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District faces another large, passionate crowd on closings

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jan 9, 2013 09:49 PM
Photo: Harvey Finkle

Superintendent William Hite and other District officials faced another crowded and emotion-laden meeting Wednesday night over proposed school closings.

A day after some 1,000 people attended a raucous meeting at Dobbins Career and Technical Education High School, at least 500 teachers, parents, and students filled the auditorium at Edison High School in Kensington. Most pleaded to keep open or not relocate their schools, some tearfully. Many expressed anger that they had not been consulted before the recommendations were made. A line of speakers stretched to the door, and many in the audience held signs, shouting and cheering while speakers made their points.

The meeting was for the North-Central Planning Area, where closings, co-locations and grade reconfigurations will affect Carroll and Douglas high schools, Sheridan West, AMY@ James Martin, Penn Treaty, and Clemente middle schools, and Fairhill, Taylor, Ferguson, Clemente, Hackett and Cramp elementary schools.

Out in force were contingents from Carroll, AMY @ Martin, Fairhill, and Taylor. People also spoke regarding about the pending closures of Douglas and Ferguson.

Citywide, the District wants to close 37 schools and make changes in dozens more.

Carroll, a small high school with just over 300 students, is slated to close. But a parade of students credited the personal attention they received with turning around their lives.

“To some, Carroll serves as a second home. Why would you take that away from us?” asked one student.

A teacher cried as she told Hite: “These are my babies. Each and every day, no matter what is going on at home, they come to their second home, and they feel welcome and loved.”

Hite promised to visit the school and meet with the Carroll community to a great outbreak of cheers.

AMY@ James Martin, a citywide admission middle school in Lower Northeast Philadelphia, is scheduled to be moved to share space with Penn Treaty Middle School in Fishtown. Hite stressed that the school would be moved intact and operate separately from Penn Treaty, and that the larger building would allow the successful program to expand.

But teachers, students, and parents warned that most students would not make the trip to the new location, and many would probably seek admission to charter schools.

“AMY is what it is because it is in the James Martin location,” said a teacher who has spent 34 years in the school.

The officials made no formal presentation, but while people spoke, a slideshow was projected showing data from each school and the reasons for the decision to close or move it.

Hite praised some of the speakers for their good ideas and stressed that recommendations may change before the School Reform Commission votes in March. But he also reiterated that the District needs to close and reconfigure schools in order to make ends meet financially.

Several elected officials were present, including Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sanchez, State Sen. Shirley Kitchen and Rep. W. Curtis Thomas. Only Quiñones-Sanchez spoke, welcoming the crowd and urging them to be respectful. She promised to listen to them.

“I want to hear, I want to hear what makes your school special, what programs are needed by your children,” said Quiñones-Sanchez. “We want to shape what happens. We believe this is about the high-quality education our children deserve.”


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Comments (17)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 10, 2013 7:13 am
Closing Carroll High School to fill seats at Kensington is a huge mistake. Our students will not fill those seats, they will spread to schools all over the city, or drop out, or go to charter schools. There will be almost no impact on Kensington's enrollment, and we will lose a small school that serves the community well. I hope the SDP is really listening this time. They are making a mistake.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 10, 2013 8:03 am
Kensington does not need 300 students from Carroll to fill their seats. Carroll students are from the same low socio economic background as Kensington students and they display some of the same negative behaviors. I don't think any cares if "your" students attend different schools. Charter schools will accept a few and out of those few, they will be kicked out before December.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 10, 2013 2:52 pm
I agree Kensington does not need 300 students from Carroll to fill their seats. To judge our school based on negative behaviors from Kensington is not fair. Every child has some type of behavior issues but you can not judge our entire school based on some of the students that attend here. As a student at Carroll I say our school is not bad, about 9 years ago our college acceptance was 14% and now the rate is at 95%. Between 2011 - 2012 our assault rate was at 6 and Kensington has an assault rate of 12 between 2011 - 2012.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 10, 2013 1:06 pm
The kids are Carroll are getting a very raw deal. I certainly do not blame them for not wanting to merge into Kensington high school especially Kensington Business. It's not the kids that are wild or out of control - it is the environment that has been created for them to "learn" in. You walk in there and you are walking into chaos. I would drop out too.
Submitted by ConcernedRoxParent (not verified) on January 10, 2013 2:07 pm
I lost all respect for the kids once they said they will start fights at another school if theie school closes.
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on January 10, 2013 10:18 pm
As Art Linkletter used to say, "Kids say the darndest things." Yes, it was dumb and destroys credibility but................... Kids say that kind of stuff. That's why they're kids.
Submitted by tom-104 on January 10, 2013 11:07 pm
There is no quote in the article that has a student saying they would start fights. I watched the live stream of the meeting at Edison and there was no student that I recall that said they would start fights. The students that would be involved in such anti-social behavior would not come to a meeting to defend their school. What many of the students said is that are worried there will be increases in the numbers of fights because closing neighborhood schools will result in mixing students from different neighborhoods.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 10, 2013 2:57 pm
KEEP CHARLES CARROLL OPEN!!!!!!!! It’s unfair that this school is being closed and the students having to look for other schools to squeeze in to. Some students will not be comfortable moving to Kensington when they hear all the fights and horrible things going on there, you think they would enjoy being pushed into these problems instead of staying at their harmless school? No, these students would choose to stay at Carroll. I understand that no public school is perfect but when you’re attending one that is close to it with no drama you’re going to want to stay there. I vote that Carroll stays open. These students deserve to keep their memories with that school. If these schools are shut down the drop-out rates will increase by so much. Why not give them the chance to finish high school where they choose to go, not where they’re pushed to be.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 10, 2013 4:32 pm
The Kensington schools are not the dangerous places they are made out to be. I work at Kensington Health Sciences and we rarely have fights. I understand there were more behavior problems when it was one big school almost ten years ago, but in the six years I've been there I've never felt unsafe. I am opposed to the school closures and one reason is that combining schools will always lead to a period of increased tension and possibility of fights (see Chicago). But it's not because Kensington schools are horrible places. Also, I don't think it would be too bad with Carroll, Douglass, and the four Kensington schools because they already do draw from the same exact catchment zone.
Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on January 10, 2013 5:05 pm

