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Community confronts Hite at closings forum

By Connie Langland on Dec 15, 2012 06:49 PM

As it surely had to, the issue of safety surfaced as a major topic today at the first community forum on the District’s plan to close dozens of schools across Philadelphia.

The forum at South Philadelphia High School drew about 300 people – parents, teachers and activists. Security measures were in effect — participants passed through a metal detector, bags were X-rayed, and city and District police officers milled in the lobby and took seats at the back of the auditorium.

The event began with a moment of silence honoring the children and teachers slain at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.  

South Philadelphia High itself, on Broad Street at Snyder Avenue, was itself the scene of an explosive series of incidents of student-on-student violence three years ago.

The District’s new chief safety officer, Chief Inspector Cynthia Dorsey, vowed to put in place “extra processes, strategies so that our students, our administrators can be in a safe environment … and keep intruders and suspicious persons — keep those situations away from our students.”

But speakers from the audience warned that school closings would imperil students because of longer, more arduous commutes or clashes between students from rival neighborhoods.

Activist Orlando Acosta warned that closing schools would further harm struggling neighborhoods.

“Community—that’s the key,” Acosta said. “You put different people, different neighborhoods in one school, you’ll have turf wars.”

Another speaker, Johnny Patterson, agreed. Speaking directly to Superintendent William Hite, he warned of dire consequences when teenagers lose their home school. “It’s a recipe for disaster,” he said.

Safety concerns aside, speakers were both eloquent and forceful. 

Venard Johnson, a community-based education consultant, challenged the entire proceeding. “You call this a meeting? Why here? Why not in the neighborhoods that are being impacted. And why the fast-track? Slow down the process. Why schedule the week before Christmas?”

Hite responded that “we’re trying to share with everyone the criteria we used." And he noted that  more meetings in various sections of the city are scheduled for January and February.

Dana Moussa, whose child attends Wilson Elementary in West Philadelphia, which is on the closure list, challenged any idea of "pushing him into another school with 50 kids to a class." Instead she offered up an alternative. "Here's a solution: Build smaller schools in our neighborhoods. It's as simple as that."

Parent Tracey Carter, whose son Troy attends Bok Technical High School in a special education program, where he is receiving training as an office worker, made an emotional plea: “We have a lot of upset and confusion here. … You must involve parent groups. I see lives being wasted.” Bok, in an aging facility, is slated to close and reopen as an academy within nearby Southern.

Spanish teacher William Hodgson also spoke up for Bok. “The vast majority of our kids care about their grades … are respectful … and don’t want to lose what they have.” Instead of being closed, Hodgson said, Bok “should be a model for other schools about what’s possible.”

Matthew Gilliam, a senior at University City High School, reminded Hite that they had met when the new superintendent toured the school a few weeks ago. “You asked me how many AP courses I’m taking, and I told you: I’m taking four. What changed your thinking about University City?”

“Nothing has changed my opinion,” Hite responded. But, he said, the high school was built for a student population of 2,600, and now just 500 are enrolled.

“We need to offer better options for all our students and we can’t with so many empty seats,” he said. “This is about providing better options.”

Gilliam was among about two dozen students and teachers at the meeting in support of University City.

Hite and his senior aides rarely found a sympathetic ear, but Wendell Jackson, who has grandchildren in the public schools, applauded that line.

“I see both sides,” Jackson said. “We need to close some of these schools. I can see that downsizing is necessary. But some of the schools are like the main frames for their communities. I think the District needs to keep one high school and one elementary school in every community.”

Parents and students sat together as a bloc, holding posters supporting George Washington Elementary in South Philadelphia, which is slated to close, with Vare Elementary moving there.

Joseph Moylan, president of the Pennsport Civic Association, made a forceful plea to keep Vare Elementary open in its current location. Vare, he said, was Pennsport’s “last bastion of hope.” If Vare closes, there will be “no elementary options whatsoever” in that community, he said.

Connie Langland is a freelance writer.

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Comments (56)

