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Stanton, Sheppard spared; eight other schools to close

By Benjamin Herold on Mar 29, 2012 06:49 PM
Photo: Bas Slabbers/for NewsWorks

Emotional supporters of E.M. Stanton Elementary embrace after learning that their school will stay open.

by Benjamin Herold
for the Notebook/NewsWorks
 

The School Reform Commission voted Thursday night to close eight District schools, but spared E.M. Stanton and Isaac Sheppard Elementary Schools.

"The SRC has been very clear in its commitment to maintain its focus on student achievement while we work toward fiscal stability,” said SRC Chairman Pedro Ramos. “Tonight’s vote reflects those priorities.”

The schools that will close are Harrison, Drew, and Levering Elementaries; Pepper Middle and Sheridan West Academy Middle; FitzSimons and Rhodes High Schools (the latter to become a middle school); and the Philadelphia High School for Business and Technology. 


Listen to Benjamin Herold's radio report on the closings vote for WHYY. 

 

The closures will save the cash-strapped District a projected $6 million next school year.

But the big news was that both Stanton and Sheppard will remain open. For months, supporters had mounted vigorous defenses of their schools, stressing high-quality academics, strong partnerships, and a family environment.

Before the vote, the SRC unanimously agreed to remove the two schools from consideration, stressing the need to support, rather than dismantle, high-performing District schools.  

"I feel very strongly that we try to do no harm," said Commissioner Joseph Dworetzky.
 


Parent Temwa Wright, one of dozens of Stanton supporters who have lobbied the SRC for months to keep their school open, expressed elation. 


"Thank you for listening," Wright told the commissioners. "I'm so proud to be a parent in the Philadelphia School District."
 


Anthony WilliamsState Sen. Anthony Williams, a frequent District critic and a strong proponent of charter schools and vouchers, praised the SRC for finding a way to keep Stanton open.

The school, Williams said, is “an example of what can happen in public education in Philadelphia” and should be replicated across the city.

Thursday’s vote comes at the end of a months-long facilities master planning process. For over a year, District officials have said they needed to shed 40,000 excess seats to address an aging infrastructure, changing neighborhood demographics, and declining student enrollment exacerbated by an exodus of students to charter schools.

In the weeks leading up to the vote, it became increasingly clear that the District’s recommendations to close E.M. Stanton and Sheppard had presented the SRC with a quandary: In both cases, the need to downsize the District’s infrastructure was at odds with a new focus on expanding high-performing schools through the Great Schools Compact.

Commissioner Feather Houstoun said the SRC came to the conclusion that decisions must be made through the lens of supporting high-quality educational opportunities for students. But she stressed that in order to fix the District’s long-term budget problems, as many as “four or five dozen” additional closings could be necessary.

“That is still a realistic vision of what we need to accomplish in the next two or three years, if not sooner,” Houstoun said.

Commissioner Wendell Pritchett agreed that more closings will be necessary and said he would push for both Stanton and Sheppard to be relocated.

“We continue to have too many facilities that are too old to support a modern academic program,” Pritchett said. “We must work harder to invest our resources in facilities that are sustainable.”

Nevertheless, teacher Holly Shaw-Hollis was among those who expressed relief that Stanton will remain open.

“Stanton’s been my heart and soul,” said the 22-year veteran of the school. “We’re all kind of speechless right now.”

A few supporters of other schools made last-ditch efforts to sway the SRC.

Arthur Wood, the principal of Pepper Middle School, questioned the academic performance and climate of the schools where his students would be reassigned.

“The quality of those schools are not as good as Pepper,” Wood said.

It wasn’t enough.

Houstoun was the lone vote against closing Pepper. Commissioner Lorene Cary stood alone in voting against closing FitzSimons and Rhodes. 
The SRC voted unanimously to close Drew, Harrison, Sheridan West, and the Philadelphia High School for Business, and also to relocate AMY Northwest to the Levering facility.

FitzSimons and Rhodes had operated as single-sex schools, FitzSimons for boys and Rhodes for girls. Dworetzky said he was interested in exploring ways to maintain single-sex environments.

Cary said she voted no on the closings of Rhodes and FitzSimons because of the "fragility" of the students and concern that they would not be served as well in a big high school.

"I'm going to ask staff to figure out how we can be more careful about student reassignment," she said.

Houstoun said she opposed the closing of Pepper because she was "taken by both the environmental education and sports opportunities that the facility provides. ... I wish there is a way we can use the campus in a way that continues to offer those opportunities for students."

Rhodes will be converted to a co-ed middle school.

Before voting yes on the closure of Levering Elementary in Roxborough, Cary responded to emotional testimony from parent Julie Melnick, who told the SRC she was “completely worn out from trying to find ways to save the Levering program.” 


"This is an opportunity to acknowledge the amount of sadness and trauma and chaos that closing schools creates," Cary said. "We know it, and yet we must go through the process to rightsize.”

Notebook editorial intern Oscar Wang contributed reporting to this piece.

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Comments (155)

Submitted by citizen (not verified) on March 29, 2012 7:26 pm

Hooray! Bravo, Stanton and Sheppard communities. You make us proud of public education!

Submitted by Sheppard Supporter (not verified) on March 29, 2012 10:38 pm

Thank you! Now we can move forward without this heavy shadow over our heads.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 1, 2012 6:14 pm

Milton Street has just been named superintendent of Philadelphia public schools! God help us all!

http://chalkandtalk.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/milton-street-named-superin...

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 2, 2012 11:07 am

You DID look at the date on that article, right?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 1, 2012 9:29 pm

Jim Otto is a wonderful administrator and he was abused by the downtown folks for years. Now, he has reached the top where he belongs and the cretins at 440 can't hurt him anymore---though they'll try.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 29, 2012 7:17 pm

Very sad for William Levering Elementary.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 30, 2012 6:36 am

It's not sad for the students and the neighborhood who will have considerably more resources with the AMY program than they would have had with the existing Levering program.

What is sad is how during the period of 3 years when Levering lost nearly 200 students individual parents and teachers struggled to improve the program without the support of the principal or the so called Home and School. Without adequate supervision from the principal, there was nearly nonstop fundraising (an accumulation of nearly $8000) while such things as Arts partnerships (Philadelphia Theatre Co.), educational (e.g. Franklin Institute, or Arts) assemblies, helping individual teachers get things for their classes (such as laminator, printers for Smart boards), supporting the parents who singlehandedly ran a student choir or Chess club or pursued grants, community relationship prospects such as building one with East River Bank, or supporting Operation Bedding, etc. etc. were basically "poo poo'd" as "so called projects".

The lesson of William Levering is the overriding importance and need for strong leadership at the principal level. Had the school had this, there is far less likelihood it would have lost so very many students (evidence that FMP study found 50 at Cook Wissahickon).

I repeat myself: SRC and other Educational Reform leaders, start with what you have and what you know works. LOOK at your principals.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 30, 2012 6:37 am

Let me add that Ms. Melnick I definitely feel for you. Though there were many who wanted the same objective, it looks like you were working mostly on your own. Take heart, the building is not closed; and there are children who commute regularly a lot farther than your children will have to in transferring.

Submitted by EILEEN DIFRANCO (not verified) on March 30, 2012 12:13 pm

My point, exactly!! There is a reason why schools become "bad." Poor administrators make for bad schools. Why isn't the SRC looking at schools like Stanton and Shepherd to see why they are successful while others arent'? It boils down to leadership. the SCR exercises poor leadership by not removing poor principals.

Submitted by Mike (not verified) on April 1, 2012 9:05 pm

Jim Otto, Sheppard, had a very rough time earlier in his career because he didn't fit the mold they wanted. He cares about kids, really cares as well as about teachers and parents--a novel approach and directly the opposite of the brutes like Wayman, Nixon etc. Jim is now regarded as the best which, of course, he always was.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on April 1, 2012 10:10 pm

In addition to caring, it would also take some shrewdness as to human nature/character. I believe Levering's principal (actually 5 years back, but the most recent as to long term influence) did care very much; but he didn't know how to stand his ground against unscrupulous influence, and got caught far too easily in superficialities.

