Most notably, working with our partners, we have established the Read to Me Early Literacy Program for kindergarten and pre-K students, and a summer internship program for high school kids in Philadelphia and Chester. Read to Me has helped more than 6,000 district students with book collections, teacher training, parent/caregiver workshops, and classroom visits. The WorkReady intern program, begun in 2007, has provided 6,712 students with paid, private-sector positions, exposing them to a variety of career opportunities.
The chamber has also long been an advocate for increased state investment in public education to improve student outcomes and prepare tomorrow's workforce.
A continued flat economic forecast for the private sector, combined with increasingly scarce public resources, requires a new way of thinking. We can't squander time or money on intramural squabbles or hollow political rhetoric. As our incoming superintendent has said, we must all begin to practice a servant's model of leadership — one focused on our children's future. As Hite assembles his team, in coordination with the SRC, we must all work together to help Philadelphia's students become outstanding citizens, lifelong learners, and successful participants in our 21st-century economy.
To ensure student achievement and fiscal stability in Philadelphia schools, the overall governance and education-delivery system must change. We must truly empower our principals and teachers, and we must assure that the maximum amount of public and private dollars goes directly to the classrooms.
That change started with the SRC's superintendent search committee, on which I was honored to serve as one of several citizen representatives. I saw a process that was both thorough and inclusive.
Beginning in February, the United Way and the Project for Civic Engagement conducted 10 community-engagement forums. The meetings were open to the public and held in neighborhood high schools — one in each City Council district. Six other meetings were held by various groups throughout the city, including students, faith-based leaders, charter school CEOs, and groups such as Education First Compact and Young Involved Philadelphia. On Feb. 6, chambers of commerce throughout the city and other groups hosted a roundtable discussion on the future of the district and its leadership model.
To ensure transparency, the SRC and the search committee posted the notes from each of the 16 public forums on the SRC website, and those notes are now part of the final report to the search committee. Finally, on June 25 and 26, the SRC convened students, teachers, principals, assistant principals, faith-based leaders, parent groups, charter school operators, elected officials, and business groups to meet with the two finalists.
During the search, committee members reviewed more than 100 candidates and spent countless nights and weekends in meetings to ensure that all who wanted to come to Philadelphia to chart a new course for our schoolchildren would have an opportunity to be heard. The commitment of SRC members and their dedication to truth, service, integrity, and performance was displayed throughout the process.
Over the last several months, many people offered advice and comments about what we need in a new superintendent. There was much hand-wringing and skepticism about the future of our schools, and no doubt that will continue. However, I firmly believe that the best days for Philadelphia's children are ahead. We have a dedicated and accomplished public servant at the helm of the district, a focused and cohesive SRC with remarkable leadership, a thoughtful plan of action, and a historic moment in time that has brought clarity of purpose for us all.
E-mail Rob Wonderling at firstname.lastname@example.org.