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Enon Tabernacle seeks to counter 'top-down' approach to Philly school closings

By Benjamin Herold for NewsWorks, a Notebook news partner on Feb 6, 2013 06:33 PM

The Rev. Dr. Alyn Waller is the senior pastor at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in Mount Airy.

Add the Rev. Alyn Waller, the influential pastor of the 15,000-member Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in Northwest Philadelphia, to the growing chorus of critics questioning the School District's plan to close 37 city schools by next fall.

"I am not in favor of school closings without merit and without data to support such a drastic decision," Waller said.

Waller believes that some "rightsizing" of the city's public school system is necessary. But he doesn't think the District has made its case for many of the specific school closings that have been proposed.  He's upset, saying the communities that will be affected by the dramatic changes have not been properly consulted.


So for the last several weeks, volunteers from Enon have hosted "school-based community meetings" at more than two dozen of the 44 Philadelphia schools targeted for closure or relocation.

The goals, said Waller, are to review the District's rationale for each closure, consider information that District officials may have overlooked, solicit the "organic voice of the people," and develop counterproposals.

"A top-down strategy that does not involve real community engagement is not the way [to close schools], and merely saving money [should not be] the only consideration," Waller said.

"We're here to bring the real data."

Located at Cheltenham Avenue and Vernon Road, the 136-year old Enon Tabernacle is a conservative, evangelical, largely African American church. Waller said his team intends to deliver written reports from each of the schools targeted for closure to the School Reform Commission before the formal hearings that begin Feb. 21.

Both Waller and District officials stressed that Enon's outreach efforts are independent and that the church has received no contracts or payment from the District.

"Our support is limited to providing them with locations where they can meet," said District spokesman Fernando Gallard.

Waller and Enon Tabernacle have not formally joined the call for a school closings moratorium, initially put forth by the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS) and recently backed by Philadelphia's City Council in a non-binding resolution.

"Some groups, they are very passionate and upset," Waller said. "I want to match the data with their passion, so that we're all saying and doing the same thing."

Alternative community meetings

Over the last two months, the District has hosted 14 community meetings of its own to gather input on its school-closings plan. Gallard said more than 4,000 people have attended. To date, more than two dozen community-generated school-closing counterproposals have been submitted to the District via its own process for gathering feedback.

"I think the exchange between the School District and the community has been very successful," Gallard said.

But Waller dismissed the District's meetings as little more than an opportunity for the public to "blow off steam." They have been held at regional locations and typically involved hundreds of people from up to a dozen different school communities, all vying for attention.

"That's where people get to emotionally share their pain," Waller said.

"Our meetings are intended to look at the facts, have a real discussion, and then parse out from the community, 'Well, if not what they're saying, then what do you suggest?'"

On Jan. 24, for example, Enon hosted a school-based community meeting at Bok Technical High School in South Philadelphia.

The District has recommended that Bok be closed and that its 900 students and nine vocational programs be relocated inside nearby South Philadelphia High.

Cassandra Jones led the meeting. Jones is the chair of Enon's education committee and a former chief academic officer in both the Philadelphia and Baltimore school districts.

"Don't approach this like, 'If we have to move...' or 'If we have to close...,'" Jones told a crowd of about 100 students, teachers and parents assembled in Bok's auditorium.

"What we are asking you is, what do you want?"

A parade of speakers took to the microphone. Most focused on the good things about Bok that they feared would be lost with a transition to Southern.

"There's a certain tradition and feel that Bok gives it students, and it's hard to take that feeling and move it to another school," said Frank Natale, a chemistry teacher at Bok who also serves as the school's athletic director, football coach, and baseball coach.

As an example, Natale cited the school restaurant, whose name is a play on one of Philadelphia's posh French eateries.

"The name of the restaurant is Le Bok Fin, and it's run by the students, cooking all the way down," said Natale.

"It's particular to Bok. And I don't know if that is going to transfer over."

Some blasted the District for the lack of details about how exactly it plans to transition students and programs to South Philadelphia High.

"I believe they should have further explained this even before they made the decisions for the schools," said Ernest Graham, a senior at the school.

"I don't think [the transition plan] is very practical. It's far-fetched."

And many said they found the reasoning behind the District's recommendation to close Bok to be a head-scratcher. Though the school is housed in an aging facility, it's operating at 97 percent capacity. And it has a "Facilities Condition Index" that indicates the building is not in terrible shape.

Bok is also higher performing academically than South Philly, where students would be reassigned.

"I'm appalled," said Graham.

Facts and figures

Enon's Jones also maintained that the District overlooked key information before recommending that schools like Bok be closed.

The District's stated criteria for closings schools are the condition of the building, student enrollment, academic performance, and cost.

