PHILADELPHIA – The School District of Philadelphia and the Mayor’s Office of Education today unveiled the plans for the city’s nine community schools following months of surveys, focus groups and meetings held within each school community to identify the top needs of students and families.
“These community school plans mark a significant milestone in the City’s ongoing efforts to strengthen local schools,” said Mayor Kenney. “Community school coordinators have engaged thousands of Philadelphians to understand the unique strengths and challenges at each community school. Now that plans are in place, coordinators can align City and nonprofit services that meet the specific needs of our students, their families, and local residents.”
“The partnership between the District and the City allows us to tap into a wide variety of helpful resources to meet the needs of our students and their families,” said Dr. William R. Hite, Superintendent, The School District of Philadelphia. “The work supported by this initiative is an extension of the work our staff is doing in schools every day to support the whole child. We all look forward to seeing happier, healthier communities as a result of this important effort.”
The plans cover the specific needs of the community as identified by a Community School Committee comprised of the principal, community school coordinator, and other stakeholders including parents, students, school staff, partners and community members. This committee helped establish the priority areas the school community will work to address.
Each school is unique and will have individualized goals and outcomes, but some of the common themes discovered across all or many schools include improved access to food, jobs and job training; physical, social and emotional health services; clothing and uniforms; and cultural and social opportunities.
“The community schools partnership is about resetting the priorities of our City and neighborhoods around public schools, making them central and integral to every community,” Council President Darrell L. Clarke said. “Matching community needs like job training and health care to additional services will be a significant challenge, one that we will need the business and nonprofit communities as well as individual citizens to help us meet. I invite all who live in Philadelphia and care about its future to identify their role in the community schools mission.”
During the unveiling of the plans at Tilden Middle School, principals, students, and parents from the first cohort of community schools were on hand to discuss how the initiative is already making a positive impact at their schools. Current community schools include: Tilden Middle School; William Cramp School; Murrell Dobbins High School; Franklin S. Edmonds School; Edward Gideon School; Kensington Health Sciences Academy; Logan School; Southwark School; and South Philadelphia High School.
“The Community Schools initiative has allowed us to dedicate more time and resources to support our school’s goals around academics, attendance and climate,” said Brian Johnson, Principal of Tilden Middle School. “We want to provide the opportunity for our students to achieve the highest level of success, but they can’t do that if they’re not in school, or they don’t have access to clean clothes or adequate food. This effort places a laser focus on our community partners to help improve our school and community as a whole.”
“To me, a community school means opportunities for me and my family,” said Alayshia Bridges, a junior at South Philadelphia High School. “It’s a place where you can depend on people. I know that my needs are taken into consideration, and I am very grateful for that.”
“It’s been rewarding to communicate with other parents about how we can improve our school community,” said Tina Rentas, parent and member of the Community School Committee for Kensington Health Sciences Academy. “I think we are helping to strengthen our community by increasing awareness of events and issues, and getting to know one another. Families should get involved because it’s our children, our community, our future.”
In the coming months, existing partnerships will be bolstered and new partnerships will be sought to best serve the needs of the school communities. In addition, any individual or business interested in partnering with a community school, donating resources, or volunteering, should contact the Community Schools team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Funded by the Philadelphia Beverage Tax, the community schools initiative launched in July of 2016 when the current cohort of community schools was first announced. The City aims to expand to 25 community schools, however the rate of expansion has been impacted by a lawsuit challenging the tax. While 46 principals requested an application to join the second cohort of community schools, the City can only expand by two schools in the next round.
Community school plans and executive summaries can be accessed here.