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All eyes on the SRC this evening

By Paul Socolar on Mar 7, 2013 03:48 PM

The Notebook is providing periodic news updates about the School Reform Commission's deliberation on the District's closing plan throughout the evening. The meeting was scheduled to start at 5:30. You can watch a livestream of the meeting here, courtesy of the School District, and follow a Twitter feed on the same page. We welcome your comments and eyewitness accounts on this post. [Updated, 9:00 p.m.]


After a three-hour meeting, the School Reform Commission has voted to close all but four of the schools proposed for closing.

The SRC unanimously rejected the proposals to close T.M. Peirce School and Bayard Taylor School, Roosevelt Middle School, and Robeson High School. But they approved the 28 other proposals put forward by Superintendent William Hite, which will bring about the closing of 25 programs and 23 school buildings.

The commission has voted to close the following 26 schools and programs:

  • L.P. Hill Elementary
  • Reynolds Elementary
  • Whittier Elementary
  • Pratt Elementary (the building will stay in use for a preK program)
  • Vaux High School (with Dworetzky dissenting)
  • Ferguson Elementary
  • Fairhill Elementary
  • Sheridan West Academy
  • Carroll High School
  • Douglas High School
  • Germantown High School (with Dworetzky dissenting)
  • Philadelphia Military Academy at Leeds (building remains in use)
  • Fulton Elementary
  • Kinsey Elementary
  • Wilson Elementary
  • Pepper Middle
  • Shaw Middle
  • Communications Tech High School (with Dworetzky dissenting)
  • University City High School (with Dworetzky and Simms dissenting)
  • Leidy Elementary
  • Lamberton High School (building remains in use for K-8)
  • Smith Elementary
  • Abigail Vare Elementary (building to close, school to move to George Washington)
  • George Washington Elementary (building to stay open)
  • Bok Technical High School (with Dworetzky and Simms dissenting)
  • Carnell Middle Years Annex

Motivation High School will be relocated to the Turner Middle School building, and Parkway Northwest will be relocated to the Leeds Middle School building.

The SRC meeting got underway at 5:35 p.m. with public testimony, which lasted two hours, and then posed a brief series of questions to District staff -- addressing issues about Robeson, Bok, Vare, and Washington. Commissioners said they planned to vote region by region on the resolutions to close and relocate schools. 

Speakers opposing the District plan included several local elected officials: City Council members Cindy Bass, Jannie Blackwell, and Curtis Thomas and State Reps. W. Curtis Thomas and Stephen Kinsey. Many of the schools threatened with closing were well-represented, including Fulton, Germantown, Robeson, Taylor, and University City.

The first surprise of the evening was that protesters blocked the doors to the auditorium at District headquarters in an attempt to disrupt the meeting. Protesters were removed by police, and some arrests were reported, including American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten. 

Many hundreds of opponents of the closings mobilized outside on North Broad Street. Many more headed to the meeting inside, where the auditorium was standing room only and there was a large police presence. Check for our updates on the protests and testimony.

The commission voted on 32 resolutions, which involved 29 building closures and 31 program closures. Before the SRC vote, public testimony was expected from 34 speakers.

 

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Comments (54)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 7, 2013 4:46 pm
Thanks for posting the list of speakers. Unfortunately, once again, the SRC is giving air time to Leah Clouden and her mother, "Mama Gail." What do either of them have to do with Robeson and Pepper?
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on March 7, 2013 6:50 pm
Yes, Mama Gail has had far too much to say as it is. It's a microcosm of how embarrassing this whole charade is.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 7, 2013 5:07 pm
I'm surprised that there aren't more people protesting outside of 440 Broad.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 7, 2013 5:37 pm
Paul, Regarding the Speakers List for tonight's meeting, did the District put a limit on the number of speakers? The first speaker, Totiana Myers, a student at Robeson, is not on the list of 31 speakers to which there is a link. What process did the District use to assemble the list? Education Grad Student
Submitted by Paul Socolar on March 7, 2013 6:36 pm

They allowed 2 speakers per school, an additional 2 speakers per planning region, and 10 people could address citywide issues. The deadline for signing up was Wednesday.