Submitted by Veteran of the WPHS "Renaissance" (not verified) on December 16, 2012 1:24 am
In the insane newspeak that passes for education reform talk these days, the term "high performing seats" is one that needs to be challenged. It makes no sense, because a student's experience is not a result of the seat he is sitting in but of a whole school and community context. Yet the officials/elites have convinced themselves that you can just shuffle kids around into a new "seat" and something magical will happen. Add some "seats" in a slightly higher performing school and the kids who arrive will perform at the level of the school as it was (although Kihn apparently acknowledged that many students will transfer to schools that are not better and in some cases worse -- are these low performing seats?) No thought to the impact on the kid who has to change schools or the impact on the school that receives him. Kids arriving from a different neighborhood change the school context, schools with a particular culture that it has carefully nurtured (along with relationships with parents) will be changed by receiving new students from different schools. These are not seats isolated from their contexts. Kids from schools with positive cultures may find themselves in a very different, less healthy setting that will be difficult to adjust to. And then there is the fact that these community schools are put at such a disadvantage in the new marketplace or portfolio environment. They can't plan because they have no idea what will be in store for them. Who will their students be? How many? What about teachers? And, they are competing with schools that are not at the mercy of distant decision-makers, schools that are carefully building a student population grade by grade, that can screen or push kids out who don't fit a desired profile. So the cards being dealt to the public neighborhood schools put them at a disadvantage and then they get blamed for this disadvantage -- no matter how hard they may be working to improve/maintain good performance. Did anyone say Catch-22? I see this in particular in Hite's response to the University City student about why, despite its work to improve performance, the school still was being targeted for closure -- does this response make any sense? "Nothing has changed my opinion,” Hite responded. But, he said, the high school was built for a student population of 2,600, and now just 500 are enrolled." Then he continues with the term "options" instead of "seats." “We need to offer better options for all our students and we can’t with so many empty seats,” he said. “This is about providing better options.” And where will these kids go? West -- not a great option for them. And please, I don't want to hear about "voting with their feet" -- that phrase and the insane logic behind it has got to go.
Submitted by Ken Derstine on December 16, 2012 5:59 am
The term "portfolio" has to go too. The closest definition that the corporate reformers are using of this word dictionary.com identifies as "the total holdings of the securities, commercial paper, etc., of a financial institution or private investor." Just like "high performing seats" this shows the business mentality of the corporate reformers who are looking at spreadsheet data, not students, teachers and schools. The Inquirer article about the Saturday morning meeting at Southern said school officials "looked on stunned" (http://www.philly.com/philly/education/20121215_Speakers_challenge_plan_...) at the impassioned support students, parents and teachers made for their schools that the SRC plans to close. This is the first time these officials had to confront the consequences of the manipulation of data in their spreadsheets. They were apparently shocked that the reality of student/parent/teacher relations did not conform to the myths of propaganda like "Waiting for Superman" and organizations like StudentsFirst.
Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on December 16, 2012 6:53 am
... and "Great Schools Compact" - "One of the compact’s central strategies is to increase the number of students in high-performing charter schools." This is another example of the push toward privatization. The outpouring of families/students/staff happened earlier this year in South Philly at the Oct. 13 meeting held at CAPA. Hundreds of students/families/staff from Furness packed the space. There was no media coverage but it certainly had an impact on the powers that be.
Submitted by Ken Derstine on December 16, 2012 8:31 am
The paragraph about the Saturday morning meeting at Southern has been reposted at the Inquirer. The sentence stating school officials "looked on stunned" as the parents, students, and teachers gave an impassioned defense of their schools has been REMOVED. It has been replaced with: "The public meeting erupted in shouting at several points as angry parents challenged Hite's plans to shut or relocate 44 schools that were deemed inefficient, underutilized or unsafe." The article also now says: "Several parents and students got in line to have a crack at the microphone during the public comment period.." There were in fact dozens that spoke very articulately and with passion. The article now appears with an ad for PA Cyber Charter School. This was probably rewritten to conform to the Inquirers Editorial position: Inquirer Editorial: Hite's fortitude in for a test "Now comes the hard part. After announcing plans to close about one out of every six schools in the city, Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. can expect an onslaught of opposition. Hite has to stand firm. But he needs the School Reform Commission, City Council, and Mayor Nutter to stand with him. Some adjustments may be in order, but they all know closing schools is a necessary ingredient in making the financially struggling School District healthy." http://www.philly.com/philly/opinion/inquirer/20121216_Inquirer_Editoria...
Submitted by Ken Derstine on December 16, 2012 11:00 am
