|FOREST OF THE RAIN PRODUCTIONS An Educational Affairs Organization||
Examine urban education from a perspective that is under-represented in national debates, namely incarcerated students.
Throughout the United States, especially in the poor neighborhoods of large cities, too many public schools are failing to reach, teach, and engage thousands of struggling youths. Poor educational backgrounds, reluctance to be in the school environment, and socioeconomic pressures lead to failure in the school environment. As a result of these failures, thousands of school-age youths are sent down the path to the school-to-prison pipeline.
In the book, the Philadelphia prison system provides the backdrop. This is just a hint of what sets Unlocking Potential: Organizing a School Inside a Prison apart from other books in the genre. It is about Pelzer’s invaluable perspective on urban education as much, if not more than, about underscoring how education can and should play a prominent role in all institutions that are responsible for children.
Heralded by the Midwest Book Review as “strongly recommended for those in charge of education of imprisoned youth” and “a guide” for those facing educational challenges, Unlocking Potential: Organizing a School Inside a Prison is a springboard for a deeper conversation about K-12 education. It creates an authentic connection that helps educators of all levels overcome daunting issues in urban education and affect positive change. Each chapter shares inspiring stories and insights that will help educators vigorously tackle the work required to improve schools.
Hilderbrand Pelzer III
Lauded by Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, for his ability to inspire students, Hilderbrand Pelzer III is preeminent among today’s educational leaders. He specializes in managing diverse urban schools, reorganizing and reforming their instruction, and strengthening their academic performance. Hilderbrand has achieved something few others in education have: he has led five urban schools with difficult learning environments toward significant improvement trajectories.
In more than twenty-five years of experience, Hilderbrand has served as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, and assistant regional superintendent. He has also taught graduate-level courses in School Resources Management and Current Issues in Education at Gwynedd Mercy College. Media outlets, legislative committees, government agencies, civic groups, and national and international educational organizations regularly seek Hilderbrand’s educational perspective, counsel, and leadership.
Hilderbrand's most notable accomplishment was the creation of a successful correctional education model inside Philadelphia’s prison system. From 2004 - 2008, he was the leader and director of the School District of Philadelphia’s educational programs in the city’s six major prisons. He challenged the existing assumptions about the capacity and capability of the schools and designed a successful solution-focused model. Hilderbrand was credited with effective leadership of change in a large, complex public-sector organization.
Philadelphia’s prison system is the backdrop of Hilderbrand’s book Unlocking Potential: Organizing a School Inside a Prison. In it, he examines public education from a perspective that is highly underrepresented in national debates—that of incarcerated students. Hilderbrand believes that all children deserve a quality education, even those in prison. Heralded by the Midwest Book Review, the book relates Hilderbrand’s invaluable insights into urban education and underscores how education can and should play a prominent role at all institutions that are responsible for children.
Hilderbrand began working in education as a physical education teacher with the Bensalem Youth Development Center (a state juvenile correctional institution), the Chester Upland School District in Pennsylvania, and the School District of Philadelphia. In 1997, he became the assistant principal of Simon Gratz High School in Philadelphia, where, in 2000, he became the youngest high school principal in the district at the time. In a visit to the school, Prince Andrew lauded Hilderbrand’s leadership and extraordinary ability to motivate students, saying, "It’s people like Mr. Pelzer who inspire you to want to learn."
Hilderbrand has successfully led large-scale strategic and operational efforts at both the school and district levels that have improved instructional approaches and educational outcomes for students in a challenging district. For example, he implemented comprehensive, research-based school improvements and innovations, created a results-based performance accountability process, and developed a citywide system to effectively support learning and increase achievement for numerous underperforming students.