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Reading area restored in Lea classroom

By Dale Mezzacappa on Feb 24, 2012 05:10 PM

The reading area ordered removed from a 3rd grade classroom at the Lea Elementary School has been restored after the teacher’s husband complained to the School Reform Commission and wrote a widely circulated post about it for the Notebook.
School District spokesperson Fernando Gallard confirmed that the furniture had been moved back into the classroom from storage after Chief Academic Officer Penny Nixon personally visited the class.

"After meeting with the teacher, she said she didn't see any reason the furniture shouldn't be put back," Gallard said.
Andrew Ganim spoke at the SRC meeting on January 19 about school officials' sudden removal of a comfortable reading corner from a classroom in the West Philadelphia school. He said a District team had deemed the area "clutter" during a walkthrough.
His post about it ran in the Notebook on February 9. It was picked up by national outlets, including the education blog The Answer Sheet at the Washington Post and got more than 11,000 reads and nearly 200 comments on the Notebook website.
Ganim, whose article contended that the walkthrough team was more concerned about furniture arrangement than about nurturing a love of reading in children, said he was pleased.
“Hopefully there will be other positive changes, beyond this one incident resolved, as a result,” said Ganim.
Nixon was joined by Assistant Superintendent Lissa Johnson and Lea Principal Lisa Bell-Chiles in her visit to the classroom. Gallard said that Nixon then had a one-on-one conversation with the teacher.
The furniture had been removed over the Martin Luther King Day weekend without the teacher’s knowledge. The reading area had been donated by members of the community through
Gallard said that Nixon went to Lea to meet with the teacher "to communicate that her office is there to support teachers."

He added that “student safety” had been a factor in the District's original concern about "clutter" in the room, but that the room was now organized in such a way that it did not impede students moving around or exiting.

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Comments (50)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 02/24/2012 - 18:32

It was in storage? If a teacher gets something donated, and then the district takes it and puts it in storage without permission, what do you call that?

It sounds kind of like theft to me. I'm surprised it didn't end up in some ISO's office, if it was comfortable enough.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 02/24/2012 - 18:47

Congrats! Maybe Lissa will stop acting like a tyrant and will be a little more cautious in the future :)

Submitted by anonymous. (not verified) on Sat, 02/25/2012 - 20:23

Yes, Lissa is a weird person who worries about appearances far more than is normal but Kathy Donahue is far weirder, far, far weirder. I believe she is a bit younger but should never be allowed to be alone in a school. She could and does say anything to anybody as though she is God's gift to education. She, like many of the other misfits who are on those bizarre walk through teams, had NO CONTROL when she was a teacher so of course was promoted of all things. People who work with her are afraid FOR her. Lissa is a breath of fresh air compared to Donahue who even looks nuts.

Submitted by C, Jonas. (not verified) on Sat, 02/25/2012 - 20:38

Lissa Johnson is a nice person who in her day was smarter than all of her cohorts down there. But, she doesn't have the hook up so she's out of here in June. They did the same with others like Erskine and Bowers. It's all a political call of course. I just read that finally Donahue's name made the crap list. I was wondering when that would happen. I don't know most of the others mentioned but she I do know and I agree, she is a crazy person--a statue in search of a pedestal. She couldn't control a class if her life depended on it, running around crying 24/7. Yes, everybody I know just laugh a her which is sad but true. Lissa Johnson garners far more respect than that.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 02/28/2012 - 07:07

After a principal's husband died, Lissa put out a memo forbidding staff to use their lunch/prep time to pay their respects (no one would have missed any class time). She's not much of a nice person.

Submitted by Mark J. (not verified) on Tue, 02/28/2012 - 09:20


Submitted by peter menager (not verified) on Mon, 04/23/2012 - 06:04

In any learning environment, it`s all about ergonomy. The classroom, the learning space, the lecture room, the leisure room and so on. Space must be optimized in order to facilitate fulfillment of intellectual potential, by any means, applying the latest scientific theories with respect to this matter. I for one, on my Masters in Public Health programs, am trying to apply some customized ergonomy rules adapted to the online learning environment. It`s not about physical space, yet it deals with creating a serene climate to learn, prioritizing and ordering your information, resources and documents.

Submitted by Timothy Boyle on Fri, 02/24/2012 - 18:46

How many decisions have been made that the rank-and-file, parents, and students didn't agree with? How many questions have gone unanswered? This event shows that SDP leadership is both willing to revisit a decision and exercise some humility. I, and I think most people, don't particularly enjoy having to fix decisions like these, especially publicly. Let's give some credit were credit is due.


