Round two of PCAPS forums keeps education reform conversation going

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

by Charlotte Pope

Many parents, teachers, and community members filled the Francis Myers Recreation Center in Southwest Philadelphia on Thursday for a second forum held by the Philadelphia Coalition for Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS).

The forums are part of an ongoing effort by PCAPS to get community input as it works to map out alternatives to the reform strategies suggested by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

PCAPS – which includes members of the Philadelphia Student Union, Youth United for Change, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, and ACTION United – was established in opposition to BCG’s report, which suggests dozens of school closings and a decentralized “portfolio management” model.

Participants at this forum were organized into eight discussion groups. Members from ACTION United led the groups, throwing out a variety of questions for attendees to discuss. Among them was, “What do you think your school needs?”

Darcella Cross, an ACTION United member, directed a group of community members.

“I am here because I want to see a change in the community I grew up in,” said Cross, a 1996 graduate of Overbrook High School. “To just hear what they had to say was excellent. It was great to see that they wanted to be a part of it. But the thing that I’m looking for is parent involvement, [because] we need more. This is for their children. We want you and we need you. We need your voice.”

Kia Hinton, another group leader, agreed. “I think there are just a lot of changes that need to be made, and parents should be involved in the change.”

Hinton, the mother of a 1st grader and a 5th grader at William C. Longstreth Elementary School and an 8th grader at Richard Allen Preparatory Charter School, is one of many ACTION United members who have been trying to get more people involved with PCAPS.

Since the first forum, held just a week ago, members have been traveling door to door, speaking to people in their homes about the effort and making phone calls, and sending mass mailings.

Hundreds of PCAPS members have also been circulating a survey to gauge what community members think about the BCG plan and to solicit suggestions for addressing the challenges the District is facing.

The suggestions, some of which were recorded on large white pages in Hinton’s group, included, “provide resources for parent and adult involvement,” “expand social services and outreach to the community,” and “construct a bridge between faculty and parents.”

“These are our kids. We are stakeholders, [so] we should be included in the decisions that ultimately affect our kids, our families, and our communities,” Hinton said.

The executive committee of PCAPS said it aims to pool the input from the two forums and present the information to the community on Dec. 13.

“We’re not going to give up,” Cross said. “If we cannot stop [school closings], we can at least slow it down.”