The actual quote from the original Inquirer article posted Saturday evening about the South Philly High Saturday morning meeting said this, ""You need to go into the community and give us answers!" shouted Vernard Johnson, 65, an education consultant who does work at several schools citywide. "This process is a fraud." Hite and other school district officials looked on stunned as Johnson and many others Saturday demanded answers to a range of questions from how their special ed children would be able to adjust to the relocations, to how certain schools were spared and others were not." The Inquirer has posted a third version of the article. It does not include the "stunned" quote, but it starts with the Saturday morning meeting and has more quotes from participants at the meeting and on the afternoon march. http://www.philly.com/philly/education/20121216_Crowd_voices_protests_to...
Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on December 16, 2012 6:02 am
"And then there is the fact that these community schools are put at such a disadvantage in the new marketplace or portfolio environment." All neighborhood schools - especially high schools - will be impacted by the closings. When Vallas decided to nearly double the number of high schools by either taking special admit/ magnet programs out of high schools (e.g. Bartram lost Motivation, Comp Tech, Robeson, etc.; Germantown lost Lakenau, etc.) or creating new schools (e.g. SLA, Constitution, Arts at Rush, Academy at Palumbo, etc.), neighborhood high schools were set to "fail" under No Child Left Behind. A disproportionate number of so called "low performing seats" or students who do not score "proficient" on standardized tests were left in neighborhood schools. Just look at the percentage of students with an IEP in the high schools slated for closure: Germantown - 30% University City - 24.4% Strawberry Mansion - 32.1% Carroll - 20.5% Douglass - 24.3% Vaux - 27.6% Students who do not have high enough test scores and grades, good behavior records and attendance will not be accepted into special admit / magnet schools. Most charter high schools will also claim to not have "enough room." (Just look at charter high school applications. Prep Charter, for example, requires students to submit test scores and report cards with their application. CHAD also requires an essay and sample art work. Very few charter high schools only require what a neighborhood high school requires - proof of residence, age, etc.) Students won't be able to vote "with their feet," other than to drop out, because few of the students will have the option to go to any other school than their "new" neighborhood high school. The students who will have the scores / grades / behavior / attendance to get into special admit/magnet, will again drain the neighborhood high schools of "high performers" who boost the test scores. All neighborhood high schools will be expanding by adding more students who will need a lot of supports to transition to a new school, be prepared for the Keystone tests, adjust to the school culture/ climate, etc. Will the money be available? Will the School District, and PA Dept of Ed, take this into consideration when evaluating schools and teachers? (Next year, teachers will be evaluated in school district public schools - not charter schools - based on test scores.) Will the teachers in neighborhood schools be "failing" because we accept all students versus cherry pick? I understand there are schools "under capacity." (Ironically, or not, the Inquirer map of schools closings includes a advertisement for "Online high schools in PA" http://www.philly.com/philly/education/183371401.html) Why not return special admit / magnet programs to neighborhood high schools? Roxborough is getting Lakenau. Southern is getting BOK. Northeast High has an internal magnet (and IB) program. Why not merge Academy at Palumbo and Furness? Parkway West and SLA into University City? Constitution and Bodine with Ben Franklin? Parkway Northwest to Germantown? Wouldn't this be more equitable?
Submitted by retired Phila teacher still caring about public education (not verified) on December 16, 2012 8:41 am
You make sense. So do Veteran of WPHS Renaissance and Ken Derstine, above. How can we get those in power to listen more, get their noses out of their spreadsheets? The Community Meetings (like Saturday's at Southern) are a small help, getting the policy-makers in the same physical space as the actual students, parents, teachers behind their numbers. How can we amplify these voices of reality?
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on December 16, 2012 9:01 am
Mobilize the community. Join the vigil on the 20th.
Submitted by mrshamlin (not verified) on January 10, 2013 6:17 pm
this makes sense!!!!!!!!!!!!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 10, 2013 6:37 pm
Total sense. To make high schools viable, combine neighborhood and magnet schools. It works at Northeast High School - it can work at other schools.
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on December 16, 2012 12:33 pm
Hite was paid to be the new front man,er person, taking the place of The Queen. He's a sacrificial lamb, from whose mouth, springs the same rhetoric that Ackerman was told to say. Big Money, easy and abundant, is behind all this and if you think Nutter et al aren't in on the scheme, I got a bridge to sell you. This won't stop until WE stop it en masse as they used to say. Yes, the buzz words are infuriating. Here's another one, "transition." What a freakin joke !! I was at a meeting where one of their talking heads said the word, transition 23 times in 10 minutes. I wanted to throw my shoes at her. Just tell us you're screwing over the kids for money and let it go at that.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 16, 2012 1:49 am
Why is the "voting with their feet" logic insane? Second, it's unfortunate that UCHS is on the list, due to some fairly positive changes there over the past three years. But--the school district really does need to close some schools, and UCHS is a fairly obvious choice. The building is in total disrepair. The HVAC doesn't really work, and they can't do anything about it because the building is loaded with asbestos. Thus, within the next few years, the students at UCHS would have probably have to be relocated anyway. So, with West and Overbrook both far under capacity, it would make very little sense to relocate the 500 students at UCHS to an alternate site for a year while their 2500-student building was extensively renovated or replaced. A fairly large portion of the UCHS catchment area is actually closer to the West Philly HS building, too. The real odd decision was made by Ackerman--selecting a rapidly shrinking school in a nearly condemned building for huge investment three years ago. UCHS probably should have been closed at that point, with all of the Promise Academy resources going to West or some other school that was more sustainable.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 16, 2012 1:47 pm
