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October 2012 Vol. 20. No. 2 Focus on A Portfolio of Schools

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Painful choices

For one mother, Philadelphia’s portfolio of school options brings opportunity and heartache.

By by Benjamin Herold for NewsWorks, a Notebook news partner on Oct 1, 2012 11:17 AM
Photo: Jessica Kourkounis for NewsWorks

Karen Lewis spent six months this year searching for a new school for her son, Cooper Harbol. The two attended an orientation for the Alliance for Progress Charter School, held at the North Philadelphia Seventh Day Adventist Church.

As usual, Karen Lewis is trying to manage a dozen things at once.

And as usual, Lewis’s son, 8-year-old Cooper Harbol, is the focus of her efforts.

While Lewis cleans the kitchen and scrambles to find her shoes, Cooper gets lost in the elaborate toy world he has constructed on the coffee table. He’s oblivious to his mother’s pleas to brush his teeth.

“Cooper, put down the Lego, please,” says Lewis. “Today’s the first day of school. At least we can show up at a reasonable time.”

Third grade was supposed to be a fresh start for Cooper. But Lewis is exhausted before the year has even begun.

For the past six months, Lewis, 45 and divorced, has been navigating Philadelphia’s changing school-choice landscape. Dissatisfied with the neighborhood public school Cooper attended since kindergarten, Lewis set out to find something better. Her search has been fueled by anger and guilt.

Listen to Benjamin Herold's radio report

“I had put my kid in a situation where he absolutely hated going to school,” she says. “I thought I had taken away his opportunity to be successful.”

In Pennsylvania and across the nation, reformers and politicians have been responding to parents like Lewis by expanding charter schools and pushing for publicly funded vouchers. Empower parents by giving them more school options, they argue, and fewer children will be trapped in failing schools.

But for the time being, at least, the practical realities of school choice in Philadelphia are far messier than that.

In Lewis’s case, the District-run school she has grown to hate, John Moffet Elementary in Kensington, isn’t failing. It’s one of the top elementary schools in the city.

And Lewis’s search for a new school has left her feeling bitter, not empowered.

The vision of a coordinated “portfolio” of accessible, high-quality schools in every Philadelphia neighborhood remains far off. Despite Lewis’s master’s degree and professional background, she has struggled to negotiate the city’s confusing patchwork of roughly 500 District, charter, and private schools.

While driving Cooper to his new school, her frustrations pour out.

“I’m so angry, and so annoyed, it’s not funny.”

'100 percent wrong’

Karen Lewis says she’s a big believer in public education.

But it’s a terrible feeling, she says, to also believe you are putting your child in harm’s way every morning.

During Cooper’s second week of kindergarten at Moffet, says Lewis, staff at an afterschool program briefly couldn’t locate her son, then blamed her for the mix-up.

Things went downhill from there.

“It felt crazy,” she says.

“My expectation was that kids were going to be treated with respect, that they would be engaged in learning and having fun, that it would be an experience like I had in the suburbs.

“I was 100 percent wrong.”

Raised in Chester County, Lewis grew up comfortably middle class.

By her late 20’s, she had an MBA from Kutztown University. Ten years later, she was married, working as a business consultant and living well in Las Vegas.

In 2008, says Lewis, she earned $130,000.

Last year, she says, she made $24,000.

The financial downturn was gradual. She stopped consulting to be around more for Cooper, then lost her accounting job.

By that point, Lewis and her son had moved back to Philadelphia, into a small row home in a gentrifying part of the city’s Kensington neighborhood.

Lewis had picked the house in part because it was close to a good school.

She loved that Moffet was just three blocks away. She was pleased with its high test scores and racial diversity, as well as the positive reviews on parenting blogs.

“They talked about it as a neighborhood secret,” says Lewis.

It’s true – other parents tend to love Moffet.

Every school has its challenges, says Laura Aboud, the mother of two Moffet students. But Moffet’s tend to be minor.

“You may not be able to get exactly what you want for your child in every instance,” says Aboud. “But I wouldn’t have [my children] anywhere else.”

By the time Cooper was in first grade, though, Lewis couldn’t tolerate things other parents shrugged off.

She still couldn’t believe that as a kindergartener, Cooper got detention for being late.

She was outraged after witnessing school staff smoking in the school’s front entrance as children filed in.

At one point, she says, she was barred from volunteering.

“I’m the type that asks questions when things don’t make sense, and they didn’t really want that,” says Lewis.

The final straw, says Lewis, was when children were denied lunch and bathroom trips as a form of discipline.

By that point, it was a fight to get Cooper out the door every morning. He said he wanted to drop out of elementary school.

Lewis worried that her son was internalizing the worst possible message: that he didn’t matter.

“This is Cooper’s life,” she says. “I have to trust my instincts.”

A ‘portfolio’ of choices

Michelle Rhee has met hundreds of parents like Karen Lewis.

The former chancellor of the Washington, D.C., school system says it was those encounters that led her to fully embrace choice.

“When faced with real-life kids and real-life situations, I couldn’t find it in myself to say, ‘I’m going to deny you [an] opportunity simply because I think you should stay in the traditional public school system,’” she explains.

Rhee is now the CEO of StudentsFirst, a California-based nonprofit pushing for more publicly funded school options.

“We think an ideal system has a vibrant and high-performing traditional public school system, a strong charter school system, [and] some kids who might be attending private school through a voucher program,” says Rhee.

In recent months, a similar vision has taken root in Philadelphia.

