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Closure opponents not satisfied with proposed changes to District plan

By Dale Mezzacappa and Benjamin Herold for the Notebook and NewsWorks on Feb 19, 2013 07:43 PM

Although some Philadelphia students and communities were glad to have a reprieve and felt that their voices were heard, supporters of a moratorium on school closings said that they hadn’t changed their minds as a result of Superintendent William Hite’s revised recommendations that would shutter 29 instead of 37 schools.

The updated plan only “underscores the need for a moratorium,” said Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan. PFT went ahead with a rally Tuesday at Meade Elementary School in North Philadelphia to protest the closings, even though Meade was spared.

In a statement, Jordan said there are still concerns about transportation and safety and whether any savings will be reinvested “so that the receiving schools will adequately provide a quality education to...new students.”

PCAPS, the broad anti-closings coalition of which PFT is a part, said that it appreciated Hite’s effort to respond to community concerns, but “the only way to fairly and thoroughly determine which schools should close is to implement a moratorium on all closings.”

The advocacy group Action United will join several elected officials at a protest rally Wednesday afternoon in Germantown. It will be held in Vernon Park, down the street from Germantown High School and Fulton Elementary School, both slated for closing. Germantown would also lose Kinsey Elementary School.

Under the new plan, about 14,000 rather than 17,000 students will be displaced. The District will save $24.5 million instead of $28 million annually starting in 2015, which will impact its ability to reach budget balance within five years. The first-year savings will likely be less due to transition costs, which have yet to be specified.

Hite said he feels the new plan is “better” than the first one from the District’s point of view. “We have a lot fewer [students] that are moving into new schools that are lower performing,” he said.

The District reversed course in the Wynnefield section of West Philadelphia, keeping open Gompers and Overbrook elementary schools and closing Beeber Middle School instead. The original plan had been to create a K-8 school at Beeber.

The move will result in a net savings of about $600,000 compared to the earlier plan and avoid sending the younger students to a middle school that has been rated as “persistently dangerous” by the state.

“We respect the fact that parents of many Gompers and Overbrook students were concerned,” Hite said.

Staff at Beeber – which is now slated to close – are trying to digest what this means for their students.

The new plan spares the younger students from Gompers and Overbrook from being mixed in with older students at Beeber. But now the 7th and 8th graders from Beeber are expected to attend Overbrook High, which will expand from a 9-12 school to encompass grades 7-12.

Sam Reed, a Notebook blogger and teacher at Beeber, said that the staff was contemplating its next steps.

The revised plan “creates another problem,” said Reed, noting that there is limited research on how the new grade structure will benefit the younger students.

Some charter schools have had success with a 7-12 grade structure. But they carefully built up the school grade-by-grade and built a culture, Reed said.

But other students and community members said that they felt their voices were heard.

Nacier Macklin-Collins, a student at Elverson Military Academy, complained at one of the many community meetings that he wouldn’t be able to travel to a Roosevelt Middle School in Germantown. In the initial plan, Elverson and Leeds Military academies would have been combined and relocated there.

The revised plan calls for the Leeds to relocate to Elverson, which is more readily accessible through public transportation.

“I feel like my voice can be heard and it can make a difference in the School District, and it feels good to know that can happen,” said Macklin-Collins.

City Council President Darrell Clarke said he still supports a moratorium, but was heartened by the District’s revisions. The new plan spares four elementary schools in North Philadelphia, as well as Strawberry Mansion High School.

“In all honesty, I didn’t think the School District would be engaged as aggressively as they were,” Clarke said. “The staff and Hite went out every night and entertained give-and-take from the community. I was surprised that it happened.”

In deciding to keep Mansion open, 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,” Hite said.

Clarke said that he would work with the District “on any creative strategies he has for enhancing educational opportunities” for students in the area. Hite wants to partner with Community College of Philadelphia in a new "workforce development" program at Mansion modeled on one in Prince George's County, Md.

The decision to drop two schools from the list prompted State Sen. Leanna Washington of Northwest Philadelphia to praise Hite.

“The decision to keep Lankenau and McCloskey off the proposed closure list is a testament to the dedication of students, teachers, staff, and parents,” Washington said. Lankenau High School will stay in its current location in Andorra rather than co-locating with Roxborough High School. McCloskey Elementary, previously slated to close, will expand by adding grades 7 and 8.

But the most diehard opponents of closings are not mollified. City Council Education Committee Chairperson Jannie Blackwell vowed to continue fighting. 

In her West Philadelphia district, Paul Robeson High and University City High are still slated for closure. McMichael Elementary, however, was spared.

“I’m furious about the list. And I’m ready to fight about it,” Blackwell said.

