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Countdown, Day 24: District cancels High School Expo, citing costs

By the Notebook on Aug 16, 2013 11:57 AM

by Mark McHugh

The District’s annual High School Expo, an event designed to help students and parents navigate the high school selection process, has been canceled this year.

According to the District’s Office of Communications, the District has decided not to hold the event as a cost-saving measure.

The elimination of the event, which cost the District $137,000 last year, is part of a 30 percent reduction in the central administration budget that cut that portion of the overall District budget to 2 percent.  

The expo, which was held at District headquarters last year, provides families with information about District and charter high school options, including details regarding specific programs at each school and the admission requirements. But with no expo this year, students and parents will have to find alternative ways to help guide them through the high school selection process.

Diane Phillips, a counselor at Taggart Elementary who encourages 7th and 8th graders to attend the expo, said the loss of the event will make the selection process “a disaster.”

Superintendent William Hite said that in restoring school counselors to schools, he plans to prioritize high schools so that seniors have support from people who know them as they apply to college. The fate of middle-grade counselors is still up in the air if Hite doesn't get the funds to call back all 300 counselors who were laid off.

“Without having the school counselors in place to help with the process, the expo would have been the only thing in place to help students and their families," Phillips said. "I know that without it, they’re going to be lost.” 

She said that in past years, her school would provide buses to transport students to the event, and about 95 percent of the students at her school attended.

“It’s about establishing connections,” she said. “Students who didn’t do well in 7th grade could talk to a counselor at the table and learn about how to succeed in high school.”

The expo, which is targeted to 7th and 8th graders, and high school students who wish to transfer, has always been well-attended. Last year, the District estimated that between 6,000 and 8,000 people attended. The year before that, the expo drew similar numbers of parents and students. When the event was held at the Liacouras Center in 2010, nearly 10,000 people came out.

Although the cancellation of the expo has some educators upset, the District’s chief of student support services, Karen Lynch, said that “the High School Expo was just one opportunity for students to research their high school options.” Lynch said she encourages students to tap into other available resources to help them make their high school selections.

“Students and parents also have access to the high school directory, which is electronically posted [on the District website] each fall,” she said.

Lynch also added that students and parents should visit the schools they’re considering.

“Visiting prospective schools gives the student an opportunity to have a full sensory experience in the school before they complete an application for admission,” she said.

Another resource that parents and students can use is the Notebook’s annual fall guide to high schools. This publication lists individual school profiles and data for the city’s more than 80 public school options, including enrollment, admission requirements, and extracurricular activities. Last year, the Notebook distributed about 6,000 copies of the fall guide at the High School Expo.

Although there are alternative resources that parents and students can pick up, Phillips still contends that scrapping the expo is a great cause for concern among students unsure of how to navigate the high school process.

“It’s not an easy process in the first place,” Phillips said.

“It’s going to be a really challenging process without these things in place.”

Mark McHugh is an intern at the Notebook.

The School District of Philadelphia faces an unprecedented situation – uncertainty over whether it will be in a position to open safe and functioning schools in September.

This feature, appearing each weekday, is an effort to highlight developments and motivate action as we get closer to the beginning of the school year. We encourage readers to send us information about both concerns and breakthroughs to



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Comments (54)