City education leaders are attempting to break down barriers between the District, the city’s 80-plus charter schools, and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The Pennsylvania legislature recently passed a new “opportunity scholarship” program. And philanthropists have poured over $50 million into the Philadelphia School Partnership, a two-year-old nonprofit that wants to expand successful schools, regardless of management model.

“We’re trying to think of it as one city, one large student population, many diverse providers,” says Mark Gleason, PSP’s executive director.

A 2010 study by the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Philadelphia Research Initiative lends credence to that cross-sector “portfolio” approach. Of the Philadelphia parents surveyed, 72 percent said they wanted more good school options. Many said they care less about labels – public, private, charter – than about quality.

Philadelphia has had a diverse mix of schools for decades, says Lori Shorr, the city’s chief education officer. But a lack of coordination across sectors means that poor families have to make a “Herculean” effort to access good options.

“If we have a well-managed portfolio, parents [will] have the opportunity to choose a school that fits the needs of their kid,” she says.

A difficult decision

But for Karen Lewis, that vision is not yet reality.

Despite months of searching, she found only two viable options:

Alliance for Progress, a charter school in North Philadelphia whose test scores paled in comparison to Moffet’s.

And Greene Street Friends, a private Quaker school in Germantown that costs $13,000 a year.

On a hot Friday in late August, Lewis and Cooper arrived 10 minutes late to the North Philadelphia Seventh Day Adventist Church for Alliance’s new-family orientation.

As soon as they walked in, Cooper informed his mom that he left his Legos in the car.
He’s a slight boy with a copper complexion, unruly curls, and huge dark eyes. Like most eight-year olds, he alternates between clingy and distant.

After retrieving his toys, Cooper knelt between two pews, lined up rows of small figures, and faced them off for battle.

His mother listened intently.

“Charter schools are here for parent involvement,” said Tina Lloyd, Alliance’s lower school principal.

“You have a voice.”

About two dozen parents and grandparents – all African-American, and nearly all women – listened quietly to a litany of rules on everything from lateness to homework.

Not until Lloyd brought up Alliance’s uniform policy did anyone ask questions – what kind of shoes are OK? Can girls wear beads in their hair?

“We know kids have their individuality,” responded Lloyd. “We appreciate that, but not during school.”

Lewis felt lucky just to be in the room. She only found two charters with available 3rd grade seats. Cooper was 67th on the wait list at the first school. At Alliance, says Lewis, he started out 35th, then he moved to sixth.

She got the news he was admitted while shopping at Target. She gave a fist pump, then started crying, right in front of the Lego display.

But after Alliance’s presentation, Lewis was lukewarm.

She wasn’t sure about its rigid structure and lack of enrichment programs. She worried about the 20-minute drive.

A week later, Lewis and Cooper attended the orientation at Greene Street Friends. The meeting house was packed with a multicultural mix of men and women.

“As you know, the mission to provide a first-rate education for your children and to follow Quaker values is an expensive proposition,” Emily Harmar, the school’s director of annual giving, told the parents.

“We’re counting on you, and welcome to Greene Street.”

For Lewis, enrolling Cooper would mean depleting her savings, selling her stock, and asking her ex-husband to contribute half of the deposit.

“I can’t afford it,” she says flatly.

But as a parade of Greene Street staff spoke of small class sizes and hands-on learning activities, Lewis’s brow knotted in concentration.

Science teacher Josh Goodstein told the parents that his goals are twofold: to get children prepared for the city’s elite high schools, and to help them love learning.
“I’m sure [your children] love discovering things,” said Goodstein. “That’s really what science is about.”

Lewis was sold. If she could come up with the money.

The downside of choice

Lewis’s search was leaving her emotionally drained.

Choice proponents say that’s why more good options are so urgently needed.

Karran Harper Royal says it isn’t that simple.

For 20 years, Harper Royal has been a public school parent in New Orleans. She’s a founder of Parents Across America, a nonprofit network of progressive activists.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans became the nation’s largest school-choice laboratory. Now, 75 percent of its schools are charters. There are no more default neighborhood schools – all parents must apply to the schools they’d like their children to attend, then hope they get in.

In New Orleans, says Harper Royal, there are a lot of parents who feel like Karen Lewis.

“They, like me, had high hopes for [choice] transforming our system and getting us … high-quality schools in all of our neighborhoods,” she says.

“We have created some good schools. But we need to get busy creating a good school system.”

Many would disagree with her assessment. Between 2009 and 2011, the percentage of New Orleans parents satisfied with public school options in their city jumped from 31 to 66 percent, according to a survey conducted by Tulane University.

But Harper Royal argues that many New Orleans children travel great distances to and from school. Many parents feel that an emphasis on standardized tests has resulted in too many options that all feel the same. And some worry about the constant “churn” of schools being opened and closed.

“Some people see that as a positive thing,” says Harper Royal. “I see it as experimenting with children’s lives.”

New Orleans parents want choices, she says. But they also want strong neighborhood schools they can count on.

“[Parents] don’t want to have to travel all over the city to find a school that works,” says Harper Royal.

“They want a school that is the heart of their community.”

Philadelphia education leaders are studying cities like New Orleans, Denver and Boston to see what works in other choice-based portfolio systems – and what doesn’t.

“We’re at the beginning of this,” says the city’s Shorr.

“Philadelphia needs to figure out for Philadelphia what the best model is.”

