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Hite: New plan will result in fewer students moving to lower-performing schools

By Dale Mezzacappa on Feb 19, 2013 11:25 AM

[Updated: 2:24 p.m.]

The revised school closings plan to shutter 29 instead of 37 schools will save less money but will result in fewer students being transferred to lower-performing schools and traveling more dangerous routes, according to Superintendent William Hite.

The new plan “is a result of listening to a lot of input from the community,” Hite said in a conference call with reporters Tuesday morning. “We had lots of proposals, not just from the community, but from elected officials … and we analyzed those to see if, in fact, they were better recommendations.” About 4,000 people attended community meetings around the city.

If the revised plans are adopted, about 14,000 students -- instead of 17,000 -- will be displaced.

The revised plan offers an altered blueprint for North Philadelphia, which was slated to lose 11 elementary schools and Strawberry Mansion High School, creating what some had complained was an “education desert” in one of the city’s neediest areas. Five schools in the neighborhood were spared.

Hite said the District is working with Community College of Philadelphia to create a “middle college and workforce development” program at Mansion – now at just 25 percent utilization – which is similar to one he started in Prince George's County, Md. The new program may be ready as early as the second semester of the next school year.

"A lot of things have to fall into place,” he said.  

He said he was confident this “upgrade” would help increase enrollment at the school, as would the decision to redirect students from the closure of Vaux High School to Mansion instead of to Benjamin Franklin High School.

Plus, he said, officials took into account that some students had just transferred into Strawberry Mansion when Rhodes and FitzSimons high schools were closed last year.

"We didn’t want to further impact those students by moving them a second time, and in a few cases, a third time during their high school career,” he said.

North Philadelphia’s Meade, Duckrey and Morris elementary schools will now stay open, while M.H. Stanton is proposed to close instead. Hite said that the decision took into account that Duckrey has somewhat higher performance, better daily attendance, fewer violent incidents, and safer walking routes for students than Stanton.

In addition to Stanton, Beeber Middle School has been added to the closure list, while Overbrook and Gompers elementary schools will stay open. The Overbrook and Gompers students were slated to transfer into Beeber, which is on the state’s “persistently dangerous” list.

“We were going to convert three schools in that catchment to one,” Hite said. However, after public outcry, the revision is meant to “allow two relatively well-performing schools an opportunity to remain and flourish in their buildings. And by closing Beeber, we remove another persistently dangerous school.” He said that closing Beeber instead of the others would result in a net savings of about $600,000 a year.

Sam Reed, a Notebook blogger and teacher at Beeber, said that the staff planned to meet after school to contemplate its next steps.

"My head is still kind of spinning," he said. But he added that at the community meetings, "you could hear loud and clear that they didn't think it was a good idea for elementary kids to be coming into here."

But sending the 7th and 8th graders to Overbrook High, as the revised plan recommends, "creates another problem," he said, due to limited research on how that benefits the younger students. "Whatever happens, the transition is going to be rocky," he said.

Although some changes, like the one involving Beeber, Gompers, and Overbrook, will actually save the District money, Hite said, the overall impact of the revisions will reduce the planned savings from $28 million to $24.5 million annually, starting in 2015.

Officials have acknowledged that the full savings will not be reached next fiscal year due to "substantial" one-time transition costs. No estimate of those costs has been offered. The revised plan means that the District will have to cut an additional $3.5 million annually in order to meet its five-year goals for reaching budget balance.

“We will have to look for those savings in other areas,” Hite said.

He said that the District is finalizing plans to "make certain things available" in the receiving schools, including options for before- and after-care, focused early literacy, technological upgrades, music, and arts.

"Schools will have at least three of those five things, depending on the populations they serve," he said. 

Hearings will be held Feb. 21-23, and the School Reform Commission will vote March 7, as planned, on the 27 closures announced earlier. The date for hearings and the vote on Stanton and Beeber will be announced later.

Check back for further updates and reaction.

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Comments (15)

