Philadelphia, PA – June 1, 2023 – Philadelphia this past summer played host city for the 2023 National Community Schools and Family Engagement Conference, in partnership with the School District of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Office of Children and Families, and sponsored by Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL).
More than 4,000 participants gathered at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown in early for the interdisciplinary conference filled with high-quality professional development experiences, learning opportunities, and networking sessions designed to enhance attendees’ knowledge of Community Schools and Family Engagement.
Vanessa Garrett Harley, Deputy Mayor, City of Philadelphia, Office of Children and Families, who spoke at the event’s opening session. Said, “We recognize that education and the well-being of a community is a shared responsibility. This National conference brings together people at all levels in the education ecosystem that share a common vision of empowering children to reach their full potential by supporting the whole child.
“Despite the many challenges posed by high poverty in our city, our children have achieved academic growth and improved graduation rates as a result of our shared systems of support,” she said. “We are excited to share our collective expertise and resources to further build out partnerships and networks that are devoted to this work.”
The goal of the conference was to foster collaboration, inspire action, and renew the commitment to transforming educational practices, partnerships, and systems. With the theme “Spreading Love & Supporting All Children,” the event sought to empower participants to disrupt generational poverty, eliminate systemic racial, class, and disability barriers, and promote greater equity for all.
Eddie Koen, President of IEL, called it “a platform for collaboration and collective action to create a more equitable and inclusive education system.”
Attendees consisted of educators and representatives from more than 100 organizations across the country including parent and youth leaders, school and district leaders, community organizers and union activists, elected officials, Community School coordinators and initiative leaders, education, justice, and health system professionals, early childhood educators, university partners, disability advocates, researchers, and more.
Philadelphia’s Community Schools, a partnership between the School District and the City’s Office of Children and Families and surrounding communities, was spotlighted as an example of how multiple agencies can align services and create collaborative structures that utilize grassroots approaches. It also has other policies, and programs including University-Assisted Community Schools, funding structures from the Philadelphia beverage tax, and more. Attendees also visited some of the city’s 20 Community Schools sites to see practices in action – including a program for children of incarcerated fathers at the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.
“The City of Philadelphia was proud to host this year’s Community Schools and Family Engagement Conference, and thrilled for the opportunity to highlight the innovative work that we are doing with the School District to implement a Community Schools strategy,” said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney. “Since establishing the first City-supported Community Schools in 2016, we have made significant progress in developing partnerships and strategies that support students’ development, well-being and success. We are excited to share this work with visitors from across the country.”
The conference also featured more than 20 notable plenary speakers, including Tony B. Watlington, Sr., Ed.D., Superintendent, School District of Philadelphia; Darrell Clarke, Philadelphia City Council President; Cecily Darden, Special Assistant, Family Outreach, U.S. Department of Education; and Dr. Christine Piven, Chief of Prevention, Office of Children and Families, City of Philadelphia.
“We are honored to host the Institute of Educational Leadership’s 2023 National Community Schools and Family Engagement Conference,” said Superintendent Watlington. “The district’s new five-year strategic plan will be our roadmap for serving students and preparing them to imagine and realize any future they desire. As superintendent, I see that work as a mutual responsibility between educators, families and community. Forging strong and collaborative partnerships between schools, families, and communities will help us collectively support and accelerate student achievement.”
The Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL) is dedicated to a vision of a society that uses all of its resources effectively to provide an equal opportunity for all children and youth to learn, develop, and become active participants in our democracy. Since 1964, IEL has partnered with under-resourced communities to equip leaders to better prepare children, youth, adults, and families for post-secondary education and training, rewarding careers, and civic community engagement.