Beyond The Walls
Each morning, Bob Phelps, a father of four and a citizen of Pittsburgh walks through the cobbled archway of Pittsburgh Urban Christian School where he is the principal.
It would be easy to assume that Bob’s work in education is focused solely on his own children and those that attend the school he leads; but his Christian faith leads him to the belief that every child in his community deserves an excellent education.
It was because of this conviction to care for his neighbors that Bob responded to an invitation from Christians Investing in Education (CIE) to meet with administrators from local government schools to discuss how the whole community can engage with education.
“Bob understands that government must meet the diverse needs of students and ensure that opportunity is not diminished by things like racial discrimination, zip code, or by poverty," notes Charity Haubrich, CIE initiative director.
During that meeting, it became clear that Bob and his peers in government schools experience similar challenges in their schools: families dealing with the issues associated with poverty, children struggling with reading and math, and a lack of resources making it difficult to provide all of the supports that children and families need to address their challenges.
”If change is going to happen, it starts with ideas. It starts with a conversation," Bob said. "Then conversation starts building momentum. And as it builds momentum among a variety of different people from different walks of life from different arenas, then it can really grow."
Bob recognizes he has an important role to play as a principal and a parent, but he also takes his citizenship responsibilities seriously, working with resources provided by organizations like the REACH Foundation. REACH provides information on current legislative bills so that he is able to read about pending legislation and then talk to his senator and representative about upholding public justice for all.
"Bob sees that government falls short when it doesn’t provide equity of opportunity and educational diversity, enabling all children to attend any school -- whether a government school or independent,” Charity observes.
Bob believes that the Christians Investing in Education initiative has fostered good conversations between Christians about how to engage in education politically.
"What Christians Investing in Education is doing is very important," Bob said. "I love the guide for discussion and action; it was a very helpful piece and a great way to have a conversation.”
Every evening as he walks through the cobbled archway back into the community, Bob Phelps serves as a reminder that to achieve educational diversity and opportunity for all children, we need to think about education beyond the walls, as a shared responsibility of all citizens.