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Building Model Citizens

Want to get the community more involved with your schools? Ask them to write your district’s strategic plan. That’s just what they did in Mobile, Alabama, says Carolyn Akers, executive director of the Mobile Area Education Foundation (MAEF).

Members of MAEF, a nonprofit education fund that works to create higher expectations for the Mobile County Public School System (MCPSS) and is a member of the Public Education Network, conducted what Akers calls “kitchen table conversations” with community members in order to identify their demands for local schools. The result: More than 14,000 community members participated in the Yes We Can Community Agreement, which defines the key areas for improving MCPSS, including student achievement, teacher quality, community involvement, equity, and governance.

Heeding this collective voice, MAEF published the PASSport to Excellence in 2003, the district’s long-range strategic plan. The plan outlines five goals based on the community’s response and includes objectives and timelines for reaching those goals.The PASSport to Excellence extends through 2014, but the foundation continues to make amendments as data show what areas have improved and what still needs work, says Akers.

This fall, MAEF also hosted Yes We Can Community Conversations once a week for six weeks in which community members were encouraged to voice concerns. Facilitators at the meetings emphasized the connection between a strong school system and better quality of life in the community.

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