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A full day of testimony on school closings

By the Notebook on Mar 3, 2012 08:30 AM
Photo: Benjamin Herold

Parent Yvette Caban and her 17-month-old daughter Eve Santiago (with pretzel) are among dozens of supporters urging the SRC not to close Sheppard Elementary in Kensington. 

by Dale Mezzacappa and Benjamin Herold for the Notebook/NewsWorks

[Updated 3/3, 7:53 p.m.] Community responses to the School District's recommendations on school closings got underway Saturday morning, starting with a drum circle and rap by students from E.M. Stanton Elementary, one of the schools District staff has proposed to shut down.

The all-day series of public hearings, covering 10 schools, was streamed live.

The Notebook provided online coverage, summarizing the District's position on why each school should be closed, highlighting comments from the community on each plan, and any response from the commissioners.

The hearing schedule was:

E.M. Stanton Elementary

The hearings began with what has become the most controversial recommendation -- closing E.M. Stanton Elementary. About 100 Stanton supporters, including many children, nearly filled the left side of the auditorium. A string quartet practiced "We Shall Overcome" outside as people filed in.

Deputy for Strategic Initiatives Danielle Floyd presented the District's reasons for Stanton to be closed: low student enrollment of 237 students, 33 percent of which comes from outside the neighborhood; an 87-year-old building not suited to modern educational needs; and the availability of space in Arthur and Childs, which are more modern buildings nearby.

She acknowledged that the staff has made the most of the building and partnerships with neighborhood and arts organizations to create a high quality academic program, pointing out that it has made Adequate Yearly Progress for eight years and has a School Performance Index of 2.

"Considering what it lacks in amenities, the Stanton staff to their credit has established partnerships to complement the academic program," she said.

The supporters “believe the program should be replicated and used as model for other district schools,” she said, to loud applause. “Parents did not believe schools identified for reassignment are equal to or better to justify closing Stanton.”

She also acknowledged the counterproposal presented by Stanton supporters, which involves an outreach program to increase enrollment and adding an autistic support program.

"The staff believes that some portions of the proposal have merit," she said.

The school's defense began rousingly with a drum circle and rap performed by students under the direction of teaching artist Nana Korentemaa. SRC members joined in the applause for the presentation.

Korentemaa said she has worked at Stanton for seven years. "E.M. Stanton is a high-performing school where every room is used for teaching and learning with dedicated parents and community members," she said. "Its motto is: Academics and arts equal excellence."

Councilman Kenyatta Johnson said: "This is an opportunity to show the world what's right about public education." He said he was confident through marketing they can reach the enrollment goals and noted the development in the area

"I am strongly commmitted to engage in public-private conversations with individuals who are developing in that area," he said.

"For me, the most important thing is maintaining...quality education. We can use this as a model for all schools." He described as a positive the fact that students come from outside the catchment area to attend, and thinks young professionals in area can be encouraged to buy into Stanton.

Karl Myers is a young alumnus of the school, a new student at Cheyney, who described himself as "raised by the teachers at Stanton."

"It is people like the teachers of Stanton School that make our community a better place," he said. He called Stanton "a beacon of hope in our community."

Rasheea James, a student at Stanton for nine years - since kindergarten - said that her family has attended the school for generations. "Closing it down would be like closing many students' hearts." She called it an "inspirational place."

Parent Temwa Wright suggested that if the District closes Stanton, charter operators will line up to occupy the school. She said that Independence Charter School renovated and modernized a similarly old building. "What they were able to do, we should be able to do in a neighborhood public school," she said.

The defense concluded with a soulful rendition  of "We Shall Overcome" by a student string quartet and their music teacher, Russell Kotcher, which brought smiles and applause from the audience and the SRC. 

Wright then gave the SRC members energy bars for their long day ahead.

"So the record now includes evidence of attempted bribery," SRC chair Pedro Ramos joked.

SRC members reserved comments until the conclusion of all the hearings. 

Harrison Elementary

Speaking for the District, educational planner Bill Montgomery began his presentation by summarizing the community's objections to closing the school. Among them: the school is an anchor in the community, the effect of charter schools on its enrollment, and hopes to put other programs in the building.

He summarized the reasons for closing: the building is underutilized, it would be expensive to repair, and there is declining enrollment. This, he said, is due to a reduced birth rate, and an "increase in other educational options in this area."   He said it is only at 39 percent of capacity. Other nearby schools can absorb the students, he said, and each of them -- Ludlow, Spring Garden, and Dunbar -- is also underutilized. He said that 44 students in the Harrison catchment area already attend one of those three surrounding schools.

Three people spoke asking to keep the school open, and about 20 people appeared to have come out for the presentation on Harrison. Joy Woods Jones of Temple, who operates an afterschool program called "Grandma's Kids After School," said that many parents have not spoken up for the school because they feel "disempowered." She said it would be "dangerous" for the students to travel through other neighborhoods to get to new schools.

State Representative W. Curtis Thomas said that Harrison should be kept open, among other reasons, because the library has just had a $300,000 investment.

He emphasized that "North Philadelphia seems to be bearing the brunt of schools scheduled for closing, and it's important for people to know why." He said the school is situated among many different public housing developments.

He said that this area of North Philadelphia between Fifth and Broad, and between Spring Garden Street and, roughly, Wyoming Ave., have long been neglected by the District, and suggested that a federal lawsuit may be an option if Harrison closes.

He also said that the receiving schools perform no better on academic indicators than Harrison. "So what is the point" of moving them, he asked.

Parent Washika Campfield also implored the District to maintain continuity of education for the children. She said she is satisfied with her son's education. "To feel his eagerness to learn puts my mind at ease to send him to school each day; knowing that he's learning something new every day at an early age makes me content," she said.

Pepper Middle

Bill Montgomery summarized the reasons for the closing recommendation, primarily a declining student population. Despite a capacity of 1200, it has an enrollment of fewer than 500, and many of those students live closer to Tilden Middle, which is also underutilized. He said most Pepper students use TransPasses to get there.

The three middle schools in the area, he said --Pepper, Tilden and Shaw -- have a combined capacity of 3,444 but are utilized only at a rate of 30 percent. The plan is to drop a grade each year starting in 2012-2013 and close completely in 2016.

Two speakers urged the SRC to keep the school open. Parent Sharon Pollard said that she has sent eight children there, including one with special needs, all of whom had a good experience. "I feel welcomed, I'm treated like a part of the family," she said. She particularly noted sports and nutrition programs.

Teacher Ernestine Dancy, a 33-year veteran, noted the school's modern, handicapped-accessible building, as well as an outstanding sports program, a garden, its grounds, and several partnerships.

"This is a unique school," she said.