‘Not a successful day’

Karen Lewis ultimately decided to bite the bullet and send Cooper to Greene Street.
She says it’s the closest thing to a “normal” educational environment she could find.

“School will become fun for my son,” says Lewis.

But she’s still not sure how she’s going to come up with the second tuition payment.
During the 20-minute drive up Germantown Avenue on the first day of school, Cooper worries about lunch and making friends.

Lewis turns reflective.

“This is not a successful day for me,” she concludes. “It’s actually sad that I would have to do this.”

Outside the school, Lewis parks her car, then turns to her son.

“I’m going to walk in with you, OK? Mom has got your back.”

As Cooper takes his new seat, Lewis lingers in the classroom doorway, watching, wondering if she made the right choice.


Photo credits: Jessica Kourkounis for NewsWorks

About the Author

Contact WHYY education reporter Benjamin Herold at

Comments (81)

Submitted by Public School Parent (not verified) on October 2, 2012 7:00 pm

Reading this is frustrating. Karen decides on Greene Street Friends, which of course any parent would choose if we had the resources. She doesn't know how she will make the next payment? Seriously? So her kid could be out by next month? How is that the best thing for him. Who would do that?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 7, 2012 2:39 pm

My child attended Moffet School after attending a charter school. The school is a very good school but it is a Public School. The school has to meet the needs of all Children not just a few. This includes students with different concerns. I understand some of the parents concerns but I feel that the issue is a problem parents face in public schools all over the USA. You just have to be patient and work with the school in a positive manner. My child did well at Moffet. I was a some what involved parent. The problem with being late is that the school due to budget cuts has lost staff. When you are late it can mean other people have to stop other jobs to write down the lateness even teachers who are teaching. The school worked with me and the other parents. They only like to work with positive parents. If you come in with a negative attitude complaining about everything. They don't want to work with you. The school is in a poor neighborhood and they try to meet everyones needs. The school is a very good school. The free after school program is run by an outside agency. I remember the parent in this story when my child went there. I recall they did work with her. She use to pick up her son late on many days and they would have him in the office.

Submitted by MBA to M'Ed mom (not verified) on October 27, 2012 12:43 pm
When you saw my son in the office,as the teachers who would stop by the office after school did, he and perhaps several other students were waiting for their afterschool bus to pick them up. I was working in Delaware for Dupont as a consultant Cooper's first year and then later employed by Kraft Foods in the north east as a Finance Manager, both positions were full time hours, so for the 3 years Cooper was at Moffett, he was also at RW Brown. The 2 years Guzman was principal, she had made arrangements with the Director of RW Brown for the pick up to happen in her office after she was made aware of the school losing my son due to lack of safety controls his second week of kindergarten by the school afterschool program. Guzman did scream at me because she ended up not liking didn't like the arrangement she had made with the Director of RW Brown. That conversation required me to again ask her AD superintendent to step in and help counsel Guzman on professional interaction with parents of her students. Nothing like a two hour meeting with a wonderful AD and Guzman, like I had that kind of time to train a principal in managing people.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 7, 2012 3:34 pm

I had the same experience with my child. It can be hard. I learned that you have to be honest with yourself. You are your child's first teacher. Private is best when you need more support as a parent. Public school is for the masses. It works for the average situation. I have found that if you work with the school and teachers they will work with you. They want to help but don't want to be attacked. There is no such thing as a perfect school or child so you have to be understanding to a limit with both. A little tough love can be ok in some situations life is not easy and you start to learn about how life works as a child. Detention is not the end of the world. Children can understand if you explain to them what is going on.

Submitted by MBA to M'Ed mom (not verified) on October 27, 2012 12:35 pm
I went to public school and kindergarteners did not receive detention, especially not in the first few weeks of school. Educators know that is not developmentally appropriate. Additionally the districts policy for detentions for lateness is to curb students who show up to school an hour or two late habitually. But when a system is dysfunctional, and has no accountability or control in systems, policies, etc, abuses like this can and DO occur. And so a 5 year old kid, who just moved across the country to a new house, school and neighborhood finds that the school has no tolerance for adjustment issues to going to a school that is vastly different from his preschool with NAEYC accreditation, and he watched his mom get talked down to in front of him when she went to understand why being a minute late inside the door garnered him a detention the first weeks of kindergarten. My mom, Aunt, cousin, great grandfather were all public school teachers, education is not an unknown environment for me. Trust me when I tell you, what you and I experienced was not professional, development appropriate for our kids, or something we should have to teach our kids to have to tolerate. Why do you think even involved, caring parents and probably 70% of the best teachers you will ever see, have children who go through this district and still don't succeed. It's a broken system that needs to be fixed. Those 30% of teachers and principals are destroying our kids opportunities. Education = Opportunity. We really need to stop tolerating this abuse of a public system. Tolerating this abuse will keep us poor, and we so don't have to be, or allow a system to do this to our kids.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 2, 2012 8:32 pm

I was wondering why she stays in the city. It doesn't seem as if she explored suburban alternatives. Not all suburbs are expensive, and many have good schools with diverse student bodies.

