"We are here tonight to ask where is the vision?" said the Rev. Kevin Johnson, pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church.
Speakers said residents wanted a voice in the future of public education and were concerned about private entities running public schools.
"We may not have the titles, but we do have the power," Helen Gym, a founder of Parents United for Public Education, said to applause.
Organizers said they had collected more than 100 questions from audience members to be delivered to the School Reform Commission.
In an interview before the event, Gym said the proposal was not the fiscal plan the district needs.
"It's a collection of failed policies . . . and practices that have been repeated in urban districts across the country, over the protests of parents and communities," she said.
Mother Bethel, affiliated with a larger group of faith-based organizations that focus on education and other issues, started organizing the meeting Friday afternoon through social-networking sites.
"We're seeking to have absolute community involvement from the beginning to the end," said the Rev. Mark Kelly Tyler, Mother Bethel's pastor, who has a Ph.D in educational leadership.
School officials are drawing up a list of closure criteria; an announcement of the schools to be shut is expected in the summer. A permanent superintendent, who could be in place by the fall, would oversee the closings.
Johnson said the proposal was "being imposed upon our children when there is no superintendent and there is no captain to steer the ship."
SRC Chairman Pedro Ramos, Mayor Nutter, and Thomas Knudsen, the district's chief recovery officer, were invited. They had previous commitments, organizers were told.
The district plan is subject to comment and SRC approval. The proposal has the support of the mayor, who has said the new configuration would push control over education down to the school level.
Successful principals and district staff could apply to run an achievement network. So could universities, charter-school organizations, or a combination of those groups.
Residents said their fight against the plan won't end with Sunday's meeting.
"This is the opening shot across the bow," said Jeff Hornstein, president of the Queen Village Neighbors Association.
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