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert on August 16, 2013 1:06 pm
Just great, now how will 8th graders get help choosing schools? No Counselors and now no HSExpo! Doesn't Karen Lynch realize that not all families have the wherewithal to take a day/s off from work to visit multiple high schools? Not all families have internet at home to look at the online guide. Neither of these realities is the fault of the students. In addition, the Expo gave families the opportunities to talk to people from many schools in the same place. How about the 440 employees donate their time and have the Expo anyway? Teachers have been donating their time to help kids pick schools for years.
Submitted by Go-Eagles (not verified) on August 16, 2013 2:41 pm
The best thing to do is talk to other PARENTS and STUDENTS about their high schools. I wonder how many of these families have a smart phone with internet access. I haven't met a kid above the age of 13 or 14 that does NOT have a smart phone. Have you? Then again, you can to a public library that has computers with the internet and it's FREE. I can afford FREE.
Submitted by Cheryl M. (not verified) on August 18, 2013 7:09 am
FYI: The costs being cut are due to the E.C.$$$ TEACHERS who work the fair have to be paid due to contractual rules. Ask them to work for free. The other costs are fees tied to: security(yes, they havebto be paid too!), and the directories. Might I suggest that PARENTS DEMAND their ELECTED council person step up and demand that SDP make this happen? It's a non-negotiable!!!
Submitted by Concerned Phila. (not verified) on August 18, 2013 10:36 am
Why not have City Council and the Mayors office staff the high school expo. Security can be covered by city police.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 16, 2013 1:47 pm
I was at 440 yesterday and there were more newscasters than protestors. WTF is up with that? 9,000 teachers and 200 show up?
Submitted by TeacherInPhilly (not verified) on August 16, 2013 3:34 pm
There were way more than 200. There were 200 in the SRC meeting alone, not to mention everyone in the atrium and outside on the steps. Keep in mind that it was on less than 24 hours notice and at a bad time of day for teachers with kids. Having said that, way more teachers should have been there yesterday, and EVERYONE, every teacher, every school worker, every concerned community member, every parent, and every student that can attend. Everyone who is angry about these needs to be there and needs to be heard. No more excuses. Be at 440 next Thursday at 3:30!
Submitted by trick (not verified) on August 16, 2013 11:45 pm
I thought we were meeting at the Comcast Building next Thursday?
Submitted by Kristen Forbriger (not verified) on August 16, 2013 1:08 pm
First want to mention that and the GreatPhillySchools guides are other good sources of information for 8th grade students. The GreatPhillySchools team would be interested in creating event(s) similar to the expo because it was clearly a very important part of the high school search and selection process. If orgs/individuals are interested in partnering on this, please contact me at kforbriger[@] thanks!
Submitted by South Philly teacher (not verified) on August 16, 2013 1:17 pm
I always point 7th and 8th graders to The Notebook's online guides to schools. Having a public education interested party to host a high school expo would be a great idea!
Submitted by Annonym. (not verified) on August 16, 2013 1:01 pm
Great Philly School is part of the problem. It is a tool of the Phila. School Dictatorship. It does NOT give a fair picture of all schools. It trashes neighborhood schools. Get real - you can't fool everyone.
Submitted by Helen Gym on August 17, 2013 11:16 am

Pls. read my critique of the Great Philly Schools website and the really low low standards we're being told are "good for parents". Safety: Defined as # violent incidents reported to the state. 