Submitted by Frank S (not verified) on June 20, 2013 2:00 pm
Great question, I am actually wondering the same thing... at least there are 2 of us :) An answer would really be appreciated, thanks in advance.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 2, 2012 9:12 pm

Are there scholarship programs available for Greene Street Friends? Has the mother applied for a scholarship for her son? This story sounds very familiar to me, as in, I read this story, told by mother herself under a fictitious name on one of the posts here. Now that son is in school, full-time, will mother obtain a job in her field? Or one that pays more than what she is currently making. If this is what Ms. Lewis wants for her son, I say, "Good for you!" I hope that you will be able to keep him at Greene Street Friends and most importantly, I hope that he enjoys his new school and thrives there.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 2, 2012 9:15 pm

How come no one is picking up on the fact that "school choice" is bringing us right back to the beginnings of education, where only rich white boys and men were able to receive a decent education and the rest of society had to deal. Michelle Rhee is a wolf in sheep's clothing...She has absolutely no idea what is best for our country in regards to education. All she knows how to do is bully teachers and principals and create a cheating scandal. We need a new system but the one that they are contemplating is certainly not the answer. All "school choice" is going to do is separate society even more than it is already separated. The children of Philadelphia need more than help with reading, writing and mathematics. The children of Philadelphia need to learn how to function in a learning environment without disrupting their education and the education of others. The children of Philadelphia need to learn how to cope with their feelings and not use violence to solve their problems. They have problems that are so much bigger than scoring proficient or advance on a standardized test.

Submitted by ANON 452 (not verified) on October 2, 2012 9:44 pm

I do not agree with Kindergartners getting detention for being late, however, WHY is a kid who lives three blocks from school late? This sounds like a parent who can't quite get with the program. This story does sound like a frequent poster to the Notebook, but I am not sure she was the best person to interview for this story. There are a lot of parents in much worse straits trying to do well by their kids who would have made a much more interesting interview. I would love to know what other neighborhood public schools she looked at and what her objections were to them.

Submitted by MBA to M'ed Mom (not verified) on October 3, 2012 10:17 pm

first week of school in kindergarten, four lates, one minute, 2 minutes and the other two were about 3 minutes...the door opens at 8:25 and you are late after 8:30, so he was late at 8:31 etc...

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 4, 2012 4:40 am

That is the late policy at my school. I assume with most jobs any time you clock in after the designated time, you are late. While I can sympathize to a degree, I have to get my 4 kids to school on time which means early - not on the bell. Two are at a charter; two are at a District school. Imagine high schools in Philly - students have to go through metal detectors / scanners. They have to be at least 5 - 10 minutes early just to be on time.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 4, 2012 5:53 am

I think it is important to begin very early in life, the importance of being on time for school, which will transfer to being on time for work. Yes, things do happen, but it is of the utmost importance that we begin training our children to be on time and that might mean that we have to get up earlier to get our children ready for where they need to be so that they aren't marked late and that we get to our jobs on time.

And I want to weigh in that calling an 8 year older a brat is not right. The parent is responsible for getting the child where he or she needs to be on time.

As a child, beginning in kindergarten, as children, we were trained by an alarm clock. Our parents as a part of a nightly routine, set the alarm clock in our bedrooms and we got up when that alarm went off to prepare for school. Just a thought.

Submitted by MBA to M'Ed mom (not verified) on October 4, 2012 6:37 pm

I meet lots of parents who have to drive all over the city or allow their children to take public transportation to school. Your schedule must be so stressful and I really feel for you, especially with how small a window there is between when kids are allowed to enter the school or be considered late (usually about 5 minutes right) so a lot of kids end up in the school yard unsupervised as the schools also don't have the staff to watch the children left in the yard.

Exempt employees do not have to clock in, so it's not clear to me that all parents punch a time clock? A lot of companies also have flexible work schedules, much different from the way work was in the 50's and 60's.

Hang in there though, cause I don't know how you do it!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 2, 2012 11:36 pm

this child sounds like a spoiled, immature brat whose mother has champagne taste and a coca cola budget. might she have lost her accounting job due to excessive lateness? good luck to them but "habits of mind" develop and are solidified at home!

Submitted by MBA to M'ed Mom (not verified) on October 3, 2012 10:01 pm

I lost my job for calling 911. Two months later at the same plant with similar circumstances, a woman shot 3 people killing 2 of them instantly.

My budget is actually tap water if the water hasn't been shut off, but every child deserves a 'champagne' education.

Guess you have shown me and other parents why we struggle to trust you with our kids given how you feel comfortable enough to call an 8 year old boy (who is the sweetest kid I know) a brat. You do realize how many parents read your mean comments don't you?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 4, 2012 8:38 am

Welcome to thenotebook...where mean, dispirited teachers come to play.

Submitted by tom-104 on October 3, 2012 11:24 pm

This is so not cool! If this is a teacher stating this I pity any child that has to spend hours with him/her. You have to have a coldness of heart and lack of any empathy to think like this.

I spent the first eight years as a Special Education teacher teaching what were then classified as Socially and Emotionally Disturbed students (this classification no longer exists). Maybe it was my Masters training in Special Ed, but I never even thought of any child as a "brat". If this teacher is experiencing many "brats" in his/her life it is because he/she is getting back what he/she gives to children.

(And is your shift key broke? Where are the capital letters?)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 3, 2012 12:39 am

Concessions from the PFT will be absolutely necessary to get the district on a sustainable path. I propose a 10% salary reduction across the board. Also, I propose that the PFT members pay for half of their healthcare costs, just like everyone in private industry, for whom they serve, does.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 3, 2012 5:28 am

Another teabagger at work here. Why on earth should the Philadelphia teachers take at 10% pay cut when they are already one of the lowest, if not the lowest, paid teachers in the whole state? Clearly you listen to Fox News too much. Where are your rants about summer vacations and six hour days? That's the teabilly party line isn't it?
Teachers don't serve private industry. Teachers serve kids.
As for healthcare, again being the on the bottom of the pay scale there has to be some say to draw teachers to these jobs? That benefit, my teabagging friend, offsets the low pay.
Instead of bashing teachers, why not question the SRC about the million dollar consulting contracts? I guess you will be cheering for Mittens in the debate tonight too.

