Philadelphia, November 23, 2015 – Mayor-elect Jim Kenney and City Council President Darrell L. Clarke on Monday restated their joint commitment to expanding community schools in Philadelphia to ensure every public school provides a safe and healthy environment that allows children to succeed. Speaking to reporters following a research trip to Cincinnati, which has transformed all 55 of its public schools into Community Learning Centers, Mayor-elect Kenney and Council President Clarke called on businesses, nonprofits and citizens across Philadelphia to re-invest in public schools.
“When factors like homelessness, hunger, poverty and lack of medical care inhibit a child’s success, it is not enough to provide high-quality education,” Mayor-Elect Kenney said. “But as we just saw in Cincinnati, when nonprofits, businesses and other community stakeholders come together to support public schools, the child’s whole learning environment can be addressed, and families can access the services that they need to lift themselves up directly in their neighborhood.”
“The community buy-in we saw in Cincinnati demonstrates what is possible in every public school in this country, no matter how challenged its student body or surrounding neighborhood,” Council President Clarke said.
“Philadelphia is home to some of the best universities, hospitals, and tech companies in the world, but Philadelphians are our most valuable asset. Let’s put our compassion, our intelligence, and our creativity to work for schools, to ensure every child has a quality education and every neighborhood is a community of choice.”
Speaking in the gymnasium of Tanner G. Duckrey School, Mayor-elect Kenney and Council President Clarke were joined by officials including: Duckrey Principal David Cohen and several of the parents and teachers who successfully fought to keep the school open when it was slated for closure two years ago; School District of Philadelphia Superintendent William R. Hite, Jr.; School Reform Commission Chair Marjorie G. Neff; Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry T. Jordan; and Otis Hackney III, principal of South Philadelphia High School and soon to be Chief Education Officer in the Kenney Administration.
“Strong and coordinated partnerships are essential to our achieving the goal of all children in Philadelphia having great schools close to where they live. We look forward to working with the Kenney Administration and City Council to identify additional, innovative opportunities to support student learning, which is our highest priority, and thriving school communities,” Superintendent Hite said.
“Many of our students face challenges outside of the classroom. We are excited by partnerships that leverage community assets in support of the whole-child, therefore, allowing schools to focus more closely on our core work of improving student learning outcomes,” SRC Chair Neff said. “I appreciate the work that the Mayor-elect and City Council are doing in support of our schools.”
Jordan added: “The movement towards recognizing community schools as an effective, collaborative, and systemic way of addressing the need of Philadelphia’s youth is gaining significant traction. At the PFT, we have been delighted to collaborate with the Council President as well as Mayor-Elect Kenney on what the model would mean for our schools. I had the pleasure of visiting Cincinnati in September with Council President Clarke’s team along with Principal Hackney. We were proud to join these leaders once again today to re-assert our commitment to ensuring the holistic transformation of the school experience for our families in Philadelphia.”
On Friday, November 20th, Mayor-elect Kenney, Council President Clarke and Principal Hackney toured the pre-K-12 Oyler Community Learning Center, located in the Lower Price Hill neighborhood of Cincinnati. Located in a high-poverty neighborhood, Oyler Community Learning Center offers services including vision and dental care to all Cincinnati public school students and to the community. At no extra cost to Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS), every clinic is financially self-sustaining and operated by an outside health partner chosen by that particular community, such as a full-service vision clinic operated by a nonprofit affiliate of eyeware company Luxottica.
In addition, more than 400 volunteer tutors from across Cincinnati work with students at Oyler alone.
Currently, there are 22 school-based health centers and two full-time early childhood centers in the CPS system. Cincinnati has been the highest-performing urban district in Ohio for six years running, with 98 percent of third graders reading on grade level. Pre-K programs are offered in 30 of 33 CPS elementary schools.
Philadelphia City Council has engaged in an informal working relationship with the Community Learning Center Institute (CLCI), which provides resources coordinators in six CPS schools and advises dozens of school districts and cities across the country on how to establish thriving community schools. Representatives of the School District of Philadelphia, the School Reform Commission, and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers joined City Council staff in previous meetings with CLCI and Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS).
“If we start with the premise that every child deserves an opportunity to be healthy and to not live in hunger or fear, and add to that the tireless devotion our teachers bring to classrooms every day, we have a formula that empowers every child, and by extension that child’s family and community, to reach their full potential,” Council President Clarke concluded.