This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
The city of Philadelphia hosted the National League of Cities’ Mayors’ Institute on Community Schools Tuesday, an event in which mayors from six cities met for an intense private problem-solving session about how community schools can improve health and educational outcomes for children.
Before the discussion, visiting mayors listened to opening remarks from Mayor Kenney and local education administrators.
The mayors met at the Rittenhouse Hotel in Center City. Among them were Sylvester Turner from Houston, Texas; Paula Hicks-Hudson from Toledo, Ohio; Garret Nancolas from Caldwell, Idaho; Dennis Michael from Rancho Cucamonga, California; and Tim Willson from Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.
Philadelphia’s chief education officer Otis Hackney also attended.
“We’re looking to thought leaders like all of you here today to help us learn the best practices so that we can be as successful as we possibly can be,” said Kenney during his opening remarks.
Through Philadelphia’s community schools initiative the mayor plans to transform 25 schools into neighborhood centers that will not only educate children, but also act as community hubs for a variety of medical and social services. The purpose is to help low-income children whose academic achievement is hindered by outside factors in their community.
According to the National Center for Community Schools, there are more than 5,000 community schools across the country.
In July 2016, the Kenney administration kicked off the initiative in Philadelphia with nine schools: Edward Gideon, Kensington Health and Sciences Academy, Southwark, William Cramp, William T. Tilden, Franklin S. Edmonds, James Logan, Murrell Dobbins, and South Philadelphia High School.
Deanna Gamble, communications director for the mayor’s office of education, said two more community schools will be added in July.
Almost a year after the initiative went into effect, Kenney said he is “tremendously proud” of the initiative’s progress.
Before beginning the discussion, the mayor also addressed the opposition to the soda tax, passed last year, which helps to fund the community school’s initiative.
“I decided that I can’t just wring my hands and say Harrisburg won’t help us, the federal government won’t help us,” Kenney said. “I had to find a revenue source.”
The mayors will continue their discussion through Thursday, during which time they will visit Gideon Elementary, a community school in Strawberry Mansion.