Much of the information posters present is faulty. Slight changes in phrases used to support a specific position. This has to happen and should have happened years ago. Any rational adult who is even slightly aware and invested in Philly public education had to see this coming. It hasn't been a secret. Instead of moaning and complaining, there should have been a plan. Dont' talk about not knowing and a bad process, people know about the Facilities Master Plan for more than a year. The problem was/is the same protesters expected the state to just give more money to keep a sinking ship afloat. Welcome to the real world.
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on December 16, 2012 1:07 pm
Your sensitivity is only matched by your grammar. What you do have right is that WE should have DONE MORE to stop it rather then sitting and watching and hoping our "leaders' would do the right thing.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 16, 2012 6:22 pm
Petty and missing the point. If this thing surprised you, you've been in a coma.
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on December 16, 2012 6:51 pm
He didn't say he was surprised by the action. And what is petty about his noticing your insensitivity to the lives of thousands Philadelphia children that will be upended by the school closings. It is clear your do not have children of your own who are embroiled in this situation. This situation is personal and it is painful. Whether ones agrees the closings need to happen or not, on that point we Philadelphians should all agree. As we all feel the devastation of the recent senseless shootings in Connecticut, we should all be looking at our own vulnerable children and considering them at every step as painful budgetary decisions impact them. Children have no vote, they have no power in this mess.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 16, 2012 6:58 pm
I didn't write the original comment, but I do think you may be one who exaggerates. The shootings in Connecticut are nothing like closing schools. By any measurement, the schools they're closing are horrid. There are other schools for the displaced students to attend. And for those who may be losing their jobs, you have my sympathy. It's time to right size (oops, one of those "reformer" words) the district.
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on December 16, 2012 7:10 pm
Ask he children at Washington School in South Philadelphia if they find their school "horrid". By any measurement? Have you ever been there? Do you know the teachers? Do you know the families?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 16, 2012 11:16 pm
you may have picked the only one you can defend. this school does a good job. so only 36 of 37 are horrid. btw, washington can't touch columbus, universal, or performing arts charter schools.
Submitted by Concerned teacher (not verified) on December 16, 2012 11:21 pm
Get real. The charter schools you mention are okay but certainly don't have the diversity of Washington elementary. (Performing Arts Charter is one of the "whitest" schools in the city no less South Philly.) Despite the regulations posed by the School District, there are many excellent neighborhood elementary schools in Philly. There are many "under performing" charters throughout the city. The SRC keeps renewing their charter (e.g. Southwest Leadership Charter, Wakisha, Tacony Academy, World Communications, etc.) If World Communications is allowed to continue to operate, then no Philly high school should be closed.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 17, 2012 12:12 am
did you notice that washington changed principals and the scores went down? district schools have a credibility problem. not all charters are good, but c'mon, you don't want to start a school by school comparison-you point out a bad charter, I show you two district schools with admissions criteria that stink. you know you lose there. It is you who needs to, as you say, "get real." it's over. the days of a government run monopoly in public education is over. all your whining,finger-pointing, threats, and accusations cannot turn back the clock. do you really think you've got a chance with jordon and roebuck carrying your water? your best bet is to start a charter yourself. control your own destiny.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 17, 2012 6:30 am
Speaking of Roebuck, he was reelected despite the hundreds of thousands of dollars your organization poured into his opponents campaign. People are getting aware the the corporate reformers will lie, cheat, and steal to get their way.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 17, 2012 6:26 am
http://thenotebook.org/blog/125384/feds-denial-ayp-rule-change-allow-clo...
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 17, 2012 7:20 am
he was elected because most of his voters voted against their own interests. I don't have an organization. I gave his opponent nothing, not even vote. I was an interested observer. I came to the conclusion he stinks all by myself. Didn't take much to get there.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 17, 2012 8:08 am
Charter schools also have a credibility problem. Where shall we start; the application process is violated by a number of charters ( they require test scores, disciplinary records, admission test, etc), they try to cherry pick their students, when they pick a wrong cherry, they force the parent to "withdraw" their child to avoid additional actions, students they do not find desirable after one year, they tell the parent they didn't send back an invisible form saying they wanted to return, so back to public school they go. A lot of us know first hand the trickery and foolishness, charter schools participate. Non special admit public schools must accept all who are in their encatchment area, regardless of test scores, personality, attendance, disciplinary records etc... Please, before you start saying PSD has a credibility issue, do some research, you may be surprised at the findings!!!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 17, 2012 8:04 am