Submitted by Sick of it! (not verified) on Fri, 02/24/2012 - 20:17

Are you kidding?!! I think we can assume that Lissa did NOT do this of her own accord, and I'd be willing to bet that, if this situation didn't generate so much negative publicity, she wouldn't have lifted a finger to get the furniture put back in this teacher's classroom. I'm not willing to give her an ounce of credit. I wonder how you'd feel if Lissa came into your classroom and ripped student work off of the walls. Hopefully more teachers will start speaking out about the ridiculous edicts that come from her walkthroughs.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 02/25/2012 - 08:58

Humility? Did they apologize for stealing someone's property? Did they acknowledge that the person who authorized the decision is an idiot? The story became national news and it still took weeks to resolve. That is not humility.

Submitted by anonymous. (not verified) on Sat, 02/25/2012 - 20:30

They're pushing Lissa Johnson out just like they got rid of Nancy Erskine.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 02/29/2012 - 15:26

And that was a shame!

Submitted by M. Talbot (not verified) on Sat, 02/25/2012 - 22:45

Lissa Johnson is gone soon. Having said that, I would physically remove her from my room if she ripped anything from my walls. Of course, I would tell her to stop first before moving on her but move on her I would. The post about Donahue is right on the money. Her eyes look bizarre and her behavior confirms it.

Submitted by anonymous. (not verified) on Fri, 02/24/2012 - 18:52

Truth is Lissa Johnson has been on borrowed time for a long time. She just had her ticket punched.

Submitted by Mark (not verified) on Fri, 02/24/2012 - 20:14

And what about Nixon?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 02/24/2012 - 19:31

Unless every bad decision is highlighted by the national media, stupid, arbitrary decisions will continue....

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 02/24/2012 - 20:26

The real "CLUTTER" is Nixon, Wayman and Johnson. Time to clear them out!!!

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on Fri, 02/24/2012 - 20:32


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 02/24/2012 - 22:56


Submitted by linda (not verified) on Fri, 02/24/2012 - 21:05

Congratulations to all of the folks who noted and promoted action. When we just complain and don't take any action the answer is and always will be "No." May the children keep reading until they can't read any more.

Submitted by SOS 60 on Sat, 02/25/2012 - 09:37

Tim and Linda
Thank you for reasoned comments. And for all the positive and constructive actions you take all the time. A good way to live in the world....and students and parents appreciate it.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 02/25/2012 - 09:38

It is obvious that the only reason the reading corner was restored was because of the national attention of the educational world this attracted. I can't give the credit to the SDP, but rather, to Andrew Ganim, who alerted us to the situation. The SDP had no choice but to reinstate the reading corner, especially since it was donated by Throwing away donations certainly doesn't reflect well on the SDP.

My interpretation of the actions of SDP's so-called "leadership" is that there is a stunning lack of intellect and professionalism, with an overabundance of ego and self-importance, the combination of which are deadly, and is the result of the brain-drain caused by our last several superintendents.

I think the lessons here are to continue raising public awareness as to the asinine actions, which go against accepted educational theory and common sense, that some SDP "leaders" continually oblige us with, and pray that we restore the rank and file leadership with people of intelligence.

Submitted by Concerned Philadelphian (not verified) on Sat, 02/25/2012 - 10:45

There was also a student from the class who had a petition - I assumed signed by classmates / families - which was hand delivered to Prichett at the SRC Curriculum meeting. Nixon was sitting next to Prichett. I'm sure Nixon was told to "straighten it out" after all the public attention. Otherwise, I have not seen Nixon exhibit any positive leadership reigning in her out of control Assistant Superintendents. We still have Wayman in AD1 - who is more incompetent, negative and inept than Wayman? We need a "clean house" starting with Wayman, Driver, Braxton, Miller, Wayman, ETC.

Submitted by A Touch of Sense (not verified) on Sat, 02/25/2012 - 12:24

I do not think that the members of the SRC can possibly really understand how debilitating it is to work in the destructive climate that has been created by Vallas and Ackerman and those who remain after their departures. Negative, dictatorial management still permeates the entire organization and continues to destroy our district.

If you have never worked in such a climate and experienced the emotional decimation of morale that it causes, you cannot really understand.

There is a causal reason for the "brain drain" that has occurred in our district over the last ten years.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 02/25/2012 - 15:22

LaTanya Miller isn't going anywhere; in fact, she was just promoted to Executive Director of Curriculum Design and Development. That's scary, especially since has no background in curriculum or instruction and doesn't possess the REQUIRED certification to hold such a position. The only two things in her favor are that one, she has the years in the District (her appointment date was in 1996) and two, she is in the right circle of friends. With all that being said, she ain't going 'nowhere, so let's stop complaining and pray that God brings a total change to the School District of Philadelphia.

