What We’re Missing on Community Engagement

To wrap up our 2-day Portfolio Network Meeting in January, a meeting focused on good educational options and choices for all families, we asked Raymond Jetson to address these questions: “Why is community engagement not working? Why are families and communities unhappy with reformers’ efforts to improve low-performing schools?”

Raymond A. Jetson is pastor at Star Hill Church in Baton Rouge and president and CEO of MetroMorphosis, a nonprofit working to reinvent the inner city to design new approaches, strengthen social networks, and move communities forward to implement lasting change.

Raymond Jetson
Raymond Jetson

Speaking to a room of district and charter leaders, mayors’ education staff, community groups, and foundations at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, he framed the problem in this way:

There are many of you who are doing absolutely amazing work. And I commend you for it. Many of you have begun to understand how to replicate that amazing work in multiple sites. I commend you for it. And some of you have begun to even understand the complexities of supporting others in bringing about that change and again, with all sincerity, I commend you for it. Yet, if your real intent is to substantially alter the educational and life experiences of the children you serve, if it is to move them from simply being able to understand and list polyatomic ions, if it is to move them to a place where they can understand how to overcome the challenges of C17 H21 NO4, which is the chemical formula for cocaine, if it is to move them simply beyond being able to annotate The Road Less Traveled by Frost but to also equip them to be able to survive taking the road home, if it is to really make a difference in the lives of children then I would, with all due respect and with the fear of offending some, suggest to you that much of what has been done is not sustainable…

Listen as Jetson explains why transformative relationships are necessary to sustain the work of improving a community’s schools:

Read the transcript of the address here.

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