In individual schools – some spared, some still targeted, and two just added to the list – staff and students are still trying to determine what the latest changes will mean for them.

Students and staff at University City High have been given the option to move en masse to Ben Franklin High and maintain its programs.

“We -- students, faculty, community-- are working on deciding how well the District's revision helps us stay unified in a way that furthers the progress we have made as a school," said social studies teacher A.J. Shiera, whose urban education students spoke at several of the community meetings.

Members of the PCAPS coalition are touting a plan to convert the buildings still slated for closure into “community learning centers” that provide an array of services, including year-round programming for youth and adults, pre-school, health services, tutoring, mentoring, and help with college access. They say that a similar network in Cincinnati, begun in  2001 when the district was renovating and expanding, has helped revitalize communities and increase the graduation rate there, which now exceeds 80 percent.

They said that they had a “productive” meeting with School Reform Commission members Tuesday morning “to discuss solutions such as community schools that can not only save and improve neighborhood public schools, but reverse the trend of school closings and student loss.”

Overall, Hite’s new set of recommendations would close 15 elementary schools, 5 middle schools, and 9 high schools. That increases the utilization rate of District buildings from 67 percent to 78 percent. For elementary schools, it will rise from 77 to 83 percent; middle schools, 46 to 71 percent, and high schools, 58 to 71 percent.

The SRC is scheduled to hold hearings this Thursday, Friday and Saturday and has scheduled a vote for March 7 on the revised plans, except for the new closure recommendations for Beeber Middle School and M.H. Stanton Elementary. Hearings and a vote on those two schools have not yet been set.

This story was reported through a partnership in education coverage between WHYY/NewsWorks and the Notebook.

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Comments (56)

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on February 19, 2013 8:55 pm

Here's why the community school will never materialize here in Philly, no how many years we have moratorium(s). We might as well have as many moratoriums as lenders will allow us:

1. Superintendent (Cincinnati Public Schools) Mary Ronan said, “It’s a business model that works.” (In Philly business = privatizing = no go.)
2. CPS "invested" in a "decade-long, $1 billion rebuilding plan" to create appropriate spaces in these schools. (Philly can't see past a year, let alone do the math for ten whole years... This was a "give" to invite giving. Sorry Philly only knows how to ask for handouts.)
3. "CPS improvised, planned, tested and eventually crafted a new way to operate. Major funders like the United Way and the Greater Cincinnati Foundation stepped up and the schools set up a system to leverage health care dollars, volunteers, nonprofits and business partners so the effort wouldn’t cost the district." (Well, yes, we like the idea of big nonprofits giving lots of money. Federal Medicaid dollars is especially appealing. But we don't like businesses. And the most creativity we've shown is in crafting conspiracies and fomenting rage and anger.)

Sorry PCAPS, your movement is why community schools will never happen here.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 19, 2013 9:50 pm

Ms. Cheng,

Your chorus of negativity and smug attitude that the SRC is on the right course is belied by this:

http://www.wbez.org/news/vacant-schools-philadelphia-cautionary-tale-chi...

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on February 19, 2013 9:26 pm

Right, that only proves Democrat dominated cities lack both forsight and creativity. Cincinnati is only slightly over half Democrat vs Philly which is over 80%. Recall also the study by the Pew Research Center that cited that Cincinnati had some success auctioning some of their former school buildings (not all were turned into community schools).

So is what PCAPS is doing, creating suspicion and fear, "positive"? How about "tuning out" the fact that the SDP had to borrow $300 million just to make payroll? Well I guess that must be positive. Either way, PCAPS knows the Cincinnati blueprint can't be put into effect in just one year (or did they even bother to look at it that close?), and they'd have to erase the (yes) negative press they've fostered for both nonprofit foundations and private businesses first. In addition no additional money will be coming from Harrisburg as long as the SRC makes no move to downsize (despite the rumor that the money is hidden somewhere in conspirator pockets). So is PCAPS just too "positive" to see this? Or just so dependent on government funding that they believe that protesting solves everything? Btw, I'm a registered Democrat myself, but now seriously wondering why.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on February 19, 2013 10:03 pm

Oh, I never said that the SRC is on the right course. They have been given no other realistic options, community schools included. If I were to suggest sharing staff in order to downsize rather than abandoning buildings, PCAPS would protest equally loud. Preventing urban blight is not their agenda. Nor it appears is it the agenda of City Council, who was able to give hefty tax abatements, but not ones to encourage the right investment in declining neighborhoods.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on February 20, 2013 2:30 am

Why can't University City HS move to HS of the Future? The "Stay Unified: University City High School Proposal" even suggests that the school move to a smaller facility or co-locate at a school such as the HS of the Future:

"Section 3. A second way of achieving the “Stay UNIfied” solution is to move the UCHS community intact to another location. This would allow the UCHS community of students, parents, teachers, staff, and administration to remain together and continue the progress despite a change of location. Possibilities include:
A Co-locating as a distinct school within another school, such as High School of the Future, with our own student body, feeder pattern, staff, and administration, to maintain the progress we have made so far;
B Relocating to a vacant district property with a capacity better suited to the current enrollment of UCHS, allowing us to retain our program intact in a right-sized facility."