Supporters also showed a video highlighting sports and other activities at the school, including peer tutoring, computer science, use of the nearby Tinicum Nature Preserve, and gardening. The video also conveyed the school's family atmosphere.

Commissioner Feather Houstoun noted that Tilden Middle School, which would receive many of the students now at Pepper, showed a significant decline in academic performance in 2011, and she asked for more information on what plans were in place for academic intervention at Tilden.

Commissioner Joseph Dworetzky questioned the decision to phase out the school rather than close it immediately and asked for cost comparisons of phasing out the school vs. immediate closing.

FitzSimons High

This proposal involves the closing of FitzSimons, the closing of the high school at nearby Rhodes and conversion of Rhodes into a middle school, and the reassignment of the FitzSimons and Rhodes high school students to Strawberry Mansion High School. Rhodes and FitzSimons are both single-sex, Rhodes for girls and FitzSimons for boys. Rhodes and FitzSimons share the same feeder area.

Danielle Floyd summarized the District's reasons for these recommendations: All three buildings are severely underutilized and enrollment at each is declining. She said the FitzSimons building is especially old and crumbling, with prohibitive costs for repair or replacement.

She noted, however, that while the population trends within the feeder patterns could sustain the schools, 75 percent of students in the area choose schools outside the neighborhood, including selective District schools, charters, and private schools. The result: The three schools have a collective capacity of 4,200 but a combined enrollment just over 1,000.

The main community objections expressed at hearings so far included concerns regarding safety, since there are longstanding neighborhood divisions and rivalries.

Five people spoke to question the plan, including several who urged the maintenance of single-sex programs within Strawberry Mansion. They included State Rep. Vanessa Brown, whose district includes the area.

"I believe the District has the responsibility to offer different options" to parents, said Brown, a product of Girls High. She suggested that three separate programs be maintained at Mansion.

"When we talk about closing schools, I know it is hard to think past the money," she said. "But we must think how we can we not just close a school, but preserve what is happening inside those walls."

Two parents talked about how their children thrived in a single-sex environment. Wanda Rhodes said that she couldn't understand why the District was closing all the schools in her neighborhood.

"My kids go to those schools," she said. Her special-needs son, she said, has thrived at FitzSimons, and she fears he will be hurt at Mansion.

"If we can’t have schools around there, how can students have a good education?" she asked the SRC members. "They’ll be running out in the street, killing people, robbing people, not having a good education, and no schools where they can go to. Strawberry Mansion is not a good school."

Commissioner Joseph Dworetzky said that he would like to see more research on the issue of single-sex education.

Sheppard Elementary

After a short lunch recess, the hearings resumed with another District recommendation that has sparked an emotional community response: the proposal to close Sheppard Elementary in Kensington.

District Deputy for Strategic Initiatives Danielle Floyd presented the District’s case: At over 100 years old, Sheppard is “one of the oldest schools in the District’s portfolio.” The facility lacks the “necessary spaces and amenities to deliver a modern-day educational program,” she said, and eventual upgrades to the school’s sound-but-aging infrastructure would be expensive.

Floyd acknowledged Sheppard’s strong academic growth and high levels of parent satisfaction at the school, as well as community concerns about the quality, size, and distance of DeBurgos and Hunter elementaries, the two schools to which the District proposes to reassign Sheppard students.

A group of about 75 purple-clad Sheppard supporters responded with two video presentations and over a dozen emotional testimonials in support of the school.

“I want my baby to come here,” said parent Yvette Caban, holding her 17-month old daughter Eve in one of the videos.

Jada Gonzales, a Sheppard graduate who is now in a 5th grader at Conwell Magnet Middle School, told the SRC she was shocked and saddened when she heard that her old school had been targeted for closure.

“I realized other students were going to miss out on all the experiences I had when attending Sheppard,” she said, citing her participation in chess club, cheerleading, a “discovery science” program, and meditation and yoga classes while in grades K-4 at Sheppard.  

“Sheppard may not have a great heating system or a gym, but the educational environment in the school overcomes all those things,” said Gonzales.

The Sheppard supporters closed with a video about their partnership with Home Depot, which resulted in an organic community garden at the school and a series of workshops for students and parents.

“It has transformed their lives in so many ways,” said teacher Jamie Roberts in the video.

SRC Chairman Pedro Ramos thanked the Sheppard supporters and acknowledged the school’s principal, James Otto, before closing the hearing without further comment or question from the commissioners. 

Philadelphia HS for Business

The auditorium at 440 emptied out after the Sheppard hearing closed, leaving fewer than a dozen member of the public on hand to hear the District’s rationale for closing the educational program of the Philadelphia High School for Business and Technology at the end of the school year.

“The present enrollment for the four-year high school is 136 students,” said District educational planner Bill Montgomery. “Over past seven years, enrollment has never exceeded 180 students,” he added noting that the school’s academic and extracurricular offerings have been limited as a result.

Montgomery also said that few parents, community members, or school staff participated in the three community hearings held by District staff over the recent months. A request that the school be phased out is not feasible because there are only 33 current 11th graders, he said. But a request that current 11th graders be able to have Philadelphia High School for Business and Technology be the school of record on their diplomas could be accommodated, he added.

John Sherman, the father of a current freshman at the school, was the only individual to testify during the hearing - easily the shortest of the day so far.

“I wish the school could stay open, but I see the reasons why having it closed,” said Sherman. “I wish I could have seen more parents and staff from school here, but it's pretty obvious that everyone at the school has given up.” 

Earlier in the day, Rep. W. Curtis Thomas made brief remarks about the school, reiterating his concern that the school closings were falling heavily on the North Philadelphia neighborhood he represents.

Sheridan West Academy Middle

The afternoon continued with another poorly attended hearing, this one on the District’s recommendation to phase out Sheridan West Middle School in North Central Philadelphia.

The school’s low enrollment, as well as available space in nearby Jones Middle and Penn Treaty Middle schools, will allow the District to save money by reducing the number of grades served at Sheridan West over each of the next three years, said District educational planner Bill Montgomery. 

Students from Webster Elementary, currently the only feeder to Sheridan West, will now be given the option to attend either Jones Middle or Penn Treaty Middle.

“All current students will be graduating from [Sheridan West] prior to the closing,” said Montgomery, who added that the phaseout plan likely accounted for the low parent and community turnout at both the hearing and a series of three District-run community meetings about the recommendation.

The first of only two speakers on the proposal, parent Savannah Marion, expressed concern about the distance that some families will have to travel to get to Jones or Penn Treaty.

And District Home and School Council representative Carmela Cappetti testified that the District would be better off closing Jones and keeping Sheridan West open.

“I wouldn’t send my dog to Jones,” said Cappetti. “They opened Sheridan West so kids didn’t have to go over to Jones. Now you’re going to force them to [go]."