Submitted by toshifuni (not verified) on October 3, 2012 7:19 pm

A few days ago there was a story of a 10 year old who stole a truck and crashed into a half a dozen cars. The kid was caught and held until a parent or guardian picked him up. As of a day later when the news was reported, no one had come to pick him up. Its a shame this should happen and a shame no parent or adult came forward immediately for this boy`s welfare. Now imagine a classroom full of kids, not the one or two neglected kids, but a classroom full of them. These kids are hardened and sick, with behavior that would nowhere else be allowed or tolerated, except within the boundaries of a school. These are the kids teachers are held accountable to. Would you take on this responsibility? If this were your job would you be willing to take it knowing others who have no idea how distressed the neighborhood schools are are demanding you take a 10% wage cut?

Submitted by Ha! (not verified) on October 4, 2012 2:47 pm

I agree with you and will be sure to tell them as we pass them in the halls, "Hey at least you have a job!" Oh by the way Dr. Hite deserves his 20% raise next year because he's qualified. Just as PFT members say to 1201 currently.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 4, 2012 8:48 pm

Reduce teachers' salaries by 10% and Philly will look like a ghost town. You act like people are dying to work in Philly public schools. Twenty years ago I knew substitute teachers that would rather continue working as subs out of state when they could have come to Philly and worked as permanent teachers. That's how bad Philly's reputation was then and things have only gotten worse. Why don't you become a Philly public teacher and let's see how little you will be willing to work for after a year?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 4, 2012 11:58 pm

Well, we'll see what happens. But the school district is broke and major cuts need to be made. There are plenty of unemployed teachers out there looking for work. If the Philly teachers decide to quit, I would suggest you not mention to prospective employers in the private sector that you are only willing to work 6 hours per day, require 3 months vacation, will not contribute a dime towards your healthcare costs, and the best one, that you don't want to be judged by your job performance. I love that one!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 5, 2012 5:05 am

You, obviously have noe clue what a teacher does, so "Put up or shut up"

Philly needs teachers, as you say, so please come join us and show us all how easy we have it and how it's done. I'd be more than happy to mentor you

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 5, 2012 8:59 am

Don't feed the teabaggers. Their comments only demonstrate how little they know about anything.

Submitted by LS Teach (not verified) on October 3, 2012 5:12 am

Isn't Paul Vallas running the school system in New Orleans? Why are "philadelphia education leaders studying cities like New Orleans" when Vallas was here five years ago? If Phlly wants a portfolio of school to choose, why did they let him leave in the first place?

We should be looking at WHY there aren't more decent public schools is poor neighborhoods? Nobody wants to touch this issue though...

Submitted by tom-104 on October 3, 2012 7:52 am

Paul Vallas is now Superintendent in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Submitted by LS Teach (not verified) on October 3, 2012 7:02 am

Thanks Tom!

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on October 3, 2012 8:15 am

Philly did not let Vallas leave. Jim Nevels, the former SRC chairman, threw him out of here when Nevels found out we were about $100 Million short of a balanced budget. Nevels had seen enough of Vallas's antics. I worked under Vallas. There are very few people I have worked under or with in 38 years who I respect less than Paul Vallas. The only thing he cared about was self promotion and his political ambitions.

He knew nothing about educating children and was the first one to impose the test preparation curriculum upon us. What he did was destructive. He closed magnet programs that were designed to meet student needs and imposed his own limited choices upon schools.

There were a few new initiatives such as Constitution H.S. and the Academy at Palumbo which were started under Vallas, but those schools were really started by Philadelphia educators from within our ranks. He did initiate the building of some new schools such as Audenreid.

The toxic climate that now persists in our district was started by Paul Vallas. It was under Vallas that the district administration began to do whatever they wanted for whatever reason they wanted with no impunity or sense of ethics. He followed no rules and he created a punitive climate and organizational dynamics which followed no rules. Many of us talked about how "mean and nasty" our district had become. That toxicity festered and worsened under Ackerman.

A symptom and outcome of that decade long toxicity is the vitriol that recently surfaced on the Notebook site. That is what happens when a school system is managed by "threat and intimidation."

The most important reform which needs to be made in Philadelphia is a transformation of the "administrative culture" of the school district. There needs to be a sea change in the attitudes and practices of our administrative officers including many principals if we are ever going to grow into a "true professional learning community" which serves our children and their communities well.

Culture change is a leadership game, the leader has to ante up first!

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on October 3, 2012 9:16 am

Excuse me, I did not mean to say "with no impunity." I meant "with impunity." I meant to say, "It was under Vallas that the district administration began to do whatever they wanted for whatever reason they wanted with impunity and no sense of ethics." (I apologize English teachers. My bad.)

The bottom line is that unless there is a sea change in the administrative culture of our school district, there is little hope that we will rise to become a system of Great schools.

And I assure you that the majority of administrators know exactly what I am talking about. The majority know what positive leadership is and looks like. But we were all forced to live within the climate of the last decade.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 4, 2012 7:18 pm

Paul had taken all the art work he could carry so there was no need to hang around at that point. Not to mention he never did anything about his second in command, Greg Thorton (super for Milwaukee now), taking a bribe even though he said he would. He was later bragging to the folks out in Seattle about how he only said he'd do something so the Philly rubes would be appeased.