Submitted by anonymous. (not verified) on Sat, 02/25/2012 - 16:36

God will have nothing to do with it, God knows !!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 02/26/2012 - 10:03

I assumed it was Belinda Miller who has snagged a walk through position somehow. Like the others, she screams first and asks NO questions later. I agree with others about Nixon, Wayman, and Donahue, a collective IQ of 150 at least. Seriously, I know the jobs require insight and intelligence but the above folks appear to have little or none of those--especially Wayman and Donahue.

Submitted by anonymous. (not verified) on Sat, 02/25/2012 - 20:28

Please don't forget Kathy Donahue who is totally nuts and looks like it. At least Wayman looks normal until she speaks. This woman looks crazy and is. Like Wayman, she must be connected because she had no control as a teacher with kids running in and out of her classes all day long------and she's in charge of something???? I just heard it last week and the person who told me laughed hysterically. I assumed she was kidding. She wasn't.

Submitted by HS Teacher (not verified) on Sun, 02/26/2012 - 01:40

Can someone please get us a PICTURE of Wayman? Many have never seen her and are curious as to what she looks like.

Submitted by Andrew Ganim (not verified) on Sat, 02/25/2012 - 14:02

I want it to be clear that everyone I spoke with in the district throughout this experience was courteous and professional. Yes, it took several weeks to resolve, but it was resolved in the end. The district has a lot going on and it would have been unreasonable for me to expect them to drop everything to deal with this. Compared to the budget problems, this was actually a rather small issue.

My experience indicates that if you are patient and professional, your voice will be heard by the SRC and the SDP. (It certainly helps when the students, parents, community, and media all agree with you.) No one responds well to angst and impatience though.

The best thing that can come from this is an ongoing and civil discussion about how to continue improving the district.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 02/25/2012 - 15:37

I appreciate that you are clarifying that your experience with SDP personnel was courteous and professional. I do worry about the effects of constantly focusing on the negative. I agree with your statement about "ongoing and civil discussion about how to continue improving the district." I only hope that they are willing to engage in that.

Submitted by Meg (not verified) on Sat, 02/25/2012 - 14:42

Classrooms should be homey places that our children want to be in. They should be safe environments that promote exchanges of thoughts, ideas and learning. Clutter is a needed part of life. That line about how safety was part of the original descision to remove the clutter was an easy place ti hide the stupidity of the move.

Submitted by Joseph Grelis (not verified) on Sat, 02/25/2012 - 17:38

My Dad, John W. served as Principal at the Lea School. My wife is a middle school ESL teacher in the District. Dad would be happy to see this justice served.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 02/25/2012 - 21:56

This only happened because of the publicity. She could not look like fool right before the test fixing sandal explodes in her face. Nixon and the gang will strike harder against any other teacher questioning the brilliance of their leadership.

Did Superintendent Nixon erase any tests while she was in the building?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 02/26/2012 - 14:38

At this point ,Lea's Principal and staff have incubated themselves from the "gotcha" agenda and insensitivity that is Lissa Johnson. The truth is several schools in West Philadelphia are under siege. Her agenda has been "Gotcha" without a look at the data that clearly documents the serious obstacles and barriers to student learning. Her focus on clutter and criticism that serves only to embarrass and intimate staff didn't just happen at Lea. What is most dissappointing is her failure to offer support.
She nor her walk through team offered professional development or suggestions for improvement. I encourage my school and other school staff to speak up as Lea did. There are fights everyday in an out of schools because of reduced staff. Charter schools are transferring disruptive students daily in West Philadelphia. All of this she ignores and offers no solution. She is the worst we have seen in West Philly. It's because of her that Penny Nixon's competency is being questioned. My transfer papers are ready!

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Sun, 02/26/2012 - 14:48

You mean "insulated" not "incubated" right? Or perhaps you were thinking of "vaccinated" (viruses get "incubated")?

Anyway, I just wanted to remind all motivated teachers and parents that you have the right to co-design your schools SIP (School Improvement Plan) to which the use of Title I funds (enrichment, under which this Reading corner definitely falls) is tied.

Congratulations at Lea, and keep pushing for the kids :)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 02/26/2012 - 15:19

You may be right, Ms Cheng. I was thinking of protected against. Thanks

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 02/26/2012 - 20:26

Nancy Erskine retired on her own after close to 40 years with
The SDP. She was not forced out.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 02/26/2012 - 20:52

WOW--that is entirely untrue. She was given the proverbial offer she couldn't refuse. Either go or be demoted to a MUCH weaker position. Technically, she was forced out and everybody who knows her, knows that. I do and I am certain about what I speak. She was not of this classless ilk so she didn't fit in. She actually dodged a couple bullets over the last 5 years with the S.D. I know she could be a bit imperious but not classless and rude.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 02/26/2012 - 21:07

The walk through folks have NO RIGHT to tear the kids' work from the walls nor anything belonging to the teacher unless, of course, something obscene is there. The problem is so many of the walk through folks have got away with that destructive behavior that they now routinely do it or at least, play the bull in the china shop in front of the kids. They undermine your authority up close and personal. I will tell you categorically that if ANYBODY did that in my room, he or she would be immediately told to stop 2 times with my getting closer and closer to them. On the 3rd. command, my left arm would grab this person and drag him or her away from said board. They are in the wrong, not right so don't be allowing them to pull that stuff especially in front of the kids.