School Reform Commission Chairman Pedro Ramos acknowledged the concerns about Jones, but pointed out that earlier this week it was designated for turnaround via conversion to a charter school as part of the District’s Renaissance Schools initiative.  

“It’s a school that the District is putting an intensive effort to turn around, in this case through an outside provider,” said Ramos. 

Drew Elementary

During another comparatively short hearing, District educational planner Bill Montgomery laid out the District’s case for closing Drew Elementary in University City.

Operating costs at Drew are significant, he said – a reality made worse by the fact that the school can hold 616 students, but currently enrolls just 241. In addition, said Montgomery, there is ample space in four nearby elementary schools. 

“There continues to be significant drop in student enrollment in this area,” Montgomery said. “The community is changing form residential family housing to college student housing.”

The District’s plan calls for offering Drew students the option to enroll next year in Lea, Locke, or Powel elementary, as well as MYA, a middle school with grades five through eight. Each is located in a nearby neighborhood. Although MYA is a selective school, current Drew students will be guaranteed the right to enroll there next year, said Montgomery.

Drew parent Khadijah Begume, one of just three individuals to testify during the hearing, wanted to know if her 3rd grader would be guaranteed admission to her preferred reassignment option.

“It’s Powel that I want him to get into,” said Begume. “I’m not comfortable with Locke because I haven’t heard any good things about that school.”

An extended exchange between Begume, her daughter, District staff, and the SRC ended with the conclusion that Begume’s son could enroll at Powel - but that 31 Drew students who are receiving ESOL instruction may not be afforded the same option.

“We are looking to cluster [ESOL students and services] at Locke,” said District Assistant Superintendent Lissa Johnson.

SRC Chairman Pedro Ramos expressed concern with that proposal, however.

“So you’re limiting their options because they’re [English Language Learners]?” Ramos asked before instructing the District’s general counsel to look into the legality of the plan.

Ramos also highlighted the PSSA scores of the four schools to be affected by the plan, noting that Drew compares unfavorably to each.

“It doesn’t seem to be one of the situations where students are moving to schools that would be less well-performing,” he said.

Should the proposal be approved, the District will draw new boundaries incorporating the area currently served by Drew into the catchments of Lea, Locke and Powel.  

Levering Elementary (closure) and AMY Northwest (relocation)

During the final session of the marathon day, what started as a consolidated hearing involving related proposals to close William Levering Elementary in Roxborough and move AMY Northwest into the Levering building turned into a dizzying flurry of alternative counterproposals.

The District wants to close Levering because it only has 184 students across grades K-8, many of whom don’t live in the school’s catchment area. 

“We do not believe there is a population to sustain neighborhood enrollment in future years” at Levering, said Danielle Floyd, the Deputy for Strategic Initiatives.

Most of Levering’s students would be reassigned to either Cook-Wissahickon or Dobson Elementary schools, both of which are higher-performing than Levering.

The District also wants to move AMY Northwest out of its current leased facility in Mount Airy and into a larger District-owned facility that would allow the school an opportunity to grow its enrollment.

“If Levering is approved for closure, we propose the facility be repurposed to serve AMY,” said Floyd, who added that AMY Northwest’s current lease costs the District over $200,000 a year but is set to expire this summer.

But a number of parents, advocates, and school staff have a variety of concerns. Some Levering supporters don’t want their neighborhood school to close. Parents at neighboring Cook-Wissahickon Elementary are concerned that their school is already overcrowded and would not be able to effectively accommodate an influx of students from Levering. And many from AMY Northwest are concerned about the increased travel time that a move to Roxborough would require.

As a result of the various concerns, many are hoping that the jigsaw puzzle pieces will be fit together in one of a number of different ways.

State Representative Pam DeLissio spoke to a previous community-generated counterproposal calling for Levering to be kept open, but transitioned to a K-5 school so that it can be co-located in its current facility with AMY Northwest.

DeLissio called it “a plan I could support,” but said she had been told recently that District staff had determined it was not feasible. 

Floyd confirmed that, saying that the District’s primary concern was that a K-5 Levering would serve fewer than 100 students.

“What kind of educational program would those students have?” asked Floyd.

Levering parent Julie Melnick and Cook-Wissahickon parent Carol Haslan also proposed a new alternative involving several pieces: 

  • Closing the educational program at Levering
  • Relocating Cook-Wissahickon into the Levering building
  • Merging the schools’ respective catchment areas so that Levering students could attend the new, larger, Cook-Wissahickon
  • Relocating AMY Northwest into the vacated Cook-Wissahickon facility

“The Cook-Wissahickon program is going to be absorbing a lot of the Levering kids regardless. That’s a moot point,” said Haslan. “If [the District] puts both populations together, [the Levering] facility can house the whole thing and be an amazing community school.”

The commissioners seemed interested, asking a number of clarifying questions.

“I think they are a thoughtful, creative group and I’d be interested in seeing it run up the flagpole and see what happens,” said Rep. DeLissio in response to a question from the commission about possible community support for such a plan.

SRC Chairman Ramos committed to doing just that.

“I think in every instance we’ve been very pleased with not just critiques but counterproposals and ideas that seek to solve the problem we’re trying to solve in a different way,” said Ramos. 

“We appreciate it and will commit to giving [the counterproposal] a rigorous analysis before any decision.”

The District’s Floyd said she would be meeting with stakeholders this week and would have a written analysis to the SRC, and the public, before March 22.

The SRC is scheduled to take its final votes on March 29.

The Notebook is partnering with PlanPhilly to cover this process and inform and help foster dialogue. This coverage is supported by a grant from the William Penn Foundation.

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Comments (66)

Submitted by Stanton teacher (not verified) on March 3, 2012 10:57 am

Just a quick is Rasheea James (student who spoke for Stanton). I believe we have a very powerful case, and made a huge impact throughout the hearing process, and today.

Submitted by Stanton teacher (not verified) on March 3, 2012 11:24 am

Thanks for the edit :)

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on March 3, 2012 8:21 pm

I was present this morning and had the good fortune to witness the absolutely awesome presentation of the students and Stanton community. Obviously, Stanton is a wonderful school and should stay open.

What I saw and heard this morning is the essence of what Great schools are about. It has a caring and effective family culture and school ethos.

It is a school that should be replicated, not closed.

For me, it was one of those moments that reminded me of why we go into teaching in the first place. It touched my heart and the kids were beautiful.

That is not to say the other schools' presentations were not meaningful as well. I just could not stay the whole day. Props for the SRC and their support staff for doing so. It was good to see.