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2013 4:50 pm
Kristen, Do you understand that we do not trust you nor do we trust Mark Gleason and the the Philadelphia School Dictatorship? Do you understand those of us who have studied the PSP find your organization's "helpfull" suggestions to be rooted in arrogance and that an equitably funded district would neither have to beg nor gush with gratitude for your stepping in as our savior. At it's best the PSP is guilty of arrogance rooted in ignorance. But that is likely too kind an explanation. Can you appreciate the seething anger your helpful corporate interference is generating in Philadelphia among those committed to schools rooted in the public good? When will your organization open it's board meetings to the public?
Submitted by Lisa Haver (not verified) on August 18, 2013 1:33 pm Mark Gleason, along with his lobbyists, was with David L. Cohen in Harrisburg last month telling the Governor NOT to fund schools unless the PFT made concessions. PSP is little more than a consortium of hedge fund managers funneling corporate and foundation money to charters. Members of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools (APPS) have been calling on the PSP to open its meetings to the public. No dice. They are not to be trusted; their every move should be scrutinized. Unfortunately, they have the ear of the SRC, not the parents or members of the public who begged them not to close schools, not to underfund schools, and not to decimate the staff of their schools. And, really, $137,000 for a high school fair versus $15 million for an outsourced cyber charter school which, as of last week, had fewer than 120 students enrolled? Once again, money for corporate opportunists but none for students.
Submitted by Concerned Phila. (not verified) on August 18, 2013 1:53 pm
Hite/Khin's cyber charter also will hire non-unionized teachers. That was part of the deal cut last week with the SRC. If this is not "in your face" union busting, what is? PSP has determined which public schools get money and which open (e.g. SLA, Hill-Freeman, Workshop/Navy Yard). This is divide and conquer. How else could Workshop open with 60 students at at least 6 teachers? How else could SLA hold week long summer PD for their teachers? How else could Hill-Freeman open an all IB high school? This takes money. Meanwhile, other schools - including magnet schools - go without. Granted Phila. school Dictatorship is primarily funding charters (e.g. Freire, FACTS, Wissihickon, Mastery, Young Scholars, etc.) and Catholic schools but they are also making decisions about school expansion / closings/ opening in the District. This should be fodder for a law suit.
Submitted by J. Williams (not verified) on August 22, 2013 12:28 pm
I like the idea of still having some type of event. Perhaps you can contact the schools' alumni associations and home and school associations to ask for assistance with hosting the events and/or serving as spokespersons for the schools.
Submitted by Kristen Forbriger (not verified) on August 22, 2013 1:56 pm
Thanks. That is a great idea.
Submitted by South Philly teacher (not verified) on August 16, 2013 1:23 pm
One more way of punishing the students for the state and city's failures to prioritize funding for education.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 16, 2013 1:47 pm
You people are looking at things incorrectly. As a teacher in a middle school I seen first hand that the students choose a few schools with names they are familiar with and schools with a good reputation to see if they get lucky and get accepted. The students are not that concerned and are usually fine with going to their feeder high school. Most only apply to other schools because of peer pressure from others and/or parents. To that light, will a student have a better chance to pick another high school because they have a representative talk to them at an expo? Does it really matter? Finally the district doing something to save money.
Submitted by Annonym. (not verified) on August 16, 2013 1:26 pm
The process for some schools is very complicated. The middle school counselor knows the process. The paper work also has to be submitted by the counselor - not the student/family. (I'm not a counselor but have 3 kids who are now in Philly high schools. It is not an easy process.)
Submitted by Consejera (not verified) on August 16, 2013 2:06 pm
That is where the counselor comes steps in and suggests schools to the student. Many times they sell themselves short. A good middle school counselor will help guide them through the process and help the students make informed choices. There is also something called the LeGare process for ELL and Special Ed students. It is required that they have the chance to apply to a variety of schools. The counselor is an important part of that process.
Submitted by Cheryl M. (not verified) on August 18, 2013 8:03 am
You sound lijke a dreamkiller! Yes they do stand a better chance if they meet the criteria. Despite your experiences there are students who have benefitted by attending the expo. They are able to genuinely match their abilities interests, desires and goals to a high school of their choosing- not just the usual pickings of schools. Honestly, Have you ever attended the HS expo? Do you see the families that ACTUALLY have attended. I have been associated with the HSE for many years as a VOLUNTEER when it was held at the Liacouras to 440. It's the students who DO NOT attend the HSE (for various reasons) who miss an opportunity to learn about educational opportunities beyond their zip code. I have been in schools and witness counselors tell kids to just "pick something" and then snicker at the students selections. What sense did that make? I Wish we lived in a town where more teachers cared...SDP has a history of institutional racism, oppression and, apathy and low expectations. Your comments are telling.
Submitted by Annonym. (not verified) on August 16, 2013 1:39 pm
Karen Lynch is another Hite transplant from Maryland. Obviously doesn't get Philly.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 16, 2013 2:13 pm
High School Expo was a waste of money. The same tired old teachers ate up that EC time and could have cared less about representing the high school. Every year, the same old cynical bunch sat on their back sides and talked with each other, not kids or parents. Good riddance. Much ado about nothing.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 16, 2013 2:17 pm
Why would this event cost $137,000? I have staffed one of the booths in the past, and we all volunteered our time. The event takes place at 440 so there aren't rental fees. Where does that money go?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 16, 2013 10:38 pm