With respect to the communities slated for closure, my point is that each community needs to decide what is in the best interest of the community. All of us know at the root of these troubles schools is the issue of poverty. We need to respect those who have so very little. We need them to want our "grand ideas" for reform. We need them to be an integral part of the solution. I believe the school "reform" movement in this country borders on evil. Perhaps I am wrong. But at the very least, it suffers from the highest kind of arrogance- in shoving solutions in the faces of people who have no voice.
Submitted by Concerned teacher (not verified) on December 17, 2012 9:29 am
Amen!
Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on December 18, 2012 2:05 am
Your words in this post are very eloquent. Thank you!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 17, 2012 1:16 pm
Wilson Elementary is not horrid. It has the bad luck of being small and very near a major institution (USP) that would likely purchase the property or spur a developer to do the same.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 17, 2012 1:11 pm
Funny you mention being close to USP. Regarding Gompers, do they think ST Joseph University would buy the property? Is Gompers a 'horrid" school? Anyone know about the school?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 17, 2012 2:00 pm
There are many connections between which schools will be closed and potential sales. University City, which obviously under enrolled, is prime real estate. Meade is next to Temple. What about the schools which are not in gentrifying areas?
Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on December 18, 2012 2:42 am
I've spent time in Gompers. It needs some work, but it's not horrid. One of the portables is condemned. The classrooms there are huge. St. Joe's just bought the cardinal's mansion. From talking with someone I know who has worked at SJU for decades, SJU doesn't have the money to buy Gompers. One fact about Gompers is that it's a very small school by SDP standards. It has fewer than 400 kids. There are only 2 classes per grade, plus 3 autism support classes. Thus, it's probably more expensive to operate per child than most schools. It would be a great property for a smaller charter school because of its size. In addition, Gompers is close to Beeber so most students in the catchment area are fairly close to Beeber.
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on December 18, 2012 6:26 am
My only question about your comment is,"Why has it become OK for a charter school to be 'a small charter school'? I fail to understand your logic here. A charter school can be small but a public school cannot? Are you tacitly agreeing to this double standard? The Gompers parents haven't made this decision. The superintendent is desperately hanging on to a contrived narrative that our parents are choosing the charter schools because of some mythical achievement gap, while the opportunities are being handed to the charter schools at the expense of our public schools. Anyone who attended the South Philly and Sayre hearings can see that the public is not buying this.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 18, 2012 8:06 am
i do think that district high schools should be smaller. i don't think there should be a double standard. what has happened is the financials of a small district hs do not allow them to responsibly do small schools. your buildings cost $80 million dollars. charters are rarely over $12 million. you have far more staff overhead. it's not a double standard. it's fiscal prudence. most parents do not chose charters because of the achievement gap. they chose charters because of safety. however, when 25 of the 30 largest gains in testing are charters, they must be doing something right. if you don't like what's happening, compete!
Submitted by tom-104 on December 18, 2012 10:44 am
Could you cite where you get your information that "25 of the 30 largest gains in testing are charters". Either you are misinformed or are deliberately distorting the record. On November 21st, in the article "Feds: Pennsylvania cannot treat charter schools like school districts for yearly progress scores, the Allentown Morning Call reported: ***** "The federal government ordered the state Department of Education, by January, to recompute and publicize charter schools' 2011-12 AYP grades in the same manner as public schools. The U.S. Department of Education has final authority over any changes in how states grade public schools, school districts and any other "local education agency" under No Child Left Behind, a federal law. Tomalis did not wait for federal approval when he made the change over the summer at the bequest of the charter school industry. The change may have inflated the success rate of charter schools because testing rules are more lenient for charter schools, according to a Morning Call analysis of PSSA test data. The federal government's rejection of Tomalis' methodology was praised by Lehigh Valley superintendents reached Wednesday, and by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, which had filed a legal brief with the federal agency opposing the change. "It is clear the secretary made that change to make charter school performance look better and the feds said, 'You can't do that,' " Bethlehem Superintendent Joseph Roy said. Stuart Knade, chief counsel for the state school boards association, said he was happy the federal agency agreed with his legal argument that the change not only unfairly inflated charter results, it did not follow federal law. "We laid out our objection to the federal government," he said, "and it looks like it was taken to heart." Under No Child Left Behind, reading and math scores from PSSAs administered in grades 3-8 and 11 are used to calculate whether a school and school district achieved AYP. Other factors include test participation rates, and attendance and graduation rates. Until this year, the results of traditional public schools and public charter schools had been counted the same way." ***** The Notebook reported this on November 27th in the article "Feds' denial of charter AYP rule change will allow closer Philly school comparisons": http://thenotebook.org/blog/125384/feds-denial-ayp-rule-change-allow-clo...
