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Hite faces questions about playground, turf wars, teacher displacement

By the Notebook on Dec 19, 2012 11:32 AM
Photo: Harvey Finkle

Superintendent William Hite

by Connie Langland

Questions at Tuesday night’s forum on school closings veered from the general -- what about Head Start programs in North Philadelphia? -- to the specific: What will happen to the newly installed $300,000 playground at Taylor Elementary, which is now scheduled for closing?

“For 100 years, there was no place for children to play in Hunting Park. Now you’re taking the playground away from them,” said Ann Marie Pasley, Home and School president at the school, expressing dismay that the closing could come on the heels of such a major investment by the Hamels Foundation.

Plans for the playground are being studied, a District official said.

About 150 people attended the forum at Edison High School in North Philadelphia. Students from several schools scheduled for closing or relocation, including Carroll, University City and the Military Academy at Elverson, made up at least a quarter of the audience, which by turns cheered various speakers and jeered responses from Superintendent William Hite’s management team.

As audience members at previous forums last Saturday and Monday had done, members of this audience challenged safety director Cynthia Dorsey, who in her comments has urged parents and teachers to convince students to put aside gang rivalries in the proposed realignment. Audience members were not assuaged.

“My son -- he’s an honor student, perfect attendance -- he’s going to be put in a school he doesn’t want to go to, with kids he doesn’t want to be in cahoots with,” said LaTanya Glenn.

“We don’t want to create problems, to create gangs,” Dorsey replied.

The District is expanding conflict-resolution programs and taking other measures to stymie any flareup of gang activity, she said.

But Glenn persisted. “University City has had a beef with West Philadelphia for 30 years. Overbrook had had a beef with West Philadelphia. These children are not afraid of you, they’re not afraid of their parents. … It’s always the innocent ones who have nothing to do with nothing that end up hurt, end up in body bags.”

With several elementary schools closing in North Philadelphia, the fate of Head Start and Bright Futures programs housed in those schools is in doubt, one speaker noted. Will they be relocated nearby, or far from the neighborhood?

“Where are you going to put the 3-, 4-, 5-year-olds? For our low-income families, you’re offering up more challenges.”

Michelle Linder-Coates, executive director of the Office of Early Childhood Education, responded that plans are in the works, but that firming up new locations for the programs will be “last in the game,” depending on which schools ultimately close.

Theodore Yale, a teacher at the Military Academy at Elverson, said the closings raise the prospect of job losses for newer teachers.

“The message to teachers is clear: If you have options, get out,” Yale said in a strong voice that stirred the crowd.

The academies at Elverson and Leeds are to merge into the Philadelphia Military Academy and be relocated to Roosevelt Middle School, which is to close. Roosevelt students are to attend Leeds Middle School.

Hite sought to reassure him. “We need teachers like you,” he said.

Hite said his team had calculated that 37 teacher jobs, out of more than 10,000, would be eliminated as a result of the closings. He did not give a number on how many teachers would be displaced.


Here is a breakdown of the proposed closings and relocations

School to close - Facility to close (28)

  • Carroll, Charles H.S.
  • Cooke, Jay
  • Douglas, Stephen A. H.S.
  • Duckrey, Tanner
  • Fairhill
  • Ferguson, Joseph C.
  • Fulton, Robert
  • Germantown H.S.
  • Gompers, Samuel
  • Hill, Leslie P.
  • Kinsey, John L.
  • Leidy
  • McCloskey, John F.
  • McMichael, Morton
  • Meade, Gen. George C.
  • Morris, Robert
  • Overbrook Elementary
  • Peirce, Thomas M.
  • Pepper, George M.S.
  • Reynolds, Gen. John F.
  • Shaw, Anna M.S.
  • Sheridan West Academy
  • Smith
  • Strawberry Mansion H.S.
  • Taylor, Bayard
  • University City H.S.
  • Whittier, John G.
  • Wilson, Alexander

Facility to close - School to relocate (6)

  • AMY at Martin (co-located with Penn Treaty MS)
  • Carnell Annex at Fels (grades 7-8 to St. Bernard in Dec., then to Harding M.S.)
  • Lankenau H.S. (co-located with Roxborough H.S.)
  • Parkway Northwest (co-located with Leeds M.S.)
  • Phila. Military Acad. at Elverson (merged with Acad. at Leeds at new site: Roosevelt)
  • Vare, Abigail (to G. Washington)

Facility to close - School to be absorbed into another (3)

  • Bok, Edw. W. Technical H.S. (CTE programs relocate to South Phila. H.S.)
  • Communications Tech H.S. (CTE programs relocate as an academy within Bartram H.S.)
  • Robeson H.S. (programs relocate to Sayre H.S.)