At its meetings, Enon has distributed handouts with additional data on "impact on community," "student relocation," "racial composition," "educational programs," and "transportation/traffic issues."

At Bok, much of the information on the handout was provided by the school's principal, Barbara McCreery.

An "informal student survey," for example, found that "77 percent of [Bok] students will not move to new location," Southern, due to concerns about things like safety and the quality of vocational programs after relocation.

The sheet also questioned the District's savings projections, saying that the cost of moving equipment from Bok's vocational programs and modifying classroom spaces at Southern have not yet been estimated.

"It's one thing to be emotional, and we understand that," said Jones after the meeting.

"But you need to have the facts and the figures. And that's what I think you heard very clearly today: There are factual reasons people believe this school should remain open."

Not calling for a moratorium ... yet

Spokesman Gallard said the District will welcome the additional feedback.

"What we're expecting from this outreach by Enon is to hear from other folks that we were not able to reach out to," he said.

The School Reform Commission will hold formal hearings Feb. 21-23 on each of the district's school closing recommendations.

Waller said he expects the commissioners to take seriously the reports that his team prepares at each of the targeted schools.

"If we prove that [the District's reasoning] is faulty, or we prove there is another way, we want the SRC to hear that," he said.

But Waller stopped short of calling for a moratorium.

"If we prove that there have been oversights, intentional or not, we would want them to consider ... holding off until the best possible decision can be made for our children," he said.

Through a spokesman, PCAPS issued a statement saying it appreciates "any effort to engage the community in decisions" about school closings. The coalition, however, "believes that rather than depending on an outside organization to do this outreach, the District should institute a moratorium on school closings and embark on a substantive community input effort."

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Comments (64)

