After 19 years of probing the problems facing Philadelphia schools in her monthly newsletter, Helen Oakes has decided to move on to other projects.
In a total of 156 issues over the years, the "Oakes Newsletter"--researched, written, edited, and published by Ms. Oakes--earned a solid reputation as a source of information and insight into the workings of a major urban school system.
Dedicated to "improving public education," each issue of the four-page report was devoted to a single topic, such as reading, special education, teacher contracts, or teenage pregnancy.
"I stopped writing the newsletter because it was time for me personally to take on something new," said Ms. Oakes, even6though there remains an "infinite number of things to write about."
Ms. Oakes said the issues of greatest concern to her over the years were "the importance of developing a love of reading and a love of learning" and fostering "a school environment in which children understand they are cared about as individuals."
The circulation of the newsletter was small--about 2,300, of whom only 600 were paid subscribers. But its readership, which included the mayor, school-board members, and other city officials, gave it an influence far beyond its size.
Although she has closed down her publication, Ms. Oakes has hardly abandoned her commitment to education. She has served as a member of the school board since 1982, and hopes to be reappointed when her current term ends in December.