Over a hundred members participated in the series of Community Conversations held this fall in Concord, Leominster, Harvard, Worcester, Littleton, and other hometowns throughout the Parker region. The goals of each gathering were the same:
Build community among participants;
Celebrate our connection to Parker and its history;
Visualize an improved learning environment for all students and teachers;
Understand how to create change to ensure Parker's continued success.
Working in small groups, participants put together a “storybook” of Parker history, beginning with the Sizers and the Coalition of Essential Schools, through Parker’s founding in 1995, its move to Antietam Street in 2000, and the modular addition in 2007. The story continued with a new roof in 2017 and set the stage for the next project: a four-season climate control solution for the older parts of our building. We plan to begin this investment next summer.
A second activity helped participants understand why in order to make good on these plans the Parker community will need to come together, as it has in the past, to meet a funding challenge. While each Commonwealth charter public school has a unique mission—expressed in its charter and a basis for ongoing accountability—all are funded in the same way. When students enroll in a charter public school, the funds earmarked for their education each year “follows them” to the charter public school from their home districts. All public schools engage in fundraising to enhance the educational program for students—PTA’s, educational foundations, booster clubs—these are familiar features in Massachusetts public schools. But charter public schools, like Parker, have the additional responsibility of funding their own facilities; we do not have access to the significant facilities subsidies available to traditional districts.
Long story short, fundraising must replace state subsidies for charter public school facilities, and this fall Parker is launching a new comprehensive campaign: community investment in Our Essential Commitment Fund over a three-year period will support Parker’s annual operations, transform the physical learning environment for all students and teachers at Parker, and enable the school to address its most pressing capital priorities. A four-season climate control solution for the older parts of our building will impact 100% of Parker students every day, increase student focus and teacher satisfaction, and improve the energy efficiency and sustainability of our facilities. It’s super exciting to be launching this effort and having the opportunity to connect with folks who want it to succeed!