As often happens, a few names got added after the release of the list ... final list is 34 rather than 31.

Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 7, 2013 7:14 pm
Thank you, Paul. Somehow, some extra people slithered in for Germantown HS.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 8, 2013 6:33 am
"Slithered"? I thought we were fighting together against the SRC and the destruction of the Public School System. No matter what you've "heard", there are 600+ students at Germantown who deserve a good education and dozens of teachers and staff who work very hard to give it to them. Right now we need solidarity, not infighting. United we stand. Divided we fall.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 8, 2013 11:07 am
I agree with you. Slithered was not the best choice of words. I used that word because clearly, there were more people who spoke for Germantown that procedures were allowing, but the SRC should have allowed more speakers from the start. The people of Germantown should fight the proposal to relocate all students at Roosevelt MS. Why move everyone to Roosevelt when students from Fulton could go to Germantown HS? Fulton is across the street from Germantown, so combining Fulton and Germantown won't change because the locations are already so close. In addition, Fulton can retain its identity as a seperate school in one of the Germantown additions. Does Roosevelt have a layout that would allow for the younger children to have their own part of the building? Why not combine Roosevelt students at GHS instead of sending them to Leeds. Roosevelt's building was going to remain open for something. Why was it going to remain open? EGS
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 7, 2013 6:19 pm
How do we pay to keep these half empty schools open?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 7, 2013 6:46 pm
How do we pay to keep these half empty schools open?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 7, 2013 6:29 pm
How does the city pay for these schools that are half empty? I can understand the Parents concern over safety of their children, but someone has to pay for these schools to stay open. Why cant the kids be bussed from where they live to where they are going to school? Doesnt that solve many of the issues?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 7, 2013 6:59 pm
To those asking who can pay for half empty schools, try asking why they are half full. For those of us who pay attention it's not rocket science.
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on March 7, 2013 7:27 pm
They're half full because that's the agenda of Corbett and his ilk. That's your answer. The biggest question is, "What will happen to the rest of the kids who by design, will be left out? The answer is prison, pure and simple. Here's another question, "What happens to the inner cities if there is no hope for the poor and the middle class is decimated, by design? That answer is a series of wastelands, devoid of hope. This is America and we need to do better than that.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 7, 2013 7:47 pm
The support and rationale for keeping open Germantown HS as a K-12 school is overwhelming. The support and rationale for keeping open Bayard Taylor ES is overwhelming. I am hoping that the SRC shows a conscience.... EGS
Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 7, 2013 7:07 pm
Pastor Pamela Williams...preach!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 7, 2013 7:29 pm
LOL @ the Unions fighting for our children!!!! Try fighting for themselves and lining their own pockets
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 7, 2013 7:43 pm
Allow me to explain- darn right teachers and other unions are fighting for their jobs, there is never any shame in that and basically without good teachers kids may as well stay home. These are not just jobs they are specialized careers that deserve respect. Please don't go down that road.
Submitted by ทัวร์เกาหลี (not verified) on April 1, 2014 8:15 am
I appreciate, lead to I found just what I was having a look for. You've ended my four day lengthy hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on March 7, 2013 7:29 pm
Troll Alert.
Submitted by reformer (not verified) on March 8, 2013 6:24 am
That's a jokkke.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 7, 2013 7:30 pm
Richezza killed it . Very well said ;)
Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 7, 2013 7:36 pm
How is Leah Clouden associated with Robeson? How is Mama Gail associated with Pepper? One day, Mama Gail is associated with Universal, the next day, she's associated with Pepper. Why not allow a real member of Pepper's community speak? Mama Gail, if you're going to say "Our children are not for sale," tell that to Universal Companies please! EGS
Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 7, 2013 7:36 pm
Wow, Mama Gail actually spoke with some sense! She made some very good points about the facilities at Pepper and its facilities.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 7, 2013 7:59 pm
Rev. Waller - "Begin with the end in mind" and "Form follows function." Two great pieces of timeless wisdom!
Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 7, 2013 7:52 pm
Feather Houston, in response to cheers – "We can just vote without questions if we can’t be heard." What a smart-ass, disrespectful statement. This is a PUBLIC process. People have a right to be heard.
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on March 7, 2013 8:40 pm
Ms. Feather will say whatever Corbett has told her to say. Verbatim.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 7, 2013 7:43 pm
Why are they voting on multiple schools at the same time. The vote on each school should be separate! EGS