Submitted by Ken Derstine on February 19, 2013 12:33 pm
What a scam! This is the Broad Foundation (where Hite attended the Superintendent's Academy in 2005) method. Hold meetings to give the appearance of democracy. Shuffle around a few schools closing proposals, but in the end close a significant number of public schools. The same tactics are being used in Chicago. Chicago Superintendent of Schools, Barbara Byrd Bennet, has a history with the Broad Foundation as did our previous Superintendent. Corporate education reform is all about privatizing public schools. The ground work has been laid over the last ten years under successive SRCs. Starve the public schools and build up charter schools under private management companies funded with tax payer dollars is the goal.
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on February 19, 2013 2:40 pm
Scam Indeed !!! What a disgrace.
Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on February 20, 2013 12:49 am
Ken, I agree with your argument in principle. However, the revisions do show that the District is listening, responding to public pressure, and coming to its senses A LITTLE BIT. The vast majority of people in Wynnefield, Overbrook, and Overbrook Farms support closing Beeber over closing Overbrook ES and Gompers. There was fierce opposition to the closing of Gompers and Overbrook ES and the District listened. They had to listen because when faced with the realities of children traveling to Beeber and closing two safe, academically sound, and well-supported elementary schools, their arguments held no water. Almost all of the "empty seats" among Beeber, Gompers, and Overbrook ES are at Beeber. The District's FMP calculations for Gompers were incorrect, as Mr. DeLuca, the Gompers principal, pointed out last week at the community meeting. In particular, the District's argument to make Beeber a K-8 school made no sense in light of the fact that Overbrook HS can accommodate the 7th and 8th graders from Beeber. There is also the reality that only 22% of middle school students in Beeber's catchment attend Beeber. On the other hand, 66% of students in Gompers' catchment and 60% of students in Overbrook ES's catchment attend these schools. There are not a lot of kids in the Gompers catchment area, but the student population at Gompers has increased in recent years, largely due to a large number of "overflow" students from Mastery Mann. I don't like the idea of closing public schools, but I also understand that operating a building which is only 20% full is very inefficient. There isn't strong support in the research literature for the stand-alone middle school model. In many cases, it's possible to make a middle school within a K-8 or 7-12 school by giving the middle school students their own floor or wing of the building. Most non-special education teachers have certification for elementary (K-6) or secondary (7-12), so it makes a lot of sense for middle school students to be in the same building as either elementary or high school students. EGS
Submitted by Cidney Alexander (not verified) on February 19, 2013 1:16 pm
I find this new proposal to be unacceptable. None of the schools should be closed. So instead of closing 37 schools now it's only 29. It's a clear victory for the 10 schools removed from the list but what programs will be put in place to ensure a smooth transition for the incoming students. All schools should be removed from the list!!!! Let's continue to push forward to make it happen.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 19, 2013 3:50 pm
And closing 29 is then seen to be giving ground and"listening to the community."
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 19, 2013 3:45 pm
What about new renaissance schools? Weren't 3 new charters and 3 new promise academies supposed to be announced today?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 19, 2013 4:13 pm
Unfortunately the SRC and Hite are bedning to the bullies from PCAPS and other so called parent groups that don't actually ask the parents what they want.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 19, 2013 4:08 pm
Where's the plan for the list of Renaissance schools that was to be released today? It was to have been released February 8th. We need to know.
Submitted by Paul Socolar on February 19, 2013 5:25 pm

Today the District said the release is postponed to Thursday or Friday of this week.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 19, 2013 5:26 pm
So the Principal at Beeber tells the TRUTH 100% of the time, reporting incidents as they occur, all the incidents without exception and pays the price. Teaches a great lesson. If he were one of Penny's girls who lie as easily as they walk, he'd be spared but the truth will get you hammered. This is a disgrace for all to see. Principals lie about incidents routinely and everybody knows it but this guy "Plays by the rules" and pays the price.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 19, 2013 6:21 pm
Schools left off the closing list should not celebrate just yet. Renaissance may be coming. Good for parents not wanting to send children to another location. Not so good for teachers and other staff who will all be forced transfers. The big question...what will be different for schools where students have performed consistently at very low levels in math and reading?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 19, 2013 6:56 pm
Don't Renaissance schools have to be in Corrective Action II? What are the rules for choosing the Renaissance schools?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 19, 2013 6:08 pm
There are rules but the district doesn't follow them.... schools in corrective action 9/10 weren't touched last year while schools at corrective action 3 were. If a charter likes your schools - it could be on the list.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 19, 2013 6:04 pm
How are they keeping Strawberry Mansion open and closing the Elementary School; LP Hill, which is attached?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 21, 2013 11:17 pm
The SRC is proving more and more to be a sham process as well as Dr. Hite's reasoning for ammending his original list. The bigger issue at hand is it seems to be creating a civil war within our school district. Schools against schools, neighbors against neighbors, parents against parents...all pleading thier case about why their schools should be choosen to remain open. M hall stanton supporters were scheduled to speak tonight at the src but respectfully withdrew on the grounds that we feel we deserve a specific school closure meetings as the other schools had. Tonight was just a general meeting.I am someone who has a very vested interest in keeping stanton open next year. I can tell you that the staff, parents, community members and elected officials of stanton community have been working very hard together since stanton was unjustly nominated for closure. We have spent hours researching, data analyzing, reading proposals of the formerly nominated schools that was submitted to dr. Hite... we were more than hurt and saddened especially upon reading duckerys proposal. They individuals responsible for creating this document by referring to the stanton community as a "drug ridden crime infested area" several times. It claimed they were the better performing school and submitted documents showing that they havent made AYP in 10 years, they are listed as corrective action 2 school and they only met 8 out of 23 indicators. Stanton has made AYP 4 in the last 10 years, are only corrective action 1 and made 14 out of 23 indicators. Whats more they made blantant lies about the state of the facility that could have surely been proven wrong had ANY proper fact checks been involved in the decision to add stanton. ALSO interesting is the fact that a sister of a member of the src also submitted a proposal that stanton be closed instead of dukery. This document listed several elected officials as suppoters in favor of stanton closing. When we contacted them for verification they had NO IDEA their names were listed and were honestly quite shocked. Did dr. Hite read these unprofessional proposals, one of them from a SISTER of an src member and change his mind based on the lies and propoganda in them?. We have reached out to several local news stations, reporters including from the notebook, etc to bring attention to the concerns we have and hopefully will have a favorable response from them soon. The whole process is beyond unfair, undemocratic, and clearly lacks the level of decision making process that should be involved when making a school closure reccomendation, ESPECIALLY an AMENDED school closure reccomendation. Thank you to everyone who has kept this community in your thoughts and prayers..

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