I would really like to see successful principals like Jim Otto be recognized for their skills, and be honored in a real way, by having them work with new or struggling principals. It is the most direct way to foster (understanding "replicate" is not exactly possible) a successful school culture.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 2, 2012 9:37 am

Jim Otto is hated and scorned 100% of the time. He doesn't fit the mold---think about it. If you can speak the King's English and not be an incompetent, insecure bully, you don't fit in at all. He's far too classy for that group plus, he cares about the kids in a real way.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on April 2, 2012 9:36 am

I "gave up" (walked out with categorizing resentment) also,when faced with Mrs. Bureaucrat at our school; however, the time is right to push for positive change. It's all we can do, keep pushing.

Submitted by Greg N. (not verified) on April 4, 2012 5:00 pm

Jim Otto is not slick or sly. What he is, is honest with everyone. If he has a problem with you, he'll tell you privately and encourage you to see things both ways, his and yours. Most of the women Principals are petrified of themselves but that's another story. In any case, Jim is a good person and after 2 minutes with him, you know that.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on April 5, 2012 8:52 am

The trait you identify was also noted in an NBR interview with Drew Faust ("Women in Leadership") who is president of Harvard. She stresses listening to her constituents and communication as the primary skills she uses. If I remember correctly, she said something to the effect of, "You have to be able to see/understand where a person is coming from in order to persuade them to see things your way..." When I use "shrewd", I don't mean "slick or sly", but rather "being good at judging people or situations". I saw so many pushing our principal for reasons of their own personal power, and he gave in to the "ugliest and bossiest"; He gave in rather than doing what should have been "the right thing" for the kids.

Submitted by Greg N. (not verified) on April 5, 2012 8:19 am

Not to be sexist though I shall--When you say ugliest, there's a lot of them, some barely human and some less than that. SORRY in advance.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on April 5, 2012 9:57 am

No offense taken. Sorry to see you know what I mean by "ugliest". I am still stunned by what I saw.

If Mr. Otto can deal with these, he is indeed a FAR better person than me. I hope he gets the recognition he deserves.

Submitted by Sheppard Teacher (not verified) on April 3, 2012 2:16 pm

Amen!

If all principals were like Mr. Otto, there would be a gung-ho staff, loving what they do and going above and beyond the call, in every school. Unfortunately, most principals out their are the anti-Otto, never supporting or encouraging their teachers, letting stuff trickle downhill and rarely giving them a word of praise.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2012 3:39 pm

Exactly Right--I've known Jim for 20 some years and the crap he's caught from those morons is beyond belief. He just sucks it up and continues on because he knows he's right and their not. He's a better man than I am for sure. I could tell you stories that you wouldn't believe about comments made about him by them. Well, actually, you probably would believe them because you seem to know the deal. Jim got sick one day and had to be helped out of a school. I got a call from the boobs downtown with laughter in the background. Sheppard is lucky to have him as was Stanton though the power people forced him out for obvious reasons.

Submitted by Greg N. (not verified) on April 5, 2012 2:18 pm

I could tell you stories about their attacking him that you wouldn't believe but Jim just went about his business same as usual. The brutes got him out of Stanton too by the way.

Submitted by EILEEN DIFRANCO (not verified) on March 30, 2012 12:45 pm

My point, exactly!! There is a reason why schools become "bad." Poor administrators make for bad schools. Why isn't the SRC looking at schools like Stanton and Shepherd to see why they are successful while others arent'? It boils down to leadership. the SCR exercises poor leadership by not removing poor principals.

Submitted by Socrates (not verified) on March 30, 2012 4:12 pm

Concur, but a large factor for Levering enrollment was the decision by the district to load the school with disruptive students, some even outside the district (figure), in emotional support programs. City of Philadelphia police now come to the school on a daily basis (and do an excellent job). The district long since has eliminated the full-time school policeman, though these usually were coasting to retirement.

To compound the folly, the district has chopped its staff of school psychologists, resulting in delays that violate state law and hamper even the best teachers. Student needing a special setting linger the entire year without proper placement.

(How would you suggest a teacher handle several students who routinely stand on their desks, run around the classroom, scream the F-word and refuse to "report to the office." Lame. How about their mothers, who threaten staff and, in one case last year, threatened to bomb the school. It was on tape. Well, Arlene got her full-court press after a threat. But Levering, swept under the table.

Tell me, would you send your tender kindergartener or first-grader to such a school, where 300-pound eight-graders punch out windows or throw chairs?

Philadelphia public schools soon will shrink to serve a population of special needs pupils, students unacceptable to charter schools. If this strips out the ungovernable, and guts the district, the School District of Philadelphia has only itself to blame.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 31, 2012 7:28 am

In a conversation I had with the principal (about 4 years ago), he confided that he was worried about the enrollment of the school; and that he had therefore told the District that he would take all the students they would give him (as the school had not yet failed to make AYP), so it was also his decision to bring these students to Levering. Of course he did not understand what it would take to teach children who have serious behavior issues. (I did watch 2 teachers tackle these students quite successfully. They left due to lack of support from him.)

Which only reinforces the point that the principal has a lot of/key influence.

I am glad to hear the real policemen are effective. Certainly the prior school police were not. This principal was not up to dealing with the "nasty parents"; he pretty much let them bully him. He did make attempts at disciplining the behavior problems, but often he indiscriminately punished the wrong kids. In his case, he had larger (life and death) issues to deal with, so everyone did their best to "carry on"; however, there should have been a better position/job he could've filled at the SDP.

The selection process that the charters are subjecting the SDP to would be one of parent/caregivers; those who care enough or are disatisfied enough, are making the effort to transfer their children. There are still good choices within the SDP (where principals are effective in building a strong school community). Yes, I agree the SDP is not doing everything they can do to stay intact. In making the decisions that they do, I wonder if 440 realizes their jobs are also at stake.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 30, 2012 6:41 pm

Right, and how many different people saying the same thing will it take? What rights do teachers and staff have if they have to bear the consequences of bad leadership?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 2, 2012 12:39 am

Any concession that teachers make this year should be countered with changes in the way schools are run. There has to be a review of all principals and vice principals within a couple of months of school opening. Too many incompetent administrators are allowed to cover up their incompetence by bullying out any teacher that questions them. The SRC needs to know what is happening in our schools this year.It's a crime.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on April 2, 2012 7:22 am

The teachers union should also demand this review be done by an outside third party, not 440.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 2, 2012 12:21 pm

To be honest, Jim Otto was at Stanton too years ago and was chased out by the downtown folks. His replacement, was a woman who ONLY cared about her appearance---100% of the time. She had no skills but loads of connections. Thankfully, she's gone too. Jim Otto tries to foster respect with everybody which, of course, is the approach to take if you want a positive environment.

Submitted by Lois (not verified) on April 4, 2012 9:36 am

The women administrators are the worst for all the reasons mentioned above. They become jealous and petulant when teachers succeed. Yes, you read that correctly. Bullying follows in a BIG way. God made ugly too. That Donahue with the weird eyes is always about to burst into tears, I agree. She needs help and has been told that by lots of people. I remember her as a teacher. She had NO control of her class so she was promoted to administration. You just can't make this stuff up.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 29, 2012 8:36 pm

an article in Philly.com says the school district doesn't have plans for layoffs,
but what happens to the teachers at these schools? How can positions be gone and there not be any layoffs?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 29, 2012 9:04 pm

I am wondering the same thing. How can there be enough positions for those that are currently in the district and those who will be displaced by the closing of schools? I don't think the numbers add up, unless the District is anticipating a huge amount of retirements come June.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 30, 2012 7:00 am

Retirements, people quitting because working in this District is nearly impossible (although most of us are making our way), people working at the schools that are going to become charters.

I am hoping that the fact they had to call us back even though they couldn't afford us means that they aren't laying us off.

Or, maybe they plan to pay us what they think they can afford (avoid layoffs by changing the contract).

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 30, 2012 5:05 pm

Can't change this contract, but believe me the next contract is going to full of give backs, give aways, if people want to have jobs.