Submitted by Pseudonymous (not verified) on March 7, 2013 8:47 pm
They said earlier that they were going to have a single up/down vote to close all 27 schools, so this is actually a drastic improvement. I am disgusted by the use of "A1, B6" instead of school names.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 7, 2013 10:22 pm
I understand that they have the letter-number format for proposals. They did start using the names of schools in conjunction with the resolutions. I believe that each school should have received a separate vote. Why the need to group them all together? It doesn't save much time. Each school deserve the respect of having a separate vote. These closings deeply affect communities.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 7, 2013 7:01 pm
I find Dworetzky's points about Kenderton and T.M. Peirce to be very disturbing. He pointed out that one rationale to close Pierce is to increase Kenderton so that it will be large enough for a charter operator to operate. His points were very poignant. Perhaps they were a reason that all 5 commissioners voted "No." Perhaps SRC member Sylvia Simms also advocated strongly for Peirce. Whatever the reason, I am happy that it is remaining open.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on March 7, 2013 11:21 pm
I am happy also for Pierce. I am sad for the other schools. And I find you report disturbing, also. So you are saying that his primary purpose is to manipulate the size of schools so they can be "turned over"' to charter operators? So he admits the true purpose of what is going on? Which is to manipulate school populations to turn them over to charter operators.. Isn't the charter operator model the most privatized form of school and also the most profitable for those who operate it? I thought what we were doing was supposed to be about the best interests of schoolchildren and their communities? And I thought we are supposed be about creating schools which meet the needs of students, not schools which meet the needs of those who want to operate schools? So he admits this is not about creating Great public schools for children, but that it is only about the privatization of our public schools.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 8, 2013 12:28 pm
Rich, It's incredibly disturbing. I don't know if you saw my comments at the bottom that go into more detail about the points Dworetzky made, but it appears that the impetus behind closing Peirce was to make Kenderton larger. Looking at the data would indicate that Kenderton was a better candidate to close than Peirce. However, Kenderton feeds into Mastery Gratz but Peirce does not. Different private interests are trying to create their own education fiefdoms. How is this an open and public system? The decision to make Alcorn into a Renaissance charter seems to be catering to Universal, which in its application for a Promise Neighborhood targeted the area around Alcorn. Adults might make the argument that expanding charters into low-income neighborhoods is "good for the kids." My question always is, who says that you know what is best for "other people's children?" Does Scott Gordon send his children to a Mastery school? Does Kenny Gamble have children attending a Universal school? This question of motive is especially true for charter networks and schools that are not community-based. As you have pointed out before, Rich, ASPIRA is an example of a community-based charter organization. But not at charters and charter networks fit into this mold. EGS
Submitted by Pseudonymous (not verified) on March 7, 2013 8:42 pm
Dworetzky should be in charge. The only one with a conscience, and the only one who can do arithmetic.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 7, 2013 10:40 pm
Why? because he sticks up for a few schools? He voted to close 23 schools. He has no conscience.
Submitted by tom-104 on March 8, 2013 12:43 am
I agree. Dworetzky is in charge of charter oversight. This was his concern. He was looking for the optimal conditions for creating more charters. (Don't forget, he was on the board of the William Penn Foundation for five years, the foundation that brought the Boston Consulting Group here.) These decisions were made behind closed doors before the public meeting. Whatever glimmer of hope he gave to desperate communities was just part of the churn corporate reformers love to use to keep communities off balance to bring about the ultimate objective which is to privatize schools. In their vote no concern was shown by anyone on the SRC for the affects of these closures on the communities. They were all about business!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 8, 2013 4:20 pm
Joe is only for the "corporate model" of charter schools as privately controlled entities -- for profit. He is not even for the legitimate charter schools. Just the Mastery big money model. Watch what happens next.... The plan will be rolled out to you.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 7, 2013 8:31 pm
Is anyone besides the Commissioner actually thinking, or is everyone on the SRC a piece of garbage robot? These people are evil and pathetic.
Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on March 7, 2013 8:20 pm
Motivation isn't closing - it is moving to the former Turner Middle School (59th and Baltimore). Will Robeson be combined with Parkway West? Both are very small - about 250 each. Combined they are the size of other small schools. Will it save money - I don't know but it makes sense on other levels. Even with a few schools left open, it is still a very sad evening for the city of Philadelphia. Meanwhile, Gleason, Scott Gordon, KIPP, Kenny Gamble, etc. must be salivating...
Submitted by Paul Socolar on March 7, 2013 9:17 pm

