By Alesha Jackson on Apr 3, 2009 08:55 AM
In a lively online discussion, you responded to teachers at Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences, where a shift in student behavior has teachers concerned about the future of the school. Last week, Feltonville’s recently-appointed principal talked back to the school community in a public meeting with parents. Teachers also widely attended, as well as Lucy Feria, the Regional Superintendent for the North Region here in Philly.
Quite honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect. As a mentor to new teachers placed in challenging schools, I’ve grown accustomed to grimy buildings reflecting decades of wear. Often, these schools are less than inviting with their clusters of metal detectors and thick wire covering windows and staircases; at times the buildings seem to reflect the distress going on inside. I pulled up to the school, which was set between a cemetery and an old factory, expecting a similar state.
Not so. Feltonville glows.
The gleaming corridor is filled with displays of student work. Posters and artwork show thoughtful planning and enthusiastic response. It is obvious that there is a lot of pride in this tucked-away gem of a school.
Less than a month ago, Lucy Feria collaborated with teachers to generate an aggressive plan to improve conditions in the school. Wednesday’s brief meeting was part of a planned check-in about those developments.
Nelson Reyes, the school’s principal, addressed concerns point-by-point, noting where improvements had been made and where challenges remained. Dismissal and lunchroom safety were topics of focus, as well as consistency in discipline and concerns over classroom disruptions. Reyes’ presentation left little time for questions, an issue some parents noted at the close of the meeting.
The meeting appeared hopeful despite concerns: parents voiced that they hadn’t felt “heard” in the meeting, and teachers were vocal about ongoing frustrations they said continued to be pushed toward the margins. In addition, staff and parents opposed the short notice given about the meeting date and time.
“We’re developing deliberate structures for progress-monitoring,” said Feria, who mediated the sometimes heated interactions between teachers and Reyes. “We are all feeling the same sense of urgency to get things done.”
As an outsider looking in, I could see evidence of a plan in place, but wonder about the reality of day-to-day life at Feltonville. The principal has stated his action plan, but are parents' and teachers' concerns being addressed effectively? Weigh in by posting your comment here or emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.