Submitted by S Philly Parent (not verified) on February 6, 2013 8:56 pm
They are still $250 million short next year after the new education budget. I didn't hear a word from Dr. Waller regarding how to cover that. Any solution that doesn't address that the budget hole is nonsense.
Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on February 6, 2013 10:15 pm
Has Dr. Hite gone up to Harrisburg to beg for more money? I haven't heard of him doing that. How about forcing charter schools to pay rent at District-owned buildings, such as Universal at Audenreid and Vare?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 7, 2013 8:32 am
Yes, on both counts in case you haven't been paying attention.
Submitted by MichelleO (not verified) on February 7, 2013 8:40 pm
Hite is the ultimate temporary employee due to the short lifespan of Philly School Superintendents. He wants to be a Michelle Rhee style National Superstar. To achieve this, he needs to make a sudden impact here. The only way that has a chance of happening is to make this very risky closing move. When you think of it, it is just an elaborate way to make just another staff reduction. This will weaken the unions with the upcoming contract negotiations. Instead of making a thoughtful long term school closing, remodeling and rebuilding plan that will preserve our precious neighborhoods, Hite is taking the foolish quick and dirty approach only for his glory. Hite's plan must be stopped before it ruins our town.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 9, 2013 11:15 am
This is not Hite's plan. He was only hired to be the axe man for the plan previously set in motion. The blame for all this should fall squarely on the shoulders of the SRC. Anytime there is a question asked about the last minuteness of this plan, the SDP's reply (even by Hite and staff) has always been that others before him have been working this out carefully for the past year. Perhaps he will go down in history as Bill "the Hitman" Hite, as opposed to superman!
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on February 9, 2013 10:25 pm
As usual, your points are exactly right. That's why Hite and his minions have no credibility with people who know the facts. He and Nutter should be screaming their faces off at Corbett for the destruction he's causing. Instead, they play the,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,well, you know where I'm going.
Submitted by The Man (not verified) on February 12, 2013 7:50 am
Mayor Nutter and The School District officials are not in Harrisburg because the Govenor knows how bad these administrations has squandered ample funding that has been providing for our schools and the city.I think it's important that we get the facts and the history on the funding from these agencies. Maybe this is where recoommendations need to made in how and who is making the finacial decisions for public school financing. This is the problem and that needs addressing more before we close or change any thing. These hustlers need to be stoped.
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on February 12, 2013 8:54 am
The Man-----Hustlers is putting it mildly. I contend that the School District is MUCH more corrupt since the inception of the SRC than at any point in my life and I'm 60 years old. It's to the point now where these critters don't even try to hide their corruption but rather shove it in our faces for all to see. Having said that, Corbett has lots of blood on his hands too and I think of him as the agent of evil incarnate. I also find Nutter to be incredibly offensive for pandering for votes than throwing those same folks under the bus for his personal gain. As they say in Europe, "Just a bad bit of business." In summary, a pox on all their houses and they all better hope there is no God. Aquinas once said that a society is judged by how it treats "The least among us." If that's the standard, the above cretins have an uphill climb to get to the bottom.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 6, 2013 9:30 pm
The SD said at the beginning of the hearings process that academic performance would not be a criterion. They had admitted previously that their SPI data was faulty and that they were looking into giving the contract to another company. Someone should ask them to clarify this at the next meeting. Is the SD sending representatives to the Enon meetings? If there was anyone from the SD last night at Germantown, they did not speak up or identify themselves. Lisa Haver
Submitted by JUDITH ROBINSON (not verified) on February 6, 2013 10:18 pm
Transparency in all of the process !!! The proposed Plan would BLIGHT Our Community from Broad to 33 Street ! We all are working real hard in North Philly With all the facts plus some !!! We have reseached from top to bottom... Without any special treatment, and a lack of support. Federal,State ,local,Foundation,and all agenda.SDP, SRC and ,Dr.Hite,are charged with the decisionmaking ... We presented community proposals in a timely manner ... We want no plan to be more important than the plan submitted by the people most affected... PLEASE !
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 6, 2013 11:25 pm
Does your plan include how to make payroll when they run out of money half way through the year?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 7, 2013 10:33 am
I totally agree Judith Robinson, and so should the mayor if he's serious about having thriving communities (and not just paying lip service).
Submitted by JUDITH ROBINSON (not verified) on February 7, 2013 6:31 am
Yes !!! We would proposed that we look at the organizational chart of SDP,reduce or eliminate some of those Chief and Deputy positions ...That would be quite a savings!Next, we would like to reduce "pet project" that are draining millions from SDP without much value to our children- Mural Arts , Stop in the name of love!!! Etc. Save $$$. Please provide a list of "programs" before school,after school,and we will trim the fat... The politicians "hook Up," we will have the guts to trim the fat. CAPITAL PROJECTS: Reduce The Budget 50%... How do they budget 1million $ for a roof on a building that is now proposed to be closed ???! Next,the Charter schools,draining the system,with no good results for our children... Check out True Bright Charter -bringing folks from Turkey to teach Math & Science in the hood. who came up with this idea ? SDP is being used for all kind of agenda,now is the time to examine it all ! If we are going to have North Philly shut down by SDP,we are going to uncover every scam that is ungoing!! Faith based -what ?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 7, 2013 8:56 am