Submitted by Linda K. (not verified) on October 3, 2012 6:02 am

As long as I have to spend my money and write grants for supplies just to do my job everyday then I have taken my "paycut".......I can not cut anymore...I already serve as a bank for a school full of children
Linda K.

Submitted by MBA to M'ed Mom (not verified) on October 3, 2012 10:04 pm


I would like to get experience writing those kind of grants. If you want any help, please feel free to contact me thru the author of this story. I would be happy to help writing drafts for you.

Submitted by Linda K. (not verified) on October 4, 2012 7:50 pm

Sounds like a plan....
Linda K
art teacher

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on October 3, 2012 8:17 am

Thank you Mr. Herold for another story told with sensitivity and thoughtfulness. I think Ms. Lewis was a good choice, because she is what the City wants to attract to be a resident, a young educated professional raising a family; and her story illustrates the stumbling blocks that aren't always apparent in the "official" discussions.

What a loss for her neighborhood public school, that they could not understand her objections. Where was Moffet's Home and School which should have helped her? Was there a Parent Ombudsman in place? How about a SAC?

This story also illustrates an underlying conflict in class values that is not generally talked about. I am no stranger to the disrespect that was shown to her. There is a real fear of those who are highly educated amongst a lot of the families that live here, even as well as among many of the teachers/school staff. Just by the way you use English, and your abstract values, you will be judged as arrogant or imposing... and as some of the commenters here state, "spoiled"... even if you give generously as Ms. Lewis was willing to, in volunteering.

Finally, what an AWESOME Lego creation. One of the best toys ever invented! Best of luck to you Karen and your son, Cooper. Karen, whatever school Cooper is in, make sure you ask about Temple's Community Music Scholars and String Project programs. They are for parents on a "shoestring budget" who are willing to go the extra mile for their children. Settlement Music School also has a great scholarship program. Again, best of luck!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 3, 2012 11:43 am

But at the same time, did Ms. Lewis join the HSA or SAC? Did she reach out to the principal or ombudsman? I heard Ms. Lewis speak during the superintendent search and she spoke with such toxicity about her experience that I knew then there would be no public school, district or charter, in existence in Philadelphia that her son would attend. Now who was responsible for that toxic build up? 100% the school and staff? 95%? 75%? I don't know but some of the incidents she talked about made it seem like a two-way street of disrespect, assumption and judgement.

Ms. Cheng, as I think you know, there is a need to approach a school community with an understanding of one's own privileges with an openness to work with others (and as difficult as it sounds, not immediately expect the entire school to adjust to one's preferences). Building up those relationships take time.

The whole situation is sad.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on October 3, 2012 5:22 pm

I agree with you that good communication is a two-way street. I may be wrong, but I believe Ms. Lewis in her comments under her pseudonym mentioned talking with the principal. And definitely the principal is key here. It would only have taken a few words to ask the school staff to smoke in a less conspicuous place, for example.

The situation perhaps is worth a closer look. If a complaint about second hand smoke is dismissed as trivial, the implication is that scientific studies and public health notices are trivial; or if you think such things aren't important, that the complainer is trivial. In my experience, if someone does not understand the underlying principals in an objection, he/she will conclude that the objector is simply attempting to exert their power over them, and will react with resentment or aggressive hostility.

So already starting out "on the wrong foot", I'm not sure any amount of time would have helped the situation. The principal, as the "seat of power" could have. For Ms. Lewis the "toxic build up" is understandable. We do not have the school community's side/account of the conflict, but barring someone from volunteering is an incredibly hostile act; it's something that you do to criminals and child molesters. What could possibly have led them to equate her with such? Can you blame Ms. Lewis for her anger?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 3, 2012 9:52 pm

I also recall her commenting on sitting in her child's class all day many days. Not helping, volunteering, collaborating with the teacher, just sitting and watching. There were things Lewis was concerned about and she wanted to make sure they did not occur again and that was her response and she was able to do so as a grad student working towards a master's degree in education. Barring a parent from volunteering for that isn't appropriate but I could see how that could wear on a teacher and ask that a parent give it a rest.

Submitted by MBA to M'ed Mom (not verified) on October 3, 2012 10:52 pm

I actually did collaborate, act as a TSS (?) I cleaned floors, wiped desks, took kids to the bathroom, taught lessons, brought in snacks, gave supplies to kids who couldn't afford them, served water in class on hot days so the kids wouldn't miss instructional time, bought the class supplies, copied papers for the teacher, handed out lunches, subbed for the food service workers, wiped tables in the cafeteria, acted as a recess aid for a full school year, received no pay and was at the school for at least 20 hours a week, not including the additional hours of participating on the Home and School group and a member of SAC at the request of the new principal. Her predessesor (sp) at her first meeting with parents told them she was familar with working in a ghetto like ours in prior jobs so I have been told. Her AD superintendent and I became friends my childs first year because she was such a horror.

Submitted by MBA to M'ed Mom (not verified) on October 3, 2012 10:28 pm

Thank you Mrs Cheng, my son loves Lego's. I will look into Temple's program and share the information with other parents in my neighborhood. I am happy to say my son loves Greene St. He is reading! He was a kid who hated to read! I love seeing him happy to go to school in the morning, no more fights even though the differences in the curriculmn are huge and he has a lot of work to do to catch up to the level the other kids are working at, he seems up for the challenge.