Submitted by Sid (not verified) on April 1, 2012 5:58 pm

Not unless we let it happan. ALL people need to stand together against this corporate bull rush backed by the Koch Bros. and people of that ilk.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on April 1, 2012 5:09 pm

They wouldn't destroy the contract because they don't have to go that far. The politics of today is allowing the crooks "to get over" legally and without extreme actions needed.
If they lay people off again, GO STRAIGHT TO THE UNEMPLOYMENT BUREAU and get benefits even though they will DEFINITELY bring you back again--same as last year. Last year only about 20% of the laid off folks, went to collect benefits. You are entitled to the benefits so get them.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 1, 2012 6:16 pm

That is sad that people did not go and file for unemployment. These are benefits that the laid off folk were entitled to.

Submitted by Mike (not verified) on April 1, 2012 6:07 pm

Very stupid too. Teachers tend to be elitist to a degree and are reluctant to "Take Charity" like benefits, as foolish as that is. I believe the figure I heard was closer to 10% then 20%. Hey, it's extra money and you're right, they're entitled to it. It's their RIGHT.

Submitted by bleat_on (not verified) on April 4, 2012 1:36 am

"To a degree"? Really? And speaking of "charity," when have ever seen a teacher turn down a fully funded pension, 100% paid health insurance premiums, automatic salary increases, etc.? When have you seen a teacher support longer school days or extended/year-round school years? Teachers aren't greedy. Give me a break...

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 4, 2012 5:16 am

bleat---get some sleep and you'll feel better.

Submitted by bleat_on (not verified) on April 4, 2012 1:48 am

"To a degree"? Really? And speaking of "charity," when have ever seen a teacher turn down a fully funded pension, 100% paid health insurance premiums, automatic salary increases, etc.? When have you seen a teacher support longer school days or extended/year-round school years? Teachers aren't greedy. Give me a break...

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 4, 2012 2:19 pm

Where do you get your information from that teachers have a 100% paid health insurance? New hires, get the first three years free and after that teachers contribute to the cost of their health insurance. Where do you get your information from? Mars?

Submitted by bleat_on (not verified) on April 4, 2012 3:27 pm

You just confirmed that new hires get free health (or should I say, taxpayer subsidized health care) for 3 years. So apparently, you're my source.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 4, 2012 8:00 pm

Go find somewhere else to troll, troll.

Submitted by Lois (not verified) on April 4, 2012 4:32 pm

bleat is a troller----JUST IGNORE his comments.

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on April 4, 2012 8:47 pm

Agreed. Why is anyone paying ANY attention to this moron?

Submitted by Greg N. (not verified) on April 4, 2012 8:20 pm

I agree with you. bleat is a loser and likely worse.

Submitted by bleat_on (not verified) on April 5, 2012 12:01 am

I'm truly honored to have earned your contempt.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 29, 2012 8:33 pm

Congrats to the hard working communities at Stanton and Sheppard!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 29, 2012 9:41 pm

Congrats on keeping your school open. Great team work!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 29, 2012 9:04 pm

YES WE DID IT ( GO SHEPPARD )

Submitted by bleat_on (not verified) on March 30, 2012 5:37 pm

Indeed, congratulations! Stanton (ranked 1852 out of 1895 elementary schools in PA); Sheppard (ranked 1844 out of 1895 elementary schools in PA). If that's not a victory for impoverished children, what is?

But hey, at least some teachers and admins kept their jobs. Whew...

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on April 1, 2012 7:34 pm

I guess it's up to me to comment on your post. The ranking is based on test scores.

These were steadily rising at Stanton and Sheppard and were consistently (in nearly all the grades) above the School District's average

Enrollment was slowly increasing at Stanton and Sheppard also. One of the reasons schools were showing up on the closure list was they had falling or insufficient enrollment.

In measuring progress, it is all about change and not the status quo. If you think test scores are an "all around" measure, I will offer my own two sons as an example. The oldest has nearly perfect (we're talking 99%) scores; however in a few weeks when he turns 17, he will be one of the PSD's dropout statistics (lack of meaning he says). My youngest (14), has tested on the low end of "proficient" but he plays four musical instruments (on college level his instructors tell me), is "acing" Mandarin, and has consistently made honor roll at a selective PSD school, while maintaining all the instruments and other extracurricular activities. So much for standardized test scores telling the whole story.

You also can't have better evidence of the constructive happenings at Stanton and Sheppard than the testimony their caregivers and teachers made at the SRC's public hearings, especially the ones outside their neighborhoods. It was proof positive of a strong community.

Submitted by bleat_on (not verified) on April 2, 2012 9:21 am

Do/did your children attend either of those schools?

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on April 2, 2012 11:21 am

No, they attended (and graduated from) another, which was voted unanimously for closure. The differences between the school they attended and Stanton and Sheppard were: Definite trend of loss of enrollment; test scores that remained unchanged (despite the smaller enrollment/lower student to teacher ratios); higher teacher turnover; few if any Arts organization and community organization partnerships; and most noticeably, having only a handful of caregivers attending public hearings outside the neighborhood.

The PSD keeps stats on their website philasd.org under "schools".

Submitted by bleat_on (not verified) on April 3, 2012 9:56 am

I would personally discount any commentary from teachers. Regardless of their claims, their foremost concerns are their own wages and benefits. The schools/children are little more than an afterthought or, at best, pawns used to further the union's agenda.

And yes, test scores are the most effective tool when measuring the quality of a school. If a school is "graduating" students with insufficient skills (the ability to read, write and perform basic arithmetic, for instance), it is a failure. No employer is going to care how many extracurricular activities child had. If you want evidence, look no further than the employment rates in communities with failing public schools.

These children are trapped in bad schools, and all teachers want to talk about is non-academic "progress." Is it any wonder why the schools never improve or why the general public hates funding them?

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on April 3, 2012 11:08 am

I am not a teacher (homeschooled for many years, but obviously not for pay). My background is actually in the Arts. I continue to volunteer a considerable amount of my time and resources for children who are not mine.

Your comments are valuable in that they express what a good portion of the population, those who like to think in generalities, conclude.

Test scores only measure one facet of critical thinking skills, and as one teacher eloquently commented to you, the current standardized tests are very English biased. I will not contest the need for children to meet standards, but I would not hire someone based entirely on their PSSA scores. Being fluent in more than one language trumps acing just one, if you want to talk employability.

Also, standardized written tests will not measure a child's initiative, ability to relate and find meaning in his/her world, ability to lead, and solve political problems of human nature; all of which so called "extracurricular" activities strive to foster. After a certain point, high scores and grades do not equate to a better employee; They do indicate a high compliance with the system, but do not necessarily indicate creativity nor initiative.

You are wrong that employers and institutions of higher learning don't consider a child's extracurricular activities. They have learned that these are valuable indicators of a child's skills as well as value to them as an institution.

Submitted by bleat_on (not verified) on April 3, 2012 4:30 pm

It's interesting that you elected to home school your children, who by your earlier comments seem to have found success in the PSD. Though it's not an option for many families, it's certainly telling -- an average citizen provides a better education than the PSD.

Published statistics provide the basis for my views on the PSD and public education, but if you want to chalk them up to mere generalizations, feel free.

From its founding, the U.S. has been an English-based society. You may not agree with its relative dominance in all things American. Regardless, that is the country in which we live -- right or wrong. So I would say teachers are doing a grand disservice to ESL students, when they dismiss test based merely on a student's national origin or native tongue. At the end of the day, these children live in an English-based society. To the extent that we're unable or unwilling to provide them with a necessary understanding thereof, we're effectively dooming their ability to succeed later in life.

I would agree that PSSA scores are meaningless, most notably because so many schools have altered scores to receive state/federal funding.

I would also question your statement on fluency in multiple languages trumping a proficiency in one. Though it can certainly be of value, it really depends on the job function. Speaking of generalizations...

Perhaps we should just measure student creativity? Who needs the basic abilities to read, write, and perform arithmetic, right? It's not as if those skills are ever applied upon graduating. And we all know, employers are simply looking for the most creative candidates.

Colleges, which are perhaps the most corrupt and middle class killing institutions in America certainly use extra-curricular activities in admissions. They are merely a tool to justify inequality, though, and their "value" ends the moment one graduates. Unless of course, you're familiar with an employer that only hires candidates that were on their high school's prom committee...

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on April 3, 2012 5:21 pm

Hey bleat, now I know why you were offered a drink. You would make a good live debate. As I said before, nothing I haven't heard from my own spouse (who btw, I've been able to get to contradict himself, just by repeating his own opinion back to him :)

Per your opinion the PSSA scores are altered: thus it follows that those who did not alter their scores must have ended up somewhere on the bottom; And consequentially if these scores are not to be trusted, then neither is the ranking based on them.