Everybody has been pouring over this including Dr. Hite, Mayor Nutter, and the SRC. THERE IS NO WHERE ELSE TO CUT!! The mayor's office has direct access to the books and even they say that there isn't anything else to do. They are $1.3 billion short over the next five years. They are PLEADING with Harrisburg and asked for everyone else to do the same.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 7, 2013 10:16 am
They are not "pouring over this" they are expanding charter schools (even after HIte said ther would be no more expansion). You sound like the advocates for privatizing Medicare and Socila Security who say we MUST refrom entitlements right now, there is nowhere else to cut..We must understand that this is a manufactured issue, The governor would be thrilled not to have to fund public schools, and let the privatizers run wild. PHILADELPHIA has made national news with this (and not in a positive light).
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 7, 2013 5:30 pm
And your plan to fill a $250 million hole is...moan about !!!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 8, 2013 10:59 am
Yes like ss or medicare. You have cuts tax increases or spending cuts. The difference is Philly already has the highest taxes of any big city in the us. So the, normal go to solution for pols here is exhausted prettymuch. It is easy for businesses and the rich to move 5 miles out to city line than it is to move out of the us. And you still owe fed tax if you move out. Borrowing money endlessly with no plan to changeimay work for the feds for awhile s also not an option given our multibillion pension liabilities. Philly doesnt print its own money like the feds. Big difference. Phillys schools now are like where ss and medicare might be in 20 years.
Submitted by Eileen DiFranco (not verified) on February 7, 2013 7:11 pm
The SD can always find money when it needs it. Consider the fact that they paid Tom Knudsen $25,000 a month for six months while keeping Nunnery and Nixon on board. Then they gave several staff members a $40,000 raise while telling the school police that they did not have the money to fund their raises. Just today I heard that the SD was busily pointing the bricks at Mc Michael School, which is slated to be closed. Guess they're sprucing it up to turn it over to a charter.
Submitted by MichelleO (not verified) on February 7, 2013 10:55 pm
There is a place to cut. They just gave a lot of us raises at 440. I'm torn because I personally think that some of us deserve it but others do not. I think that since the non-reps are not protected by any union contracts, there should be an across the board pay cut. It will be a lot of cash, but only a dimple in the deficit. If nothing else it will send a message to everybody else that we are with them and our pay cuts will be a symbol of our commitment to our dedication to Dr. Hite's plan. This shared sacrifice piece is necessary to bridge the widening gap between the real people out there in the schools and the rest of these people at 440 administration who still have this "mine don't stink" attitude and are okay with whatever hardships are going on out there in the schools as long as it doesn't get in the way of their phony meetings and ego massaging or whatever it is that we do here. It is such an artificial world that is so out of touch with the real world of just what how our students and real educators out there on the front lines lives. I like the money, but I really hate it working at 440.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on February 7, 2013 9:22 am
Right on Judith! I have plenty of data on corruption at my neighborhood school alone. How about using your husband, a retired teacher, to be a substitute teacher for the Math or Special Ed teacher out on disability, when he's only certified in English? No harm done, as these kids would never know the difference, eh? How about writing a b.s. SIP and then having your position funded by using the bulk of a school's Title I funds? We're indispensable to the principal after all. I'm sure the offenses get larger as the positions get higher. We badly need "the light of day" on these. No one is exempt from self service, and I'm sure it would take several lifetimes of work to expose all that's been done. The trick is getting a balancing act, or better system of administration, that will encourage some little bit of integrity. I was intrigued by BCG's idea of having "networks" of school administrations. If we take out the controversial nonprofit oversight/management of these; what you get is several competing entities rather than one entity, monarchy (? sorry had to look this up, cause I'm not a political expert, maybe its kleptocracy or even kakistocracy (just kidding on that one)).
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 7, 2013 10:33 am
Whether every SDP school has been effective or not our schools are accountable in a way that charters are not. We have standards for teachers and a contract which is supposed to be adhered to by both sides. However even these things are falling by the wayside and we're seeing some good teachers with many years of service being let go. *Why is that?*
Submitted by reformer (not verified) on February 7, 2013 11:14 am
charters are accountable in a way that you are not. if a student leaves a charter, so does the funding for that student. the district gets paid for everybody on roll on oct 1st. if the district had the same deal as charters, the people would have the ecomomic empowerment to effect the school system, the district schools would have to be responsive, and there wouldn't be comments like yours because we would have an apples to apples comparison of results.
Submitted by rob (not verified) on February 7, 2013 2:46 pm
this is not a true statement. The Charter keeps the money and the SDP educates that student for free
Submitted by reformer (not verified) on February 7, 2013 2:21 pm
you don't know how charters are paid. the annual reimbursement for each staudent is broken into 12 monthly payments. if a student leaves the charter for any reason during the month, the payment for that month is prorated and the balance deducted for the next months payments. once a child is removed, payments stop. the big problem is that you don't know what you're talking about, yet you have the audacity to attempt to correct someone. read pa act 22, the charter law. it'll telll you what you obviously don't know.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 7, 2013 3:01 pm
This is obviously from someone being paid by a charter management company or the Great School Compact, come to our city to plunder our public schools for his corporate overlords.Your tax dollars at work!
Submitted by reformer (not verified) on February 7, 2013 4:33 pm
