April 20, 2009
Statement on the Strategic Plan
Dear Members of the School Reform Commission:
On behalf of the following parent-based groups, we are writing to respectfully ask you to delay your scheduled vote tomorrow on the District’s Strategic Plan.
As you can see from our letter to Dr. Ackerman that we cc:ed to you, we have deep concerns about the lack of clarity within the plan specifically around priorities, a clear roadmap with benchmarks and intermediate goals, and a realistic budget. These concerns are much greater than a concern about lack of detail. In our experience, these are the exact reasons why the School District’s history is often littered with failed projects that started with great intent.
As active parents who have worked on school-based issues for years, we used the example of the failure to move on reduced class size – a commitment the District has stated for two years now – as evidence of why we believe the SRC needs to flex its authority on the Strategic Plan. The failure to make significant advancements on reduced class size has less to do with lack of desire. Rather that failure has happened because of competing priorities for administration, budget constrictions, and a lack of committed planning to lay out exactly the targets and goals for reduced class size across the district. We could apply that example to any number of struggling initiatives, including high school reform, addressing education for special needs students, and guaranteeing equal resources according to what every school needs.
We also respectfully request that the SRC remove one specific piece out of 2014 for greater review, debate and analysis – namely the Renaissance Schools plan. The Renaissance Schools plan is a complex and complicated project, yet the mission, goal, roadmap and implementation has not been clearly spelled out or analyzed in the strategic plan. For an effort this significant, we believe we need more community involvement and discussion than is offered in the current framework.
We have an unprecedented opportunity at this time to make significant changes in this District. The combination of favorable city and state politics; the infusion of federal stimulus dollars; and an outpouring of public faith and engagement with our schools (as evidenced by the hundreds of people who showed up for the strategic plan community meetings) is not an opportunity to squander. We as active parents, who have seen decades of reform pass through this system, believe that the SRC needs to take this time to clearly ask questions about priorities, budget and greater clarity on implementation of our plans for our schools. We ask you to consider the request to delay the plan in order to achieve answers to those questions.
We fully support passing a Strategic Plan that lays out a clear roadmap for the District’s future and are committed to working with you as partners to address our concerns in a serious but timely manner. We look forward to your response.
Parents United for Public Education (Helen Gym/Gerald Wright, parents)
Germantown Clergy Initiative (Rev. LeRoi Simmons/Rev. Bryan Robinson)
Philadelphia Right to Education Task Force (Cecelia Thompson, chair)
JUNTOS (Zac Steele)
cc: Lori Shorr, Mayor’s Office