GARY | Recently, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and Gary Schools Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Pruitt joined U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, other mayors and school superintendents in Washington, DC, to discuss partnership opportunities between cities and the U.S. Department of Education to foster effective approaches to education reform.
Participating city leaders are part of a new Mayors’ Education Reform Task Force co-chaired by National League of Cities (NLC) First Vice President Chris Coleman, Mayor of Saint Paul, MN, and NLC Second Vice President Ralph Becker, Mayor of Salt Lake City, UT. Mayors Coleman and Becker formed the task force in March 2013 to explore how cities can and should be involved in local education reform efforts.
“Our meeting with Secretary Duncan further confirms that we are taking the right steps locally to strengthen the relationship between our school system and city government,” said Freeman-Wilson. “One of the key components in the revitalization of Gary is the improvement of our schools.”
During the meeting, task force members highlighted the growing commitment by municipal officials across the country to promoting educational achievement.
“Mayors and elected officials can bring together all the stakeholders in the education conversation in their cities,” said Mayor Coleman. “The perspectives from mayors of cities large to small are valuable to local and national policymakers. I’m glad we had an opportunity to talk with the Secretary and his staff about the role mayors can play in education transformation.”
Local leaders shared examples of city-school partnerships they have formed in their communities in areas such as school improvement, early learning, afterschool programming, and post-secondary success.
“It is pivotal for a meeting of the minds between these entities because it will take the strategic planning and implementation of educators and the government alike to change the course of education,” said Pruitt. “Effective and effective partnerships work – we’ve had an awesome example of such in the Gary Community Schools that started with a single email. Through technology and some willing workers, one of our schools received a donation of 4,000 books. If we continue the courageous conversations I believe students will experience even brighter futures. I applaud Secretary Duncan for his efforts.”
The meeting with Secretary Duncan provided mayors with an opportunity to discuss how lessons learned at the city level can inform federal education policy. Among the key issues of concern identified by the task force are:
-Finding a “third way” in education reform that balances a commitment to accountability with a spirit of collaboration among school administrators, teachers, and cities.
-Transforming schools into centers of community that support parent engagement and provide wraparound services to children and families.
-Building on successful “cradle-to-career” models to develop a strong educational pipeline.
-Securing adequate and equitable funding for local education initiatives.
-Promoting college access and completion.
“In this global economy, cities and towns depend on an educated workforce and schools are depending us. We need to work together to ensure that our children graduate high school ready for postsecondary education and career success,” said NLC President Marie Lopez Rogers, Mayor of Avondale, AZ. “As city leaders, we have an important message that must be heard and we must be at the table in guiding federal and local education reform policies.”
In addition to Freeman-Wilson and Pruitt, participants in the meeting included: Mayor Edna Branch Jackson of Savannah, Georgia; Mayor Dwight Jones of Richmond, Virginia; Mayor Pedro Segarra of Hartford, Connecticut; Mayor Paul Soglin of Madison, Wisconsin; Riverside (Calif.) Unified School District Superintendent Rick Miller; and New York City Deputy Chief Academic Officer Josh Thomases.
The National League of Cities (NLC) is dedicated to helping city leaders build better communities. NLC is a resource and advocate for 19,000 cities, towns and villages, representing more than 218 million Americans.