Youth United for Change organized for years to break Kensington High School into small, student centered schools with innovative curriculum and strong community involvement.   As a result of this work, as well as the efforts of many educators and community residents,  the Kensingtons have made some real gains, particularly in regards to school climate.  Both the data and feedback from students and staff testify to these gains.   These schools do not fit the Blackboard jungle stereotype that some are putting out there.   I too am opposed to the school closures and support the students and parents from Carroll who want to see their school remain open, but that doesn't mean supporting divisive attacks on other schools, some of which smack of racism.   We need a united movement that can win a moratorium on school closures.  

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 10, 2013 6:10 pm
Very well said. Carroll students are no better than Kensington students or vice versa. Since breaking into four smaller schools, Kensingtons climate has improved. No school is perfect. Carroll is also a neighborhood school located in a low socioeconomic area.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 10, 2013 4:58 pm
I don't know if Kensington is a bad school or not. I just know that for various reasons Carroll students have no intention of transferring there. Wether they are right or wrong they aren't going to Kensington. So, closing Carroll to fill Kensington is pointless.
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on January 10, 2013 10:12 pm
Yes, it's pointless if the district cared but it doesn't. Money talks and big money talks loudest. This is ALL about making money for businesses (Charters), a kickback or so, can't hurt either. This ain't complicated. Even I can figure it out. REAL pressure, up close and personal, is the only way to stop this corruption of the democratic process. That's called Democracy in Action.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 10, 2013 7:46 pm
I think the most important point made is that students thrive in a small school environment where they can get more attention so that each student knows that there is someone at school they can turn to when in need. I believe that many students at Carroll and other schools that are closing fear that their safe environment will not be there in September. The holistic approach needs to be addressed when closing schools especially in an environment where many students do not have a safe environment to go home too. I believe that the current approach of looking at students as numbers and NOT looking at whether the needs of the children are filled will hurt the district more than the current budget issues. I agree that we all need to unite in the fight and not argue about what building will be better. There are successes at each school. For the person who lost respect for Carroll when discussing fights, you need to look at what occurs for the Philadelphia students. Fights are way too prevalent in the district. The fact that a student addressed it, shows that there is an understanding of what they know will happen due to the underlying racial and neighborhood tensions that will occur if the two schools combined. We need to keep the fights down and continue to create safe environments where students feel that they are welcome and can get an education without fear.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 11, 2013 5:16 pm
The PFT received their raise. Today the district informed CASA they will not honor the concession made by CASA members last year. CASA members have not received a raise!!! Nothing can be trusted with this district. CASA attorneys are filing an immediate grievance. Administrators are not respected nor appreciated.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 11, 2013 9:36 pm
Yeah, they received their raise a year and half ago. Who knows when the next raise will be. Maybe if CASA held protests and banned together they would have more clout.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 14, 2013 5:39 pm
The Carroll students shouldn't be made to go to kensington high when they have formed friendships, families and a place that they can depend when ever they may need something. Student and staff are one big family and treat one another with respect. the students look forward to coming to school everyday no matter what maybe going on.

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