This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Dark bars, craft beers, cooing babies and a basic philosophical belief in the power of public education: Meet the new generation of urban-professional parents who just may be crucial to the long-term success of the Philadelphia School District.
At two separate evening events in the city this week, throngs of young, civically minded parents gathered at bars to drink in the pros and cons of sending their not-yet-school-aged children to the District’s oft-beleaguered neighborhood public schools.
For Tom Wyatt, an attorney by trade, that neighborhood school would be Andrew Jackson Elementary.
"If you visit that school, and you go talk to the leader of that school, and you interact with the teachers and you see the vibrancy of that school community, I think anyone would agree it’s a wonderful place to be and it’s the keystone of our neighborhood," said Wyatt, who chairs the education committee of Passyunk Square Civic Association in South Philly.
The association’s turf is split between Andrew Jackson and Southwark elementary schools.
At an event organized by Philly CORE Leaders, Wyatt told a tale common among the young-involved types holding pint glasses at Ladder 15 in Center City: His kids — a 6-month-old and a 3-year-old — are still years away from enrolling in kindergarten. But Wyatt and his wife are digging in to make the school better now, funding crisis be damned.
"I don’t mean to in any way pretend to be naive about the problems of funding," he said, "but if you go to your school, and look into the opportunities to dig in and help, you’ll find them. And it will sustain you and inspire you."
Working with the school’s neighbors as well as its parents, Wyatt’s group has, among other ventures, helped Jackson by adding a green roof, building a new playground, and sustaining the school library.