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New co-principal at Bartram speaks about changing school climate

By the Notebook on Apr 9, 2014 09:15 PM

by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks

After a staffer at Bartram High School was knocked unconscious by a student last month, the Southwest Philadelphia school has faced increased public scrutiny.

The District has responded to the outcry by bringing in one of its veteran school climate specialists: retired District principal Ozzie Wright.

Since retiring from the District in the mid-2000s, Wright has been called back multiple times to help the District deal with emergencies at Germantown, South Philly and West Philly high schools.

He arrived at Bartram to become co-principal at the beginning of this week.

"Within the last week or so, what we've seen is a reduction of students in the hallways because we've started hall sweeps," he said in a telephone interview. "We're seeing a reduction of latenesses. We've also had an increase in personnel who helps us to move students into our classes."

Countdown clock deployed

One of the ways the school has reduced the number of students wandering the hallways is with a countdown clock. During an interview with Wright, Bartram's assistant principal came on over the loudspeaker.

"I'm going to count down from 20 to zero," he said. "All students must be in their classrooms at the end."

After pronouncing "zero," he continued: "Teachers, please close your doors. Any students that arrive at this time are late. Please document them as so ... Detentions will be issued to those students who are late. Any student who misses detention will be suspended."

Wright, speaking from his first-floor office, described the scene after the countdown.

"I'm looking right from my office into the hallways. ... I see two students ... and that's good, not like it was before."

Wright later amended the assistant principal's statement about suspensions, saying that they should only be used after parent intervention.

"Students should not be suspended for being late to detention," he said.

