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Hamels Foundation: 'Shocked and surprised' at school closures

By the Notebook on Jan 14, 2013 03:42 PM
Photo: The Hamels Foundation

by Bill Hangley Jr.

When Superintendent William Hite sits down with Phillies star Cole Hamels later this month, it won’t be to talk baseball.

The pitcher, along with his wife and staff from the Hamels Foundation, will be trying to find out what will happen to more than $400,000 worth of playground and library equipment that the foundation has donated to three schools now slated for closure. The foundation will also be seeking assurances that future donations won’t meet a similar fate.

Hamels Foundation operations officer G-N Kang said she and other officials were “shocked and surprised” to find that three Hamels-supported schools were on the District’s list of 37 proposed closures. The schools include Bayard Taylor Elementary, whose new $317,000 playground opened last summer; Wilson Elementary, which received a $50,000 playground in 2010; and Shaw Middle School, which received a $50,000 “family resource and professional development center” for its library in 2011.

Kang said that the foundation would lobby to keep the three schools open, as well as Fairhill Elementary, which has received foundation support for adult literacy programs.

Kang said Hamels and his wife, Heidi, were “disappointed” by the closure news. A meeting is scheduled for the end of January that includes Hite, the Hamels family, and foundation staff.

Kang said the proposal to close Taylor was particularly disappointing. When foundation staff members met with District officials last spring to discuss a possible donation to Taylor, Kang said, they were assured that closure wasn’t a concern.

“When we started the approval process of doing this grant, before we even broke ground, we sat in at a number of meetings and were told that the school would not be in question of closing,” Kang said. “Was that a concern of ours going in? Of course. Was that a question that was asked on our end? Yes. Are we shocked and surprised that this school was on the list? Absolutely.”

District spokesperson Fernando Gallard confirmed the upcoming meeting between Hite and Hamels. He said that the District didn’t tell the foundation about the closure possibility last spring because nothing was yet decided.

“The list was not finalized until later that year,” Gallard said. “All the options were on the table.”

Gallard said the District is exploring how to make the best use of the donated equipment, including assessing the costs for moving it.

“That’s on the list of things we’ll have to take a closer look at,” he said. “If it means we’ll have to find new locations for the playgrounds, that’s what we’ll do. We are all working for the good of the students -- and we’re grateful for the foundation’s help.”

The foundation’s effort to save the four schools could complicate the District’s efforts to swiftly implement its closure agenda. It is one of a growing number of organizations seeking to slow or stop school closures.

“Number one, our goal is to get Bayard Taylor and the three other schools we gave grants to off the list,” she said. “It’s not to say that we’re not concerned with other schools, and other students’ lives, but these are directly in relation to sponsor dollars we’ve collected, and money Heidi and Cole have donated. We can’t battle for all of them, but … we could save the four we’ve given grants to.”

But Kang knows it will be an uphill battle. Although the final closure list won’t be confirmed until the SRC votes on it this spring, Hite has been firm that the District’s financial straits make a significant number of closings unavoidable.

“We have to take some action -- or we will have to close the District,” Hite told a crowd at a recent community meeting at Dobbins High School in North Philadelphia.

Kang said the decision about the donated equipment ultimately belongs to the District. “Legally it was a donation -- it was a gift to the School District. So at the end of the day, they have the final say,” she said.
But if the foundation can’t convince Hite to keep Taylor or the other schools open, its next goal will be to make sure any donated equipment continues to serve the city’s children, whether in its current location, as part of a charter or private school, or in a new location at another school.

“If there are other kids who are going to be benefiting from it who wouldn’t otherwise have that play yard, I wouldn’t be extremely angry,” said Kang. “What I would be extremely angry about is if it got sold off and they tore down the play yard to put up apartment complexes.”

She said the foundation knows that Hite has “a lot on his plate” and that the foundation will use its upcoming meeting to figure out how to make the best of the situation. “It’s not going to be, ‘Hey, why our school?’” Kang said. “It’s going to be, ‘Here’s the problem -- what’s the solution that’s going to make all parties happy? What’s going to make it the best transition for these kids?”

Kang also said that before the foundation upgrades any more playgrounds or libraries, it will want some assurances that this won’t happen again. The Hamels Foundation can’t comfortably solicit donations for any specific school unless it’s very confident about that school’s future, Kang said.

“I don’t know what our plans are for 2013 yet,” said Kang. “We might consider giving directly to students -- or to something that’s more mobile.”