My kids have found success in the standardized testing realm (which is State created not Philadelphia School District created. Yes the elementary school was not challenging enough for either, but they helped their peers and their peers befriended them as well (which is also an important experience that I could not create at home). The high school to which they were accepted, which is also in the PSD, is able to give them all the academic challenges they can handle (which the older "opted out" on and the younger has taken on admirably).

Anyway, I have yet to see being on a high school prom committee a bragging point in a City school, a suburban school maybe :)

Finally, one of the reasons your comments don't offend me is that unfortunately I had the same "bone to pick" when I was at my school (nearly every day for 2 years) which justifiably was voted for closure. I can give you plenty of fuel for your fire. I'm surprised you haven't added the huge Title I Federal grant money that Philadelphia, the poster district of the poor child, has been receiving for over 10 years now (and soon to be renewed it appears) to your bitter commentary. I am still outraged that the kids for whom it was meant, have in actuality received so little of it. I found the culprit to be a weak principal, who encouraged a self preservation culture amongst his staff. In turn, the PSD's culture encouraged weak principals to continue to be weak. So yes, keep the fire on.

Submitted by bleat_on (not verified) on April 4, 2012 1:15 am

The drink "offer" was a veiled threat. Apparently, violence was a better alternative than coherent argument. In any case, thank you for the compliment.

While the PSSA results are ineffective, due to fraud/corruption, I don't see how incredibly low, absolute scores are (a.) something to champion or (b.) indicative of fraud at every other school in the state. I also believe that if a legitimate academic test were administered, those schools would not see a tremendous improvement in their overall rank.

You make another good point about the failure of the PSD. While critics often focus on the negative outcomes (students with insufficient knowledge, low graduation rates, etc.), there are also good students whose potential is all but squandered by a system that caters to the worst pupils.

My comments shouldn't offend anyone. I'm merely exposes the fraud of public education and the damage it's doing to poor communities.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on April 4, 2012 8:43 am

No one is championing low test scores. If Stanton and Sheppard had closed, their students would've been transferred to larger schools where the test score stats were worse than theirs. They were granted a reprieve with the understanding that their scores would continue to improve; so contrary to your stated conclusion, the action was indeed a victory for their/the poor students.

The argument about test scores is the argument about, "Which comes first, the cart or the horse?" or, "Can we judge the whole apple by just one part of the skin?" Btw, do you know of any reliable tests for creativity? For integrity even? And test scores do make the best discrimination tools ever; if not for race, for culture... to our/America's detriment, because innovators are not always the best conformists... we need to be careful how far we push this tool.

Submitted by bleat_on (not verified) on April 4, 2012 10:24 am

How is keeping children in one low-perfoming school significantly better than transferring them to a larger, equally low-performing school? Are they really benefiting from that arrangement, or are we condemning yet another generation of children to a life of poverty, government subsidies and (likely) crime merely to keep a few (arguably) ineffective teachers and administrators employed? I would say the latter is far closer to reality than the former.

I understand the benefits of fostering creativity and encouraging students to expand their horizons through the arts and extra-curricular activities. But to the extent that schools are unable to teach students to read, write and perform basic arithmetic, they are failing. There should be far more focus on those areas -- particularly, in early childhood -- and quite frankly, I don't see how a school could effectively measure its progress in any, absent some from of testing.

The test isn't the enemy.

And again, the rest of the world isn't going to care how creative you are or what instrument you can play (in most instances). It will, however, (generally) place value on your understandings of math and science or your ability to effectively communicate. Why there is a constant push to focus on anything but pure academic achievement is beyond me.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on April 4, 2012 11:09 am

No the larger schools were performing worse, not equal.

Take a look at stats on how instrumental music instruction improves academic achievement. My younger one excels in math and science btw, but his music studies preceded. His English grammar and vocabulary are catching up, but he is already bridging and making connections in nonconventional ways (the definition of creativity btw). This was also the reason his test scores were not so great to begin with (they have since improved)- you can't honestly say that all test questions are written so that what is being asked is clear beyond any doubt of interpretation, or that the authors of such have considered all possible interpretations.

The traits that are needed to do well on written exams aren't necessarily sufficient to ensure success in life, or even prove a mastery of science and math (which are in reality creative disciplines); If we focus exclusively on one set of skills, to the neglect of others, we do our children a great disservice. Yes, I understand there is a basic level which we must reach - I don't disagree with you here; but it must be concurrent with and not to the exclusion of other basic skills. How wonderful is it that in getting a child involved with drama, that he/she also becomes actively engaged in literacy as well? The failing schools are the ones that subscribe to superficial pandering to test results. My school did this for 5 years (during all of which no significant progress was made for all the deliberate neglect of anything outside of Test Prep, etc.) They did not get a full time Art teacher till just a few years ago, and even then, the stress was on classroom time, and test preparation. Schools in the suburbs have impressive Arts curricula... hmm.

Submitted by bleat_on (not verified) on April 4, 2012 12:39 pm

Aren't we splitting hairs when we say larger schools are "worse" that Stanton; Sheppard? How "worse" are they? We're talking some of the least effective schools in the state.

I'm all for the use of creative methods/techniques to educate children. I'm not, however, for dismissing the continued failures in math, reading, and science, under the guise of achievement in art/music education. If that's what we've become, maybe we should have the students sit in phys. ed. classes all day and hope they develop enough talent to play professional sports (absurdity intended).

And again, we're back to blaming the test...I mean, seriously, why even bother? It doesn't matter what a child fails to master. There's always going to be some union-sponsored scapegoat (testing, funding, staffing, resources). It doesn't matter. Just let the schools fail. Just let the poverty cycle roll, right?

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on April 4, 2012 12:13 pm

O.K. then: Here's another final quote from my spouse, "I'm not "splitting hairs"; You're just wrong!" Come on, admit it :)

Submitted by bleat_on (not verified) on April 4, 2012 2:04 pm

I'm wrong for wanting kids in impoverished, inner-city schools to have a chance to improve their lots in life. I'm wrong for wanting an unjust system to change, when the persons running the show have absolutely no interest in the children our their futures. You're right. I give up. Good luck fighting accountability, while demanding higher wages and benefits.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on April 4, 2012 5:53 pm

No, you are wrong about Stanton and Sheppard.

And you have misread my comments: all high achieving schools which the PSD does have (with the same union), value the Arts; they do not put the Arts in place of academics, rather they use the Arts to reach their academic goals.

How would you explain these high achieving schools... couldn't happen with the same union could they?

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on April 3, 2012 11:45 am

Forgot to re-emphasize that Stanton and Sheppard have made progress on their test scores. You missed that very important point when you say comments are only about extracurricular progress. Funny that where you will find high achievement, you will also find a strong incorporation/appreciation of the Arts as well.

Submitted by bleat_on (not verified) on April 3, 2012 4:46 pm

If you consider being two of the worst elementary schools in the state, progress, I suppose I have.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on April 3, 2012 5:04 pm

Bleat, bleat, look at your Calculus... look at the graph :)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 4, 2012 11:24 am

Re: "I would personally discount any commentary from teachers."

You've stated your case. This site is for "parents, educators, students and friends of Philadelphia public schools". If you're only interested in bashing teachers, allow me to redirect you to www.gop.com.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 4, 2012 11:35 am

If bleat were referring to an ethnic or religious group, he or she would be guilty of stereotyping. He or she is riding the anti-teacher wave, helping the 1% in its attempt to privatize public education through groups like ALEC.

Submitted by bleat_on (not verified) on April 4, 2012 12:59 pm

Interesting you should bring up the 1%...

http://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2012/03/12-of-us-millionaires-are-educat...

I don't really how children learn, whether it's in a charter school, a private school or a public schoo.. I just don't want to pay for a system that constantly fails, nor do most citizens.

Submitted by bleat_on (not verified) on April 4, 2012 11:19 am

To the extent that I'm addressing real issues, preventing the PSD from providing quality education to its students, wouldn't that qualify me as a "friend"? Or is the discussion on this site intended merely to pass blame on deadbeat parents, corrupt administrators, the Mayor, the Governor, Republicans, the rich...everyone under the sun, excluding teachers themselves and their unions? I don't see how that helps public schools, but hey, censorship worked wonders for fascists, right?