Submitted by meg (not verified) on Mon, 02/27/2012 - 08:27

They are officially only supposed to observe - maybe to ask a few questions and record answers, but not to interact with the environment in any other way. THe power went straight to those empty heads.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 02/27/2012 - 08:45

I agree completely.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 02/28/2012 - 14:04

I was not in the Lea teacher's classroom with the reading corner but I have visited many many classrooms in West Philadelphia. While I agree that classrooms should be warm and welcoming, I do not agree that school staff have the right to junk up classrooms with their left over stuff. Our maintenance staff will often refuse to clean and maintain furniture and rugs that are not district issue. Over time the affect is more like dirty and soiled. Another issues is the accumulation of materials over 50 plus years with no one taking responsibility for the clean up leaving schools and classroom looking line the before picture of a Clean House episode.
I would never scar a student by ripping their work off the wall but there is a need to insure that posted work is correct.
My thoughts when visiting these schools is that somehow it became OK to have students work with clutter all around them. It was OK to put a smiley face on substandard work. To me it showed that standards and expectations were low and that students were not valued.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 02/28/2012 - 17:44

As a teacher and a parent I want my child's/students best work to be shown. For some that means it may not be perfect but their best. I don't want rubrics posted with it. That is personal and private between teacher and student. We are NOT robots and we are NOT the same. I find it punitive to treat children's work this way. Isn't our job as educators to celebrate all growth and encourage more? When I walk down the halls of other districts not everything is perfect and they make AYP.S

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 02/28/2012 - 22:35

To this comment: All I can say is Amen! Amen! Amen! and thank God I retired. (One of the the departed brain drain folks)

I do not think that the members of the SRC can possibly really understand how debilitating it is to work in the destructive climate that has been created by Vallas and Ackerman and those who remain after their departures. Negative, dictatorial management still permeates the entire organization and continues to destroy our district.

If you have never worked in such a climate and experienced the emotional decimation of morale that it causes, you cannot really understand.

There is a causal reason for the "brain drain" that has occurred in our district over the last ten years.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 02/29/2012 - 00:51

Lissa Johnson has always worked in the Northeast Region. She probably feels that the West Philadelphia Region is not an area she would like to work.
She doesn't understand the climate or the culture of the area.

She also does not care for attractive or progressive African American women. I'm sure she doesn't care for Penny Nixion and will start rumors pertaining to her work as the Chief Academic Officer. She'll finds fault with her principals school organizations and tries to intimidate them. She is negative, dictatorial and will make an effort to destroy those she does not like professional achievements.

She's a survivor clinging on to whoever is in power at that moment to maintain her own position within the district.

Everything that has been stated in the previous replies is very true about Lissa Johnson.

Submitted by elbo (not verified) on Wed, 02/29/2012 - 17:10

"He added that “student safety” had been a factor in the District's original concern about "clutter" in the room, but that the room was now organized in such a way that it did not impede students moving around or exiting." Oh please! Sounds like a really poor excuse for adult educators behaving badly.

Submitted by Tim Huey (not verified) on Wed, 03/07/2012 - 15:54

I have a confession to make: I was on a walk-through team. At first I protested that I had too much work to do but my boss said that I had no choice. Like so many members of the first walk-through cohort, I had been out of the classroom for many years. On my first walk-through, the school provided us with a hot breakfast. I rated them quite high. As the visits increased, I found that I rated schools based on the treatment I received from the school team. Coffee and donuts got you high marks (sprinkles on donuts even higher!). Some schools went out of their way to look good. Other schools were humorously horrible. I once visited a classroom where the teacher was napping at her desk while the students were looking a prom gowns on the computer. A friend of mine visited a high school at 8:20 AM only to find it all but deserted. She walked into a room and saw a nude scene on the TV/VCR while the teacher was reading a newspaper. The teacher dove for the remote control but couldn't find the off button.

Submitted by ionut (not verified) on Fri, 06/06/2014 - 09:35

So you just need to make a bit of noise to get things back to the way they were. Well let's start screaming cause I'm sure other measures also don't have a solid foundation and can be just as well reversed.
jocuri noi

Submitted by mirica (not verified) on Mon, 06/09/2014 - 06:07

I don't understand why it was taken away in the first place. There is nothing more important for young children than reading. I am a firm believer of this.
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