$137,000??? No way the High School Expo costs that much. That explanation doesn't ring true. Perhaps the plan for next year is to privatize all the high schools. Therefore, the expo is unnecessary. Before you say that's absurd, before last week, did you think your contract would be breached making seniority and pay steps a thing of the past? Philadelphia has had four Broad Academy superintendents, Vallas, Tom Brady, Ackerman and now Hite. Each has led this system deeper and deeper into privatization and bankruptcy. 29 schools have been closed this year. Non PFT teachers are being hired for the new virtual school and the new nurses will be uncertified and non PFT. If the contractual rights of teachers continue to be taken away and charters proliferate, in the very near future, the district schools will be warehouses for children who have IEPs, warehouses for ELLs and warehouses for the very poor. PA politicians have taken money from privateers and will not stop this process. Identify them, and vote them out. In the 1970's, teachers were on strike for months to get contracts that earned us health insurance, for better working conditions, prep time, release from nonprofessional duties (recess and lunchroom duty), the right to have a desk, a locker for your coat and the right to be represented at a disciplinary meeting and many other provisions that teachers today take for granted. Unite behind the union. Do not allow working conditions and salaries to go back to where they were in the 1950;s and 60's.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2013 10:17 am
Can you please tell me where you found the information Vallas was a "Broadie?" To my knowledge he was not. He was pushed out of his position in Connecticut because he DID NOT HAVE THE CREDENTIALS to be Superintendent. I agree with the others you have named. Also, Ackerman brought Thomas Darden and Karren Dunkley to the District and was receiving half of their salaries from the Broad Foundation. There were many Broad Students and graduates within the School District. Each Superintendent - CEO bring their people with them from their former School Districts.
Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on August 16, 2013 2:46 pm
I have a couple of Questions. Now that the SRC has disbanded the PFT without any response from it; do we still have to pay dues?? And if we still have to pay dues what are they used for?
Submitted by Christa (not verified) on August 16, 2013 3:12 pm
He didn't disband the PFT...he simply gave the PFT less power by suspending seniority. He also gave us a reason to head to court because he did it before the contract expired. The union could only really be disbanded if Pennsylvania because a "right to work" state which vastly limits the ability of the union to recruit members, make union membership a condition of employment or bargain a contract that requires union membership.
Submitted by TeacherInPhilly (not verified) on August 16, 2013 3:45 pm
Why doesn't Hite and the administration take a pay cut for this? If this isn't important enough for them to do that, then what it is? Cancelling this is a pretty disgusting move.
Submitted by Headstart teacher (not verified) on August 16, 2013 3:50 pm
A charter supporter like the PSP will now step in and offer to do the expo for free. They will "save the day" and push their own destructive agendas. Slick move Hite.
Submitted by Rob (not verified) on August 16, 2013 6:57 pm
I was thinking the same thing. This is where charters get the opportunity to sell their product. I will bet that for a measly $137k PSP will pay for the event, hold it at district headquarters, and use the data to show how many people want to come to charters to make the case for expansion
Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on August 16, 2013 5:21 pm
I have not heard a peep from our union overlords since the SRC vote to disband the PFT yesterday. Now you would think when something is killed it at least lets out a whimper. Anyone heard a whimper from the PFT? Does it have any function remaining other than collecting dues from us??? The World wonders.
Submitted by Headstart teacher (not verified) on August 16, 2013 5:17 pm
Hopefully they are getting their ducks in a row and heading to court.
Submitted by J.J. McHabe (not verified) on August 16, 2013 10:26 pm
I am still waiting for them to go to court over the SDP not having the contractual one counselor per school.
Submitted by K.R. Luebbert on August 16, 2013 5:26 pm
Are you signed up for emails and texts? I have received both today.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 16, 2013 9:57 pm
I am signed up and heard nothing today! Are we going to court or what??
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 19, 2013 1:03 am
The PFT leadership's motto apparently is silence is golden. It shouldn't be, but to get PFT leaders motivated and fired up is a tough task. To get them to inspire, motivate and communicate properly with their members is almost impossible. We got to keep the PFT leaders on their toes and remind them they work for us and need to stand up continually against the vicious leaders at the District including Hite, and SRC members and all the greedy, selfish business people looking to make millions at the expense of kids education. Email Jordan and make this known. Email address below. and
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 16, 2013 5:56 pm
Sylvia Simms, the " voice of the children" where are you? I mean its ok to suspend the school code in the name of the children, so shouldn't we be hearing from you on the cancelling of the Expo? You are a "parent advocate" and parents are overwhelming for the lets hear you speak out.....unless you really are just a political hack.
Submitted by Headstart teacher (not verified) on August 16, 2013 10:05 pm
Sylvia Simms has left the building
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2013 10:32 am
Sylvia Simms was not appointed to be the "voice of the children." She was appointed to be the voice of the "Parents" who are ADULTS as she so stated in her statement before she voted. There are NO STUDENT representatives on the SRC. There should always be one. There were students on the former School Board. Perhaps Ms. Simms should have Co-Commissioners in order to have Student Representation.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2013 11:50 am
Agreed there be a student voice on the SRC. But, shouldn't the "voice of the parents" be using her voice now to get the High School Expo reinstated. I'm sure 95% of parents at least would be for having the Expo. It seems to me this "voice of the parents" is just another wanna be political hack, who has let herself be co-opted by Hite (and Comcast, her employer). I hate hypocritical people....Ms. Simms is "for the children" when she votes to suspend the school code, but disappears on an issue that DIRECTLY impacts children and parents. Why be on the SRC if you are not going to use the position to advocate on these issues?
Submitted by Concerned Phila. (not verified) on August 17, 2013 12:06 pm
Sylvia Simms has no integrity. She is bought and paid for by Comcast. She was a bus attendant. Then, is hired by Comcast (would love to know the salary / benefits) and is put on the SRC by Nutter. She voted to keep her grandchild's school open but shuts tens of other schools. She is a joke. She is about herself and her "people" - no one else. Certainly, not the "children."
Submitted by Headstart teacher (not verified) on August 17, 2013 11:20 am
She is bought and paid for. We need independent student voices.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2013 12:00 pm

