This month, education news source The 74— a non-profit, non-partisan news outlet named after the number of American children under the age of 18—profiled the reform-minded new superintendents of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles’s public school systems. Among the education thinkers that writer Greg Toppo consulted for the article is the Partnership’s own superintendent, Kathleen Porter-Magee.
And this week, when online African-American news magazine The Root covered the story of alumni and supporters pitching in to save a historically Black Catholic school in Alabama from closure, they too asked Kathleen to weigh in on how that news resonates in the larger context of American education.
We’re glad both news outlets included Kathleen’s perspective, for a few reasons.
First, we simply appreciate Kathleen’s take on contemporary issues in the broader education landscape.
She notes in The 74’s article, for instance, that the choice of leaders promising something new in these three top education posts “really speaks to the moment we’re at as we’re coming out of COVID.” The article goes on to share her view that “the pandemic ‘provided an uncomfortable reminder’ of the need for leaders who will put children’s needs first.”
And in The Root, she explains why the threatened closure of historically Black Catholic schools matter. “[These schools] don’t just serve the students’ academic needs,” she shared; “They’re often providing a social safety net. They’re helping support families. The closing of these schools, particularly those that serve marginalized or disadvantaged communities, is devastating.”
We know from almost every Partnership meeting and conversation for years that putting children first is the light that Kathleen and our network steer by. And her faith in the power of Catholic schools to anchor communities is one we all share. So we’re glad to hear these familiar refrains in new and broader contexts, particularly ones where the value of Catholic schools can be explored by broader audiences outside the Church.
We also appreciate The 74’s inclusion of a non-public-school voice in an article about public education. As Catholics striving for the common good, we want all children to thrive—not just those in Partnership Schools. And we want families to choose our schools because they want excellent Catholic schools, not because they are simply looking for a way out of underperforming public schools. That can only happen when all families have access to a range of excellent school options—public, charter, independent, and faith-based.
Kathleen exemplifies this ethos in her comments on David Banks, the new school chancellor in New York. “There is a friend of charters back at the helm of New York City schools,” she says, “which I think is really great to see.”
Finally, we’re proud that Kathleen and our network have a voice that is sometimes heard outside our own organization. New York City public schools educate over 820,000 students; in Cleveland, there are over 36,000 public school students. Partnership Schools currently serve just over 2,700 children. While the number of students we serve may be small in comparison with public districts, our work is animated by a vision for thriving students and communities that we believe can benefit more than just those children we serve directly. And contributing to productive, reform-minded conversations about education for all students in the cities and nation where we work helps us do just that.