Submitted by HS Teacher (not verified) on March 3, 2012 12:49 pm

1. These speeches are rehearsed. A Kindergarten student cannot spell the word "inspirational", let alone say it.

2. Karl Myers is no Cheyney student--check the Facebook.

If one school is permitted to stay open, the same rule has to be applied for the rest. What makes one school better than another? All schools have a special place in at least ONE person's heart. Demographics affect school performance, we understand that. So what they have better test scores than everyone else--big deal--that doesn't mean we should keep them open and close another school that is challenged where kids did not receive all they needed and will be reassigned to another school that's the same. This FMP process is all about money---it's never about what's good for the kids, educators, or community.

Submitted by tom-104 on March 3, 2012 12:39 pm

The article says the student was there "since kindergarten", not that she is a kindergarten student.

Submitted by anonymous teacher (not verified) on March 3, 2012 1:22 pm

He is a Cheyney student-has just registered (as of January 2012). Facebook is not always accurate-some people don't obsess about updating their status.

Submitted by Teach (not verified) on March 3, 2012 6:46 pm

I find it very unlikely that you're actually a teacher. How can you suggest that performance doesn't matter? If some schools shouldn't be on that list, how can it be fair to close them.

Submitted by Supporter of EM Stanton (not verified) on March 3, 2012 2:01 pm

HS teacher-why are you "Hating" are children and peoople that are trying to save you job? None of the students that spoke were from our kindergarten class. Since you teach high school can your students spell inspirational and give the meaning? I'll put my eight grade grandson against your student any day. This is about free public education and the right to receive it. Is this your first SRC meeting?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 5, 2012 9:26 pm

I hate to break it to you but your response reads as though an uneducated person wrote it. Who are you to criticize about spelling? There are SEVERAL grammar mistakes in yours. Go back to school Maybe a charter school would help you this time around.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 3, 2012 2:25 pm

I say we close Sheppard for typographical abuse.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 3, 2012 2:26 pm

I don't see how anyone can say anything negative about people wanting to save their school. These are people that are happy in the public school system that so many people are against these days. It is not the publics fault that the school district cannot manage their money. Everyone has the right to a free, public education....and that is exactly the way things should remain :)

Submitted by SOS 60 on March 3, 2012 2:58 pm

Teachers or those who identify as teachers when writing anonymously as "constant commenters," should check their facts and make constructive comments. As already asked by another, why are you "hating" on our children from afar? Why are you taking potshots anonymously? Is your cynicism so deep that you believe students and adults making public official testimony would or are lying? C'mon, really?

Submitted by Sheppard Teacher (not verified) on March 3, 2012 6:05 pm

A quick note concerning the Sheppard/Home Depot partnership: Home Depot has offered to perform some of the upgrades cited by Ms. Floyd for free as part of a community project and to continue to support the school thereafter.

Were were very concerned about misstatements about Sheppard by those who recommended its closure. They claimed there is no gym, cafetaria or auditorium, when in fact there are. There was a claim today that the school could not be modernized so that SmarBoards/Promethian boards were useable, when, in fact, they are already mounted on the walls of more than half a dozen Sheppard classrooms and are functioning perfectly.

Submitted by Benjamin Herold on March 3, 2012 11:02 pm

Thanks for your comment, Sheppard Teacher.

During a lull in the action after the abbreviated hearing on the closure of Philadelphia HS for Business and Technology, the commissioners took some time to ask questions of District staff and each other.  

After a question from Commissioner Cary about the charter school facility being built near Sheppard, District staff and Commissioner Pritchett clarified that it is a new building for an existing charter run by Congreso.  

That was followed by this exchange:

Commissioner Cary: Did we do anything with [Sheppard's] catchment area? There’s a lot of enthusiasm about Sheppard, they have partners...Generally we see [enrollment] numbers declining when people aren’t happy with their school.
Danielle Floyd: ...You're correct, there is still a large concentration of students in that boundary. [Parents are] still opting for Sheppard...about 88% of students attending [Sheppard]do live in very close promximity to school and a high percentage of students from the neighborhood are going to the school.
District planner Bill Montgomery then reminded the commissioners that although Sheppard has continued to have strong appeal for neighborhood parents, the school only serves grades K-4, and students generally end up at DeBurgos.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 3, 2012 9:04 pm

It is an interesting proposal by parents at Cook Wissahickon. Years ago when Levering started losing students, a simple solution would have been to switch principals with Cook, but of course that wouldn't have been fair to the students at Cook.

One thing the Roxborough neighborhood/SRC will need consider is the role they would like to see AMY play. One of its apparent current attractions is its location. Does the proposed future community want it to maintain special admissions, competing with Cook and Dobson for the best students, or would they prefer it to expand, that is occupy the Levering building as a potential community middle school simultaneously phasing out the middle school grades at Cook and Dobson?

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 4, 2012 6:38 am

A quick addendum to my above comment: Cook Wissahickon's grounds are more appropriate to K-5, large with sturdy playground equipment; whereas Levering's is a small concrete lot bare of any equipment. Improvements could be added to Levering's lot of course, but it would take some time to raise the funds and make the improvements. AMY should be consulted as well, as to the appropriateness of both facilities for their school and their preference.

Finally, the correct reference would be "neighborhood middle school" rather than "community middle school" in envisioning AMY as a school without special admissions.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 4, 2012 8:22 am

It was emphasized that AMY historically has been a magnet middle school but not a "neighborhood" school; however, presently the majority of their student body is comprised of students in the immediate area of the St. Therese facility in Mt. Airy. A highlight of the AMY presentation was when two of the commissioners questioned AMY's principal about why their enrollment is at 211 with data showing that their student population is "clustered" around their current geographic location (meaning their students mostly reside in the Mt. Airy/Germantown/Chestnut Hill areas). Different reasons were given in response to that question, one being students are generally recruited from nearby schools in those neighborhoods, even though there are a hundreds of applicants on a yearly basis who attempt to go to AMY. Their current location is also not capable of holding that much more than the 211 they currently have.

Mr. Z. was honest in his response that the directive from the SDP is to expand AMY. Mr. Z. wants AMY to finally have a "home" of their own and that, moving forward, his/their mission is to increase their enrollment as a result of relocating to a bigger, more functional school-district owned facility.

There is to be a report no later than March 22 to the SRC from the facilities staff as to the feasibility of relocating AMY to Cook and Cook to Levering, and they will be visiting the schools this week to follow through on the new counterproposal by the parent from Cook-Wissahickon. It was already reported and reiterated yesterday that AMY and Levering co-existing at Levering would not be feasible. A highlight of the Levering and Cook mothers' dialogue with the commissioners about their counterproposal was when Mr. Ramos explained it wasn't as simple as everyone realizes: relocating students to Levering from Cook is one thing, but relocating staff from Cook to Levering is another due to collective bargaining agreements.