This is a very reasonable proposal from the UCHS community. HOW ON EARTH does it make sense for UCHS to relocate to Franklin HS in North Philly?

The proposal to close Germantown HS also makes no sense, especially in light of the fact that the Fulton ES community submitted a proposal that they co-locate in an addition of Germantown HS, as well as bring in 7th and 8th graders. This proposal makes perfect sense given that Fulton ES is right across the street from GHS, meaning that there would be little change in the transportation patterns of Fulton ES students.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 20, 2013 4:22 am

Without moving Strawberry Mansion students to Ben Franklin, the School District has to fill Franklin with another group - thus Univ City. Ben Franklin is also very accessible via SEPTA. Without closing Lankenau, they have to move more students to Roxborough which is under 500 students. I'm not sure why Lankenau isn't moving - it is in a very isolated location so it is expensive to get students to the school. It would be interesting to know where Lankenau students live.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on February 20, 2013 5:05 pm

How about moving a school like Constitution HS out of the building that the District leases and into a wing in a District-owned building. Isn't Franklin going to receive many of the students from Vaux HS?

Submitted by reformer (not verified) on February 20, 2013 2:50 am

the military academies at elverson, lakenau, good decisions. close vaux beeber, ditto. keep open schools like duckery, meade, and mansion? insane. In addition to being underutilized, they do an awful job. duckery scores below the district average i just about every grade, meade fails to meet the district average for all grades, and mansion (now that the cheating stopped) can't break 15% proficiency. why on earth would any of these schools be given a reprieve? and the mere suggestion of a middle college program at mansion is a joke. they're not even doing middle school work at that school. the list of closures is moving in the wrong direction. it's time to admit that schools like germentown and uni are not too big to fail. they're too broken to fix. and the district is too broke to fix them.

Submitted by LS Teach (not verified) on February 20, 2013 5:19 am

You need to do some research about the schools you are speaking about. Meade and Duckrey house some of the most transient student populations in the SDP. This has a tremendous effect on test scores. Also, check the scores a few years back before scripted reading and math curriculum were forced on these schools - you will see a major difference. How can we base school closings on assessment scores that were skewed by years of cheating and impropriety? But for doing such an awful job, these schools had a lot of community support behind them.

Submitted by reformer (not verified) on February 20, 2013 6:25 am

i understand the circumstances of those children as well as you. I know that they will be locked in that state ins hooks like the ones they're attending. and yes, the pssa test is not the be al and end all, but these kids score below the district average. whether someone cheated somewhere else (I hope with their scores they didn't cheat) so what! your understanding of their condition is admirable. it condemns them to generations of poverty, but you don't have to deal with that. this looks like a back door deal. why did some many schools in councilman clarke's district get a lifeline? I know, it's because he's such an advocate for education. he's the Helen gym of council. my opinion of the new administration has plummeted because they let this fake show of community support, bought and paid for by the district, make them keep open schools that a majority in those neighborhoods have already abandoned.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on February 20, 2013 5:11 pm

reformer,

With all due respect, when talking about academic performance, you need to take a look at yourself. Your own writing shows a complete lack of capitalization and lapses in punctuation. We all make mistakes from time to time, but you're making more than just the occasional mistake here.

EGS

Submitted by reformer (not verified) on February 20, 2013 5:25 pm

well thank you for telling me that my typing stinks. i didn't know. so do you have a preference in this pitched debate or are you just showing off? and btw, you don't always spell things correct either. you left out an e.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 20, 2013 6:06 am

There are too many schools too broken to be fixed and no amount of money will fix them.

They are not able to fix themselves even though they may have submitted a "wonderful" plan to the SRC. If they are able to make significant corrections, which provide a firm basis for a focus on improving student achievement why, then, have they not begun?

If a school community can be fixed why wait when survival depends on action that support an effective, collaborative school climate no matter the transiency of students? You know you have transient students with life's hardships that making learning a challenge, then collaborate, make a plan for that. Why wait to work together as a unified staff to initiate effective teaching and learning? Begin day by day, bell to bell, one step at a time. No more excuses. No more placing blame on students.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on February 20, 2013 7:00 am

Now YOU have a positive message. Where teachers work TOGETHER, there is success. That is, working together, not rabble rousing together.

