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One Voice for teaching and learning and the next superintendent

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

One Voice, an alliance of parents, students, and teachers, is gathering a group to testify at the next School Reform Commission meeting on Monday. The next SRC meeting will be another strategy, policy, and priorities community discussion, and it will be focused on curriculum and career and college readiness. Wendell Pritchett, chair of the curriculum committee, will run the meeting with Chief Academic Officer Penny Nixon.

One Voice plans to testify about how the budget crisis may be causing the District to overlook the importance of teaching and learning.

In early December 2011, One Voice had an informal meeting with Pritchett and Lorene Cary, chair of the SRC’s safety and engagement committee. The group provided input on the qualities expected of the next superintendent and emphasized how the District’s curriculum should link with education equity, restorative discipline, and school-based governances.

To that end One Voice has developed the following framework for the expectations for the next leader for our troubled school district.

Our Wishes for the Next Superintendent – from public school parents, students and teachers

  • Our next Superintendent must make teaching and learning – not just testing – a high priority.
  • Our next Superintendent must fully empower greatness on the ground.
  • Our next Superintendent must ensure the community is engaged.
  • Our next Superintendent must minimize costs while continuing to maintain high quality programs.

It is important to organize what happens in classrooms around what will actually work for students. Our school district is becoming more diverse, not less. We need a culturally and socially responsive curriculum that encourages critical thinking about what is going on in students’ lives and uses their histories as a pathway to ensuring that our young people have their basic skills. Our superintendent’s pedagogy should not see the acquisition of basic skills as at odds with an engaging curriculum that is interactive and culturally relevant.

We need someone who believes in the potential greatness of stakeholders on the ground – students, parents, and educators – and utilizes that greatness. We don’t need a superstar wearing a cape who swoops in to “remake” the district. Instead, we need someone who can recognize when principals and leadership teams have begun to transform struggling schools by making improvements in climate, academics and community involvement, and give them the autonomy they need to finish the job. All of the great ideas that we need can already be found in our District. The superintendent must prevent our schools from being used to line the pockets of profiteers, and from being used as political footballs. We are capable of so much more.

Parent and community engagement must be viewed as an integral part of student achievement. Principals and associate superintendents should be evaluated on community engagement and relationships, support their school advisory councils, and encourage parent and community partnerships. The superintendent must have regular meetings with parents and community members. All District personnel should be required to move from being merely compliant to implementing effective partnership practices based on an open-door policy that welcomes parents and community members to participate in decision-making at school and District levels.

To balance the budget correctly, the superintendent should be prepared to make timely decisions about spending for each school in the district. The next superintendent must work to adapt to the (unfortunate) current trends of diminished funding; he or she must find a way to minimize costs while still providing students with the high quality programs that will allow them to succeed academically and in the community post-graduation. This means adopting an approach geared towards innovation and efficiency in terms of the procurement of educational goods and services, the structuring of programs and the elimination of true waste. In short, a key focus of the next superintendent should be to streamline programs wherever possible as a means of cost saving. – One Voice –

So what do you think should happen with Empowerment Schools and Promise Academies? Do you think educators, parents, and students should lead school-based turnarounds? What happens with School Advisory Councils?

You do not have to register to speak at this type of SRC meeting. If you can’t make it this SRC meeting, what questions would you like us to address about teaching and learning?

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