This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
School Advisory Councils, or SACs, will be spreading to more schools this year, after lots of encouragement from a coalition of community groups.
The coalition went to the School Reform Commission in July and in August, calling for a resolution mandating the expansion. A resolution that they have developed calls for the SRC to give its blessing to creating a SAC at every District school and to require it at all 73 “full-autonomy” schools, where principals will have expanded authority over educational decisions this year.
Last year, 38 District schools had functioning councils.
At September’s kickoff meeting for Philadelphia Home and School Council, the citywide parent group, District officials signaled they were on board with the approach. Claudia Averette, who heads the District’s parent and community engagement office and has been working closely with community groups on the issue, said her goal this year is to ensure that there are SACs at the 73 schools with full autonomy, but added, “Other schools don’t have to wait.”
SACs are designed to involve parents, community members, staff, and students in school decision-making.
“Where School Advisory Councils have been set up, for the most part it’s been a good mechanism,” said SRC Chair Pedro Ramos.
But thin staffing due to the elimination of school positions focused on parent engagement work could make moving ahead difficult.
Sylvia Simms, founder and president of Parent Power, supports the expansion. “The sooner the better,” she said.
But she added, “We do know that the District doesn’t have enough staff.”
Other groups that have advocated for SACs and helped with parent training include Action United, JUNTOS, Youth United for Change, Education Law Center, Philadelphia Student Union, and the Philadelphia Education Fund.
Whether the SRC will adopt a resolution to formally endorse the move remains unclear.
But Averette expects the campaign to expand SACs to get a boost from a School Advisory Council summit in late October or early November.