Submitted by Darnel Charles Tanksley (not verified) on February 20, 2013 8:13 am

PUBLIC Education has been the target of Republicans since at least May 17, 1954.
Philadelphia is not the only Pennsylvania district strapped for cash.
Upper Darby faces the same challenges.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Charter Schools ultimately will be in the back room of the corner store
Once this is realized, will there be a PUBLIC option for Philadelphia?

From Upper Darby to Erie why is it NOW an emergency?
From the Lottery to the PLCB why is it an emergency NOW?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 20, 2013 12:15 pm

Because the check for the unfunded promises of politicians 10 and 20 years ago giving public employees lavish pension benefits is now due.

PA is billions in the whole. Philadelphia is proportionately worse.

That is why it is now an emergency. Simple demographics. You should be happy the politicians are only talking about privatizing the liquor stores instead of addressing the real problem.

Submitted by reformer (not verified) on February 20, 2013 8:15 am

"no more placing blame on students." this is the best advice you can give to the teachers. if your response when asked about the lack of student achievement is the kids are messed up, then you have made the argument to stop wasting public dollars on a no-win situation. teachers have to band together to ensure that the kids get what they need. they also have to have no tolerance for those who don't want to get with the program. will some students fail, maybe, but many more will succeed. .

Submitted by Jack M. (not verified) on February 20, 2013 9:37 am

Beeber is NOT a bad school. It's an honest school that tells the truth and is notorious for it. The Principal, Joe Starinieri, is known as a stickler for following the rules and not hiding problems. He reports all incidents and follows through on all incidents. He should be an example for good but instead is being shown the door as of now. Beeber will fight this closing as it should but Mr. Star is not one of Penny's friends and is out of the current political "catch me if you can" mentality so it doesn't look good. Even the kids at Beeber, know the school doesn't play and will make the kids accountable replete with the courts. In other words, Beeber does the job it is designed to do as a full, comprehensive Middle School and will pay the price for its integrity. Only in Phila. could this crap happen.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on February 20, 2013 10:23 am

Right, and we have our "well meaning" activists to thank for pushing the technicality of Beeber being rated "persistently dangerous". FMP overlooked this didn't it? So who was more accurate in the end?

Beeber needs to rally.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on February 20, 2013 12:14 pm

Ms. Cheng--You are so right. Beeber is being used and abused because the Principal is old school, follow the rules type. I know him and nobody is more conscious of right and wrong than he. By the way, he has known for a long time that his "style" of telling the truth and reporting the truth, was opposite of the new style of lying, lying and more lying and I am sure he is not shocked that he's being thrown under the bus for political reasons. Quite a lesson for the kids to learn too, tell the truth and pay the price for doing it.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 20, 2013 12:11 pm

Why does every freaking thing resort back to Penny? She is far removed from any decisions being made regarding closing of schools. Some of you need a life all ready. Penny is home writing her dissertation and minding her business. Hite and his team are responsible for the schools slated to close and Penny Nixon had no part of any decision. Sorry, you must place blame elsewhere.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 20, 2013 12:29 pm

Not sure what you're saying but if your feelings are hurt, sorry. Penny Nixon was a devil who destroyed good people. If that also makes you annoyed, not sorry.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 20, 2013 1:15 pm

What I'm saying is Penny has nothing to do with the decision to close Beeber....you suggested she did in your previous comment. No, I'm not offended, I was just correcting your earlier assumption.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on February 20, 2013 5:34 pm

Jack,

77% of middle school students in Beeber's catchment area DO NOT attend Beeber! Go to http://webgui.phila.k12.pa.us/offices/f/facilities-master-plan/individua... and click Beeber Middle School. I have heard from many others that Mr. Starinari is an honest principal and it's too bad that his honesty is hurting him right now. Unfortunately, Beeber has a track record of being a low-performing school with school climate issues. Having schools with less than 20% utilization is not a good use of public money. How can Dr. Hite go to Harrisburg and ask for more money when school buildings with less than 20% utilization are open and over 3/4 of the kids in the catchment area are not attending that school?

EGS

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 20, 2013 6:05 pm

EGS----The standard for closing Beeber is the discipline issue alone. That's to what I was responding. If they had gone with the catchment issue, I would have not responded but they didn't so I did. Beeber was on the good list as you'll recall so what happened to send them to the out list. I suggest the discipline issue was drummed up for that purpose even though everybody in the district knows that Starinieri doesn't play games with incidents as MANY other principals do. Beeber was thrown under the bus to appease the more politically connected principals at OEC and Gompers.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on February 20, 2013 7:30 pm

First of all, OEC and Overbrook ES are not the same. Overbrook Educational Center was never on the closure list.