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on April 4, 2012 12:34 pm

What he/she means is that teachers have a conflict of interest. Bleat is offering up some justified criticism, and some unjustified. It is an election year after all: we will see so much more of this. Bleat, you reach a point in your arguments where honestly, you aren't listening.

I am not a paid teacher, yet I am saying many of the same things as teachers on this blog. What I share with these teachers is: having tried to make things better; seeing things that have worked; seeing some of the blocks; and wanting to actually fix the problems.

Bleat, here's one of my hubbie's favorite sayings (and boy do he and I love to argue), "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem."

Submitted by Teach (not verified) on April 8, 2012 3:59 pm

Arlene Ackerman, are you stalking the boards again? Bad girl!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 2, 2012 12:46 pm

You are looking at the rankings of Sheppard and Stanton among ALL Pennsylvania schools. If Philadelphia schools were funded as well as suburban schools, we would have the smaller class sizes, greater security/discipline and improved student health that would bring our scores higher in state rankings.

Bear in mind, also, that Sheppard has a high percentage of students whose home language is Spanish. Es mas dificil pasar un examen cuando hay que traducir cada palabra a otro idioma. Que pasa? No me entienden? No importa. Sientense aqui, porque hoy empiezan los seis dias de PSSA. Si ustedes no ganan buenas notas, vamos a cerrar su escuela. Pero no se preocupen. La culpa es de los maestros, no del sistema.

The SRC only has authority over Philadelphia schools. If they found Sheppard and Stanton worth saving, why are you so angry about it? Of course, we need to save all of our schools and all of our children, but until we get a governor who cares about urban areas, and who believes in putting more money into education than into prisons, we have to do the best with what we have. For now, that means cutting the budget by closing schools, eliminating programs, cramming more children into overcrowded classrooms, laying off school nurses, police and classroom assistants. Is it right? No, but we ought to be celebrating these two victories, rather than insulting the Sheppard and Stanton communities.

If you feel so strongly about improving school rankings, I'm sure there are plenty of schools who would love to have you volunteer as a tutor, mentor or classroom assistant. You can obtain all the necessary clearance forms by visiting http://webgui.phila.k12.pa.us/offices/e/ee and clicking on the links.

Submitted by bleat_on (not verified) on April 3, 2012 10:09 am

There's no discount for graduates of the PSD -- that is, no employer is going to say, "Well, the kid from the suburbs is better qualified, but compared to other graduates from the PSD, you're pretty good. So I'll give you the job instead."

In terms of funding, the PSD is middle of the road (http://www.homesurfer.com/schoolreports/view/schoolrankreports.cfm?state=PA). In relative terms, the district spends ~$3,000 more per student than the district where I was raised. So technically, the students from the PSD should have better test scores, right?

As of September 30, 2011, the PSD had 146,090 students and 9,621 teachers...a ratio of ~15:1. That isn't outrageously high figure by any means.

¿Por qué los niños empujados a través de un sistema escolar en su defecto si no son capaces de leer y escribir en Inglés? Si los maestros no están fallando, ¿quién es?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 4, 2012 10:02 pm

That number takes into account every gym teacher, art teacher, music teacher, special ed teacher, etc. Class size in most cases is not 15 students to 1 teacher. You can't take the information at face value.

Submitted by tom-104 on April 4, 2012 11:06 pm

This is the way educational deforming is being done these days. People have gone crazy with data and statistics and have no interest in dealing with variables and context. Data is only one aspect of reality, whether it be class size or test scores. To know the truth you must combine it with actual observation to understand the data.

Isn't it bizarre that we have someone who takes two pieces of data and triumphantly proclaims they have discovered that class size in Philadelphia schools is 15 students to 1 teachers, when he or she has an audience who knows that the class they live with everyday has at least 28 to 33 students per teacher for most classes? Standardized test data is being used with the same method to rate teachers and schools, data isolated from conditions and context.

Submitted by bleat_on (not verified) on April 5, 2012 12:24 am

My apologies. I thought we were discussing the wealthy, white suburban schools, where statistics and tests scores are welcomed.

Submitted by tom-104 on April 4, 2012 11:12 pm

Translation: Why are children pushed through the school system failing if they are not able to read and write in English? If teachers are not failing, who is?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 4, 2012 10:41 pm

Clearly, the guy (gal?) wants to just bleat on. He (she) in any way is interested in improving educational outcomes for Philadelphia children.

Submitted by bleat_on (not verified) on April 5, 2012 12:17 am

We really just need to throw more money at the problem. If all teachers earned six-figure salaries, the debates over class size and test scores would be irrelevant. Economically-deprived, inner-city children can only learn from well-paid educators. It's a fact. If there were only a way to transfer wealth from the 1%...

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 5, 2012 6:01 am

Yea, yea, bleat on...

Submitted by Pete (not verified) on March 29, 2012 9:55 pm

Congrats to The Sheppard School! Great Job in pulling together as a team....... Pete from The Home Depot

Submitted by Jamie Roberts (not verified) on March 29, 2012 10:38 pm

We couldn't have done it without you, Pete. You're a part of our purple-shirted family now. Thanks to you and to our other community partners. Thanks so much!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 30, 2012 12:16 am

WE DID IT AND REMEMBER;"IT'S A SHEPPARD THING!!!!!!!!!!!

Submitted by Sheppard Teacher (not verified) on March 30, 2012 6:08 am

Don't Stop Believing!

Submitted by Christina Puntel (not verified) on March 29, 2012 9:29 pm

Con respeto, Anthony Williams, reform is not about "replicating" anything. Good schools grow into good schools in myriad complex ways. Vision, leadership, high levels of respect for families, engaging curriculum is not mass produced. We grow it over time together, in something called learning communities. Real reform can not be cut out of the same dough. What we need is not calls for replication. For real reform, we need unwavering support for the arts, community partnerships, amazing professional development, collaboration, and a deep and abiding respect for children and teachers and parents as thinkers and creators.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 29, 2012 9:05 pm

This post says it all !!! I wish the politicians could wrap their brains around this and let us teach by giving the public schools the funding we need.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 30, 2012 7:47 am

Funding can only get you so far. You need the administration to have a clue, a brain, and know to use it. You also need your administration to manage effectively, understand personalities, work well in the communities that they are assigned to...and 440 needs to do a better job of developing and coaching GOOD principals.

Leadership drives everything with the rank-and-file...I worked closely with Philly schools for six years as a contracted vendor and I could tell within 30 seconds of entering a school if the principal was effective/good or not just by walking in...and it didn't matter the zip code or area of the city because there are good performing schools in some of the city's tougher neighborhoods. It ultimately comes down to the (wo)man in charge at each of the district's schools. If they're good managers of people, the school was typically well run.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on April 1, 2012 9:58 am

You are very right. No one on this blog has ever been able to tell me where the Title I money in their school is being spent. No one seems to account for the fact that the Federal gov't has been giving (Philadelphia especially) mega $$ for over 10 years to be used as enrichment, first and foremost to "level the playing field" for the poor. Where Mayor Nutter, and the rest of those who are saying "we need more money", is this Title I money in your proposal to raise taxes, when obviously the "rich kids in the suburbs" aren't (haven't been for over 10 years) getting this?

The academic's world sometimes easily gets lost in "the forest for the trees". The complaint is about the PSSAs without acknowledgement that States were given total freedom in creating these, and that they are addressed to the "bottom of the playing field"; that at no time has Title I money been withheld because of results, and not making AYP, rather the opposite (more money given for poor results.) I say get rid of them then, and get rid of all that wasted taxpayer Title I money. Keep raising Philadelphia's taxes, and you will continue to show a diminished "birthrate" while the rest of the world does not.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 1, 2012 7:55 pm

If you want to see the 2011-2012 individual school budgets, just look them up -- you will see what was allocated for TItle 1 and how it was spent at each school. Not sure if the district still has them posted, but all schools' budgets were previously available.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on April 1, 2012 10:21 pm

Yes, I could; And if I had the time, I would run a comparison. I do know how it was spent at Levering: It was not on "enrichment" for the kids; the bulk was for the "Instructional Reform Facilitator", whose prior title was "Team Literacy Leader" but who was (for all practical purposes) an Administrative Assistant.

