notebook as a resource to stay informed about education news, Jordan started making donations to the organization in 2003 because he saw the critical role personal contributions play in the Notebook‘s mission. When the Notebook launched its membership program two years ago, Jordan joined.
"I began to understand the economics of it. It’s really rooted in the contributions of institutions and individuals," he said.
Jordan, 56, upped his commitment to the Notebook last year by joining its leadership board, a volunteer panel that oversees the nonprofit. This summer he stepped into the role of chair of the Notebook‘s leadership board.
Though relatively new to these roles at the Notebook, Jordan, a community organizer for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Philadelphia, is not new to the world of education activism.
His immersion began at a young age, when he witnessed efforts to desegregate public schools in his hometown of Savannah, Georgia. In 1967 Jordan took part in a voluntary movement to desegregate a local junior high school, becoming one of just 12 Black students in a school of 800 students.
"I grew up with education issues at the center of my life. Education issues were in many ways the civil rights issues in my hometown," Jordan said.
Jordan attended Washington University in St. Louis, graduating with a degree in Social Thought and Analysis. He moved to Philadelphia in 1980, and has lived in West Philadelphia and worked mostly for nonprofits.
Between professional stops at the American Friends Service Committee, the National Coalition of Education Activists, and the School District of Philadelphia, Jordan’s work has never strayed far from education.
His commitment to school change made him a natural fit as a Notebook member. As board chair, he plans to focus on increasing theNotebook‘s 500+ membership, saying that it’s "critical to the Notebook’s survival and effectiveness as an independent media source."
Jordan notes that "it’s not just about numbers. It’s about creating a community."
Although he hesitates to pick a favorite story, Jordan points to the coverage of West Philadelphia High School as an example of the Notebook‘s inclusive approach.
"If you look at all the stories about West Philly High School together, you get an understanding of that school and its role in the community," Jordan says.
"It’s not just a top-down view. It’s what people in the community are saying about their school."
That means parents, teachers, activists, administrators, politicians, and students – all of whose perspectives Jordan said are evident throughout the Notebook.
"That’s the only way you’re going to improve schools," he explains, "by having all these people in the conversation."