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Comments (15)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 14, 2013 5:31 pm
Kang said "that before the foundation upgrades any more playgrounds or libraries, it will want some assurances that this won't happen again." She should talk to CASA's President about the value of the district's word.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 14, 2013 8:32 pm
You can say that again. CASA will win in arbitration and that will be additional monies the district will have to pay out. The raise will be retroactive and they will have to pay to defend the arbitration. Their word is as good as ........nothing.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 14, 2013 5:59 pm
"Gallard said the District is exploring how to make the best use of the donated equipment, including assessing the costs for moving or replacing it. “That’s on the list of things we’ll have to take a closer look at,” he said." Blah blah blah... Superintendent Hite is ever less specific ( on Ch 6 At Issue interview Sunday).
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 14, 2013 5:36 pm
This reflects the POWER of donators and our Philadelphia community in general to stop this privatizing madness!! Our city is being talked about on the national news and not in a positive light. "The foundation ’s effort to save the four schools could complicate the District’s efforts to swiftly implement its closure agenda. It is one of a growing number of organizations seeking to slow or stop school closures."
Submitted by garth (not verified) on January 14, 2013 8:30 pm
I think the SRC is really misleading everybody by faking like the schools are closing permanently. The schools with the new playground equipment will quickly reopen in a matter of months as charter schools, and the SRC will act as if it's a sudden change in strategy. Like they don't already have a list of which charter operators will get which public school buildings at a way discounted price. Those decisions have already been made, they're just waiting to announce it at the appropriate time and place.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 15, 2013 8:35 am
If they reopen as charter schools they will not BE the same schools. The playground may stay but when you donate you don't want to be taken for a ride. People are going to have to understand what a charter school is, and Hite was not convincing in his interview that charter schools are public schools (as they were conceived). Taxpayers seriously need to question this type of setup.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 15, 2013 12:21 am
Anna B.. Pratt is also on the school closure list. In 2008 they received a grant from the Annenberg Foundation totaling $100,000.00. It was used to build a large playground with a soft surface, an out door classroom and basketball courts. These generous gifts were also given with assurances that the school would remain intact. No one has that much money to waste.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 17, 2013 6:37 am
Chapters are not all viewed as public Boys Latin are expanding enrollment as I write and holding student interviews what public school gets to hand pick unless its a special. Admit school which bous Latin is not supposed to be!
Submitted by Philly Activist (not verified) on January 17, 2013 7:32 am
We as taxpayers and citizens have sat back and allowed Charter School expansion. They are not held to the same bar as Traditional Public Schools. Traditional Public Schools must educate every student no matter their behavior or their grades. Charter Schools are publicly funded by do not abide by the same rules as Public Schools. There is a two class system existing in the US. Corbett has given and will continue to give Charter Schools carte blanche. Most of these Charters are run by for profit corporations who have gained non-profit status because they are a school. Busing is another issue. By law Charter School Students must receive busing even when it may be cut because of budget to Traditional Public School Students. I would say that is the have's and the have nots due to our Legislators. We need to start putting pressure on them about the unfairness of the situation. All students deserve the same and should receive the same treatment! I think some students rights are being affected!
Submitted by tom-104 on January 17, 2013 11:28 am
Last summer the SRC allocated $139 million for the expansion of seats in existing charters. In December the SRC announces plans to close 37 schools to "save" $28 million. The usually excuse is that there are too many "empty seats". There are "empty seats" in public schools because the public schools have been systematically starved of funds for the last ten years. While are they not being fixed, both physically and academically? Some of this loss of funding is due to the expansion of charter seats. This is privatization of public schools by design.
Submitted by Taylor student parent (not verified) on January 17, 2013 8:51 am
It saddens me to hear that our school is on this list. These children are amazing at Taylor Elementary. They were so proud and so happy when the Hamels foundation gave them the awesome playground and learning IPad stations. It's not going to be easy to leave this school. This neighborhood needs Taylor Elementary to stay opgen for these children.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 17, 2013 10:59 am
it just goes to show what dopes we have running the school district. It's been run by these dopes and political hacks forever. What a waste of money that the Hamel's have given and why do we continue to put up with the bozo's...Yep, tell me politics does not play a role here.....just try to tell me...this
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 17, 2013 12:54 pm
Mr. Jamel's and his wife Heidi,are very,very,generous people,whom I used to work for on occasion.This just shows,how bad of an idea it is to close badly needed public schools in the city of Philadelphia.
Submitted by Taylor Home & School President (not verified) on January 23, 2013 5:02 pm
I am truly saddened by this recommendation for our school to close...We were blessed by the Hamels Foundation on more than one occasion...we have received a much needed stage curtain...the playground was just the icing on the cake for our school....If the district closes our school it just shows our children that they don't many of our children already feel this way because of other reasons and they are use to being moved from here to there, having things given to them and someone taking it when the received the playground they had something to be proud of...but as their lives go the district is trying to take it away to...Taylor leave the playground open for the children to play on everyday after school and on the weekends they no longer have to play on their block were so much drug activity happens in our area ...the students, parents, staff, and community were proud to say that they are a part of Taylor Elementary...I am so proud to say that my children are and were Taylor students....I am proud to say that I am Bayard Taylor Elementary School Home & School President for the second year...I believe in my heart that Taylor will remain open...but if not we need to look at the if these four school were chosen because charter school would pay more money to buy or use these facilities because of the extras that they are going to get with a state of the art playground for their children to use and you know that it won't be open to the public to use they already have new charter school in line waiting for the buildings...our community has to suffer for the miss use of monies downtown and a governor that doesn't care about our city school or even if our children get a good education he just want to keep cutting and cutting the money given to our school...we also have a mayor with no backbone to stand up to the thing going on in what else is Dr. Hite suppose to do to clean up a mess that he wasn't even here when it was created...He is just the scapegoat for all of us to blame because he hasn't even been here long enough to know what really need to be done to fix such a big deficit...We need to stop blaming Dr. Hite for the recommendation we need to blame the goofballs that handed him the papers with our schools on the list.. if we stand together united we can do anything...TEAM TAYLOR WILL PREVAIL....
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on January 23, 2013 7:38 pm
I agree with almost everything you said. And I feel for for you and your community if Taylor School closes. My only point of disagreement is your letting Dr. Hite off the hook. Trust me, Dr. Hite came to Philadelphia fully aware of that he would recommend closing schools. He is a graduate of the Broad Superintendent's Academy. This foundation is wreaking havoc on school districts across the country. Dr. Hite is happy to participate in the dismantling of our public schools. Dr. Hite is complicit in the plan to close schools. He is happy to collect a large salary to accomplish the goal of shuttering schools. He bears responsibility for his participation in this.

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