My point is, when asked, very few (caregivers, and teachers as well) can say what it is used for in their own school. They will say (more or less) that it is not their responsibility.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 29, 2012 9:39 pm

Yes, well said. I do have a starting point to suggest: Have a good principal, one who supports his/her teachers and fosters caregiver and community involvement at the same time. Then reward successful principals by using them to evaluate/help other principals. The principal is key to the building of school community.

Congratulations Stanton and Shepard, the good leadership you have has built your strong communities!

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 29, 2012 9:33 pm

Sorry for the spelling error. Congratulations Sheppard!
While I'm here adding on to my comment, both Stanton and Sheppard, might want to start looking for patrons to help start a building fund... certainly can't hurt to have a backup :)

Submitted by Rita S (not verified) on March 30, 2012 5:09 am

Thanks for this, Christina. You are right on. You can't just replicate or transplant schools (or students). The staff, parents, community are all part of the equation for success. The amount of team effort and support that Stanton and Sheppard garnered tells the back story of successful schools with teachers and parents as thinking partners.

Submitted by veteran (not verified) on March 30, 2012 4:38 pm

TREMENDOUSLY INSIGHTFUL!!! I still hold strongly to the belief that education is a craft, an art. There is no formula for success. Even as a science teacher I hold to this firmly. The variables are too many to count. Passion, that is the answer. Passion and commitment.

Submitted by Vintage (not verified) on March 30, 2012 7:02 pm

Con todo hierro, Senator Anthony Hardy Williams consideres himself extremely lucky to have been removed from his neighborhood public schools into paid Private Schools, because of the his father's position as a politician and his mother's wishes from his professional African-American neighborhood in Cobbs Creek.

I personally think there is absolutely nothing wrong with choosing a school outside of the inner-city Public School System. I quite agree with this.

One has always had the choice to pay for Parochial and Private Schools.

The main issue is why public schools in the suburbs flourish under the "so-called failing public school system" and why ONLY inner-city public schools need temporary corporate-trained teachers such as TFA and or CharterFranchises who teach school culture and discipline, but do not equip City Charters competitively with Suburban Public Schools even though they extract public monies from the remaining public schools and receive funds from their Corporate Sponsors.

The greater question is that after nearly 12 years and at least three studies of Charters, the data shows Charters have not been more successful than traditional public schools.

Still, it's a money-making scheme which would ultimately change or privatize public education in poor cities from which schools would never return.

Especially in ares where developers who LOVE to get public real estate into private investors and developers as well as public monies to run Private Schools with Public Funds.

Senator Williams needs to look no further than the "Post-Katrina" Recovery District where School "Choice" was decided without students, teachers, parents and anyone else who did not wish to break the Union.

Until Vouchers for full tuition are given to parents to pay for their School Choice and not just used to starve Public Schools so profiteers can run unproven McFranchises and make loads of money...

STOP, LOOK, LISTEN! There is no reason to close Public Schools because of failing schools. A manufactured crisis to control the last market for profit. "The Big Enchilada"

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 31, 2012 8:21 am

WOW----Perfect Post. I totally agree. Corruption 101 and yes, the last market NOW open to crooks.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 29, 2012 9:01 pm

our school deserve to close. some these kids have no respect for their teachers. it's ridiculous all the empty classrooms, and my daughter in 6th grade only has 13 kids in her class.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 29, 2012 9:39 pm

Which was your school?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 29, 2012 9:30 pm

just because the school is closing does not mean the students are disappearing. Students and teachers from the closing schools will be filter back into the system. Students will be rerouted to other schools and teachers will be placed in other schools. Do more research before posting.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 29, 2012 9:23 pm

There may be a few less positions, because "rightsizing" also means consolidation. I assume, the seniority system will be the deciding factor as to whether teachers may be laid off. If students transfer to schools where the student to teacher ratio is already at max, then an additional teacher will be needed; if not, then it will be determined by what the additional number of students brings to the school budget (that is, if there is enough to hire an additional teacher).

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 29, 2012 10:40 pm

why must one do more researching before posting when this is a blog to gain information?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 30, 2012 4:54 pm

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Teachers from those schools closed will be reassigned by SENIORITY. This means they almost certainly will bump teachers with lower seniority. Compounding that is the drop in enrollment as students switch to charter schools or find other alternatives.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 29, 2012 10:33 pm

Is Pepper closing this June or is it being phased out?

Submitted by Linda (not verified) on March 29, 2012 10:46 pm

the word at work was 2014 then 2016 and now it is back to 2014 so who knows until the lights are turned off

Submitted by Stanton teacher (not verified) on March 29, 2012 10:14 pm

Many of you had wonderful supportive comments for Stanton and Sheppard throughout this whole process. Thank you. We still have missions to complete, and many students to teach. That's what's important. This has been an amazing lesson for our students-we CAN make a difference! Everyone had a hand in this. My heart goes out to the staffs at the schools that will be closing in June, as well as the staffs at the schools that will be converted to charters....which also will hopefully will be voted down! It can be done! Thank you everyone!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 29, 2012 11:07 pm

Does Rhodes High close in June or next year-2014?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 1, 2012 1:23 pm

Rhodes HS will be closed effective FALL 2012. It will only have students from grades 6-8. Never thought I'd say this but....sooo glad that school is closing. The administration is incompetent. Staff turnover is running at 80% annually....Support staff runs that school. Teachers can't even close their doors and do what's best for the students....NTA's routinely run into classrooms yelling at students & teachers alike....teachers are harassed and bullied by administration....classes are rostered with no textbooks...ANATOMY....admin still walks into rooms with their clipboards and want to conduct observations of a process they have contributed nothing to...close Rhodes HS already!!!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 1, 2012 1:56 pm

Rhodes High School is Wayman's (un)doing. Wayman's dictatorial style permeates any place she lands. Hopefully she'll take her ample retirement and leave just like she has chased out her staff. Both Fitzsimons and Rhodes need to close. Strawberry Mansion will need a lot of support with the influx of students but it is a relatively new building with plenty of extra space.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on April 1, 2012 2:23 pm

Wayman, like Katherine Donahue and Nixon, try to hide their utter incompetence by being as you suggest, dictatorial. Of course, it doesn't work because once Wayman speaks, you are struck by her utter stupidity with no adherence to the King's English. Donahue's eyes are those of a crazy person and that's exactly how she behaves. Nixon's behavior is similar to Wayman's but no so ridiculous. Rhodes once had a great staff of persons but you are correct, when Wayman arrived, everybody left. I believe she is too young to retire so it's likely she'll continue to spread her vile attitude a bit longer.

Submitted by Sid (not verified) on April 1, 2012 5:56 pm

I agree about the 3 people above. Yikes, no matter how hard you try to find balance, they're just incompetent and so arrogant, you can't give them any sense of right as they say in South Philly. I've dealt directly with Wayman and Donahue and they just aren't sensible people at least where work is concerned. With Donahue, she knows everything and is always on the verge of screaming and tears which sinks her immediately. Wayman should never have been in education pure and simple. She also knows everything, of course, and is out of control in a real way. Both seem to be very disturb and I say that with genuine honesty.

Submitted by Mike (not verified) on April 1, 2012 5:14 pm

I was at Rhodes when Wayman first slithered in. EVERYBODY tried to be fair except her. One day, she spent all day trying to snag the person who parked in the lot when she screamed incoherently on the speaker about 30 times one day. I kid you not. As it turned out, the person who committed the infraction had to go donwtown so didn't hear the screaming. The entire day was wasted because of her bizarre behavior--like something out of The Cane Mutiny. That is a microcosm of how she behaves. Oh, I forgot, she got PROMOTED to downtown after destroying Rhodes and chasing all the veteran teachers out.

Submitted by Kyle Peck (not verified) on March 29, 2012 11:13 pm

I'm ecstatic that Sheppard will be allowed to carry on. It's a beautiful place dedicated to its students and community. Thanks to those involved in this decision. We understand the pressures that might have caused its demise, and we have real respect for the courage it took to save this small but important school. Hats off to those who created this beautiful school, and to those who stood up for it.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 30, 2012 12:03 am

Thank You Kyle! We love our partnership with Penn State. Together, we are producing class act educators! Let's get those Fall Semester Student Interns in here to experience our miracle!

