This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Today is a day my colleagues and I started preparing for more than a year ago.
I’m leaving the staff of the Notebook after 16 years as editor and publisher to explore new job opportunities. I feel sad about saying goodbye to the wonderful community that surrounds the Notebook and the complex and fascinating issues in the Philadelphia schools. But I am ready for a change, and so is the Notebook – we’ll both be trying on some new ideas and approaches.
And I’m excited to be handing over the reins to a talented new leader, Maria Archangelo, who has returned to Philadelphia to join our team as the Notebook’s publisher and executive director.
Maria is a Philadelphia native and Temple grad who got her start in journalism at the Inquirer. Her newspaper career has taken her to Baltimore and more recently to Vermont, where she made her mark as an editor and publisher. Maria shares the Notebook’s passionate concern about the future of our city and a deep commitment to the Notebook’s core values of social justice, educational equity, democracy, and community empowerment.
The staff and board team that has brought you important stories and excellent education journalism will be working with Maria to build on that tradition of excellence. It’s been a privilege to lead this group of skilled, dedicated and kind people. That team should share in all the accolades that I’ve gotten for growing the Notebook since 1999 from a small, quarterly newspaper to what it is today.
The strength of the Notebook today also has a lot to do with the strong foundation on which it was built. Credit goes to the Notebook’s founders, who back in 1994 started the work of building a community of support, articulating a vision for how an education newspaper could sustain parents, educators, and advocates in working for equity and school improvement. Then two talented and fearless people – first Chip Smith and then Helen Gym – led the Notebook through its first five years when we were figuring out step-by-step how to produce a quarterly newspaper and reach a diverse, citywide audience on an uncertain and tiny budget.
The Notebook has been built through sweat equity. I have had a steadfast group of volunteer colleagues as the Notebook has grown to be the city’s go-to source for in-depth education news. Special thanks to two people who have not missed a beat in 22 years of publishing. Teacher and artist Eric Joselyn, who helped organize our first planning meeting, has produced a cartoon for every single regular print edition of the Notebook. And Len Rieser has served continuously on our board from the very beginning, most recently leading our board’s Transition Committee. The Notebook and I have also been fortunate to have a smart and supportive board chair, Harold Jordan, who has been my trusted partner in dealing with all the challenges of running a nonprofit news organization and navigating our current transition.
Finally, I cannot overstate how much I appreciate my family for their generous and patient support:
– Sid, Sandy, and Debbie Socolar, from whom I learned both the critical importance of a good education and the value of working for justice for all.
– Robin and Elena Socolar Blanc, whose public school experience was an entry point for their dad’s involvement in school issues, and who have patiently shared their insights about the school system they graduated from … and stuffed more than a few fundraising mailings.
– Sukey Blanc – my life partner, main adviser, and best teacher – who has shared her knowledge about education and contributed more than anyone will know to the success of the Notebook.
We cannot claim we’ve brought quality and equity to all the students of Philadelphia. But over 22 years, the Notebook has made it easier for our readers to make sense out of what is happening in your schools, to learn about each others’ stories, to connect with one another, and to work toward solutions to the city’s vexing educational problems. We’ve created a vehicle for communities to have a voice – a community-based, watchdog publication that school officials answer to.
And while city schools are struggling, there are many gains we can point to: multiple pathways for struggling students to earn diplomas, a shift away from zero tolerance and reduction in school arrests, growing attention to childhood trauma, more supports for LGBTQ youth, and the city’s new focus on pre-K and community schools … to name a few.
Most fundamentally, the Notebook has kept education issues front and center, helping Philadelphians of all stripes understand that there is no issue more vital to the city’s future.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to have made that my work through more than two turbulent decades.
Please continue to read, share, and support the Notebook. If you care about quality and equity in public education in Philadelphia, this is your newspaper. Become a member, donate, write a letter, share an article, volunteer. The Notebook will keep its eye on the prize, with your support. We look forward to continued growth of the Notebook community in the years and decades to come. Thank you.