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For many families choosing high schools, it's either magnet or charter

By the Notebook on Mar 11, 2014 03:28 PM
Photo: Kevin McCorry/WHYY

The Dor sisters (from left) Christie, 17; Chrislie, 14; and Chrisla, 16.

by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks

Chrislie Dor, a budding poet at age 14, stands like poet Robert Frost's narrator at a fork in the road.

The paths diverge not in a yellow wood, but instead the concrete jungle that is Philadelphia public education. Looking down one bend as far as she can, Chrislie sees the School District's selective-admission magnet high schools. Looking down the other, she sees the city's charter schools.

Other options — such as Chrislie's District-run neighborhood high school — may be in the vicinity, but they don't figure on her map.

She's applied to the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA), and Girard Academic Music Program (GAMP). If she's not accepted to either of these schools, she'll leave the District for a charter school.

Decision letters go out this week.

"Out of all of them, I really want to go to CAPA," she said. "I'll be heartbroken if I don't."

As she awaits her fate, in the balance hang not just Chrislie's hopes and dreams, but, in many ways, the future of Philadelphia public schools.

For a district that's seen enrollment decline by 25,662 students over the last five years, and payments to charter schools rise by more than $350 million in the same time period, moments like this can make all the difference.

The ties that bind

To know Chrislie Dor is to know her two older sisters. The three are as inseparable as the line of rowhomes framing their quiet East Oak Lane block.

Raised in a strict, single-parent household, the Dor sisters spend almost every waking moment of their free time together: joking around, contributing to each other's poetry, harmonizing on church hymns.

"We just love singing," said Chrisla, 16, the middle sister, "like sometimes, we're bored, somebody starts singing, then we all join together. ... That's really us."

It was Christie, 17, the eldest sister, an aspiring poet in her own right, who pushed her younger sister to hone her writing talent.

"She went even further than me and started exploring poetry and other writing," said Christie, "and then as I was reading them, I'm like, 'She's really good, like even better than me.' Especially her poetry, they rhyme or they won't rhyme, but they make absolute sense."

Onlookers can barely believe the sisters' fondness for each other.

"Some people, especially at church, they'll be like, 'See, if that was my sister, I would not be talking to her,'" said Christie. "Usually, when we're at other places, we'll just huddle up and just talk. Sometimes we're ignoring the other people and talking amongst ourselves, and they're like, 'I was never that close to my siblings.'"

If you're thinking there's a theme in the sisters' names, you'd be right.

"It's from 'Chris' and 'Christ,' God," explains Chrislie. "Mine means: 'Christ can read,' Chrisla is 'Christ is always here,' Christie is 'Christ is medicine for everything."

The three moved from Orlando, Fla., to Philadelphia with their mother Bernadette in 2005 — seeking a fresh start after their father died of lung cancer.

Since arriving in Philadelphia, all three girls have proved hardworking, intelligent students. Each thrived in District-run elementary and middle schools.

"My daughters do something very, very, very good," said Bernadette in a thick Haitian accent. "All three, together, do something very, very, very well ... very, very respectful children, too."

As high school approached for the elder two sisters, they stared down the same crossroads that Chrislie is now facing.

Read the rest of this story at NewsWorks

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Comments (15)

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on March 11, 2014 4:50 pm
While I understand the young women's rationale for selecting a magnet, I do not understand their rationale for selecting a charter. Is it primarily perceived safety or also academics? Yes, neighborhood high schools have to accept all students at all times. Many students are woefully unprepared for high school. That said, the neighborhood high schools have been drained of most academically focused students. This is structural - it is how the system is designed. That won't change unless more schools, like Fells, include magnet programs that are properly funded and are able to grow. Otherwise, more academic students will avoid neighborhood high schools.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on March 11, 2014 4:39 pm
Yes, it's another example of "The Shell Game." The real Public Schools are being starved by DESIGN, and yet The Nopebook refuses to say that but rather, writes a fluff piece right out of The Joseph Goebbels Propaganda Handbook. Having said that, I can fully understand their thinking as they're pawns in this corporate takeover of all things democratic in urban America. A pox on all their houses who take glee from dictatorship strategies especially those too dumb for their own good, and, of course, these kids are totally innocent so please don't misconstrue what's being said.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 11, 2014 6:16 pm
I really love your commentary.
Submitted by Samuel Reed III on March 11, 2014 10:11 pm

Joe K.
Interestingly today my students and I were reading an article in Rethinking Schools Magazine, A Letter from a Black Mom to her son.   

While doing a close reading of the article ( determining the central ideas) my students asked some provacative questions about race, class and schools. I would encourage you to check out the article.

The data presented in the chart, of the Newswork article clearly shows that my students are justified in being concerned about the way district schools are not providing equitable opportunies for some of her most vunerable students.  

Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on March 11, 2014 10:24 pm
Great Article, Sam. Encourage everybody you know to read it. Yes, the kids understand all of it even at a young age and of course, they are justified about feeling marginalized by society in an up close and personal way.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 11, 2014 5:47 pm
no disrespect but what about Masterman, Girls and Central?......there are other schools besides those two that she likes.....if she or rather her parent wants her in a charter then so be it, the parent has the right to raise her children as she pleases but don't make an article out to say that there are few choices.....the main thing is the academics and the character of the kid....I am sure if the parent could the parent would send the child/children to private school. Linda K.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 11, 2014 7:26 pm
I totally respect the notebook & it's journalist but come on how could you guys possibly print that ridiculousness about the girls' names? It should have stated that those were the meanings according to their mother. Trust me I searched and even in Hatian Creole. So if a person tells you guys that their name Bob means deliverer of goods are you going to print that too without fact checking??????
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 11, 2014 10:50 pm
People can define their names however they choose. Its their name!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 12, 2014 5:06 am
Then it should be stated as such as not written as a fact. You can name your kid Apple ala Gwenyth Paltrow but lets not imply fictional meanings to names and expect rational and sane people to buy into it.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 14, 2014 4:50 pm
If you looked up their names, you are, yes, wasting your time. The reason why you would say that the names have fictional meanings is because their names is not based on the English Language but Haitian Creole. Please don't comment on something like this if you can't infer, and you don't have to "buy into it". Thank you very much.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 14, 2014 5:24 pm
Their names are based on a fantastical story that their mother made up for them. Very lovely indeed but utter nonsense the same. Don't bother to respond I disabled comments.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 14, 2014 6:34 pm
Since when don't parents have the right to name there children. Movie stars do it and people smile. Better check your class bias.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 14, 2014 6:44 pm
For the record Kim Kardashian is an imbecile, Gwenyth Paltrow a complete moron & Beyonce well since I'm a fan she gets a pass. Btw Beyoncé isn't claiming that her child's name means Christ likes the color blue. Please no more comments. Guess the disable button isn't working.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 19, 2014 9:02 am
All of their names, are combinations of the words from Creole. I would just like to point that out to you guys. However, there is some variation in the way that the eldest's name is spelled. Most likely due to their being born in the U.S. Idk. However, it was rude to pick at their names, though your opinion is respected.
Submitted by Taxpayer (not verified) on March 12, 2014 1:58 pm
I would like to weigh in on this, if I may. Kudos to Chrislie for pursuing your dream! God bless you! I would argue that if you have a choice between a magnet school and a charter, then you have two good choices. Forget about the neighborhood school. You aim high girl and go for it! Please don't neglect your math and science classes. Entertainment is a tough gig. A lot of it is not talent, but luck. Justin Bieber??? Maybe a fallback position as a physician if you study hard at science also?

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