School to relocate - Facility stays in use (2)

  • Motivation H.S. (to Turner M.S. building - current site stays in use as Penrose Elem.)
  • Phila. Military Acad. at Leeds  (merged with Acad. at Elverson at new site: Roosevelt) - current site stays in use as Leeds M.S.

School to close - Facility stays in use (5)

  • Lamberton, Robert H.S. (facility stays in use by Lamberton Elem.)
  • Pratt, Anna B. (facility stays in use for pre-K)
  • Roosevelt, Theodore (facility to house Phila. Military Academy)
  • Vaux, Robert H.S. (facility to house a new elementary school)
  • Washington, George Elem. (facility to house A. Vare Elem.)
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Comments (11)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 19, 2012 1:59 pm
“The message to teachers is clear: If you have options, get out,” I think this says it all. Through layoffs, force transfers, and the general unnecessary trials SDP puts you through I've stayed. I've done this mostly because I generally like the students I teach and the city I live in. For teachers like me who could easily move back West to the well-funded growing school districts of my childhood you really have to question--why do I keep on doing this if the school district doesn't even care?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 19, 2012 4:37 pm
300k for playground equiptment? Really? People should be asking about that.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 19, 2012 5:14 pm
You can ask the Cole Hamels foundation? They spent the money, not taxpayers.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 19, 2012 7:25 pm
Looks pretty sweet (and expensive) to me:
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 19, 2012 9:52 pm
Wilson Elementary (listed for closure) also got a new playground from the Hamels Foundation a few years ago.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 19, 2012 9:22 pm
That play structure was $50,000 and much smaller. But yeah, if I were the Hamels I'd be pissed right now. If Wilson doesn't get bought by USP or a developer of student housing, that structure is a resale asset for a charter school.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 19, 2012 11:47 pm
What is is with 37? 37 schools close and 37 jobs redundant? A coincidence?
Submitted by garth (not verified) on December 20, 2012 11:56 am
I think the whole press effort saying schools are "closing" is really untrue. Almost all of them will re-open as charters in the next few years. The new playground just installed, it will be used by the charter students, who will soon replace the public school students. None of these schools will be closed for very long.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 20, 2012 2:52 pm
Agreed. The point that needs to be driven home is how much a democratic process is thwarted in the dismantling of public school education. I think this is being forgotten because for many Philadelphians the memory of self governance is fading. For 10 years there has been no local school board. So what is the big deal in creating hundreds of little self-contained school districts (i.e.charter schools)? It IS a big deal. What results is a city in which an "every person for themselves" attitude prevails. The concept of "a common good" on which public schools thrive is eclipsed. I have lived in this city for over half a century. In spite of the pervasive violence in our society, I am amazed by the dignity I see in most of the poor living here. As we get better and better in caring only about our own individual needs I cannot imagine how the "left behind" people will respond. Was the public school system great 10 years ago? There was much room for improvement. Unfortunately, current "reforms" are already creating exploitation beyond what was seen in the very imperfect school system of yesteryear. In the new "great schools" system there will be no chance of reigning in corruption. The cost of litigating every challenge will consume valuable resources needed by our young. We Philadelphians have only our apathetic selves to blame for lacking the will to stop the shortsighted decisions being made by our governor, our mayor, and our school reform commission. And that doesn't even begin to address what it will take to placate the Gates, the Broads and the many corporate interests who arrogantly succeed in altering the landscape of education of other people's children "just because they can".
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 20, 2012 6:50 pm
How would an elected school board, which, in a city the size of Philly, would be extremely political, be much different than the SRC? I would guess that if most of the current SRC ran for school board, they'd be elected (in fact, Ramos was on the school board). The only way that the community would have much of a voice in an elected board would be if the district were much smaller. Otherwise political/corporate forces (unions, contractors, etc.) will dictate who gets elected. All of these talks about agendas, democracy, politics, etc. What about the only thing that matters: the quality of the schools? Why are we more concerned with all of these other factors?
Submitted by ion (not verified) on July 22, 2014 10:20 am

I'm sure the atmosphere was very tense. This is the result of years of spending money without thinking of the next day and of years of pure neglect and he has no good answers to give to the parents. It's very frustrating! echipamente profesionale

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