And the staff is very kind and professional. I have not had a teacher scream at me or insult me or my son. If you have a question, the teachers aren't afraid to give you their email for you to send it to them. No screaming at the kids, the kids are allowed to eat lunch, not be denied food as a method of discipline, just a great school with 'normal stuff' plus some 'extra wonderful stuff'.

I may be struggling now, but I am lucky, I have a good education. I will figure stuff out. Just want my child to have the same opportunity I was lucky enough to experience. In fact I want it for every child in Philadelphia.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 4, 2012 5:51 am

I am happy to hear that your son is having a great learning experience at Greene Tree. I hope that you will be able to keep him there if this is where you are happy and where he is happy. Glad to hear that he is reading and happy to learn that he is enjoying it. I love to see children 'get it' and begin to enjoy reading because little do they know, reading opens many doors to them.
I also hope that you will not dwell on the unhappy experiences that you and your son had and that you put those events in the past and enjoy your new experiences. Best of luck to you and your son.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on October 5, 2012 9:36 am

Right, don't let all the comments about "all he does is play with Legos all day", cause you any dismay. There is a strong connection between creative play and developing the imagination it takes to grasp abstract concepts, also necessary to literacy. I'm an arts person (frugle and good at juggling debt). I homeschooled my kids for as long as possible. My oldest was extremely proficient with Legos, and also consistently excelled in literacy. Nothing wrong with imaginative play.

Submitted by MBA to M'Ed mom (not verified) on October 5, 2012 10:06 pm it isn't even true, I realize it's just someone trying to insult me and my child. It's sad because Cooper took Art Classes at the Philadelphia Musuem of Art last year on scholarship, he took karate classes (at a fantastic price from an awesome teacher in center city) and played soccer, basketball, t ball from a great coach with the rec department at Hancock for $20, plus all the free stuff available in this city, Independence Hall, Fireman's museum, Constitution Center, George Washingtons House (great exhibit) all the cultural festivals at Penns Landing, plus he went to a really great afterschool program at RW Brown and they offered a lot. I also got a student membership at the Art Museum and my son loves the Knights room and using a map to navigate around the museum. He even loved the Cezanne exhibit because you get to put on head phones and find the number and picture and listen to the story behind it.

He's a neat kid and I love being his mom. I am like most parents, utterly fascinated and baffled at this child that is my responsiblity to raise. : )

I truly believe that it takes a village to raise a child and I had been lucky enough to have received some awesome guidance from his preschool teachers, and I am now seeing the collaboration from his new school. Before it was just the new principal and a few teachers who reached out, but the damage had been done and when the librarian screamed at me and a teacher who hated me, continued to let me know how she felt about it, I just didn't want to risk my child being further harmed. I know not all schools have this stuff going on to such a large extent and it happens in Philly in part because the district is so disfunctional, I decided to do whatever I had to, to put my son in a normal environment.

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert on October 5, 2012 2:20 pm

I am glad your son is having a good experience and loves reading. I am concerned, however, about some things that puzzle me about your experience at the SDP school your son attended. You mention teachers' emails. My students and their parents/guardians receive my SDP email and personal cell phone number the first day of school. I have had parents and students text and call me (as well as email), and I have never had someone abuse it. (I only answer the cell until a certain time of night and do not answer blocked numbers). All my grade partners and most of the other teachers I know do the same. To me, email is actually the best way to communicate--no phone tag, no "he said, she said". I find it disturbing that teachers refuse to give out email--the district provides us with an email partially so we can communicate with parents and families. If I, as a parent, had a teacher refuse to give me an email, I would simply ask the principal for it. There really is no excuse for that.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 5, 2012 2:42 pm

Penn Alexander and its teachers won't give emails out.

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert on October 5, 2012 2:20 pm

That is crazy! I do not get it. Does anyone from Penn Alexander care to explain?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 5, 2012 4:38 pm

I don't know how you haven't already heard, but the Penn Alexander administration gets to do whatever it wants, to hell with the school's parents. It's almost like, "Hey, we're overcrowded, you don't like it find another school." Also, not so great with the paperwork and follow through for its capped out students:

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 5, 2012 4:01 pm

Sorry, this is the one where he details exactly how much Penn Alexander and the district screwed up:

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert on October 6, 2012 10:22 am

Wow, I think it is deplorable that Penn Alexander is allowed to have even ONE kid outside of the catchment area when all catchment area kids cannot get in. Someone needs to do on expose on WHO those kids' parents are and WHO they know. It does sound like they can do what every they want--just like some charters do. I object to public money being spent on a school that openly disregards the rules like this. I also love that they can cap K at 17 (we would ALL love to do that), while real SDP schools cannot cap K until they reach 30.

Submitted by Concerned Phila. (not verified) on October 6, 2012 10:48 am

Penn Alexander is the epitome of inequity in the School District. K-3 district schools have 30 students; 4 - 12 have 33 students in a classroom with NO assistance. Penn Alexander has fewer than 20 in all grades. The Univ of Penn is paying the full cost (including staffing) for a 4th kindergarten class.

Penn Alexander has students with parents with connections who do not live in the catchment. I know a teacher whose father in law was very prominent in the SDP - her child is at Penn Alexander and they lives another section of Philadelphia. The principal at Penn Alexander lets in students who are not in the catchment.

