Friday marks one year since the School Reform Commission voted to disband and return control of public education to the residents of the city of Philadelphia. A year later, Philadelphia schools are under local control, and we are proud to serve as the city's first mayor-appointed Board of Education in nearly two decades.
A quality public education requires sustained and citywide dedication. We are committed to carrying out this public duty and the action it requires. Since our appointments in April, we have been hard at work, overhauling the way that school governance looks, feels, and operates in Philadelphia.
We have a lot to be proud of. Some of our major accomplishments to date include: participating in a robust training and orientation for nine qualified and diverse Board members; selecting two student representatives to serve on the Board of Education; participated in listening sessions and school visits across Philadelphia to ground Board members in the hopes and dreams of Philadelphia's diverse constituencies; redesigning the Board structure to include four committees — which have already met six times — to discuss critical issues publicly and in advance of key actions; establishing a Parent and Community Advisory Council; launching social media platforms to connect with more individuals; implementing a new board management system so that actions of the Board are more clearly understood and searchable; and working closely with the mayor and City Council to address concerns and develop solutions.
While we have accomplished much, there is more to be done. Drawing on community feedback and valuable input from key education stakeholders, we have set four key priorities to guide our work moving forward.
The first is a focus on student achievement. We know that our students' potential is limitless. The achievement and safety of our students drives all of our decisions, and we will invest in programs and initiatives that are proven to support all students in reaching their potential.
The second is a commitment to continuing to increase our transparency and accessibility. We believe that effective school governance requires the intentional inclusion of diverse populations and viewpoints in order to support and strengthen decision-making. All voices matter, and we intend to continue to find ways to hear them. One way is through the Parent and Community Advisory Council that 123 people applied to serve on, eager to be a voice for their children and their community
The third is the pursuit of creating a unified, diverse system of quality public schools in Philadelphia. While the School Board oversees district schools and charter schools differently, both types of schools exist to provide quality educational opportunities to all Philadelphia students. All of our students deserve access to quality schools. We will work to make sure that all children attending public schools — regardless of life circumstances, zip code, behavioral challenges, or disability — have access to great schools.
Finally, we know that none of our goals will be possible without maintaining our financial stability. We're planning to adopt a long-term strategy that will allow us to maintain the District's fiscal stability, while ensuring that we are able to continue to make investments in our schools that reflect our beliefs and are in the best interest of Philadelphia students.
In the coming weeks, months, and years, you will see us tying our decisions and actions to these core tenets. We ask you to come out for these discussions and votes. If we work together, we can give every child in Philadelphia access to the high quality education that they deserve and assure all Philadelphians that public school education is a great choice for everyone. We can't afford to compromise on that goal. We're committed to making this happen, and urge you to join us.
Join us at the upcoming District Partnerships and Community Engagement meeting on Thursday, Nov. 29, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Martin Luther King Recreation Center, 2101 Cecil B. Moore Ave. View our full meeting schedule here.
Joyce Wilkerson is president of the Philadelphia Board of Education.