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 18, 2012 10:01 am
the notebook, december issue. read it and weep. the ayp calculation mes is not my problem. i want comparisons to be fair. i don't see the change as a big thing. competition is the watchword. now that i answered your question, how about you responding to my point that you are a bloated, inefficient system. wb.
Submitted by tom-104 on December 18, 2012 11:13 am
Not a very good dodge of my point. That the very top of administration is bloated there is no question. Just look at the recent raises Hite gave the top administrators. All of these positions are appointed by the SRC who do the bidding of Governor Corbett and Mayor Nutter. Their main preoccupation these days (as it has been for consecutive SRC's over the last ten years) is to eventually get 50% of students into private charters. (Don't talk to me about them being public. When they have to follow government regulations and union contracts, and not have principals double dipping in salary, and pay into the pension fund like public schools...then we can talk about them being responsible to the public.) As you go down the administrative hierarchy, however, the picture is much different. Many departments are being headed by one person. They have been cutting into bone for the last year. In the classrooms, spend anytime with a teacher and you will see to call them bloated is just a joke. Many teachers must spend thousands of dollars a year for classroom materials just to do their job. (Teachers get $100 per year for materials, most schools in the suburbs have a $1000 allotment per year.) Most schools have a nurse one or two days a week. If there is a medical emergency the principal must call 911 and hope the rescue squad gets there before the child has a major, life threatening medical condition. Many schools do not have libraries, computer labs, art or music teachers. The inefficiency you complain of is due to the top administrators starving the public schools for resources (while recently, for example, spending $139 million for charter expansion http://thenotebook.org/blog/125008/price-charter-expansion-so-far-139-mi...) to make them undesirable and thereby pressure parents to put their children in charters...which the tests you want to ignore show that a few do better, most do the same, and many charters do worse than public schools. This is not competition. This is telling public schools to defend themselves with their hands tied behind their back.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 18, 2012 11:58 am
Thank you Tom104. Most of us on the frontlines instinctively understand the disparities. You consistently have the research, and the data to backup your points. Please continue to educate us and the public about the serious problems resulting from the dismantling of our public schools.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 18, 2012 11:26 am
sarcasm is the last refuge of the imaginatively bankrupt. now go back to the front line and teach the kids. whining is not helping.
Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on December 19, 2012 3:41 am
No I'm not agreeing with that double standard at all. In fact, I think it's outrageous that the District would close a traditional public school because it is a small school (since smaller schools cost more per student) and allow small charter schools to proliferate.
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on December 16, 2012 7:53 pm
I agreed with your point after I commented on your tortured grammar. Bottom line is this has nothing to do with kids and everything to do with money for the rich. You know it, I know it and The American People know it, maybe even you.
Submitted by Ken Derstine on December 16, 2012 6:04 pm
The School District has been under the management of the state through the School Reform Commission for ten years. Shortly after the state took over the District due to an $80 million (!) deficit in 2002, the SRC tried to bring in Edison Schools to privatize 64 schools. After massive community opposition, this was quickly called reduced to twenty. Edison now goes under the name Edison Learning incorporated. An entry in Wikipedia says this: ***** "In 2008, the School District of Philadelphia, Edison's largest single client with 20 schools (Edison was originally planned to take over the entire district), later announced plans to dismiss the company as a manager, noting that it and other private firms would be eligible to reapply.[9] By June 18 that year, Philadelphia's School Reform Commission voted to seize six schools from outside contractors— four of them run by Edison— citing lack of improvement.[10] EdisonLearning has not made a profit for the last 4 years and has been relying heavily on Liberty Partners for financial support. Over the last few years, Liberty Partners has replaced the senior leadership in hopes for making the company profitable." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edison_Schools ***** This attempt to privatize Philadelphia schools has continued for the last ten years with gross fiscal mismanagement being part of the strategy. Particularly under Vallas and Ackerman the SRC ran up huge deficits. Ackerman poured money into starting Promise Academies, Renaissance Schools, and charters while at the same time starving public schools of funding. She did whatever she could to discredit public schools. Add to this Governor Corbett's cutting $300 million of state funding in the 2011-2012 Philadelphia school budget, the largest cut to any school district in the state, and you have our current budget mess. This process continues under the current SRC. This past spring they had no problem with allocating $139 million for charter expansion. http://thenotebook.org/blog/125008/price-charter-expansion-so-far-139-mi... If the School District of Philadelphia is a "sinking ship", it is the SRC, Governor Corbett, and Mayor Nutter who blew a hole in the hold and started the "ship's" sinking.
Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on December 16, 2012 6:28 pm
