|Mayors Public Schools Task Force
Focuses on Business Partnerships 3COM Corporation Issues Challenge $100,000
Investment in 10 Cities
In conjunction with Chicagos education conference, the U.S. Conference of Mayors held a Public Schools Task Force meeting on April 30, which focused on the crucial role of public-private partnerships in schools and education reform. Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, Co-Chairs of the Task Force and leaders in mayoral school takeovers, urged all mayors and businesses to get involved in school reform. Mayors across the country are challenging the public education system and are marshaling resources to give every child the best education possible. Mayor Daley said, "Whether you (mayor) are in control of your school system or not, there is a role to play in your public school."
Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer, who less than two months ago took charge of Detroit public schools, was "welcomed to the club." The roomful of mayors also included Fort Wayne Mayor Paul Helmke, New Berlin (WI) Mayor James Gatzke, Bartlett (IL) Mayor Catherine Melchert, Midlothian (IL) Mayor Tom Murkauaky and Villa Park (IL) Mayor Rae Rupp Srch. The mayors discussed issues as varied as accountability, technology, school safety, teacher training, school construction and education as being vital to the strength of communities.
"Education is a critical economic development tool and it is everybodys business," said Mayor Menino. "In Boston, weve strengthened business involvement by raising the chances that their investment will pay off in the end. We couldnt have made the progress we have in school reform without these key partnerships." David Katz, Director of Global Development for 3COM Corporation, a key business partner in Boston public schools, joined the mayors at the Task Force meeting. 3COM helped the Boston school district become the first urban system to be totally wired to the internet.
According to Katz, all over the world there is a technological skills gap between kids in urban areas and kids from more affluent areas. It is critical to prepare our kids for participation in the information age. By 2015, 90 percent of jobs will require technological skills. Mayors are better positioned than anyone to broker a solution to this skills gap. It is part of 3COMs mission to network urban schools to help bridge this skills gap. Mr. Katz challenged mayors to take a leadership role in bringing private investment to our nations public schools. To back up this challenge, 3COM will provide $100,000 in technical assistance and training to ten different urban school districts to help them repeat Bostons success and serve as role models for other cities. 3COM will provide information on applying for these funds at the Mayors Annual Conference in New Orleans in June. In the meantime, Mr. Katz can be reached at David_Katz@3COM.com.
Public-private partnerships have also been key to Mayor Daleys success in transforming Chicagos public schools. "Education is the most important issue we face in the 21st century," said Mayor Daley. "By creating partnerships that can address all educational issues from school violence to school reform we ensure the future of our children."
One such partnership in Chicago is with Shell Oil Company. Tony Canino, Director of Community Relations for Shell Oil Company, also joined the mayors at the Task Force meeting. Shell Oil has partnered with Chicago public schools in a cooperative education program called The Shell Youth Training Academy (SYTA). SYTA is designed to improve the employment opportunities for Chicago inner-city youth through business-education partnerships. The Academy provides one semester of occupational and employability skills training, paid workplace learning, diploma credit and workplace mentors. Shell oil also has Academys in Oakland, Los Angeles and Houston. For information on how to start an Academy in your city, contact Ms. W. Johnson, Director of SYTA at (773) 371-1050.
Mayor Daley spoke of his concern about teacher training and certification keeping pace with our childrens educational needs. He stresses that teachers are the backbone of the school system and must have the best tools. To meet this need, Chicago public schools are partnering with the University of Illinois at Chicago and the Golden Apple Foundation to establish The National Teaching Academy of Chicago. The National Teaching Academy will train new teachers and retrain veteran teachers in a lab-type K-12 school. Mayor Daleys goal is not only to attract the best teachers but to create a national model for teacher training.
Mayors continue to be each others best resource for strategies and model practices in achieving school reform. Mayor Menino and Mayor Daley closed the Public Schools Task Force meeting with a commitment to continue the dialogue and to carry the challenge of creating public-private partnerships to the Conference of Mayors Annual Conference in June in New Orleans.