your comment is from someone who obviously wants to get paid for producing no results in a government-run neighborrhood school. we have nothing to plunder. you and your unionized folks on the dole stole it all already.your tax dollars spent for no work. have a nice evening when you go back home to the suburbs tonight.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 7, 2013 5:13 pm
troll not feed
Submitted by reformer (not verified) on February 7, 2013 5:05 pm
i guess that means you lost. do us all a favor and leave town.
Submitted by Another English Teacher (not verified) on February 7, 2013 7:08 pm
Troll troll troll - seriously, keep the kids out of the pool
Submitted by Philly Activist (not verified) on February 7, 2013 6:28 pm
Agreed Rob - people who are supposedly "researching" would know that. A charter school can take a child supposedly by a "lottery" (and we know that is not working), receives money for the child and then when the child does not meet their criteria and standards they send them back to the SDP. The money DOES NOT FOLLOW THE CHILD! The SDP must take every child because they are public schools. Uh duh I forgot charters are "publicly funded schools" so I guess the question would be why are they given leeway and traditional public schools aren't. There are over 81 charter schools in the SDP. This reminds me of the days when Governor Ridge tried to give this good buddy and campaign contributor Chris Whittle of Edison Schools an EMO (Education Management Organization) control of a majority of the schools in Philadelphia. It didn't work - where is Edison now? Gone!!!! Philadelphians did not want companies and corporations making money off of the backs of their children! EMO'S did not work! Why change the name and present a different model when it is the same old, same old? I am not against charter schools that work. Competition is fair and good for everyone. What I am against is they are not held to the same bar as traditional public schools. This was evident in this years test scores when the Governor and State Education Secretary Tomalis decided to change the rules midstream. Each of them are independent school districts, but were given the advantage of lumping them altogether and taking care of the low scores of some charters. If we are closing traditional public schools because they didn't make AYP, why are we not closing the charters at the same pace? Charters started out as "community schools" and now have gone the way of the almighty dollar! People need to wake up because they are being sold a bill of goods! Now with the announced school closings parents are applying to place their children in charters, because they don't want them traveling further from home and out of their community, especially elementary school students. Methinks this was part of the plan all along. If people clamor to enter their children in charters, and they don't have room to accept them, they will be applying to grow their student population. Why was it believed that Ackerman and Archie "verbally" made a promise to Universal that they wouldn't need to pay rent on buildings. I didn't realize the SDP was that rich and could be so generous. The goal is to unload public education and give to for profit companies that have now become non-profit educational experts. Why must all teachers withing the SDP be certified and a letter sent home when they are not in the subject they are teaching? Did you know that 25% of charter school teachers "DO NOT" need to be certified. Oops where is the equity in this? Do you know because of a lawsuit by charter and parochial school parents that they "must always" receive yellow bus service, but because the SDP is have budgetary problems, they have raised the mileage for public school students for yellow busing? Yes it has gone from 1 mile to 1.5 miles. Due to budgetary problems they do not need to provide yellow bus service for "traditional public school students." Where is the fairness in this? I am listening and watching a SDP without a plan, listening "supposedly" to the parents and students, but in the end this plan has been set in motion and it will harm communities where the schools are closing. The SDP is not receiving enough money from the sales of the buildings and some of their information posted on the Facilities Master Plan is not up to date and incorrect. Where is the transparency in Mr. Knudsen's Salary and title? I would like to know what his salary is now - is he continuing to be paid $25,000 per month with no benefits as oops I forgot his title. We now have a CFO who was brought in by Dr. Hite who was dismissed by the School District in Prince George's County. Is Knudsen a CFO or is he a "Chief Recovery Officer." If he is a "Chief Recovery Officer" then why did he give the raises that he did in a School District that is in a budgetary crisis? One person received a 49% raise in a position that was created special for them after being demoted when they didn't have the credentials needed in the Communications Department. I have one question - "Who's on First?"
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on February 7, 2013 7:04 pm
There is State legislation proposed to revise charter funding that will help the home school districts (from the GOP (they're not all bad) so it has a chance of passing): I think the formula should be revised further so that home school districts are not obligated to pay what they are spending per student (which in the case of the PSD is inflated because of the huge number of empty seats); instead a charter should receive their subsidies, as the home district does, directly from the State and municipality. The charters should also contribute to transportation services(this should be deductable along with the extracurricular services provided by the home district). We should be reassured that recent applications for new cyber charters were recently disapproved. What is the real story behind why there are so very many charters here in Philly - does anyone know, other than rumor or suspicion? My collective heart wants to support traditional public schools, but the reality of the PSD is just too rotten. Yes, charters are not immune to corruption, where there's easy money there will always be corruption; however, this corruption appears to be more easily discovered and legal action more easily applied than with the PSD.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 7, 2013 8:44 pm
"why there are so very many charters here in Philly - does anyone know, other than rumor or suspicion?" >> Because the President and his education secretary are on board with it. This is not a Democtratic or Republican issue. This is not rumor or suspicion.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on February 7, 2013 8:42 pm