Does anyone have the figures on how much we are paying for Vallas' building expansion? Besides closing 21st Street (and two other sites) and opening 440 N. Broad, new schools were built including Audenreid (which was given to Universal for nothing the first year and next to nothing in subsequent years), Fells, Lincoln, West Philly, Kensington CAPA, Willard, etc. There were also schools which received funding for additional (GAMP - at least $25 million), updates (Academy at Palumbo - $25 - 30 million) Granted, we had and have many outdated buildings but what were the financial deals? (Vallas also created "super sports sites" in the Northeast and South Philly and at Gratz - which was given to Mastery). Is the bond funding of the building expansion under Vallas connected the Wells Fargo bond swaps? How is Vallas' legacy, including 400, impacting the current budget? How does this compare with the severe cuts made by Corbett/PA Legislature?
Submitted by Ken Derstine on December 17, 2012 11:21 am
Your comment about Vallas' building program is spot on. Given his subsequent actions after leaving Philadelphia, it is highly suspicious that he had a new school built for Audenreid which was immediately turned over to Universal under the conditions you describe. Look at his current activities in Bridgeport, Connecticut where he has been interim superintendent (as well as being head a consulting firm, the Vallas Group) for one year. Note: the EasyIEP program that is part of the controversy in Bridgeport is currently used by Special Education teachers in the School District of Philadelphia. http://jonathanpelto.com/2012/12/13/vallas-no-bid-contracts-continue-to-...
Submitted by Ken Derstine on December 16, 2012 9:30 pm
The School District has been under the management of the state through the School Reform Commission for ten years. Shortly after the state took over the District due to an $80 million (!) deficit in 2001, the SRC tried to bring in Edison Schools to privatize 64 schools. After massive community opposition, this was quickly reduced to twenty. Edison now goes under the name Edison Learning incorporated. An entry in Wikipedia says this: ***** "In 2008, the School District of Philadelphia, Edison's largest single client with 20 schools (Edison was originally planned to take over the entire district), later announced plans to dismiss the company as a manager, noting that it and other private firms would be eligible to reapply.[9] By June 18 that year, Philadelphia's School Reform Commission voted to seize six schools from outside contractors— four of them run by Edison— citing lack of improvement.[10] EdisonLearning has not made a profit for the last 4 years and has been relying heavily on Liberty Partners for financial support. Over the last few years, Liberty Partners has replaced the senior leadership in hopes for making the company profitable." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edison_Schools ***** This attempt to privatize Philadelphia schools has continued for the last ten years with gross fiscal mismanagement being part of the strategy. Particularly under Vallas and Ackerman the SRC ran up huge deficits. Ackerman poured money into starting Promise Academies, Renaissance Schools, and charters while at the same time starving public schools of funding. She did whatever she could to discredit public schools. Add to this Governor Corbett's cutting $300 million of state funding in the 2011-2012 Philadelphia school budget, the largest cut to any school district in the state, and you have our current budget mess. This process continues under the current SRC. This past spring they had no problem with allocating $139 million for charter expansion. http://thenotebook.org/blog/125008/price-charter-expansion-so-far-139-mi... If the School District of Philadelphia is a "sinking ship", it is the SRC, Governor Corbett, and Mayor Nutter who blew a hole in the hold and started the "ship's" sinking.
Submitted by Concerned teacher (not verified) on December 16, 2012 9:01 pm
Chester School District was also given to Edison. The Commonwealth failed Chester families/students. Now, it is in receivership.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 16, 2012 1:21 pm
Hite and the district have said almost nothing about their other excuse for school closings: academic performance. Keep in mind that they have admitted their own data on SPI is so faulty that they are looking for another (!) consulting firm to fix it. In addition, they have put out incomplete and highly questionable numbers from their own Facilities Master Plan. The community meetings on this were a joke, as anyone who attended knows, and no time was given for people to get meaningful answers from the presenters. Do they really think that we are going to participate in these drive-by meetings held the week before Christmas and be placated? Come to the SRC meeting Thursday December 20th and demand real answers. Lisa Haver
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 17, 2012 4:29 am
Exactly what should be done by the district to completely fix the problem? Before you point to closing charter schools, remember that most of the schools on the list were failing before charters were in existence. Next you may talk about funding, but remember that funding over the lest ten to fifteen years has skyrocketed with nothing but more failure. The district has been allowed to fail children and the community for years, while its leaders and employees have gotten fat. If union hacks like the previous poster were in it to save teacher jobs, I could almost understand. That's not their real point. When you get paid more (two salaries for Jerry) than anyone in your membership and don't even see kids, spend millions on political contributions and fail to be a real advocate for improving the profession/working conditions of your members, there is a problem. It's not about the masses of teachers or students. It's about a select few who want to keep the status quo because the horrible condition of the district keeps them fat, happy and in bed with the people they claim to fight against. Check out the real story on our "leaders". They're the real one percent.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 17, 2012 4:19 am
