PSU's First Campaign
SAVING HOPE HIGH SCHOOL'S BLOCK SCHEDULE
How it started
In January 2010, students and teachers at Hope High School were incredibly frustrated. Their school had an amazing block schedule system, which facilitated personal time between students and teachers, access to an expanded set of elective courses, partnerships with local colleges and universities, and more. So why was the Providence School Department taking it away?
When local supporters learned about the issue, they teamed up with the frustrated students, formed a coalition—"Hope United"—and began a fierce effort to keep Hope's block schedule.
Strategy / Actions
The campaign to save Hope High School's schedule had a few major actions. First, students at Hope were insistent about meeting with school board members and district officials to demand the block schedule remain at Hope. This process of discussing with decision-makers helped to make sure that the higher-ups knew students' demands before they took further action.
When decision-makers refused to keep the Hope schedule as-is, Hope United students called for a school-wide walkout. Over 400 students walked out of school and marched first to the School Department and then to City Hall. The massive rally generated significant media attention and polarized the education community.
Following the walkout, students teamed up with local lawyers to examine the legality of the schedule changes. A lawsuit from Hope United alleged that the schedule change reduced the amount of "common planning time" in the school, which was against state education regulations. The case was appealed up to the Rhode Island Supreme Court, and although the court sided with the students, by then the Board of Education had re-written the state regulations to make the case irrelevant.
Still, the consistent pressure from Hope United took a toll on decision-makers. Thanks to the efforts of Hope United and its community allies, the block schedule was kept at Hope, and remains to this day!
More importantly, the campaign planted the seeds for what would become Providence Student Union. As the effort to save Hope's schedule came to an end, students were thrilled about having made such a difference. At the same time, they still saw serious problems in their schools: their building was falling apart, their discipline system was arbitrary and discriminatory, their food was unappealing, and they had no say in the governance of their school day-to-day. Hope United members committed themselves to continuing to work on these issues, which also required expanding to more schools and building up a network of youth membership across the city. The original vision of Hope United—that students deserve schools that are engaging and empowering—lives on in Providence Student Union's work today.