thanks - it's corrected. Motivation and Parkway are relocations

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on March 7, 2013 9:51 pm
Yes, the fix was in months ago. The charter jokes you mentioned knew this outcome long ago, of course, and have been planning their next moves for some time. Yes, it is a shameful, make that shameless time for Phila. It's far beyond sad for the kids of this city. It's a death blow.
Submitted by TeacherinPhilly (not verified) on March 7, 2013 8:45 pm
That was so bizarre, distrurbing, and disheartening to watch. Sylvia Simms turns my stomach. You're the parent advocate? Please. The worst of all was the decision to close Bok. It was explained that this transition would cost in upwards of $4 million. Yet, still they voted to close it. Unbelievable. What a shameful, embarrassing, and humiliating day for our city. Go to hell SRC.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 7, 2013 9:27 pm
Commissioner Dworetzky raised the issue that closing Peirce was a strategy to increase utilization at Kenderton in order to make Kenderton viable for a charter operator. Looking at the School Profile for Kenderton on the FMP page, an additional issue with regard to covering costs would be the special education students. Kenderton has 380 students in a building that can hold 795 students, but has only 380 students. It also has 19 students in Autistic Support and 12 students in Emotional Support. On top of these special education students, there are also students in Learning Support, as almost every school in the District has students who qualify for Learning Support. My question is this: Why did the District put Peirce on the list instead of Kenderton? Peirce has higher utilization and a lower FCI, meaning the building is in better condition. Enrollment at Peirce is 384, but the school's capacity is 656. This is assuming that the data are correct. Let's assume for the sake of argument that they are. Kenderton has lower utilization, a higher FCI, and lower academic performance. Kenderton qualified to be a Renaissance School, but Peirce didn't. Why was Kenderton not on the list? Let's look at some other information. Kenderton's neighborhood high school is Mastery Gratz while Peirce's neighborhood high school is Strawberry Mansion. Ah hah! It seems that Mastery might have an interest in taking over Kenderton because it feeds into Gratz, just as they had an interest in taking over Cleveland because Cleveland fed into Gratz. I'm not trying to be a conspiracy theorist. However, I suspect that Mastery will fight hard to take over Kenderton given that it feeds into Gratz. It also borders Cleveland's catchment area. These issues about special education funding and services as well as the self-interests of charters are important for people to discuss. People need to be aware of these issues and press the SRC and Dr. Hite on these issues at subsequent meetings. EGS
Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 7, 2013 9:57 pm
The school profiles for Peirce and Kenderton are in the North-Central Planning Area packet here: http://webgui.phila.k12.pa.us/offices/f/facilities-master-plan/individua....
Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on March 8, 2013 3:10 am
You are not being conspiratorial. Mastery / Scott Gordon wants to run a school district - he has been open about this for a long time. * The SRC has given Gordon this opportunity. They want K-12 "feeding" patterns. Mastery is being allowed to open a NEW school in South Philly so they have a K-12 pattern with Mastery Thomas. (South Philly is also closing 2 schools - Washington (Vare Elem) and Smith). The southern area of South Philly already is saturated with Performing Arts Charter so it does NOT need another K-8 school but what Mastery wants, Mastery gets. (Performing Arts is also being allowed to open a 1400 seat high school in South Philly - again, there is no need for this school!) (* In the summer of 2010, I attended a week long seminar in NYC. There were teachers from around the U.S. One teacher was from Newton, MA. He was friends with Scott Gordon since they were undergraduates at SUNY Binghampton. One night, the teacher from MA and Scott Gordon met to go to dinner. The next day the MA teacher told me about Gordon's plans for running a School District in Phila. and test the "Mastery model." Gordon wanted to run the equivalent of one of the largest districts in PA. Apparently, this had been Gordon's plan since beginning Mastery. When I asked the teacher from MA if he would want Newton, MA (a suburb of Boston) to be run by Mastery, he said it wasn't necessary because Newton schools were "high performing." Newton wasn't the "type" of community that needed Mastery. There are members of the SRC that have paved the way for Mastery, Aspira, Universal, etc. to acquire the equivalent of a School District. Remember what happened with Audenreid and Vare when they were given to Universal? This is by design - it is not coincidental.)