This hits it right on the head. If the union membership, not the leadership, would get wise to their situation, they would get support from places they never expected. If they continue to act like this is class warfare and they see themselves as the underclass, they will continue to lose the support and respect of the students, parents, business community, and others. Liberate yourselves or you wil haveno say at the table. Can't you see that you're there already?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 2, 2014 1:21 pm
PFT President,Jerry Jordan is the worst union president ever within any union. He is self -selving, discourteous, condescending, ineffective, weak , treats his members disrespectfully (by not reaching out to them or communicating with them even when you contact them) thinks he is all- knowing and what is best for the rank and file -regardless of members input and creates division among members with his favorites/ plants and then the other members that don't kiss up to him. In reality, Jordan has no clue what transpires in classrooms, schools today (how would he socializing everywhere and in his cushy office for over 30 plus years ducking all contact with members or resolving any substantial issues. We need to push Jordan out of office and the other sponges within the 1816 Chestnut St. PFT headquarters. Clean house with leaders that know what is going on and face reality and not disrespect their members ,encouraging their feedback and support. Then you get unity/solidarity within the rank and file. The officials at the PFT allowed this crap to go on with the SDP for years sitting idle so the District figured it take the final crap on the PFT "leadership" .(even though they don't deserve that term). and ultimately the members. The first thing the members need to do his oust Jordan .Get a real strong, member -oriented President and take back dignity and get what we deserve. Email Jordan and the other bunch there. and ask what his strategy is for settling negotiations .NYC teachers union did it with Mayor deBlasio's help. That contract isn't that bad either with retroactive pay from 2009 on. I seriously doubt Jordan and his crew can do anything substantial for members-just himself and the non-working members at the PFT headquarters. jjordan@pft.org (president) lharris@pft.org (Grievance Rep. and asst. to Jordan) akempin@pft.org (Gen Vice Pres, PFT) email the other AFT Reps. at address below. rweingarten@aft.org (AFT, Pres.) tkirsch@aftpa.org (AFT, PA, Pres.)
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on December 17, 2012 9:41 am
There are over 2,000 EMPTY seats in U. City. I feel for the families who are there and don't want to lose their school but the truth is, there is no hue and cry for U. City -- If there was, the school would be full. Want to know the best way to keep U. City open?? Get 2,000 families to enroll. But we all know that won't happen. Charters and other schools don't steal kids from places like U. City, it's just that the vast majority of parents feel the school has delivered what they want or need.
Submitted by Concerned teacher / parent (not verified) on December 17, 2012 9:29 am
There are areas of the city with an abundance of schools - West Philly has Overbrook, West, Sayre (started by Vallas as 9-12), Lamberton (started for parents in the 1970s who didn't want to send their children to Overbrook), High School of the Future (started by Vallas). If Vallas had not opened two new high schools, Univ. might not be as empty. That said, the building needs a lot of repair so it isn't the best environment compared to new buildings like West and High School of the Future. As a parent, I rather have my children in a newer building. Kensington also is another area where Vallas started many high schools. Kensington High was divided into three schools - Kensington CAPA (which has a new building), Kensington Culinary (which is now Health Care) and Kensington Business. Kensington Urban Ed just opened a few years ago - why is it being kept open while Carroll and Douglass are being closed? (Vallas also made Carroll - which had been a school for truant students - and Douglass - which had for special needs students - high schools). Now, everyone from Carroll and Douglass will go to all of the Kensington's except KCAPA. (Why not?) My point is we are not only cleaning up for Ackerman - also for Vallas. How many more high schools will close because of Vallas' policies?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 17, 2012 9:31 pm
Vallas' problem is that he opened schools, but didn't close any. Ackerman, well what more do I need to say. I don't understand the reluctance to close some of these schools. Uni, Gtown, Mansion, Vaux, anyone really think they're worth saving? If you do, then send your child there. Nobody posting here would put their children in any of them. You're all trying to save jobs, not kids. Shame on you and this fake sympathy. Why didn't your union stand up for student and teacher safety? When these places turned into hell holes you decide to speak up. Too late. And for those who are bashing charters, why do so many district teachers send their kids to charters? Add in those in private schools and suburban districts and you have the majority of district teachers' kids. Those who go to district high schools go to special admit schools. Now, that should keep you busy.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 9, 2013 8:55 am
this article shows the district did a poor job in telling their story. if over 1700 students opted out of that school (600 in charters and more than 1100 to other district schools), the district didn't close strawberry mansion, their neighbors did. the chaos that you witnessed last night was a pft production. you're talking about parents who didn't have the inclination to look for a better option to mansion and they organized busses? to quote the famous spanish poem: no way, jose.
Submitted by Keennan (not verified) on February 25, 2014 12:08 pm
Hi, I'm a new guy, glad to be here. I register on this board to wish that I can post my questions and perhaps give answer if I can. Thanks.
Submitted by Amyrbhc10 (not verified) on July 2, 2014 8:06 am
The student-on-student violence happened at the school sin Philadelphia was literally disappointing and these incidents made a lot such schools get closed. I read that the closing event was held with as much protection as possible. Anyway, thanks. http://www.powered.com/

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