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Oh the Places You'll Go at the Forum

Being new to the community school movement, I was unsure of what to expect, much less what to bring back and share with my partners in crime, back in Houston.

Almost, immediately, I felt a sense of embrace from a very diverse and extended family.  Ideas, suggestions, proposals, recommendations, plans and business cards…. lots of business cards and, "If I can help, don’t hesitate to call me".  The help. The help, I found was the focal point of the entire forum. 

On Wednesday morning, I was privileged to go and visit what I would refer to as nothing short of a miracle- Creative City Public Charter School. This school is a tiny version of Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory complete with learning chatter and busy little bodies. Out in the middle of no man’s land, this school is an island where kids that are not supposed to be successful are given the opportunity to try, fail/succeed and be more successful. A wonderful experiment in project-based learning, CCPCS is a shining example of what educators can accomplish when we let kids think and express feelings, ideas and guide them in implementing those things the educational system has "tested" and repressed from them.  This field trip, for me, was the absolute highlight of the forum.

The next two days were full of affirmations that, no matter what part of the country, how big or small a district with failing schools is or what the ethnic makeup of a school in need of assistance is, if the prescribed protocols and recommendations are put in place, the community schools ideology can be the cure to what ails our broken educational system.

On a personal note, validation of the path we are on in Houston, was ever-present. I heard brothers and sisters from all four corners of the country repeat every painstaking step we had just traversed at home with our own failing schools.  It made my heart dance to know that where we started, to where we are now is just going to keep getting better and stronger.  Every sacrifice, every drop of sweat, every sleepless night and every tear we have shed for "our kids" and "our community" is going to end up in a CCPCS- a success story that turned "those kids" into "the kids". 

A special thanks to Shital Shah, AFT Educational Issues/Philanthropic Engagement Manager and Dena Donaldson, Texas AFT Community Schools Organizer for their unwavering support and the opportunity to be part of such a fantastic opportunity in attending the Community Schools National Forum.


Corina Ortiz

Staff Representative

Houston Federation of Teachers

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