Organizing groups merge voices to advocate for school reform

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Concerned students, parents, and teachers across several local activist groups formed One Voice Alliance this fall, a coalition aimed at influencing school reform by building a collective voice.

One Voice consists of members from several organizing groups including Philadelphia Student Union (PSU), Teacher Action Group (TAG), West Philadelphia Coalition of Neighborhood Schools (WPCNS), and Education Voters Pennsylvania.

PSU Executive Director Nijmie Dzurinko, who spearheaded the creation of One Voice, said, "We want to create a space that hasn’t existed to focus on really building relationships between students, parents, and teachers."

"It’s not exactly a new organization," Dzurinko added. "It’s a collaborative effort of existing constituencies. We’re amplifying what’s already happening."

One Voice has been meeting since September and is focusing on creating change in how the District is governed. Several representatives of One Voice participated in a forum in October about transparency in District decision-making.

The alliance hopes to use the recent restructuring of the District’s central office staff and the makeover of the School Reform Commission as opportunities to push for reforms.

"Because of everything that happened this summer in the District, it felt like a really important moment to come together," said TAG member Sarah Burgess.

Currently, the alliance is drafting a proposed job description for SRC members.

"I haven’t really seen a job description for SRC members, and it’s always been kind of muddled about what their responsibilities are," said Amara Rockar, chair of WPCNS.

The proposed job description includes suggestions on transparency, budgeting and contracting accountability, community accessibility, and ways to hold the schools chief accountable.

"I think we’ll turn our attention to the superintendent next," Dzurinko said.