Submitted by Kyle Peck (not verified) on March 30, 2012 2:21 am

Thanks! We are SO happy to learn that you will be able to continue to work with our Penn State future teachers. I hear we have a great batch ready to join you in the Fall. Thanks for all you do to help them see how important teaching can be.

Submitted by Kyle Peck (not verified) on March 29, 2012 11:45 pm

Great news! Sheppard School is a beautiful place and I'm ecstatic that it will be allowed to continue. Thanks to the decision makers!! We understand the pressures to close the school, and we know that it took great courage to keep it open. Your willingness to hear from the community and your open minds are greatly appreciated. Thanks also to the educators, parents, and students who have created and maintained this wonderful place to learn and grow, and to the reporters and others who have kept this issue in the public eye. You are all my heroes. This is a great day!

Submitted by Sheppard Teacher (not verified) on March 29, 2012 11:50 pm

Amen, Kyle! Thanks for everything you and the Penn State team did to support us!

Submitted by Kyle Peck (not verified) on March 30, 2012 2:11 am

You are welcome. Thanks for allowing the Penn State College of Education to be part of the Sheppard community. I'm so happy to see that this long and mutually beneficial partnership is able to continue.

Submitted by Danielle B - K (not verified) on March 30, 2012 3:09 am

I feel disturb by this because its only in our community once you close schools that been in families and communities for years it will be more chaos and I believe yall know this it will have more kids drop out maybe if yall ask the children what they think about the change yall will get more out the change change is not always bad but as people we reach out to someone or something your closing schools which will make it harder on our children its schools out northeast I'm quite sure yall will never consider closing its never right to close a school unless It's major lacks support and students I feel by closing our schools leaves our children of today left out and without

Submitted by former teacher (not verified) on March 30, 2012 7:12 am

"I feel very strongly that we do no harm."

This from a guy who served on the SRC all during the Ackerman years and never stood up to her, voting for whatever she wanted. From a guy who somehow never saw a major budget deficit coming. From a guy who is just one more SRC toady to the charter lobby in this city.

Please.

Lisa Haver

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 30, 2012 5:14 pm

Yes, he really is a piece of crap and I say that with all the christian charity I can muster.

Submitted by Helen Gym on March 30, 2012 9:35 am

Ben, I think the lede here may have been buried. Happy for the folks at Stanton and Sheppard but Feather Houston dropped the real bomb in saying that a quarter of district schools must be closed for rightsizing purposes - four to five DOZEN? 

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 30, 2012 5:48 pm

Can you say, Corbett's drone?? She wouldn't be on the SRC if not for Corbett. His words and feelings come out of her mouth. I've been saying this for months now and have been scolded for not being fair. She's bad news for the kids of Philly as are almost all, if not all of the SRC, Pedro included. He should change his name to Pedro Archie.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on April 1, 2012 6:42 pm

Yes, it would be wise for all schools recommended for closure on the FMP to re-read it, and be prepared.

Certainly the Mayor's proposal to raise property taxes will put even more pressure on the PSD to implement their "right sizing".

Stanton, and Sheppard may even be relocated, if Mr. Pritchett is able to make it happen.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 30, 2012 11:04 am

Did anyone believe, for even a minute, that Stanton and Sheppard would close. It's smoke and mirrors...just a tactic to make the public feel like the SRC is giving them something...build trust in the Great SRC.

The ball is just starting to roll down the hill. Education in this city (around the country) is going to look vastly different in the next decade. The old SRC's agenda was to bring the ball to the top of the hill and the new GREAT SRC's agenda just propelled it down the hill...

This agenda to make public education for profit has a life of its own and there's nothing we, the public, can do to effect change. Too many people stand to make huge profits...children and parents...will be knocked over by the rolling ball...

Not to worry...there will always be a system of schools and people who staff them. This doesn't mean it'll be better...just different.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 30, 2012 5:16 pm

And that's why I've said loudly and longly that we, the people, need to use our only power, the power of numbers to stop this corporate, corrupt takeover of our schools. I wonder which kids will be left behind so the new prisons will have inmates?? I STILL think the ball is in our court but I strongly agree with your overall sentiments,

J.L.K.

Submitted by Sheppard Teacher (not verified) on March 30, 2012 6:11 pm

We absolutely believed we might be closed, especially with all of the misinformation out there about the condition of our school. It seems the same people that "never doubted" allowing Stanton and Sheppard to stay open were the same ones who earlier said all of the closures were a done deal. We can't keep looking at the SRC, especially this one, or even people at 440 as being evil or completely uncaring. No, they are not in the trenches. Unfortunately, they don't understand how little, sometimes, they understand the realities of a 2012 school, but some people's hearts are in the right place, even if it's hard for us to see. I know the cynics will have something to say about this statement, but just as we teachers are human beings, those who serve at 440 or on the SRC are equally human. They may make good calls or horrific ones, but it's unproductive to villify them.

Submitted by tom-104 on April 1, 2012 9:21 pm

The SRC has stated that they want 50% of Philadelphia students to be in charters by 2017. They are political appointees of Governor Corbett and Mayor Nutter.

I congratulate you for winning a reprieve, but you cannot let this create any illusions. Do you notice how they never mention Corbett's cutting the education budget by almost one billion dollars in this year's budget while increasing the prison budget by the same amount? They speak about the fiscal situation in the school district as if it is an "act of God". It is man made. There is a right-wing, free market ideology being applied to public schools which will leave what is left of them to warehouse the children of low income families and prepare these children for menial labor or prison.

Why are standardized tests being used to vilify teachers and close schools? These tests measure only one aspect of education, the rote learning of facts and method. They do not foster critical thinking skills or develop a love of learning. Test should be used to diagnose what deficits are in a child's education or in a school. Instead they are used to close and privatize schools in low income areas.

I urge you to Google the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). In particular look at the series "ALEC Exposed" in last August's The Nation. http://www.thenation.com/article/161978/alec-exposed
Look at the article "Starving Public School" http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/07/14-12

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 2, 2012 6:57 pm

It's because they can get away with it in the inner cities where the Poverty Cycle is allowed to continue with all its evil appendages. I agree, it is a disgrace and nobody better feel so good about Stanton and Sheppard that they take their eye off the ball. This move to privatize everything is code for ending unions as well as any hopes the poor have for a better life for their kids.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 2, 2012 9:12 pm

When did the SRC say they want 50% of the city kids to be in Charter Schools by 2017?? I've not seen that and it seems a very dumb thing to say publicly. NOTHING would surprise me with these Corbett drones but they're stating that, would appear stupid.

Submitted by tom-104 on April 3, 2012 12:31 am

At the SRC meeting on March 12th, Lori Shore, the mayor's education secretary and chair of a committee that oversees implementation of the Great Schools Compact said they have a goal of replacing 50,000 seats in low-performing schools with ones in strong schools, district or charter. Currently the district has 146,090 students and charters have 46,000 students. Therefore my calculation is, take 50,000 seats from public to charters would make roughly 50%.

It is possible to quibble with my 50% calculation because all the students may not be moved to charters, just to other public schools. However, past experience indicates the vast majority will be moved to charters. After all, isn't the political purpose of closing schools with low test scores, rather them intervening and giving them supports to fix them, to create charters?

See:
"SRC hears urgency, skepticism on Great Schools Compact"
http://www.thenotebook.org/blog/124590/src-meeting-discuss-great-schools...

This link is a pdf of Lori Shore's Power Point about the Great Schools Compact goals which includes the moving of 50,000 students:
http://www.thenotebook.org/sites/default/files/Compact-presentation.pdf

The Inquirer article about this SRC meeting has more background:
"School Reform Commission session focuses on turnarounds"
http://www.philly.com/philly/news/breaking/20120312_School_Reform_Commis...

Also see: "Nutter taking aim at low-performing Philadelphia schools"
http://articles.philly.com/2012-01-04/news/30589255_1_charter-school-pub...