If AMY does get the thumbs up on moving to Levering's facility, or even to Cook's locaiton, then recruitment efforts will follow in order to increase their enrollment with students from a wider geographic area. That's the ultimate goal based on that presentation/hearing yesterday. It's about expanding AMY's program while meeting their needs for space, visibility, and accessibility which is what the Levering location offers. Of course, they will probably love Cook's facility when they see it, although it was clear from the Levering hearing that the Cook-Wissahickon community/school wasn't necessarily in agreement with or even aware of the idea to move Cook to Levering.
Moreover, will the SRC be required to hold more community/stakeholder meetings and subsequently a special hearing for this new proposal to move Cook to Levering? It would seem logical that they would have to engage the community/stakeholders, but considering the timeline and PDE rules, it doesn't seem likely but who knows? Maybe they can have meetings and a hearing before March 29 when the final decisions have to be announced.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 4, 2012 9:41 am

Thanks for the detailed info. It's helpful to have this.

A more general note/thought: It is mentionedthat collective bargaining agreements make it difficult to transfer staff. I wonder if staff who protest and villainize the charters realize that in some ways it is these agreements that help make charters/takeovers necessary to "reorganize" staffing at a school in the first place. What's in a name/"trademark", "AMY", "Levering", etc. after all if not the staffing team? Unions are (as proven by history) necessary, but they should be careful they are not putting up obstacles for their members while they are protecting their wages and benefits. In addition non-union employers are not necessarily exploitative.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 4, 2012 9:47 am

Another thought: Catholic schools are popular in Roxborough. Lately some families who would have sent their children to these private schools have been putting them in the public schools due to financial considerations. I wonder how AMY will impact the enrollment of the Catholic schools and whether this is a consideration at all (Great Schools Compact) to the SRC. My own opinion is that special admissions schools can not be considered as models to replicate until they drop their special admission requirements; but of course these special admissions will be viewed favorably by those who prefer the private schools.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on March 4, 2012 10:45 am

There are, to my knowledge, 6 middle schools in Philly with Admission requirements - MYA (West Philly), AMY in Port Richmond, AMY Northwest, Conwell, Masterman, and GAMP. Will there be any middle schools in the Northwest that aren't special admit? Does this mean any "non special admit" will stay at K-8 schools like Cook Wissihickon?

The SRC has to look closely at how many SDP schools will be left middle - high school that aren't charter and aren't special admit. The lingo can be "provide choice," or "provide for different needs," but the reality is the school district is heavily tracked. It is segregated by ability / behavior. Yes, ASPIRA does this in their buildings but the SDP does it throughout the district.

If "choice" is the SRC mantra, then what "choices" will middle school children in the Northwest have if AMY continues to be special admit?

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 4, 2012 10:19 am

There's also Hill Freedman (Germantown) that's a special admit middle school.

Special admits compete with each other for their desired group of students. Having one strategically in each neighborhood might be a good way to move back to the neighborhood school concept, where children no longer have a long commute to get to a "quality" (meaning more academically rigorous traditional) school. I agree that it leaves the schools that are not special admissions at a disadvantage (or not if they find a different working model); however, it might be a good sign if they are increasing in number, that is the number of kids who qualify for admission/are "traditional good students" are increasing?

In the case of AMY moving to Roxborough, there will be pressure for parents of kids who do well academically and behave well, to transfer their children there. Cook Wissahickon and Dobson may not have to worry about overcrowding after all. Another issue will be, will this create an involved parent/caregiver drain from Cook and Dobson?

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on March 4, 2012 6:05 pm

With the proliferation of special admission high schools under Vallas, along with more charter high schools, the neighborhood high schools have shrunk. Students who are in neighborhood high schools disproportionately have an IEP, poor attendance, poor behavior records and lower standardized test scores. There is also a concentration of ELLs in neighborhood schools. While standardized test scores K-8 have increased, we have not seen better academically prepared students. (This may be the degree of "assistance" that students are receiving 3 - 8 with tests...)

That said, there are students in neighborhood high schools who certainly are willing and able to be "pushed" along more academic tracks. The solution isn't to pull them all out and leave neighborhood high schools with only the students no charters and special admit schools will accept. We need programs in neighborhood high schools that appeal to a broader range of students. Under Ackerman / Wayman / Nixon / Driver, the neighborhood high schools have been crushed with test prep dictates, insulting curricular materials, and ridiculous paper trails that do nothing for teaching/learning. Hopefully, neighborhood high schools will again have an opportunity to provide more for our students from safety to broader career/college curricular options.

(Two exceptions are Northeast HS and Washington HS which have internal magnet programs and attract a broad range of students. Because of the way AYP is calculated, neither school has made AYP despite their internal magnet programs. They have more subgroups than most schools because of their size. The more subgroups, the harder it is to make AYP. Small schools have an easier time making AYP. This is also true for K-8 schools. Some K-8 schools which have made AYP because of their size - and thanks to confidence intervals - may not when school size is increased or schools are combined.)

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on March 4, 2012 7:37 pm

At one time within our district magnet programs proliferated at the "comprehensive high schools" which we now refer to as neighborhood schools. The magnet programs enabled the neighborhood schools to draw talented students. Paul Vallas destroyed those magnet programs and thereby destroyed our neighborhood schools.

We also had special programs to meet the needs of all subgroups. Vallas created the one size fits all test prep curriculum which festered under Dr. Ackerman. The "differentiated instruction" mantra came about in reaction to the complaints that were made about the curriculum, and of course, teachers were then supposed to be all things to all students while being "on time" with the pacing schedule. That is unrealistic.

What we need back is "differentiated curricula" and "differentiated programs" designed to meet student needs. The concept of a "core curriculum" is just that -- a core.

The destructive and counterproductive force is "high stakes testing."

The best thing which has emerged recently at SRC meetings is the notion of autonomy for schools. But I submit it must be a balanced autonomy.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on March 5, 2012 4:54 am

Unfortunately, I don't see the dismantling of the many special admit schools. Instead, I see the further dismantling of neighborhood high schools which are no longer "comprehensive." A "comprehensive" school would have, as you wrote, "differentiated curricula," and "differentiated programs."

Why, for example, is Academy at Palumbo allowed to double their enrollment while the comprehensive high schools in southern Philadelphia have to programs cut? Why isn't Academy at Palumbo combined with Furness? Why isn't Constitution High School combined with Ben Franklin HS? Why isn't SLA combined with University City? Why not "house" the selective programs within neighborhood high schools to enhance the offerings in neighborhood high schools? It would save the SDP money (e.g. SLA and Constitution's combined rent is over $2 million / year) and give more students academic and social opportunities. There could be "schools within schools" which would also cut the number of administrators since each school has at least a principal but often also assistant principals, deans, SELs, etc.