Hite's own explanation of the proposal to put Gompers and Overbrook ES students at Beeber was because of the empty seats and to save money. Yet, it turns out, "closing Beeber instead of the others would result in a net savings of about $600,000 a year" (para. 12 from "Hite: New plan will result in fewer students moving to lower-performing schools" http://thenotebook.org/blog/135657/hite-new-plan-will-result-fewer-stude...). So who even knows what numbers they are crunching up at 440. Some of the data in the FMP isn't even correct.

How do you know that the discipline issue alone is what closed Beeber? What about the fact that 77% OF THE MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS IN BEEBER'S CATCHMENT OPT NOT TO ATTEND BEEBER? The building is less than 20% occupied. There aren't that many special admit middle schools or the same process for city-wide admission to middle schools as there is for high schools. I feel bad for the principal who, by all accounts, is an honest administrator and does things the right way. However, the reality is that the people in Wynnefield and Overbrook would much rather keep their neighborhood elementary schools. I live in the area and attended both meetings at Overbrook HS. There were more than a few people who suggested closing Beeber.

Can you provide detailed evidence of how the political connections led to the preservation of Overbrook ES and Gompers? The turnout at the community meetings had nothing to do with political connections and everything to do with people's feelings about the neighborhood elementary schools. The people spoke loud and clear that they wanted to keep the elementary schools. If people cared so much about Beeber, they would have sacrificed their elementary schools for Beeber.

EGS

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 20, 2013 9:45 am

PCAPS is nothing but a bunch of bullies who think they speak for all parents and THEY DON'T! Most sane parents with children in the district realize that these moves need to happen in order for the district to move forward. PCAPS needs to just go away.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on February 20, 2013 10:47 am

I have to voice my disagreement with you on this one. PCAPS is comprised of people and organizations who have dedicated their lives to the schoolchildren of Philadelphia, their parents and their school communities. Some of them even stand in a representative capacity for the stakeholders of Philadelphia's schools.

Most of them are people who have the courage to stand up for the principle that our schools should be led and governed for the "best interests of the students and their communities" and not in the best interests of those who want to capitalize off of them -- at taxpayers' expense.

I know some of the people in that organization and have even worked with some. They are some of the finest and most credible people I have met in my, now 38 years of service to the school district.

Their experience, knowledge and dedication to our community gives them the highest level of credibility.

They should be given a true voice in all of this. They stand for democracy in education.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on February 20, 2013 10:39 am

Rich, you are one of the most thoughtful, kind people there is/are. Yes, there are these in PCAPS too. But they need to step back a little and ask themselves if what they are doing is going to lead to what is best for families with public school children, even the system itself. What they are asking for, will in fact lead to a quicker road to what they are saying they are against, the demise of the SDP proper.

If we move ahead with proposed closures, there is still a window of time (likely at least a year) in which buildings will still be owned by the SDP, and some "backtracking" possible. If on the other hand things are postponed for another year there is the inevitable (not just likely) additional borrowing along with additional debt service and additional inflated payment to charters. Harrisburg can justify keeping funding at the current debilitating low. The problem will only be compounded, and the hole a lot deeper. Are these consequences PCAPS is taking seriously? I think not.

So why does PCAPS insist on pushing for the moratorium? The answer is all too obvious. They don't want to lose jobs. They might be able to save schools by agreeing to sharing staffing or using blended options where possible, but they haven't proposed this. So as good as people as they are, they are pushing for something good only for themselves, despite all they may say to the contrary.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on February 20, 2013 11:24 am

Thanks for your kind words. What I think we can have a consensus on is that we need to embark on a well reasoned course of action which makes our schools and school system, not only more efficient, but one which serves the needs of our children better, and serves the needs of their communities.

May I suggest that everyone read this article:

file:///Users/richmigliore/Desktop/Articles%20Charter%20Schools/Corporat...

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on February 20, 2013 11:25 am

Sorry, my transfer of links above did not work. Try this: http://truth-out.org/news/item/14610-corporations-advise-school-closings...

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on February 20, 2013 11:20 am

Thanks Rich, but the author failed to consult the U.S. Census data. As many children "disappeared" from the City from 2000 to 2010, over 44,000 ages 5 to 14(Philadelphia County as a whole), as we now have enrolled in charters, roughly 40,000; so charters are not the conspirators/reason the enrollment has fallen so drastically (but of course, 70,000 empty seats is not = to 40,000 charter seats). In fact there is a good chance charters probably kept quite a few families from moving their children out.

