As the city’s School Reform Commission pursues its plan to close 37 Philadelphia public schools, one newly formed group has been organized to stop the closures.
The Philadelphia Community United (PCU) was created during a meeting held earlier this month and called by local organizer Saboor Muhammad of Southwest District Services.
PCU was a result of Muhammad’s call to the representatives of 19 organizations in Southwest Philadelphia whom he charged with the task of organizing together to strategically address the SRC’s plans.
PCU was formed to serve as a command center for these efforts to organize, update and keep residents and members informed on pertinent issues related to the school closures.
“We want to be able to present to the SRC a viable plan, not asking them to keep X amount of schools open but to give them an alternative that they can’t dispute,” said PCU command center head Carol Simmons. “We want to be able to demonstrate that if you keep ‘School A’ open, this is how it would look or if you could keep ‘School B’ open this is how it would look.”
Despite its short existence, PCU has organized meetings, compiled an extensive database of community residents and representatives of various organizations and have become a recognized group.
“Our purpose is to disseminate information to every organization that we come into contact with,” Simmons said.
In less than two weeks, Simmons said she has seen the number of organizations who joined the fight against the SRC’s plans grow significantly.
“We are all one voice and that voice is saying ‘we must all be connected, we must all work toward the goal,’” she said.
Monique Holland, a PCU member and a member of the Education Committee of the Eastwick Friends and Neighbors Coalition, is working with Simmons.
“In order to do anything it has to be organized and you have to have a central place in order for information to be disseminated,” Holland said. “It’s an urgency that you have to have about everything. I’m thinking about the kids.”
Organizer Danita Bates of North Philadelphia said she began organizing around school issues in 2008. She believes that a united front is needed and has joined forces with numerous groups across the city, including the PCU.
“I am affiliating myself with different organizations throughout Philadelphia so that we can collaborate on a city-wide basis,” Bates said.
For more information about Philadelphia Communities United or to receive updates about future SRC meetings, contact PCU at (267) 253-5444.