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Some of Philly's young professionals study how to help the schools

by thenotebook on Dec 05 2013 Posted in Latest news
Photo: Kimberly Paynter/WHYY

Mifflin Elementary: George Matysik is co-chair of the Friends of Mifflin School and hopes to send his future children to the school in East Falls.

by Elizabeth Fiedler for NewsWorks

Once your kids hit the age of 5, it's time to move to the suburbs. Or at least that's how it has gone for generations of middle- and upper-class parents in Philadelphia.

Most of the news out of Philadelphia schools lately has been the kind to lead city parents who have the option to start lining up a moving van: deficits, school closings, teacher layoffs, cheating scandals.

But these days some Philadelphians are taking a different approach.  In neighborhoods from Graduate Hospital to East Falls to Fishtown, they're vowing to stay put, pitching in to help their neighborhood school improve. And they're doing this well before their children are ready for kindergarten, or even before they're born.

Consider Ivy Olesh, a 30-year-old resident of the Graduate Hospital neighborhood who has become, for many Philly parents, a go-to source of advice on grassroots school-building.

This effort was born before her daughter was.

Before Olesh had a child, she started "Friends of Chester Arthur." Why start organizing in support of her local public school before she was even a parent?

"We wanted to sort of get involved before people felt they needed to move out of the city because their kids were just about old enough to enter school," Olesh said. Now she has a 2-year-old and vows to keep living in the city.

The many hours she puts in advocating for her neighborhood school come on top of the full-time job she holds — economic development work at the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp.

Olesh says her neighborhood organization was inspired to start by a similar group at Andrew Jackson Elementary School in South Philadelphia.

Philadelphia has enough people like Ivy Olesh that, if they all stick with decisions to raise their families in the city, it could have a significant impact on Philadelphia's demographics -- and on the city school system's ability to sustain itself.

"I think it's really important to raise our child in the city, in diversity with access to everything that the city has to offer and everything that we love from the city," Olesh said, citing the city's walkability as well as its cultural institutions, parks, restaurants and activities. "I really feel strongly that we owe it to our children and maybe even the next generation at large to keep everybody sort of together and not have any sort of segregation. I think sometimes you see that in the suburbs a little bit, around socioeconomic class specifically."

Like many new Philadelphia parents, Olesh says, she and her husband support public education but  couldn't ignore all the negative things they'd heard about Philadelphia public schools: "'They're bad, they're inadequate, they're unsafe.'" But their solution was not to call a Realtor; it was to visit their local school.

Read the rest of this story at NewsWorks

 

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Comments (26)

Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on Thu, 12/05/2013 - 15:56.

Absolutely great, I think we also need the impute the Rag Pickers on how schools are run too.

We teachers are busy redesigning this guys Hospital so there will not be so many BMWs filling the lot.

Why does every idiot with money for Gates to M Knight Shyamalan (who makes crappy movies but is Bill Green's Guru) get to weigh in on education reform???

Maybe this guy should concentrate on making healthcare afforable and not a docotor enrichment scheme?

I know you will not publish this. But if I were excoriating teachers you would.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 12/05/2013 - 16:15.

...What?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 12/05/2013 - 16:47.

That's the spirit. Alienate some more people who are trying to help.

Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on Thu, 12/05/2013 - 17:01.

Only in education do we take the ideas of amateurs and dilettantes seriously and it has been a disaster. No one wants my ideas for fixing the health care system yet Dr Genius here can fix schools. Maybe that is why the US spends more on medical care and gets less for it that any other country is because dilettantes like this guy are fixong schools and not seeing patients.

When Green gets done charterizing the SDP the teachers will be two year resume punchers. Teaching will like the Peace Corps; amateurs saving the world. I would not stand for that with kids and nor would you but short term employees are just great for the the Charter school bottom line.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 12/05/2013 - 17:19.

Those parents are your customers. You need to listen to them or they will go to someone who will.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 12/06/2013 - 02:18.

A solid 4 decades of failure from you union guys and still you say leave it to you 'professionals'. No input needed from parents, taxpayers, or anyone with a brain who hasnt spent their entire life in a failing organization like the sdp.

At least i can compliment you on your balls...

Submitted by Phila citizen and public school fan (not verified) on Thu, 12/05/2013 - 17:31.

Poogie, I enjoy reading your sharp comments but this one baffles me. Are you talking about the parents who are going public in support of some of the neighborhood elementary schools? Are they purporting to tell educators how to do their jobs? I thought they're just rallying their neighbors to get involved in public schools instead of moving out of Philadelphia or opting for private schools. Maybe I'm too naive, but I take this article as a positive sign that some people with energy and good will are on the right side, for a change.

Submitted by Notebook reader (not verified) on Thu, 12/05/2013 - 17:51.

Where does it say that the guy in the picture is a doctor? Did you merely skim the article and read "Graduate Hospital neighborhood"? (Anyhow, there isn't a Graduate Hospital any more -- the property is a Hospice now).

Submitted by Taxpayer (not verified) on Fri, 12/06/2013 - 15:37.

