This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
City Council member Helen Gym introduced a resolution today to honor the Philadelphia Public School Notebook’s 25th anniversary. The nonprofit news organization will celebrate its local education reporting – and this milestone – on June 4.
The resolution was co-sponsored by Council members Jannie Blackwell, William Greenlee, Curtis Jones Jr., Kenyatta Johnson, Cherelle Parker, and Blondell Reynolds Brown. It passed unanimously at today’s Council meeting.
A group of concerned parents, teachers, and community members committed to improving public education founded the Notebook as a quarterly newspaper in 1994. Helen Gym was among these founders.
Over the decades, the organization has grown into a daily online news service, while continuing to publish a quarterly print edition that is delivered free to all Philadelphia public schools and to libraries and community organizations. While changing with the times, the Notebook remains committed to providing a voice for parents, students, teachers, and other members of the community who are working for quality and equity in Philadelphia’s public schools.
The Notebook celebration is at 4:30 p.m. June 4 at the National Museum of American Jewish History on Independence Mall.
Honoring the 25th Anniversary of the Philadelphia Public School Notebook for its commitment to using local, independent, ambitious journalism as a tool to bring access to information to Philadelphia’s public school community and to provide resources to those working for quality and equity in Philadelphia’s public schools.
WHEREAS, The Philadelphia Public School Notebook is an independent, nonprofit news service that provides news and commentary on the City of Philadelphia’s public school system and community; and
WHEREAS, In 1994, a group of concerned and engaged parents, teachers, and community members formed the Notebook as a quarterly newspaper dedicated to providing insight on the state of Philadelphia schools; and
WHEREAS, The history of the Notebook’s founding largely speaks to the turbulence of the Philadelphia school system in the 1990s and the lack of a vehicle for providing in-depth news and information about the Philadelphia schools to parents and caregivers, educators, and other community members. After the departure of Superintendent Constance Clayton and a Commonwealth Court ruling ordering that educational inequities due to racial and economic segregation of Philadelphia schools be rectified, community members organized around the “need for an independent progressive voice to help make sense of issues and promote and organize for a radical new agenda in the Philadelphia schools;” and
WHEREAS, Thanks to a grant from the Bread and Roses Community Fund, the Notebook published its first issue in May 1994, with over 10,000 copies of the 12-page newspaper distributed with a banner headline reading, “Unfair State Funding for Schools Challenged”; and
WHEREAS, Over the course of its 25-year history, the Notebook’s in-depth reporting became a valuable tool for holding public officials accountable and ensuring they were doing right by public schools. In fact, Notebook reporting often led to groundbreaking policy change and made national headlines. For example, a 2002 Notebook article on an uptick in kindergarten suspensions after the rise of zero-tolerance discipline policies was featured in national news, leading to significant policy change. The paper’s 2005 reporting on school dropouts, which highlighted the voices of students who expressed feeling invisible after they dropped out of school, helped create the School District’s dropout prevention initiative, “Project U-Turn,” and to improve the District’s overall graduation rate. In 2011, a Notebook investigation revealed rampant cheating on Pennsylvania state standardized testing, leading to arrests and the implementation of new security protocols. These serve as just a few examples of how Notebook reporting has made national headlines while bringing justice to Philadelphia school students; and
WHEREAS, the Notebook highlighted the activism that was building around a need to change the School District’s governance, hosting a public event in the fall and dedicating the December 2016 edition to the question, “SRC, should it stay or go,” coverage that kept the focus on public demands for a return of city schools to local control; and
WHEREAS, Most recently, the Notebook has consistently covered crucial issues including trauma and its effects on student learning, unsafe school building conditions, funding equity, and increasing difficulties in recruiting and keeping teachers of color;
WHEREAS, The Notebook’s dedication to improving conditions for public schools and to building strong learning communities is powered by four core values: a focus on community; an emphasis on social justice, equity, and public accountability; a commitment to journalistic excellence; and a belief that schools must be democratic; and
WHEREAS, Today, the Notebook has a circulation of 55,000 copies, largely distributed free of charge, with some articles translated into Spanish, throughout Philadelphia public and charter schools, branches of the Free Library, and over 300 community-based organizations. Even more, tens of thousands visit the Notebook website each month to access its meticulously researched news and analysis; and
WHEREAS, Over its history, the Notebook has won numerous prizes for its cutting-edge, community-oriented approach to journalism, including several first-place awards from the Education Writers Association; and
WHEREAS, The Notebook’s success over the past 25 years speaks to the vibrancy of Philadelphia’s public school advocacy community. The paper has consistently balanced its role as a bank of essential information for Philadelphia families and a spark for those organizing for public education in the City of Philadelphia; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That the Council of the City of Philadelphia honors the 25th Anniversary of the Philadelphia Public School Notebook for its commitment to using local, independent, ambitious journalism as a tool to bring access to information to Philadelphia’s public school community and to provide resources to those working for quality and equality in Philadelphia’s public schools.