Does everyone remember that Sylvia Simms was the ONLY person who was cheerleading for Ackerman even at the end of her reign? Sylvia never listened to parents or teachers when they tried to tell her what Ackerman was doing. 

Submitted by Concerned Phila. (not verified) on August 17, 2013 2:43 pm
Sylvia Simms was holding the Ackerman PR office signs on Broad STreet in support of Ackerman. Why Nutter selected her - who knows other than Nutter also has no integrity nor concern for Philly schools and students. It all about him.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 18, 2013 12:23 pm
My early guess is that the hs admission process is massively delayed. Maybe start it in the spring. Not necessary to have it in the fall. SFW if tradition dictates that everything is done in the fall. And by chance the district is able to get $$$ after September 1, they can hire back at least some more counselors. Also each hs could produce a two minute video or put a slide show on youtube. Kids and parents would get more out of that than standing in a crowded noisy place and chatting with a staff member. Use that hundred plus grand and bring back a counselor or a bunch of NTAs. It is free to post on youtube.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 18, 2013 12:29 pm
Sylvia Simms was also cheating the district of money when she was a bus assistant. She was on disability, but would show up marching and yelling at everyone to support Ackerman. It was a circus sideshow. How could people accept her being placed on that board? What a slap in the face to everyone.
Submitted by Concerned Phila. (not verified) on August 18, 2013 1:28 pm
So, a big paycheck from Comcast with a no work job enabled her to "recover" from her disability??? Simms loves to say "this is not about adults" yet she played the system by claiming disability while working as a bus attendant. She is another worthless appointment on the SRC.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 18, 2013 12:40 pm
Did Sylvia ever apologize for being completely wrong about Ackerman? Of course not. She cheered as Ackerman continued to run the district into the ground.
Submitted by anon (not verified) on August 18, 2013 12:33 pm
ss is nutter's joke on us. imagine using one of your two picks for the src on her - what a waste - a puppet on a string. just shows nutter's lack of integrity and total lack of respect for public education in philadelphia. if nutter had any conscience at all, he'd write the pft a refund check and a note that he shouldn't in good faith have accepted any campaign funds from us since he'd had an obvious conflict of interest, being on gleason's payroll and all.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 19, 2013 5:40 am
Hite and his team lack a moral compass. They have fooled the public into thinking that all schools will have counselors. If a school has 600 or more students they will receive a counselor. Therefore, some of the smaller high schools will go without counselors. Schools that had AP's in the past, were not necessarily allocated a principal last week. Some schools got so little money that they can't buy a position and were told not to spend the money on supplies, etc. because the money might be taken back to fill the budget deficit. PUBLIC has been fooled there is not transparency here.
Submitted by laid off (not verified) on August 19, 2013 6:27 am
From what I heard all high schools get at least one counselor, the 600 cut off is for elementary counselors. Then again, I really know nothing.
Submitted by laid off (not verified) on August 19, 2013 6:46 am
From what I heard all high schools get at least one counselor, the 600 cut off is for elementary counselors. Then again, I really know nothing.
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on August 19, 2013 7:25 am
I am sure there is a plan already in place. Have students earn community service hours by processing the hs seniors applications/transcripts/letters of rec of each other. Seriously, I have been told my a principal that every hs is getting at least one counselor, a few of the larger hs are getting two.

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