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PPS leaders attending the PPS regional meeting in Chicago, IL on September 28 expressed appreciation for the opportunity to be encouraged and inspired in their efforts at home. At least one participant described the meeting as an “eye opening experience.”

The theme, “Strengthening Our Network,” set the tone for major agenda items including Fundraising approaches, roundtable discussions about Diversity, Equity and Charter Schools, and insight about PPS’ new Strategic Plan.

“I am so thankful for our donors who believe PPS makes an important difference in the education environment of our public school students and have given money to this organization to help make it happen,” said PPS National Executive Director Joann Mickens. “Their commitment to PPS has made it possible for us to do important work in communities across the country, as well as to have these regional chapter leadership meetings to compare notes and brainstorm about taking our efforts to an even higher level.”

Those attending the Chicago meeting included chapter leaders from Greater Cincinnati, OH; Milwaukee, WI; and, Syracuse, NY. Inclement weather in North Carolina grounded flights and hindered alternate transportation for the PPS leaders of Pitt County, who also had been scheduled to attend.

A second regional meeting is scheduled for October 26 in Portland, OR and will include PPS chapter leaders from Portland, Hawaii, Houston, TX; and San Francisco, CA. The last of the three regional chapter leadership meetings will be in Jackson, MS in January and will include the four PPS chapters in Mississippi.

Asked how the Chicago meeting affected them and their chapters’ work, leaders spoke highly of the merits of coming together as PPS network members.

Karen Henry, executive director of PPS-Greater Cincinnati, said meeting other chapter leaders was an eye-opening experience. “We were able to listen and learn through the lens of other PPS chapters and weave in our chapter experiences across shared discussions. Learning about Milwaukee’s efforts as a smaller chapter was inspiring. Hearing their narratives of education advocacy on policy-matters, reminded PPSGC to reassess our relationships with the local school boards and their leadership.”

Tasha Fleming, also from PPS Greater Cincinnati, said the regional conference encouraged and inspired her efforts in reaching out to families about their roles as education advocates.

Jenni Hofschulte, board president of PPS-Milwaukee, cited the “critical” importance of chapters coming together “to renew our commitment to the work and to learn from each other,” adding that the work “can be very isolating work and being in community is important.” Additionally, “it is good to hear from other chapters and find parallels in learning.”

Samantha Pierce, of PPS Syracuse, said the regional conference “encouraged and inspired me in reaching out to families to help them develop their roles as education advocates. I also gained valuable perspective from parents and educators about the state of public education in other cities.”

Asked about their most important “takeaway” from the Chicago regional meeting, participants had these comments:

Henry (Greater Cincinnati): “The Milwaukee chapter’s community impact helped us to dialogue and define how advocacy works and looks like when building presence in the educational community.”

Fleming, (also, Greater Cincinnati): “A huge take-away is the fact that PPS has the ability to effect and set policies around education. I truly understand that knowledge empowers and as we join our efforts together our voices will be heard. In order for change to happen, we need to be seated at the table.”

Hofschulte, (Milwaukee): “My takeaway is that our work is slow and necessary.  We must stay the course and keep working to change the systems to serve our children and their needs.”

Pierce (Syracuse, NY): “An important takeaway for me is an appreciation of the support that national and local chapters can give each other.”

“When PPS chapters help parents understand how to improve their children’s education, they help open doors that otherwise might remain shut and provide the impetus for a positive ripple effect across communities,” Mickens noted, emphasizing the potential for impact that every chapter possesses.