Ask critical questions. A premise is only as good as the facts on which it is based.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on February 20, 2013 12:49 pm

I have another set of numbers for your consideration. Right now for each non-special ed child, the District spends about $8,000 for core curriculum instructional costs (teacher, materials, i.e. things other than transportation, building maintenance, debt service, grant programs). Using 90k as the average teacher compensation (is an average that includes benefit and is a figure now several years old) from school budgets, and neglecting materials and administrator costs for the sake of simplicity, this works out to be about 12 students at 8k each. If the teacher can teach 20 students instead of 12, the figure drops to 4.5k per student.

By law the SDP must pay a charter what it spends per child in core curriculum instructional costs for each child the charter enrolls that lives in the catchment of the SDP. So right now it is paying charters 8k per non-special ed child. If the SDP increases its utilization, in the above example from 12 to 20 students per teacher, it will also drop what it needs to pay to charters per child, in this case from 8k to 4.5k. The better utilization in the case of charter reimbursement in effect doubles the savings for the SDP.

So if PCAPS believes charters take resources from the SDP, why is PCAPS blocking SDP's ability to increase its utilization? Again, because PCAPS is only interested in saving jobs.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on February 20, 2013 11:48 am

I must add that moving ahead with the proposed closures would not affect the planning for the community schools at all, which should already have started (rather than the mob gathering work), and can continue throughout. In fact renovations or fitting of buildings can be started sooner if they aren't occupied.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 20, 2013 12:00 pm

Boy, are all you right about Beeber. Hard to believe that Principal is losing his school for reporting the facts as they occur. He doesn't play, doesn't talk "street," doesn't lie, doesn't get bullied, intimidated by the community so he's the bad guy. The Principals who lie and cheat as much as possible are the good guys. Worst part is that EVERYBODY who knows Starinieri knows this is all BS and Beeber is being closed because the Principal is an honest broker.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 20, 2013 12:56 pm

I agree--I've worked in 4 schools in 8 years and Beeber was the only one who followed the rules of reporting incidents. The other 3 got made at the TEACHER if the teacher reported really awful things which is sick. Mr. Star is the only administrator who followed through on incidents and reported them the same way they were reported. I wish I were still at Beeber but I am very sorry it is now on the hot seat. WHAT A JOKE !!!!! The district needs to right this wrong now. By the way, Beeber also has a Ms. Winder, a GREAT parent teacher laison who has been with Mr. Starinieri for many, many years. The truth is Beeber does its job correctly and without lots of publicity, no pretensions, no lies, nothing fake,old schools as others have said. Mr. Star was at Sayre High School for many years and look what has happened there since he left.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 20, 2013 1:48 pm

This headline is funny. Is this really news? In other news, dogs still bark.

The whole moratorium push is a sham- if you can not name at least 1 school that should be closed this year then you are not serious. The motivation is clear.

PCAPS main goal (driven by PFT, SEIU and their puppet tools on council) is only interested in maintaining the greatest number of jobs will oppose any and all school closings. Fronting this interest group with a few parents doesn't change its nature. In most of these schools the majority of parents already voted by leaving for charters. That is why they are way below capacity.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on February 20, 2013 1:55 pm

Yes, as an ex administrator, I got to know Joe Starinieri fairly well too and he really is maddeningly, maddeningly honest--just the opposite of what the district wants now so he's out. Just when I thought the district couldn't sink lower, they do. Beeber is a "throwback" to a time when right was right and wrong was wrong. Yes, I've also heard, Joe knew his days were numbered since he didn't play the political game of covering up. As usual, a pox on all their houses for caving to political pressure and throwing principals like Star under the bus. This move might well be the worst of all of them. Ask 100 people about this decision and 100 of them who KNOW BEEBER, will tell you it's insanity. I agree, in this climate, it really doesn't pay being honest.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 20, 2013 1:34 pm

Just because Beeber is closing, doesn't mean he will not have a job. He has seniority and he will be placed at another school. Please get your facts straight regarding CASA (principal union) and seniority. The principals who are probationary will get laid off first if cuts must be made. Don't worry Joe is safe.

Submitted by reformed 2 (not verified) on February 20, 2013 2:24 pm

Are you as unprofessional as you write?? We're speaking about morals here, apparently something about which you seem to know nothing. It's NOT about seniority or a job---Yikes, you missed the entire point.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 20, 2013 4:02 pm

The comment stated "Joe is out". It reads as though he will be out a job. I did not miss any point, I responded to what I read.

Submitted by reformed 2 (not verified) on February 20, 2013 1:33 pm

I don't know about other schools but I do know Beeber, I work here and Beeber is a good school. The Principal isn't politically motivated and older but honest and "for the kids." He doesn't lie or cheat and that's how he treats the teachers too. If you can't work at Beeber, you can't work anywhere in the city. The climate here is real, incidents happpen, are reported and followed through on----the real world, not a bunch of lies masquerading as the truth. The Kids here know it too. Beeber is hard but fair. The SRC needs to correct this blunder the easy way before the truth comes out more and more. Mr. Star has the respect of lots of people though not the boobs on the SRC.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on February 20, 2013 6:44 pm

These school closings are a a result of the large-scale growth of charters and the accompanying school reform movement. Here is a great article about school reform, called "The bait and switch of school “reform” by David Sirota. It's an excellent article. I have posted it previously on other articles and posts, but it is timely reading.

