Mayors' Education Policy Advisors Convene for First Time
Van Wyngaardt, Denise Garcia, de Kervor, Dylan Nicole, Nation's Cities Weekly
A recent meeting gave education policy officials the opportunity to share ideas on improving city schools.
NLC's Mayors' Education Policy Advisors' Network (EPAN) held its inaugural meeting in Washington, D.C., last month. More than two dozen senior staff members who advise mayors on key education issues related to reform and school improvement participated.
Launched by NLC earlier this year, EPAN currently has 46 member cities in 26 states. The network will facilitate communication among city representatives about ideas and strategies that municipal governments and school districts can use to work together to raise student achievement.
"This new network provides a great tool for networking and connecting what other cities are doing to support their local school districts," said Marc Hill, director of the Mayor's Office of Children and Youth in Nashville, Tenn. "EPAN will help cities share strategies about how mayors can improve schools in their community."
National Experts Highlight Key Topics
City representatives heard from several experts, who discussed key school improvement issues, including standards and assessment, high school reform, the No Child Left Behind Act, public engagement and out-of-school time programs.
Participants engaged in open dialogue around these issues, sharing strategies and their experiences in addressing the challenges of urban education. Members also spent some time discussing goals and next steps for EPAN.
"More and more, the voting public is demanding that mayors and councilmembers invest in the success of public schools and their students," said Audrey Hutchinson, program director for education and afterschool initiatives at NLC's Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.
"This inaugural meeting, planned in collaboration with the U.S. Conference of Mayors, provided a forum to discuss useful strategies and relevant information that mayors and other municipal leaders can employ to improve schools and raise student achievement," she said.
While each city is addressing issues particular to their own communities, there was overwhelming agreement that:
1) Mayors can be a powerful force for educational change in their communities.
2) Collaboration with local school districts is a vital aspect of any education effort.
3) Youth are the future of cities.
Mayors as Force For Change
Across the nation, mayors are using their leadership capacity and access to city resources to strengthen and support public schools.
This theme of mayors as catalysts for school improvement resonated throughout group discussions, as well as in the presentation of featured speaker, Dr. Edward Blakely, a former city official in Oakland, Calif., who is now dean of the Milano Graduate School of Management and Urban Policy at New School University.
He highlighted three key steps that mayors can take to support educational improvement:
* Set the vision and agenda for education in their communities.
* Build a collaborative to accomplish stated goals.
* Take a lead role by providing direction for the community around a school improvement agenda.
Many city representatives noted the value of these suggestions, as well as the importance of creating economic incentives to attract both families and teachers to city schools.
Collaborating With School Districts
A recurring sentiment among city officials was the importance of working closely with school boards and other school officials to affect lasting education improvements. …