Other districts, like Boston, also created small high schools in the early 2000s. The difference between Boston and Philadelphia is Philadelphia created selective admission high schools and left neighborhood high schools - with the exception of large schools in the Northeast - out to dry and die a slow death.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 5, 2012 5:17 am

Thanks for all the great info and insight in yours, Mr. Migliore's, and the above comments. You have some very good suggestions. I like the idea of "schools within schools". The original impetus for my volunteer work in fact was to improve my neighborhood K-8 and eventually neighborhood high school. My kids ended up being admitted to a special admission school (though the oldest currently plans on systematically dropping out), and I have difficulty spending 2 hours on SEPTA roundtrip to reach the school. Other volunteer commitments to another educational program has left me with little time to help the local h.s.

Segregating kids by academic ability (which ends up heavily weighted towards family culture) and temperament/behavior disables potential valuable learning experiences between "personality types" as well as cultures. In addition, it is difficult to get community involvement in a school that is not in a child's neighborhood. That being said, a school's "neighborhood" must be carefully considered as Philadelphia still bears the mark of segregation, and this criteria may end up segregating by culture as well.

If we can't drop the special admissions, then neighborhood schools must be strengthened if we are to uphold our ideals of a working Democracy and inclusion. The current neighborhood schools should be the sole focus of this "high performing seat" search, as we know that special admissions schools have "high performing children" rather than "seats". The financial viability of the Promise Academy model is not clear, and its effectiveness yet to be proven. Cook Wissahickon is a K-8 neighborhood school, with an enrollment of over 500 and a PSSA achievement (proficient/advanced) at the 80% level. It was pointed out that Cook's strong parent group includes many in the middle class, but it is a good mix, and one that seems to be working. If we introduce AMY into the neighborhood, will this success story continue?

Submitted by Benjamin Herold on March 4, 2012 11:33 am


Thanks for the excellent writeup and additional details re: the Levering/AMY/Cook-Wissahickon issues that were discussed during yesterday's hearings.

Couple of points I can contribute:

There was indeed a rather lengthy discussion about the impact that closing Levering, moving Cook-Wiss, and merging their catchments would have on collective bargaining agreements. Chairman Ramos in particular seemed worried about this issue.  But my sense was that this was largely the result of a misunderstanding on Ramos's part of the actual proposal; he seemed to think that the goal was to merge Levering's educational program with Cook-Wissachickon's rather than to close the Levering program and replace it with that of Cook-Wiss.  Under the actual proposal, my understanding is that there would be relatively minimal collective bargaining challenges, but Levering's current faculty and staff would be out in the cold, so to speak. At the end of the exchange, it seemed that Commissioner Dworetzky recognized this confusion and helped straighten things out.

As you rightly point out, however, both Commissioners Dworetkzy and Ramos were concerned with how other Cook-Wiss parents might feel about a proposed relocation into Levering.  Haslan and Melnick acknowledged this and made a point of saying they were speaking only for themselves and not for their respective Home and School councils or SACs.  Wondering if there are any other Cook-Wiss parents out there who can weigh in here on the new proposal?

And lastly, one thing we did not hear at all last night was how AMY staff and parents would feel about being relocated into Cook-Wiss instead of Levering.  My sense is that it would still be considered too far and there might be even more significant transportation challenges to get students to Cook-Wiss than to Levering, but the benefits of Cook-Wiss's facility might outweigh such concerns.  Any AMY NW parents out there who can weigh in on this?  

Submitted by tom-104 on March 4, 2012 11:18 am

When a parent at Stanton asked the SRC members who had visited their school none raised their hand.

It seems, just like with laying off 47 nurses and privatizing custodial staff, the SRC members and their highly paid consultants are sitting in offices at 440 looking at speadsheets to make their decisions. It's good they are holding hearings where they hear some of the consequences of closing these schools, but if they are not actually going to these schools they are blind to the consequences for the neighborhoods, students and staff of these schools.

This is assuming these consequences matter to the SRC. To the Corbett administration the consequences clearly do not matter as long as there is money to be made for the owners from privatizing.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 4, 2012 12:50 pm

A question then can be raised: Can we transfer the entire E.M. Stanton school including staff to one of the currently proposed transfer schools, renaming that school to E.M. Stanton simultaneously closing the program of the (lower performing) destination school? Wouldn't that also be fulfilling the PSD's commitment to get rid of "lower performing seats" while upgrading facilities?

Submitted by Stanton teacher (not verified) on March 4, 2012 12:43 pm

Where does that leave the staff at Childs or Arthur? They also are committed to their students and their community. A valid point was brought up yesterday during our testimony when it was stated that, although the PSD claims that the building is not in good shape, charter schools would be lined up to take over and maintain the building.

Our building IS NOT in bad shape. There is a new roof, we have had major technological upgrades to many of the classrooms, as well as a modernized science lab and library, new (last 5 years) windows, and new floors in some rooms (only where floors needed replacing). We have tried, without success, to get a list from the PSD detailing what they claim needs to be done to upgrade the building. We have had items quoted to us, but have not had a list.

They also claim that the building and property footprint does not allow additional building to extend Stanton. That is simply not true. If that is true, then how do we (the SOS group) already have preliminary ideas and possible blueprints to extend the building with additional arts space, freeing up classrooms, and not fringing on any yard space for students? BTW-there are many charter schools who do not have a "yard" for students to play in, including Universal CS and CCCS MS.

Another excellent point is why is the SRC report is penalizing schools because students attend from out of the school's catchment area. If students are traveling TO a school because of its outstanding reputation and success, why penalize the school for this? The schools that are losing students due to multiple transfers and many complaints are the schools who should be penalized.

Just my take on things.

Submitted by Stanton teacher (not verified) on March 4, 2012 12:27 pm

hate you can't edit these....should be "enfringing"

Submitted by tom-104 on March 4, 2012 1:34 pm

You can edit for a few minutes after you post. (I'm not sure how long it is there.) If you are logged in there is an Edit right next to Reply.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 4, 2012 1:38 pm

If E.M. Stanton is fighting to keep the facility, I would suggest an active campaign to get outside funds (look at the Catholic schools - you may not be connected to wealthy donors, but lots of grassroots ones can do the same). Use that EITC (Educational Improvement Tax Credit) where businesses can get a 75% reimbursement of their PA State taxes if they contribute (your State rep should be able to guide you here). Start an endowment fund that everyone can chip in to help with; fundraise, etc. to show the community is serious about keeping this building.

If it were a viable and accepted policy (and it is not just yet) to move schools (students and staff) and displace lower performing school and staff (which is what creating charters does anyway only more slowly and painfully), then the staff at Childs and Arthur would have to speak for themselves. If Stanton (and this is not what the majority of us Notebook readers want to see) is closed, then Stanton's staff will be broken up and transferred. It's a professional reality I feel, that if you've "gone the extra mile" then you should get the job; thus, I would like to see Stanton's current team stay intact.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 4, 2012 12:07 pm

I am not a Cook Wissahickon parent, but I do know that Cook is only a little more than 10 minutes walking distance from Levering School, and can be accessed directly (from Germantown) using SEPTA Bus route 65. Using the same route 65, reaching Levering would require a transfer to route 32, 9, or 27 or a few blocks (less than 10 min) walk. Thus the AMY current student transport wouldn't be much different to either school.

