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New panelist to join upcoming community discussion on school choice

New panelist to join upcoming community discussion on school choice

READING, PA – The executive director of a Philadelphia-based nonprofit advocating for education reform is joining the panel for the next installment of Berks County Community Foundation’s “Consider It” discussion series.

That event in Reading on September 19 will focus on school choice and the tension between public education and charter schools.

The new panelist is Jonathan Cetel, founding executive director of PennCAN: The Pennsylvania Campaign for Achievement Now, a nonprofit organization that seeks to build “a movement to ensure every student in PA has access to a high-quality education.”

Since launching PennCAN in 2012, Cetel has helped grow the organization from a startup in Philadelphia to a statewide research, communications, and advocacy shop with personnel across Pennsylvania. PennCAN advocates for issues such as an outcome-based educator evaluation system; a student-based funding formula; comprehensive charter reform; the end of “last-in, first-out” furlough policies; meaningful interventions for underperforming schools; and public sector pension reform. Prior to launching PennCAN, Cetel served as the Director of Strategic Initiatives at KIPP Philadelphia Schools, a network of public charter schools. He started his career as a middle school reading and social studies teacher in Philadelphia. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s in education from the University of Pennsylvania. Cetel was named one of “Forbes 30 Under 30 in Education” in 2013.

The event will take place Tuesday, September 19, 2017, at 5 p.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton Reading, 701 Penn St., Reading, Pa.

Tickets are available at

For $10, each ticket includes dinner, the panel discussion, reading material, and opportunities to submit questions to further the conversation and to meet panelists afterward.

The other panelists, as previously announced:

Carol Corbett Burris: Executive Director of the Network for Public Education, which states that it is “an advocacy group whose mission is to preserve, promote, improve and strengthen public schools for both current and future generations of students.” A former high school principal, she was recognized in 2010 by The School Administrators Association of New York State as the Outstanding Educator of the Year, and in 2013 she was recognized by the National Association of Secondary School Principals as the New York State High School Principal of the Year. She has authored three books on educational equity.Alyson Miles: Deputy Director of Government Affairs for the American Federation for Children, which states that it seeks “to improve our nation’s K-12 education by advancing systemic and sustainable public policy that empowers parents, particularly those in low-income families, to choose the education they determine is best for their children.” She earned her law degree from Capital University Law School and was admitted to the Ohio bar in 2012.Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig: Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and the Director of the Doctorate in Educational Leadership at California State University Sacramento. His current research includes quantitatively and qualitatively examining how high-stakes testing and accountability-based reforms and market reforms impact urban minority students. His research interests also include issues of access, diversity, and equity in higher education.Karin Mallett: The WFMZ TV anchor and reporter returns as the moderator for the fourth installment in the series.

State Sen. Judy Schwank and Berks County Commissioners Chairman Christian Leinbach are co-chairs of this nonpartisan program, which is designed to promote thoughtful discussion of divisive local and national issues while maintaining a level of civility among participants.

Three previous “Consider It” events tackled marijuana legalization in Pennsylvania, immigration reform, and the greater Reading area’s economy and revitalization. Attendees perceived the sold-out events favorably, with 83 to 93 percent stating that differing sides of the issue were represented adequately and 86 to 92 percent stating they had gained insight into the issue. “Consider It” is based on the American Public Square in Kansas City. To adapt the initiative for use in Berks County, the Community Foundation worked closely with Allan Katz, founder of American Public Square and former U.S. Ambassador to Portugal.

For the discussion format, “Consider It” uses concepts pioneered by American Public Square. For instance, Schwank and Leinbach ring a “civility bell” if the discussion becomes negative or overly partisan. In addition, applause is forbidden. If the audience begins clapping, the co-chairs ring the bell so that all viewpoints can be heard without seeming to favor one over another. Questions will be collected from the audience and passed on to the panel.

“Consider It” is supported by a committee of community residents who have differing political views and backgrounds. Committee members are Steve Elmarzouky, Bill Gage, Mary Kargbo, Joan London, Karen Miller, Art Grim, Kevin Murphy, Michael Rivera, and Marilu Rodriguez-Bauer.