Read the rest of this story at NewsWorks

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Comments (24)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 10, 2014 5:00 am
Collins needs "mentorship?" She was an SBIS at my elementary school during Ackerman's reign. She helped ruin the school by undermining our principal at the time. She was unprofessional and on her way to being forced out the door by the SDP before she left to take a job at a charter school. The SDP wants to put the "right" teachers with the "right" students? How about doing some more legwork in recruiting and hiring competent principals?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 10, 2014 6:42 am
The problems at Bartram are now new. What was the climate and culture like last year? Five years ago? Ten years ago? Bartram has been a serious issue for decades and the temporary bandaid approach is an insult to the teachers and students. More police officers, cameras, and door alarms sounds like making a better prison. The issues at the school should have been addressed years ago.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on April 10, 2014 9:32 am
Back in the day of Lou D'Antonio, the principal of Bartram for many years, the school was known as THE most orderly comprehensive high school. Lou put up with no BS from anyone. When the late bell rang, the teachers closed their doors, and every student in the halls without a legitimate note was ushered into the auditorium where they remained for the rest of the day. The students learned how to get to class on time. Teachers created their own lessons and stood up and taught. They had order in their classrooms and conditions where they could teach. Lou made sure the students behaved in class, too. he backed teachers. Everyone just went "by the book." There was a very low teacher turnover rate at Bartram during those days. Teachers liked Lou even though he was autocratic because the school was well controlled and they always knew where they stood with him. They could trust him. It was normal school. It was just -- come in, go to class, have fun at your extra-curricular activities, go home and do your homework. If you need help, go to the this person or that person. I'm not a fan of autocratic leadership styles, but that was the rare instance where it worked. I once read a study of leadership styles which concluded that autocratic leadership is accepted by followers only when the leader is perceived as highly able. Otherwise it is destructive to the community.
Submitted by gloriaendres (not verified) on April 10, 2014 10:17 am
Excellent commentary, Rich. As soon as I read the first stories about the violence at Bartram, I knew it had much to do with administration. It was the same at South Philly High when the Asian students were being bullied. In all these cases these schools had incompetent, and sometimes unqualified leaders. Interesting, isn't it, how they had to go to a veteran, experienced principal to straighten things out? Yet they think that veteran, highly qualified teachers need to move on and make room for the "right fit" from the youngest, cheapest teachers. Anarchy reigns in the absence of leadership.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on April 10, 2014 10:53 am
ye sit is interesting. Ozzie is a good man and he will get the school under control. We old folk might have a wrinkle or two, but we have had the best teacher -- experience.
Submitted by gloriaendres (not verified) on April 10, 2014 11:56 am
(Sigh) Yes, Rich, we remember when school was authentic and not a test prep factory. When we had class trips, science fairs, assemblies, concerts and plays, mathletes, and all kinds of real world learning. Children in today's schools are experiencing a narrowed curriculum, not enough experience based lessons and too much time wasted in learning how to take tests. What will today's young educators have to remember and pass on?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 10, 2014 3:01 pm
During the 90's, when we had the Cluster system there was a great deal of collaboration among schools in Bartram Cluster. I visited Bartram on numerous occasions for collaboration with Bartram teachers and for workshops. Bartram was quiet, orderly and a school where teachers enjoyed working. It is heart breaking to read about what that school has become. It was a pillar of that community. Generations of families in the southwest neighborhoods attended there. Many of my students went to Bartram, graduated and are productive citizens. Our comprehensive High schools that were once the bricks and mortar of their communities are purposely being allowed to rot and degenerate inorder to justify their eventual closing.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on April 10, 2014 10:38 am
PS: Lou did it with NTA's and NTA's alone. Back then we did not have school police officers.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 10, 2014 10:23 am
Every media account omits the fact that Bill Hite's handpicked principal was brought in from California, presumably at great expense. She lasted about two weeks and then left. This is a recipe for chaos, yet Bill Hite has never had to account for this failure. Why does every journalist in this city, save Devir, constantly cover for Bill Hite?
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on April 10, 2014 10:15 am
Hite's friend is at Bache-Martin as "principal on special assignment." She is making $131,000/year to sit. Hite does not equal fiscal responsibility.
Submitted by LS Teach (not verified) on April 10, 2014 11:40 am
I sat on the site select panel to interview for the principal at my school. We sat in a room with our assistant superintendent and asked all interviewees a series of pre-determined questions. We were told what we say stays in the room. The process seemed very democratic. When it was over, the assistant superintendent said that all decisions would be made by Dr. Hite and that our scores would be taken into consideration. The next day, the former principal of my school called me into her office and asked how why I gave certain candidates the scores I did. The regional superintendent had explained to her who I scored highest and lowest. Currently, I feel we got the best person for the job. But the process was very disappointing.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 10, 2014 2:11 pm
Lack of discretion.. Sounds like something Lissa Johnson would do!!
Submitted by anon, anon, we must go anon (not verified) on April 10, 2014 2:04 pm
She is not at Bache-Martin anymore.
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on April 10, 2014 3:23 pm
Interesting... Is she still making $131,000/year? If yes, how does Hite justify the hire?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 10, 2014 8:59 pm
She's at Parkway Center City.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 10, 2014 8:09 am
It seems like every few years a high school gets brought up in the media as having major problems. The real problems start in elementary schools. People do not want to know about what goes on in the K-8 and middle schools.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 10, 2014 9:25 am
Tilden is the middle school attached to Bartram. I wonder what the climate is like in that building.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 10, 2014 8:24 am
Parents will call 440 about the suspensions and 440 will make them stop suspending kids. Then those same students will resume hall walking. Hall walking is not a level 2 offense, so you cannot call SPO's to help with that. But, since Bartram made the news, the District will be forced to do something. Stuff like this happens every day in my school and most comprehensive High Schools.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 10, 2014 8:38 pm
Wait? There's a school in Philly that actually uses detentions and suspensions? From what I know, pink slips are thrown away, detentions are frowned upon and suspensions never get put on record. Why they need a second person to enforce actual consequences is BEYOND me. Seriously? If the school district actually handed out consequences from the beginning, the problems at Bartram and other schools wouldn't be nearly as bad as they are.
Submitted by Headstart teacher (not verified) on April 10, 2014 11:13 pm
Anyone else find it sadly ironic that when there is a serious issue that makes the media - who gets called in to "fix" things???? A retired teacher! Guess experience is a great thing. Oh wait - didn't Hite say that experience and years on the job (aka seniority) is useless to students???? Guess us old heads do know a thing or two (or four or five.....) We are useful and an make a real impact on the kids and the schools we teach at. Why thy Dont we deserve some job Security and our increased pay for the additional time teachers before
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 11, 2014 6:54 am
And in a financially distressed district note that Ozzie does not do this for free.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 11, 2014 1:36 pm
Anyone can do what Ozzie Wright is doing if given the proper resources and personnel to do the job. He got both. What other District schools have pleaded with all year.So his job is not really challenging. So, respectfully, Wright is no savior. Anytime they called him in, and paid out more wasted money that someone already in that job could do if they got what he got. Wright received the extra staff , resources, and money to help him out with a task that festered due to Hite, Green, Ramos,SRC ,etc.. Once again, the District rehires someone at a large cost (has to be paid between $500-600 per diem , averaging about $30,000 paid through June) more wasted money as a Independent contractor /consultant -whatever they want to call it -so it doesn't conflict with his huge pension already) to clean up a mess caused by their (SDP leaders) inaction and proper funding, resources, and adults in schools within the SDP . It is all so disgusting and more stupid decisions again on the behalf of Hite, Green , SRC and others involved in the decisions at SDP.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on April 11, 2014 11:59 am
When you cut resources to cause problems, problems occur. Corbett and the shot callers above him and Corbett's minions below him like Nutter and the SRC KNEW these cuts would necessarily cause chaos but THAT'S THE AGENDA. Point your fingers at the guilty--the corporate elite and their torpedoes like the numbnuts mentioned above. This is intentional destruction of the Public Schools in the inner cities where poverty, drugs and all other forms of dysfunction reign supreme. Sell outs like Nutter, Hite and the SRC don't give a rat's ass about the kids and other citizens of Philly. Until the people enmasse stop this fascism, it will only get worse.
Submitted by tom-104 on April 11, 2014 11:53 am
Even an editor at the Inquirer is getting it.

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