Sometimes, school closings are due to demographic changes. Many of the school closings in Detroit are a symptom of the steep population decline that Detroit has experienced. Philadelphia, on the other hand, is slowly regaining population. However, the decline in population at the public schools (and Catholic schools) is due largely to charter schools. Everyone should be aware of the motives of many of the reformers, and this article lays clear their motives. And the motive is NOT about helping kids, especially poor kids.

Read the article here: http://www.salon.com/2011/09/12/reformmoney/

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on February 20, 2013 6:10 pm

EGS, go to the U.S.Census Bureau's website, and look at the population stats for Philadelphia County. You have to use the filters, and you have to type in each year separately (2000, 2010). Write down the numbers, and you will see that Philly's stabilization/slight increase in population is coming mostly from 20 to 29 year olds and the over 55 set. There is a small increase in the15 to 19 age group, and interestingly enough in the under 5 group (so no "declining birthrate" because the 30 to 44 age group also decreases by about 30,000), but a huge decrease in the 5 to 14 year old (5 to 9, and 10 to 14) groups totalling over 44,000. Check it out/check my math here. No one seems to like to navigate the Census' website (can't blame them, there's sooo much data).

Charters only enroll roughly 40,000 children right now, and the SDP has about 70,000 empty seats. I don't think charters can be blamed for the entire loss of seats in the SDP. They may actually have slowed the exodus of families with school age children leaving the City, we don't know.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on February 20, 2013 6:00 pm

EGS---Of course, you are right and it's not even close. The "reform" movement is all about making money for the already rich on the backs of the poor. It's another variation of the slumlord mentality and all the urban areas are experiencing it where the poverty cycle, despair, dysfunction and general depression hold strong. Interesting how these reformers are not welcome in the affluent suburbs, isn't it ?? Cancer doesn't sell in those areas !!

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on February 20, 2013 7:13 pm

"Interesting how these reformers are not welcome in the affluent suburbs, isn't it ?? Cancer doesn't sell in those areas !!" BINGO, Joe! My point, exactly.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 20, 2013 8:51 pm

One huge frustration in education debates is that very few people are truly looking out for the students. Some reformers are, some aren't. But neither are many "community" groups that resist all changes. A moratorium isn't useful for anybody (and given the enrollment decreases, there's basically been a functional "moratorium" on closing for quite some time--which is why building are so empty), except people who might lose their job if schools close. Nothing in a year is going to reveal any new information, and nobody will ever be happy that their schools close. I don't necessarily trust that the school district is going to execute this properly, but I have to give Dr. Hite some credit for actually taking an action that will make him immensely unpopular--in contrast to past superintendents who said things that sounded good, and when the praise (and money) ran out, they left town.

I am frustrated that groups that "represent" the community tend to come out of the woodwork only when (union) jobs are threatened. It raises some serious questions about who's really driving the community "outrage"--especially when schools are educating less than 50% of the neighborhood. The other 50%+ of the neighborhood seems to have spoken about their views on the neighborhood schools. Rather than demand moratoria (which preserve union jobs), how about demanding that the schools adopt some of the educational best practices that would prevent parents from removing their students from the schools in droves.

Submitted by reformer (not verified) on February 21, 2013 8:08 am

egs: again you speak about what you don't know. the decline in public school enrollment began long before charter schools. in areas like the ones in north philly, people have been opting out of the neighborhood schools before you were born. the decline in catholic population is due to white flight. stop it with the pft talking points. it makes for great reading, but it couldn't be further from the truth. and who are you to question anyone's motives. why are you so engaged in "poor kids?" are you a district graduate? you don't have the credibility to lecture here. maybe you, joe and tom should go visit a charter school and you might learn something. unlike the kids at their (joe and tom, we know you don't work) schools.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on February 21, 2013 3:04 pm

reformer,

I'm well aware that the decline in public school enrollment began long ago. Over the years, the District has closed many schools in order to adjust enrollment. Some of the schools, off the top of my head, that it closed are Rudolph Walton School in N. Philly. Henry Longfellow School, Oliver Wendell Holmes Junior HS at 55th & Chestnut, Simon Muhr School in N. Philly, and so on.