It doesn't say he's a doctor. She just skimmed the article and prejudged it. She was upset that a taxpayer, who is footing the bill for this school district, would have the temerity to question how his money is being spent.

Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on Thu, 12/05/2013 - 18:42.

Poogie----MONEY is calling them, scoundrels one after another bumrushing one another on their way to the cash. Yea, that guy's movies are straight up "underwhelming" to put is nicely.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 12/06/2013 - 08:25.

Since tens of millions of your dues money goes to backing the Dem machine, you ARE well involved in redesigning hospitals, affecting other peoples compensation, and generally sticking your noses in other peoples business. Or did you not hear of Obamacare?

Some people are so blind to their own hypocrisy...

Submitted by Education Grad ... on Fri, 12/06/2013 - 23:19.

Actually, dues do not go toward political purposes. PFT members can elect to make a separate contribution to the PFT for supporting political purposes.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 12/07/2013 - 04:54.

Bs. Dues go to political purposes, just not to direct campaign contributions. They can support issue ads in favor of certain candidates, lobbying and myriad other political purposes.

Are you really that naive?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 12/06/2013 - 08:41.

Since tens of millions of your dues money goes to backing the Dem machine, you ARE well involved in redesigning hospitals, affecting other peoples compensation, and generally sticking your noses in other peoples business. Or did you not hear of Obamacare?

Some people are so blind to their own hypocrisy...

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 12/06/2013 - 10:31.

This article is about community members approaching their neighborhood schools and ASKING the schools how they can help and support the school. Not swooping in and TELLING the schools what to do. Your comment is way off.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 12/05/2013 - 16:39.

Students have been given three half days this week so that parents could come in and confer with teachers for FIRST report cards. Teachers were also available from 5-7PM last night. How many parents have come in to your school so far this week. I've had exactly ZERO. Thanks very little, Mom and Dad! As usual, your support and concern is nowhere to be found.

Submitted by Headstart teacher (not verified) on Thu, 12/05/2013 - 21:23.

That seems a bit harsh. I know not every parent will come to a conference but some must! I have never had zero participation. Guess you had an easy few 1/2 days then.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 12/05/2013 - 22:15.

The turnout at my school as well was beyond disgraceful. I've seen 2 parents out of 32 since yesterday. Its been wonderful getting to all the things in my class I wish I had time for but I really can't begin to understand the lack of interest in your 2nd grader. I'm coming out of Head Start & I hadn't taught older kids in years but its a day & night contrast. Of course the 2 that did show up their kids are motivated & engaged learners. Hopefully I'll get a rush of parents on Friday but I really am beyond dissapointed. I had the students portfolios set out & a beverage & snack tray. My colleagues appreciated my hospitality but they all knew I was just wasting my time prepping for people who wouldn't show.

Submitted by Headstart teacher (not verified) on Fri, 12/06/2013 - 00:07.

Wow. I'm shocked and so sorry... You know how we do home visits in HeadStart, maybe they are on to something there. I've had to cajole and explain our purpose to families but in the end we do get participation.

At least you had work to catch up on.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 12/06/2013 - 07:18.

I can see skipping last report conference if its been a swell year and all but...first? Don't you even want to see what the person/people your kid is spending half their day with looks like? No curiosity at all? Whatever else you read or hear about failure in schools....this apathy is the root of the problem. I laud the parents who want to go above and beyond to support their neighborhood schools. They will make a difference.

Submitted by Education Grad ... on Fri, 12/06/2013 - 23:41.

I work at a school in a high-poverty neighborhood with many needy children (95%+ free or reduced lunch). Some parents are great but some are also not as involved as they could be. I know several of my colleague who have regular ed classes and had at least 50% of their students have a parent or caregiver show up. A couple had close to 75% participation. I called parents to assist with scheduling appointments. I know that some other colleagues did this as well. It's possible to have parents show up. I know some of the specialist teachers didn't have many parents come to see them, but it is possible to get parents to show up.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 12/07/2013 - 00:03.

yes. of course. we can always insist on meetings as needed. we do it all the time. i did it today with very fruitful result. why do we always have to put out 90% (or more) to make that school-home partnership happen in situations when it is needed most? WHY? There is NO possible excuse.

Submitted by Annonym (not verified) on Sat, 12/07/2013 - 06:20.

It is very difficult for teachers in the District to attend their own children's report card conferences because the times conflict. This has nothing to do with "not caring." The District should give its own teachers time off to attend their children's conferences.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 12/07/2013 - 09:33.

who would understand that conflict better than a colleague? why not email and see if you can meet at 3:15 PM or during the extended lunch times you get on those days?

Submitted by Headstart teacher (not verified) on Thu, 12/05/2013 - 21:19.

This is not about charter expansion or ex reform!!

It's about people choosing to invest in their neighborhood schos and having faith in a Sid and diverse PSD. Please read the entire article. I understand how angry this push for privatization makes us but this article is the polar opposite of that! It's a big step in the right direction.

Submitted by Headstart teacher (not verified) on Thu, 12/05/2013 - 21:25.

That was ,"faith in their neighborhood schools and a solid and diverse...."
Sorry for the type-o

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