Honestly now, that's the national scene; Is Philly the neglected child vying for attention? O.k. maybe. I don't believe our Title I funds depend on the number of charters we have, only the number of poor children we have. Certainly nothing to brag about. I mean like was this part of some deal that Mayor Street had with the State? Was the PSD being compensated at greater than 30% for each child that transferred to a charter?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 9, 2013 9:43 pm
What I'm saying is that this is WHY we don't hear anything from the Obama camp about closing of public schools, because they are charter/privatizing advocates.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 7, 2013 11:52 pm
I went to a top private school and I can't think of any of my teachers that were "certified" with ed degrees. Many did have advanced degrees in their subject matter. I am sure an ed degree helps some people be better teacher, but to claim it is essential to teaching is just silly. Somehow education progressed quite well until the 1970's when this requirement started to become the fashion. Actually, if you look at the national rise of "certification" requirements over time, there is an almost inverse relationship with educational results.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 7, 2013 11:01 pm
In other words, education is not important for teaching? No wonder education is in trouble in our culture. Why should it be important to students if it does not matter?
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on February 8, 2013 6:41 am
I think the commenter meant there is paper education and there is real education. You can have both, but the first does not guarantee the second. I have heard no end from my husband about how those who are certified are worse off, as they expect not have to do the research and constant learning that it takes in IT.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 7, 2013 7:15 pm
A FACT- The Charter keeps the money.
Submitted by reformer (not verified) on February 7, 2013 9:09 pm
from 1997 act 22, pa charter school law: "(5) Payments shall be made to the charter school in twelve (12) equal monthly payments, by the fifth day of each month, within the operating school year." now hear this, when the kid goes,the money stops. that's why they broke it into 12 payments. It is the government-run schools who get a full year's funding based on the october enrollment. now find something else to lie about.
Submitted by Eileen DiFranco (not verified) on February 7, 2013 7:49 pm
When a student leaves a charter school, the funding does NOT follow the child to the public school. They charter schools keep the money. The money is paid to the charter schools sometime in October. We begin to see an exodus of problem students from the charters to the public schools once the former has received their payment.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on February 7, 2013 11:59 am
I can only say I tried to hold our principal accountable for things that were written in the District's own Principal's Manual by going to the Regional Sup, as well as the Title I Office. Though my issues were acknowlegded as legitimate, NOTHING was done to correct the wrongs. Yes indeed, why is that? The good teachers with many years of service let go - take that up with the Mayor and City Council who have done nothing to encourage families with children (ages 5 to 14) to stay in the City (Census stats for 2000 to 2010). There are 44,000 less of these kids to teach. Then again, it was whose responsibility to make sure teachers always have the same job?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 7, 2013 9:54 pm
Teachers with many years of service and good records are supposed to be retained, it has nothing to do with enrollrment. There are too many trumped up charges lately, and the union is turning a deaf ear. WHY?
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on February 8, 2013 2:03 am
The trumped up charges may be from the same problem -corruption. Is there enough info for a lawsuit?
Submitted by Penny (not verified) on February 7, 2013 10:36 pm
Ms. Cheng. I believe that your heart is in the right place but that COMPETITION IDEA is not good. They tried that before with Clusters and later Regions. This is how we got the to the pending PSSA Test Cheating scandal. The reigning superintendent needed to showdramatic test score improvement. One regional manager encouraged her principals to bring in the best scores as possible. This is where the wholesale cheating began. All cheating parties were well rewarded. This led to more widespread cheating. It is still being investigated by the State DOE. Competition did not do any good. The stakes were too high so schools cheated and regions cheated. After the scandal began to leak to the public, some people in the field were eliminated but the major players in 440 are still there.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on February 8, 2013 3:35 am
Penny, perhaps the competition was for the wrong thing? That is, it was for advancement in a bureaucracy. Would this happen if the competition is for the satisfaction of students, their caregivers?
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on February 8, 2013 3:36 am
Actually, thinking of the mindset of some caregivers... well let's just say they're not infallible either. Perhaps increasing the pool of judges/decision makers would arrive at a more fair assessment of actual work? Here's another thought: if we break up the bureaucracy, perhaps the stakes would be lowered?
Submitted by Penny (not verified) on February 7, 2013 11:59 pm
Ms. Cheng. I believe that your heart is in the right place but that COMPETITION IDEA is not good. They tried that before with Clusters and later Regions. This is how we got the to the pending PSSA Test Cheating scandal. The reigning superintendent needed to showdramatic test score improvement. One regional manager encouraged her principals to bring in the best scores as possible. This is where the wholesale cheating began. All cheating parties were well rewarded. This led to more widespread cheating. It is still being investigated by the State DOE. Competition did not do any good. The stakes were too high so schools cheated and regions cheated. After the scandal began to leak to the public, some people in the field were eliminated but the major players in 440 are still there.
Submitted by Rich Gardner (not verified) on February 7, 2013 10:33 am
Good piece, I've taken the liberty of crossposting it at Thanks!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 7, 2013 1:14 pm
Still no real solutions on how to close the budget gap. No solutions to buildings that are half full, but cost just as much to maintain. As usual, a bunch of big mouths that only want to hear themselves talk and see their name in print.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 7, 2013 9:51 pm
