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The Renaissance Schools Process and Community Engagement

A major part of the school district’s Imagine 2014 plan is the “Renaissance Schools” reform model. Since the plan was approved, it has been unclear exactly what the Renaissance schools process would look like, but the group charged with figuring out how it will work has recently come out with their recommendations. The group is led by Leroy Nunnery, a former head of Edison Schools, a company that in 2001 was at the head of the drive to privatize the Philadelphia public education system. The plan, as it stands now, looks like this: a group of schools will be chosen to be potential Renaissance Schools, and requests will go out for organizations seeking to takeover schools. Next, a final list of schools will come out, and community advisory groups will be pulled together at each school to make recommendations about what will happen. The groups will not have decision-making power; they will only be able to make recommendations. The plan calls for community engagement to play a major role, and although the feedback sessions have all already been completed, there are still ways for community members to influence the plan. Sometime within the next month, the School Reform Commission should be officially voting on the recommendations, and it is important that the people that will be most affected by this testify at that meeting. Also, once the list of Renaissance Schools has been announced, we will encourage members of the communities around those schools to make their voices heard about what they think their schools need.

It is our hope that the district is sincere in saying that it wants strong community involvement, but we have heard that language before and have been disappointed by the results, to say the least. We will hold the district accountable to engaging communities in decisions that effect them, and will also work to organize these communities to ensure that their voices are respected.

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