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on April 3, 2012 9:50 am

The question I have for the Mayor, Lori, and the SRC is: why are they not talking about creating "independent schools" rather than charter schools? The independent school model is part of the School Code. That model requires teachers and parents of children at the school to be part of the "governing body" of the school. That model was intended to be a hybrid between a charter school and a regular public school and has the advantage that our regular public schools do not need to be "given away" to what essentially are private interests. That model is a model where the PFT members can control the learning program.

The course of action the SRC has embarked upon is just to give more schools to "charter operators" who have no track record of ever turning a school around whatever that means.

The district has not allowed more "true charter schools" to be created through the processes mandated by the Charter School Law. Nor have they allowed or facilitated the ability for our true charter schools to grow -- for example, Esperanza Academy, Richard Allen Charter School, etc. Nor have they changed any school to a "true charter school" with its own board of trustees.

They have only facilitated the "charter operator" model which is the model which is most privatized and allows for the most profit for the operators.

The SRC speaks that they want to give more local autonomy to schools, but they do not propose to use any of these school governance models which have been used over the years to create local school autonomy:

(1) The School Council model which provides that the school council include teachers, parents, and community members, and they have power and control over the local learning program and the school's budget.

(2) The site selection model where the principal and assistant principals are selected by the local school community through a selection team. That model fosters collaboration and collegiality. (That model was used in Philadelphia prior to Paul Vallas's reign of lunacy.)

(3) What I called the Hilltop Babe Ruth Model where every family of a student in a school and every teacher in a school is a member or "resident" of the school, and the residents elect the board of trustees of the school. Interestingly, that is how over 99% of our regular public schools in Pennsylvania are governed -- by the residents of the District (LEA) electing their school boards.

(4) Or, the model proposed, ironically, by a Gates Foundation supported think tank, the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce: They recommended that schools be LLC's where the teachers are the stockholders. In Pennsylvania, LLC's have "members" and not stockholders. That Gates supported think tank advocated that teachers in that model would earn as much as $110, 000.00 a year.

Why aren't any of those models being proposed by our leaders?

Just thought I would put a few ideas into our readers' heads..... You know, for the best interests of our children....

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2012 9:41 am

Because there's no money in it for the crooks and their charter cousins-----but you already knew that, Tom.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on April 3, 2012 9:46 am

I am not Tom. But I would like to inspire "collegial discussions" about the possible models of school autonomy and the possibility that the SRC lead the opportunity to allow teachers to control the local learning program.

Contrary to what people may think. I believe this new SRC has the ability and good faith to think deeply about these issues and do the right things for our children and community. They have allowed Sheppard and Stanton to remain open and that is in the best interests of the children at those schools.

We all speak words, but we are judged by our actions. I give the SRC props for the way they have engaged the public and school communities and acted upon the voices that they have heard.

That is what democratic leadership is about.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2012 1:24 pm

WOW-- as always, very optimistic. I see the SRC as a group of political appointees who will do as told by Corbett and our good Mayor. The result won't be good for the kids but what else is new?

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on April 3, 2012 9:05 am

The question I have for the Mayor, Lori, and the SRC is: why are they not talking about creating "independent schools" rather than charter schools? The independent school model is part of the School Code. That model requires teachers and parents of children at the school to be part of the "governing body" of the school. That model was intended to be a hybrid between a charter school and a regular public school and has the advantage that our regular public schools do not need to be "given away" to what essentially are private interests. That model is a model where the PFT members can control the learning program.

The course of action the SRC has embarked upon is just to give more schools to "charter operators" who have no track record of ever turning a school around whatever that means.

The district has not allowed more "true charter schools" to be created through the processes mandated by the Charter School Law. Nor have they allowed or facilitated the ability for our true charter schools to grow -- for example, Esperanza Academy, Richard Allen Charter School, etc. Nor have they changed any school to a "true charter school" with its own board of trustees.

They have only facilitated the "charter operator" model which is the model which is most privatized and allows for the most profit for the operators.

The SRC speaks that they want to give more local autonomy to schools, but they do not propose to use any of these school governance models which have been used over the years to create local school autonomy:

(1) The School Council model which provides that the school council include teachers, parents, and community members, and they have power and control over the local learning program and the school's budget.

(2) The site selection model where the principal and assistant principals are selected by the local school community through a selection team. That model fosters collaboration and collegiality. (That model was used in Philadelphia prior to Paul Vallas's reign of lunacy.)

(3) What I called the Hilltop Babe Ruth Model where every family of a student in a school and every teacher in a school is a member or "resident" of the school, and the residents elect the board of trustees of the school. Interestingly, that is how over 99% of our regular public schools in Pennsylvania are governed -- by the residents of the District (LEA) electing their school boards.

(4) Or, the model proposed, ironically, by a Gates Foundation supported think tank, the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce: They recommended that schools be LLC's where the teachers are the stockholders. In Pennsylvania, LLC's have "members" and not stockholders. That Gates supported think tank advocated that teachers in that model would earn as much as $110, 000.00 a year.

Why aren't any of those models being proposed by our leaders?

Just thought I would put a few ideas into our readers' heads..... You know, for the best interests of our children....

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2012 9:39 am

Bold Articles that they are--scoundrels hiding in plain sight. Scumbags to say the least or as they say in South Philly--Warts on the ass of life.

Submitted by SOS 60 on March 30, 2012 8:42 pm

Yo, Anonymous, are you the same anonymous who has been saying for months, "does anyone really believe that Stanton will stay open? What ever Gamble wants, Gamble gets? Goodbye, Stanton."
And now you are saying, "did anyone really believe that Stanton would not stay open." Or are you a different anonymous. Which anonymous are you? Just asking.

Submitted by Another Anonymous (not verified) on March 30, 2012 8:10 pm

LOL. I was wondering the same thing.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 30, 2012 8:53 pm

SOS 60...I'm the anonymous who has been saying this is just the beginning of the end of public education as we now know it. Just saying...

As for Gamble...when Archie left the big seat, Gamble's social capital came to a screening halt. He got what he could get while the getting was good.

New SRC brings new players...

Submitted by SOS 60 on March 30, 2012 10:26 pm

The anonymous I am talking to knows who they are

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 31, 2012 8:42 am

SOS--I am the poster who said that Gamble would get Stanton and either I was wrong or the political shot callers said no to him. I still contend we better continue en masse to fight this corporate bull rush or the inner city kids will be toast, even more so than they are now. By the way, I hope you're not an English teacher. Your grammar is stunningly bad. JLK

Submitted by Sheppard Teacher (not verified) on April 8, 2012 3:01 pm

Thanks, SOS-60. I hope your break was as rejuvenating as mine. It was an honor sharing this battle with dedicated people like you.

Submitted by SOS 60 on March 31, 2012 9:04 am

Thanks for the confession. And thanks for the stunning affirmation of my grammar and postings. Hope you encourage any of your students a bit more kindly. I am sure you do. Hope you are fighting smart and strategically for what you believe in....and every once in while admit your analysis and predictions, might be short sighted, skewed, even yes, wrong, let alone sans hope.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 31, 2012 3:15 pm

SOS--Yes, I do and will fight the fight to keep Public School PUBLIC. The playing field is already uneven and unfair towards certain groups of kids. If the corporations have their way, they will end the hope of the have nots altogether. Unions are the only safeguard we have against the corps. Without them, the clock will be turned back centuries. It could actually happen if Tea party Nuts like Corbett have their way.

By the way, I certainly did not give you an affirmation of your grammar whatever that even means. I was condemning your grammar not affirming it. Also, it's analyses or prediction, It can't be both. In any case, I will be there as long as possible, coming after these cretins with vigor. I sense you and I are of the same ilk. JLK

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on March 31, 2012 3:14 pm

I believe that's Holly Shaw in the picture. She and I started together at Stanton long ago. Even then, she bleed Stanton Gold and it's great to see her fighting the fight with vigor.

Submitted by Stanton teacher (not verified) on March 31, 2012 7:40 pm

Nope-not me! :) It's Vicki Ellis and Dolores Polce! Joe K is that you???

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on March 31, 2012 8:35 pm

Hey Holly--Yes, it is. I wasn't really sure that was you or not. Glad you guys made it through all this nonsense. Stanton is the best and you've always been an integral part of their success. They were great times back in the day. Hope all is well with you--JK

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