Excuse me, it is not necessarily the job of respondents to come up with alternative plans although many have. People come to post their views.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 8, 2013 9:48 am
I wasn't talking about the respondants here but to the people mentioned in the article
Submitted by JUDITH ROBINSON (not verified) on February 7, 2013 2:22 pm
Never have average Accountants, Real Estate,Lawyers,unconnected Professionals,taken a very close look at the books ... Just as Dr. Ackerman was able to find $$$ for full day kindergarten-who was the most upset ?? Mayor Nutter! If fresh eyes look at this mess,I can assure you we would be able to right size ...IF WE HAVE TO CLOSE SCHOOLS,WHY DO WE NEED THE SAME SIZE MANAGEMENT TEAM @ 440 ?? There are too many Chief and Deputies(with pension & Bennie) positions with no direct or indirect benefit to the classroom . Take a visit to 440 N.Broad St. How much $$$ goes to Faith Based Projects, Mayor "hook Up" projects... All of this will be reveals !! We are looking for facts. Please fellow Taxpayers ,BACk us UP ! This monster ,has been a drain toooo long.As an African American Grandmother,Iam truly a shame of all of the AA leadership playing stupid while our children suffer!!! Some smart people decided to take on North Philly. Prayer needed for all..
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 7, 2013 4:58 pm
There (SDP/City) is not community based, its strickly bottom line money. All they know how to do is borrow money, creating more debt and the need for more handouts which make the public schools look like parisites. They need to become more creative about solving their financial problems. Cutting budgets, closing schools, and laying of local school based staff. Is old business and in the end causes more strife and problems than what it was intended to do. They need to start thinking of ways to raise funds to support the public schools directly using newer progressive methods. I recently offered my services to raise 30 million dollars. Guess what, I never got a reply. This is pure folly, they have a plan, but it is not and will not be community based.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on February 8, 2013 7:15 am
The PSD is a huge bureaucracy, so it's understandable they wouldn't act on your offer. Yes community involvement can bring much needed resources. If you have ways to make this feasible, I'm sure the communities would love to hear your ideas. With enough commitment, they might even be the right counter proposal(s) to save the school(s).
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 9, 2013 12:57 pm
So, how does one present ideas to a SDP if they do not show any interest? I even went so far as to write Dr. Hite directly and ask for the opportunity to make a presentation. But alas, I don't think he is really in charge.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on February 10, 2013 10:32 am
I would talk directly with the community groups, start with Rev. Waller or Ms. Jones of Enon. I am not sure what you have in mind - If you are a vendor, you need to apply for SDP approval. It is not just the SDP that is frustratingly narrow minded and fatalistic. PCAPS and other community members look only to be hoping for a forced taxpayer bailout. If they were really serious about using community or nonprofit involvement, they would have approached Cincinnati for a blueprint for example, and we would have practical details by now. Or someone (I have done a good deal of this myself for my own neighborhood in the past) should have written or approached other businesses, nonprofits, such as Philadelphia Community College, or other Vocational Technical schools to see if they might be interested in expanding their reach: what would they need to do so, etc.? They are waiting on each other, and "whohoo", they want the SDP to do this outreach legwork... the "big cheese" or "anyone, someone else". It is also an opportunity for a conversation of what a community wants/needs - after all, affordable housing with community center facilities (that might even in the future be converted back to a school) makes a neighborhood safer and more desirable to live in too. Moratorium is a "force the taxpayer" copout.
Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on February 7, 2013 10:13 pm
The District does need to reduce the number of buildings with many empty classrooms as this is an inefficient way to operate. However, this is a public school system, not a business. These schools are an integral part of the social fabric of this city. The best way to reduce capacity in the District is to close middle schools with excess capacity. People tend to be most attached to elementary schools, because these are the schools most closely tied to particular neighborhoods, as well as high schools. High school graduation is an important milestone and people frequently identify themselves according to the high school from which they graduated. The popularity of high school sports also contributes to the strong identification students have with their high schools. People care more about their neighborhood elementary schools than neighborhood middle schools. Given the option of sending their children to a middle school building for K-8 or making the neighborhood elementary school K-8, from what I have heard at community meetings, most people would opt for having their children attend K-8 at the neighborhood elementary school. If the elementary schools can't become K-8, then make the high schools 7-12 and make one wing or floor a middle school wing/floor to give the feeling of a separate middle school. This reduces capacity without destroying the fabric of neighborhoods. Keeping Pepper MS open makes sense given its location close to the wildlife refuge and the airport. EGS
Submitted by reformer (not verified) on February 8, 2013 3:57 am
what the district defenders are missing is that there will be even more closures. they didn't chose enough schools in this first round. instead of crying about this round, which is pretty much a don deal, you should be bracing yourselves for the next round. more closures and layoffs will be required if the district is serious about right sizing.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 8, 2013 11:57 am
@reformer- never brace yourself for the worst when something can be done or there are alternnatives. We are not "'reformers" in the sense that you seem to be, we are dedicated public school advocates and public schools exist for a reason (and need to be improved upon). There won't be anything TO rightsize after these folks are done.