Submitted by reformer (not verified) on March 8, 2013 6:29 am
a district by any other name would smell as bad. the renaissance model is not school choice. it's just different management. fight for independent charter schools and vouchers!
Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 8, 2013 11:19 am
Can you provide a source in a publication in which Scott Gordon talks about wanting to run a school district? With regard to ASPIRA, I find it hard to group them with Mastery. ASPIRA has a long history as community-based education organization and they are more than just a network of charters. In addition, their leadership has many Latino/as. They also use a bilingual education model. Universal is also a community organization, but their actions and track record show that they are basically a business. They didn't do well managing schools and their Renaissance charters are not attracting families back to the neighborhood school. I have written about my experience at a Mastery school and believe that they do many positive things. At the same time, they are not a grassroots, community based organization. Mastery want's to take over the District, at least that's how it appears. EGS
Submitted by tom-104 on March 7, 2013 9:13 pm
I was there to the bitter end. It was like an execution! Abolish the SRC! We must take back our schools!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 7, 2013 9:48 pm
Is the SRC the final word? Is there a period where you can appeal the decision? If so, does the school stay open until the appeal process is completed.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 7, 2013 9:49 pm
It's over. Time to move on. Get ready for the next wave of closures.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 7, 2013 10:04 pm
I listened to most of the hearing tonight and the one question that sticks out is this. Student safety seems to be one of the biggest issues. So why cant the children that live 1/2 a mile or further be bussed into school? One problem solved. Im sorry that many of these schools have closed and many people lost their jobs, but something had to be done to stop the bleeding.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 7, 2013 10:10 pm
The children will be safe and not need to be busses, they will just attend their new neighborhood charter school.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 7, 2013 11:13 pm
If they learn more is that a bad thing?
Submitted by Marc Brasof (not verified) on March 8, 2013 9:30 am
Manufactured crisis. Open up charter schools and reduce enrollment to public schools. Establish impossible and inequitable metrics and do not hold charter schools equally accountable. Reduce budgets at the state level to put pressure on the system, undermining budgets that provide the necessary resources and supports. Press the middle class provide more revenue through taxation to undermine support for public schools. Allow private philanthropists to fill in the financial gap and build their own programs without any way of holding them accountable. This is the story line that is happening in more places around the world. It would be okay if charter schools were doing innovative things that reflected excellent learning designs. Most aren't as research has shown. A better future would be to look at the key features the enable schools and districts to engage in capacity building, to build learning organizations that are capable of self-improvement. There is plenty of literature on how this could be done more ethically, responsibly, and effectively.
Submitted by katie (not verified) on March 29, 2013 11:34 am
Hello All, I have been thinking about ways to support our public school system and demonstrate some of the potential that is being lost as some of these public schools, many in prime development locations, are closed. As a visual thinker, I thought that a photo essay may be the way to do it. I have not yet found a venue for it- but finding out if you all think this is a good idea and want to join seemed like the logical first step. I have attached a snapshot of Shaw Elementary as a demonstration. The city skyline is visible from the playground which is situated on the edge of UPenn and Drexel campuses in an area with increasing residential real estate values. I would almost guess that most of the schools on this list are in similar neighborhoods where there is development pressure (Ken? Is this right?). In any event, below is a list of the closing schools. If you have any photographs that you want to share- let me know. If you know of a good forum either physical (penn?) or online (speedier turn-around, the notebook?)- let me know. If you think this is a problematic idea- I'd love to hear why. Best, Katie

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