The current school closings are largely due to enrollment declines that come from students attending charter schools. The number of children in Philadelphia has not been declining seriously in recent years because the number of children that receive publicly-funded education has actually increased, largely due to declining enrollments in and closings of Catholic schools. When Catholic school enrollments decline and the schools close, the families don't all move out of the city. Many of these children are now attending charter or District-run schools.

I'm not a graduate of the District. I didn't grow up in Pennsylvania. I have a strong concern with issues of social justice and I care about kids. These are some of the reasons why I have chosen education. Another reason is that teaching is a good fit for my personality and my strengths. I grew up in a large city, so I'm a city person. I want to live in a city and I'd like to work reasonably close to where I live. I'm looking for jobs in Philadelphia and suburban areas. I'd like to work in Philadelphia, but I am also looking in other places.

If you've read anything I wrote, I have been open about my time at one of Mastery's schools. I've also spent time at Belmont Charter School. I've spent time at approved private schools and Catholic schools as well.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on February 21, 2013 3:13 pm

reformer,

I'm well aware that the decline in public school enrollment began long ago. Over the years, the District has closed many schools in order to adjust enrollment. Some of the schools, off the top of my head, that it closed are Rudolph Walton School in N. Philly. Henry Longfellow School, Oliver Wendell Holmes Junior HS at 55th & Chestnut, Simon Muhr School in N. Philly, and so on.

The current school closings are largely due to enrollment declines that come from students attending charter schools. The number of children in Philadelphia has not been declining seriously in recent years because the number of children that receive publicly-funded education has actually increased, largely due to declining enrollments in and closings of Catholic schools. When Catholic school enrollments decline and the schools close, the families don't all move out of the city. Many of these children are now attending charter or District-run schools.

I'm not a graduate of the District. I didn't grow up in Pennsylvania. I have a strong concern with issues of social justice and I care about kids. These are some of the reasons why I have chosen education. Another reason is that teaching is a good fit for my personality and my strengths. I grew up in a large city, so I'm a city person. I want to live in a city and I'd like to work reasonably close to where I live. I'm looking for jobs in Philadelphia and suburban areas. I'd like to work in Philadelphia, but I am also looking in other places.

If you've read anything I wrote, I have been open about my time at one of Mastery's schools. I've also spent time at Belmont Charter School. I've spent time at approved private schools and Catholic schools as well.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on February 21, 2013 5:38 pm

EGS,
I have to correct you here. The decline in enrollment is not due entirely to charters. Besides the U.S. Census data, which shows a loss of over 44,000 (little) people ages 5 to 14 in the period from 2000 to 2010, 70,000 empty District seats does not some 40,000 charter seats equal.

In addition (and this is important) the District is compensated for every child in its catchment that transfers to a charter from a private school (for the first year of that child's enrollment); i.e. the State subsidizes private school transfers.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on February 20, 2013 8:31 pm

It seems as if you have some other issues so remaining anonymous is likely an attractive option.

Submitted by reformer (not verified) on February 21, 2013 9:34 am

and "joe" equals full disclosure? i don't blame the person for wanting to protect her/his privacy. this is a chat room and that's probably a good idea. do you want us to believe you don't have an agenda? the poster was right to imply that you were fighting to protect jobs not children. ray charles could see that. if you want honesty, be honest about your motivation. it's a plain as the failure in your school.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on February 21, 2013 10:38 am

Reformer--I was only jesting. Get over yourself. Yes, I have an agenda. I am old enough to see through the reform movement. I've seen charades like this for many years and ALWAYS, it comes down to making money from the most vulnerable among us. It's a particularly unattractive notion and we all should resist it and speak out against it. I am fortunate to have made lots of money in my life--family money--and I have been asked to go into partnership with several "operators." They are all pond scum types who have no interest in the kids, NONE, NIHIL, NADA. Be careful what you think you know that just ain't so.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 20, 2013 8:40 pm

Yes, Beeber has no business closing but the Principal there is "different" from what the district wants. He doesn't treat the kids as thugs, doesn't disrespect parents, doesn't think of teachers as hired hands and in general, has a healthy view of the environment. No wonder the district finds fault with him.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 22, 2013 6:56 am

Let's talk about an overlooked part of the city - Southwest Phila. Very interesting that both Pepper and Comm Tech are closing. Wonder who wants that parcel of land? Korman? The Airport? Pepper has vocal advocates but it is still closing.

Both schools have extremely hard working principals who get little to no support from the community or consideration from the District.
Comm Tech programs will eventually die if relocated to Bartram. What sane parent from other parts of the city would allow their child to travel an hour to go to Bartram? My child does well at Comm Tech, has learned valuable "real life" lessons in technology and tells me that the new principal there has made a great change in less than
1 1/2 years.

Why doesn't Southwest deserve the same consideration as North Phila?

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