Submitted by reformer (not verified) on February 9, 2013 1:38 am
I agree that there are things to fight for. it troubles me that so many high school choice programs within the district will be effected: lankanau, bok, the military academies, robeson, and motivation will all be changed in a negative way. this are the schools that work, where there's parent satisfaction, and real achievement. close the neighborhood high schools. keep school choice. if you are "dedicated public school advocates" you'll advocate for what works. public school does exist for a reason, but that reason isn't a jobs program.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 9, 2013 9:02 pm
This where reformers show their true selves. "This is not a jobs program." Just how transparent ARE you?
Submitted by Anonymous on February 9, 2013 1:40 am
The Allegory of the Farm And now, I said, let me show in a figure how far our nature is enlightened or unenlightened: --Behold!Sheep scattered on a barn, or maybe cows, no, better yet crabs in a barrel; what ever the critter you get the point; dumb, harmful really just to their own kind, and only really are necessary to provide the raw material goods they produce, yet in and of themselves they are just animals. The old farmer had done most of the sheering, and kept the sheep in their place properly disposing of them when they were of no more value. There was never a need to feed them that well, or provide them with adequate grazing pastures, cause the sheep only knew of what they had. However, some savvy young and wealthy farmers got smart and came to the old farmer with a plan to lease some of the sheep from him, for they found a way to garner wool, or fleece the masses of sheep cheaper and more efficiently than the old farmer could. It would cut down the old farmers cost to feed the sheep, and really the farmer was just getting to old to be running after those sheep anyway. So, the savvy young wealthy farmers lured those better sheep away with the promise of greener pastures, and made it more glamorous like all entities do by touting its virtues and limiting accessibility to it, for only a few sheep were chosen every so often with the promise of greener pastures. Well, what poor old sheep could refuse the prospects of greener pastures? Although shepherds from the northern lands of Cambridge had come and found that the grass really isn’t at all greener, than the old farmers pastures. However, sheep don’t read, especially reports in peer reviewed shepherds journals, so the sheep remained dumb and hopeful that they would one day graze on lush grass beside the still waters. Well, one day the old farmer, snuck out with his new earnings from the savvy young farmers and lost all his money gambling in a game called “swaps”, and didn’t even have enough money to tend to his old sheep anymore. Well, the man who owned the land, a shrewd land owner like most in his profession had been waiting for an opportunity like this, and he knew this was his lucky break. He saw how easy it was for those young savvy farmers to take the sheep off the old farmers hands and how dumb those sheep were to think there was such thing for them as greener pastures; for the land owner owned all the land and knew, the truly green pastures and still waters weren’t ever for sheep to occupy. But the landowner said to himself; now, I could give the old farmer the money to hold his sheep over till he gets back on his feet, or I can let him starve, make him sell cheap and start divvying up his farm land and make myself and my farming partners rich. After all what did God make sheep for but to get fleeced, and he created those like the land owner to always live upon the greenest pastures. He knew there was no sense in that old drunk farmer keeping all those sheep tied to himself. Besides, he wasn’t taking that good care of them anyway. So the land owner withheld any help to that old farmer. The old farmer figured he was never a good farmer anyway. He might as well sell all these remaining sheep and retire to the rolling hills of Wynnefield which lay at the south gate of the land of greener pastures and still waters. These of the greenest pastures were the lands of Radnor and Merion where all the land owners and their savvy farmer friends and family lived. Now the old farmer was weak and didn’t have to much energy to corral all those sheep. As a matter of fact, all of those years as a sheep farmer, and being a sheep himself, he came to distain the very smell of them and didn’t want much else to do with sheep anymore. So, he called an old shepherd, a great sheep Herder from Prince Georges County to come round up the remainder of his sheep so he could go and sell those remaining to his land owner and retire. Now the shepherd from Maryland was efficient and had a “Master Plan” for closing up the old stables and rounding up the sheep for the farmer so they could be sold to the land owner. Soon, he thought; the new farmers will come and divvy up all the remaining sheep in the few remaining stables and sheer them and feed them for less money at a profit. Now, one might ask; what happened to all those sheep so long ago who left the fold, who thought the grass was greener? Well, the newly purchased sheep joined them, crowded the stables once again, and now they’re all getting fed half the rations, and some must walk twice the distance to get fed. The old farmer retired and thanked God he never had to smell the scent of sheep again. The savvy young farmers consolidated and made one great stable and lowered their sheep provisions cost even further, and the land owner remains perched in the green green pastures keeping an eye out for any tragedy he might turn a profit on. In the end all things were as they always were. Landowners continue to buy and sell the land, farmers continue to reap from it, and the sheep? Well, we all know sheep are born to be fleeced.
Submitted by reformer (not verified) on February 9, 2013 5:15 am
to the poster with the orwellian aspirations: our circumstances do not fit neatly into your tortured allegory. first, the rich guys aren't getting rich fom this; second, the students and their families aren't sheep (85% of the strawberry mansion community found an alternative to that awful high school, a school choice success); and third, the old farmer here is really the big bad wolf. in fact, right now the big bad wolf, who we'll affectionately call jerry, is threatening to huff, and puff and blow our house in. this piece is neither creative nor informative. this is an example of the teaching going on in many of the schools proposed for closure. close them, close them fast!
Submitted by (not verified) on January 20, 2014 12:57 pm

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