The Cook facility is newer, but less visible.

The 50 transfers to Cook from Levering's catchment area, might not want to return to the building. Sometimes there is an irrational residual ill feeling/association that accompanies experiences of bullying or abuse. If Cook is moved to the Levering building, the students/caregivers should still be given a choice. Perhaps they would rather attend Dobson.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 8, 2012 11:21 am

I had another thought about the proposed relocation of AMY NW to the Cook Wissahickon rather than the Levering building. The enrollment of Cook W currently exceeds 500 and that of Levering's is at 184... that would make over 684 total, which would still exceed the Levering building's capacity...which would mean overcrowding still, and some kids would still have to be transferred to other schools. So it is a curious "counter" proposal. It seems like a lot of trouble just so select current Levering students wouldn't have to be moved, rather the Cook W students. In addition, it was reported in a Roxborough-Manayunk Patch article that the Melnick-Haslam proposal suggested grants from corporations and foundations might support the move. But why? It is a privileged mindset surely. In the article, Ms. Melnick attempts to make Levering appear heroic as the school that takes the children that no one else wants, the "bad" children (neglecting the fact that both Cook and Dobson are also neighborhood schools) and extolls the fact that Levering's teachers show up for work each day... ahem, those at Cook and Dobson do as well, AND manage after school activities and enrichment (with parent support) for equally "bad" kids. Again, any wonder why the enrollment at Levering fell?

Submitted by SOS 60 on March 3, 2012 11:11 pm

@ Rich M. Thank you for being a constructive commenter on these pages....and for your point of view about teaching and schools and what is needed and what is right. I agree with your props. When I got home I watched on TV until the end...and the Commissioners were as engaged at 6 PM as they were at 8 AM. Hopeful.

Submitted by tom-104 on March 4, 2012 9:48 am

Hopeful or wishful thinking? Three of the SRC are appointed by Corbett, two by Nutter. Does the public have any hope of a genuine hearing when the goal of the Corbett administration is to privatize the majority of Philadelphia's public schools?

As one of the parents said at the hearings, the reason given for closing some of the schools is their old buildings, but you can bet charters will line up to take these buildings once the schools are closed.

Making AYP year after year at Stanton means nothing to the privatizers. How about building a new building for a successful school? That we don't have money for. A million dollars for Ackerman, millions for outside "consultants'' to tell the SRC how to reorganize the schools? No problem!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 4, 2012 12:44 pm

It's over for us if we wait and watch the SRC destroy Public Ed. They mean us no good and Pedro should be ashamed of himself--He knows better and 15 years ago, was a much more sensitive and caring person. Money is as money does.

Submitted by Jamie Roberts (not verified) on March 4, 2012 2:10 pm

I'm going to vote for hopeful. When these hearings started, many of us feared the closings were a done deal and that while we were going to be allowed to speak, it wouldn't amount to anything. Now, of course this could be true, but the respect and attention we at Sheppard have been afforded by Danielle Floyd and by Chairman Ramos and other members of the SRC have made me think differently. At every turn, they have surprised us with their deep consideration of these issues and I believe they will try to do what is right.

In particular, Chairman Ramos (an appointee of the governor) has attended our meetings prepared. He has been encouraging and supportive and has always arrived armed with information about our school. This has been true even when he's been driving back and forth to Harrisburg in order to work on the budget crisis and, I assume, while he's been working hard at his day job.

I do not believe the SRC is offering hollow words to Sheppard or to Stanton. We'll see what happens on March 29, but I don't think they are motivated by anything short of doing a service to the children of Philadelphia.

Submitted by tom-104 on March 4, 2012 3:21 pm

Your hopefulness may be justified in the case of Sheppard and Stanton. You both sure did do good presentations.

My fear is that, even if they give you guys a break, it will just be a cover for the true overall agenda. This so-called reform project must be seen in context of the move to privatize public education. The so called "reformers" that are driving this "reform" are the same hedge fund managers, bankers, Wall Street gamblers who brought on the financial crisis in October, 2008 and were bailed out to the tune of $700 billion by the taxpayers. They are involved in this drive to turn public schools into another source of profit. Having SuperPacs and 24 lobbyists for each Congressperson to buy our government is not enough. Public education is a whole new market in which they hope to make billions. Financial deregulation has given them more wealth than they know what to do with.

Look at the biographies of any one involved in this "reform" movement. They are all associated with the Bill Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation (both of which are deeply involved in privatization in Philadelphia), and the Walton Foundation. These organizations have no track record with education, they are billionaire businessmen looking for new markets to exploit and having an agenda for the kind of workers they want the schools to create for their businesses.

How is it that Governor Corbett cuts almost $1 billion dollars in this year's education budget, with the deepest cuts being made in low-income school districts (, and at the same time increases the prisons budget by almost $1 billion? Two of the three new prisons being built are privately owned, for profit institutions.

Governor Corbett and Mayor Nutter are deeply involved with these privatizing organizations. What will result is a segregated system where public school children will be left behind by the politically privileged charter schools in a race to the bottom. The irony is that the early signs are that charter schools are little different from the public schools in educational results. ( They are just a source of access to taxpayer dollars to charter operators.

Submitted by Jamie Roberts (not verified) on March 4, 2012 4:13 pm

I agree with you that the demise of public education is tragic and that there are many players out there who exploit innocent children in order to reap immense profits. And I think Gov. Corbett's budget is a disgrace (I blame all of the people who did not go out and vote on that election day. Turnout was pitiful and the better candidate was not flashy and now Philadelphia's children are suffering for that apathy).

But I really do believe the SRC in place today is different from the incarnation that preceded it. Lorene Cary, I am sure, would never make a decision that would harm children; the novel she wrote came from her heart and comments she has made at SRC meetings do not suggest she's suddenly changed. Chairman Ramos has shown a depth of knowledge, respect and humor that our community has really appreciated. And while we haven't interacted much with the rest of the board, we will remain hopeful.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 4, 2012 9:25 pm

I know Pedro Ramos and so far, I am very disappointed with him. He knows better but is following the corporate script. Yes, "Elections Matter" as Vincent Hughes likes to say and hopefully, if we still have a Public School System in 4 years, people will vote this Tea Party Republican out which is where he belongs.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 4, 2012 9:58 pm

Well, I hope your buddy Ron is right and that an uprising is mounting against all this OBVIOUS abuse of the poor. I consider all this extremely urgent but I may be wrong. I still have questions about Jerry Jordan and his near silence and wouldn't be shocked if he were complicit somehow through Weingarten's group. Yes, the inner city kids will be given 2 choices, menial employment at best or prison. Nutter, Gamble and here it comes, even Obama, must realize this too. It's not hard to see the natural implications this has for the folks left behind and we all who they will be.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 5, 2012 10:08 pm

I appreciate your positive attitude. However, as a teacher who was forced out of King High School last year, I can assure you, your school WILL close. It is a DONE DEAL.

