Education activist Susan Gobreski will lead the city's charge in setting up community schools throughout Philadelphia, Mayor Kenney announced Wednesday.
Gobreski, who most recently was the executive director of the advocacy group Education Voters of Pennsylvania, was appointed Community Schools Director.
"Susan's long-standing commitment to improving our city's schools coupled with her expertise in community engagement made her an obvious choice for this role," Kenney said in a statement. "Her insightful policy ideas and ability to bring diverse stakeholders together around common goals is exactly what we need to make community schools successful."
Kenney, who ran on an education platform, is pushing hard for both universal pre-kindergarten and community schools. Community schools are designed to serve as neighborhood hubs, concentrating social, medical and recreational services in buildings to take away students' barriers to learning.
The mayor has vowed to establish 25 community schools in four years; others, including the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and City Council President Darrell L. Clarke, have been advocating for the model for years.
"I am pleased to see Mayor Kenney's administration continue to pursue investment in community schools in Philadelphia," Clarke said in a statement. "This will be the most dramatic realignment of resources for public education that our City has seen in years, and it is important to have all stakeholders, including those from affected communities, at the table."
Gobreski will be tasked with establishing creative community partnerships within school buildings.
In an interview, Gobreski said the community schools movement will benefit the city and the Philadelphia School District.
"It's part of an approach to tackling poverty," said Gobreski. "It's the culmination of all the other policy - how do we give each child what they need?"
She said she has paid attention to community schools work in Cincinnati, Chicago and New York, but that Philadelphia's model will be unique to the city.
"Each city has to come up with what its capacity is, and different schools have different needs," she said. "Let's move away from a cookie-cutter approach and develop a system that identifies specific needs and delivers services to meet those needs."
Gobreski, 48, has worked in policy development, community outreach campaigns, and other initiatives in support of public education. Prior to her work with Education Voters of Pennsylvania, she worked as the Pennsylvania director and national campaign director of the League of Conservation Voters. She also spent more than a decade working for Clean Water Action, an environmental advocacy group.
She has two children in public schools and her husband is a Philadelphia School District teacher.
She will be paid $115,000.
She is the second education activist selected by Kenney to head up one of his major policy initiatives. The mayor previously named Anne Gemmell, who had worked on early childhood issues with Public Citizens for Children and Youth, to be director of pre-kindergarten.