Submitted by Jamie Roberts (not verified) on March 31, 2012 12:22 am

Very sorry you were forced out of King; I truly am. However, I"m also very grateful that your prediction was wrong.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on March 4, 2012 4:07 pm

You are more than welcome. I just hope all of our efforts make life better for our schoolchildren and every member of our school communities.

You guys are awesome in my book!

Submitted by Benjamin Herold on March 3, 2012 11:35 pm

During a lull in the action after the abbreviated hearing on the closure of Philadelphia HS for Business and Technology, the commissioners took some time to ask questions of District staff and each other.  

One exchange revolved around the concerns expressed by Rep. Curtis Thomas regarding the enrollment of students from lower North Philadelphia in charter schools.

Danielle Floyd:...When we looked at the entire Harrison boundary…we are seeing a good number of families who have opted for charter schools. That has had an impact on the enrollment at the neighborhood school.

Commissioner Cary: Do we know which of these students that would have been in that Harrison catchment area that are going to charters, are they going to charters they can walk to?
Danielle Floyd: A good number students are attending Walter Palmer Learning and Leadership Academy Charter School....[there are] 48 students at Walter Palmer in the elementary school population, 18 students at Kearney, 17 students at Ludlow, 15 at Spring Garden, and 12 at Dunbar. The next highest enrollment [in] charters [is at] Wakisha and People for People.
During the exhange, Commissioner Pritchett also asked Chief Academic Officer Penny Nixon to talk about the educational plan for Ludlow, which could receive an influx of Harrison students if Harrison is closed.
Nixon responded that District staff have not finalized the new plans yet because they did not want to move ahead until the recommendation is approved.

Submitted by Education Grad Student in West Philly (not verified) on March 30, 2012 9:55 pm

That so many children in Harrison's catchment area go to charter schools increases costs because charter schools are more expensive but also because of transportation costs. St. Malachy School is also a couple of blocks from Harrison, so there may be students in Harrison's catchment area that go to St. Malachy.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 4, 2012 12:17 am

Close them all, sent the kids to 440, plenty of room!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 4, 2012 9:00 am

No, just give all the schools to Kenny Gamble--he'll learn them good.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 4, 2012 10:03 am

Totally off topic here, but.......if the district is crying the blues about being in a "deficit" for the upcoming school year, how is it that they are able to make the claim that the "Promise Academies" will remain intact for the upcoming year? With respect to the PA's that they state are "making progress"---are they only referring to those that are at the elementary level? Surely, they cannot be making any assertions for those at the high school level.

My guess is that mass layoffs are coming. And, for those schools that survived the "Cut", they will be running "bare bones" for the coming year.

There are only 13 weeks left of school----how do they plan to make the budget for this year---and keep the Promise Academies open for next? This does not make any sense.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 4, 2012 11:19 am

It is not "off topic" at all. All things $ are connected... school closures are about $ after all. I am also mystified about the increase of Promise Academies, schools begun under Ms. Ackerman (who displayed very little fiscal discipline), schools whose real costs have not been adequately disclosed.

The only qualification given to expand these is the "Great Schools Compact"... so I assume someone is hoping the Gates Foundation will fund these?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 4, 2012 2:05 pm

Because MONEY is not an issue, that's why. The focus is on privatizing while strangling the real schools. There's plenty of money for the pols and the charter operators--and isn't that an appropriate word---so they will do whatver they want while playing the poverty card when it's needed. It's a giant shell game.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 4, 2012 9:52 pm

I am anticipating a MASS layoff of teachers and other supportive staff as well. I can't see at this point any way to avoid layoffs since the District is in dire staights at this point in time.
I want to remain hopeful that these meetings to discuss school closings are a positive thing and that they might bring about something positive. But there is a still small voice in the back of my head that is saying, "Be not deceived". The decisions have already been made and that the meetings are just occurring to give the impression that there is hope, when there is none. Public education as we know it, is already dead; there is just the matter of picking up the bones that have fallen by the wayside.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 5, 2012 4:43 pm

Not yet but if WE continue to watch and not act in a BIG way, it will be over for us. Thank Obama first even before Corbett and Nutter for approving this charade. He knew what he was doing and did it anyway. The Race to the Top is NOT for the most vulnerable inner city kids but you know that too, as does he, of course.

Submitted by tom-104 on March 5, 2012 4:39 pm

How, and How Not, to Improve the Schools
by Diane Ravitch

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 5, 2012 4:51 pm

Yes, I read it.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 4, 2012 2:41 pm

Ron Whitestone--You're the same as you ever were, lots of talk, no go. Lots of theory, no action.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 5, 2012 10:40 am

In his defense, I did see him knock down a mailbox with a baseball bat this weekend.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 5, 2012 4:58 pm

As someone who has worked in (but not for) the Philadelphia public schools, I am so sadden by the state of our District. I am concerned for the children at Drew who will have to attend Locke next year. I understand the Drew parent who stated she has not heard anything positive. The bringing together of the Drew neighborhood with the students at Locke, is going to cause for a large increase in violence in our schools. The decision to close these school listed above, is a sin. The people are we are forgetting about is our children. They are being lost in all of this. They will be in classrooms that are overcrowded, in a district that is losing services and support by the minute. This is going to cause more cheating on state tests and again, our children are going to be losing out. What a sad state the city is becoming. And my heart cries for the children of this city everyday. I wish the district would take at look at the children and their needs.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 5, 2012 5:48 pm

You are so right. I teach in a SDP school and it sickens me what the lack of funding is doing to our children. They don't stand a chance and the 1% lay their heads down every night knowing exactly what they are doing. They are slowly and methodicly destroying childrens lives each and every day. I'm up for the fight....I just wish our union was!

Submitted by Education Grad Student in West Philly (not verified) on March 30, 2012 9:38 pm

It makes sense that the SDP is closing Drew. It is in an area which is increasingly commercial or home to college students. The SDP needs to milk the property for all it is worth. Drew's location is prime real estate in University City. The SDP needs to sell the property to the highest bidder and put the money toward educating students. The building is an ugly, non-descript building.

Submitted by deneen (not verified) on January 2, 2013 4:58 pm
I went to Drew and I went to highschool in PA. I finished hs in Georgia. I am just devastated that my school has closed.
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