The SDP needs to fund schools equitably. Penn Alexander has become a school for those who either can afford to live in the catchment OR for those connected who certainly are wealthy enough to afford other options. Meanwhile, the Univ of Penn is bragging about its school. Now Drexel will have Powell - another school which is in a well to do section of Philly. This school will get extra funding and support. Meanwhile, schools within a few miles in West Philly will die on the vine and be threatened with closure.

Is the SRC so closed minded that they don't see what is happening? Or, are SRC members so comfortable that they can't relate?

Submitted by Dyan (not verified) on April 18, 2014 7:24 am
Another note is that ports won't admit non-operable vehicle for roll-on roll-off transport service. Common routes are frequently traveled destinations by shipping companies usually major cities and ports. You fill out one particular form and get auto transport quotes emailed directly for a inbox.
Submitted by MBA to M'Ed mom (not verified) on October 5, 2012 10:01 pm

My first experience about communication was with the principal at the behest of the school districts parents office my sons first few weeks of school in Kindergarten when I was confused about detention. The school just told me it was to punish the parents for being late. I was concerned because I had never heard of detention in elementary school and had visions of my 5 yr old with the 'rough 12 yr olds who were caught smoking in bathroom types' in a detention hall, but couldn't get anyone to explain it to me. The principal called me, told me she was annoyed at having to call me right away...the conversation went down hill from there, but I learned right away that parents were considered annoying by the principal. No emails directories were given, nor was there conversation about how to ask questions.

The next year in 1st grade, I was working full time as a Finance Manager for a fortune 100 company and was not allowed to leave work for parent meetings. I asked my sons teacher if we could reschedule the meeting after hours or by phone and was told by her NO! I had to choose from the times she gave and that was it.

Several months later I gave her my email and phone number along with cupcakes to sweeten the request to discuss my sons boredom and dislike of her class and she refused to call me despite me asking her several times.

In second grade, I watched a teacher call a parent from the school office phone because she told me that she didn't want the kids mother to have her cell phone number. This teacher didn't know this but the mom she didn't want to have her number was actually a teacher in New Jersey.

The only time I received an email address was from the new principal who would respond promptly to all parents when contacted (another reason why I really like her) and my son's accelerated math teacher, both were surprised when I expressed my shock that they gave me their contact information, but they were not my normal experience. My sons' kindergarten teacher was also an exception as she would call me on my cell with issues and she is a gem too, but again, their behavior was because of who they were, it was not the normal behavior at the school.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 6, 2012 7:02 am

Thank you for providing details. One of my children goes to a small magnet high school in Philly. Some of the teachers respond to email and some do not. The principal also does not always respond to email. The principal also can be very condescending. Because of my work (I'm a single parent with 4 kids), I can not get to all the report card conferences. A few teachers will speak with me on the phone outside of the school hours but others will not. Okay, but a good teacher will make the time. I find it particularly annoying when teachers won't respond to email regarding student progress. Since the school does not use on-line grade books, I would think the teachers would at least send out progress reports.

One problem with Phila. schools is there is not enough communication with parents. It would be easy to have an updated web site with the student handbook, important dates, etc. All staff should be able to respond to email within 24 - 48 hours. There should also be on-line grades books. (The SDP has a system for grades but the grade book component apparently doesn't work.) My experience with two of my children in a good charter is there is much better communication. (I'm sure some charters are also lousy). Teachers AND administrators in all schools need to communicate with parents.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 7, 2012 11:11 am

While giving one's e-mail or cell number is a nice gesture, it isn't necessary. The district provides e-mail accounts but, it does not provide cell phones to teachers. In the past I have given out my cell phone number and I had one parent abuse it by calling and leaving irate voicemails because I did not return her phone call fast enough. That was the end of me giving out my personal cell phone number. I find it easiest to have parents call the school secretary and the secretary can in turn place a message in my mailbox. Once the message is received, I can contact the parent during my Prep period. What some people don't get is that most teachers do not live under a rock. We have children of our own at home and responsibilities outside of school once we leave for the day. It really does take flexibility on everyone's part.

Submitted by MBA to M'Ed mom (not verified) on October 27, 2012 12:28 pm
I hear you, but you are conscientous teacher who does call experience was with a first grade teacher who refused to call me at ALL, refused to meet with me at ALL, and was furious and hostile at a requested GIEP evaluation and subsequent follow up writing the plan meeting. The principal did nothing, I went to the parents roundtable and spoke in front of Dr Ackerman, telling this, and Ackerman shrugged and told me to keep going back and trying, and then the reading and literacy teacher then told me I was visiting the school too much and should just stop, that they knew what they were doing and trying to understand my son's grades and boredom and hatred of school was foolish and unneccessary.
Submitted by Wendy Harris on November 2, 2012 1:22 pm

Hi Ms. Cheng

Thank you very much for your response to this article. The Notebook often takes comments that are posted on our site and reprints them in our print edition under a section called "From our readers". I think this response would make a good candidate for that section and I wanted to get your permission to enter your response into consideration to be reprinted in our next edition. Could you email me at so that we may communicate via email as we consider using your response in our "From our readers" section? Thanks very much and I  hope to  hear from you soon.

Wendy Harris, Managing Editor

Submitted by Wendy Harris on November 5, 2012 11:14 am

Hi Ms. Cheng:

I contacted you the other day about reprinting your comment in the next edition of the Notebook. I seem to have misplaced the email you sent back giving us permission. Could you please email me again at Also, could you please let me know how you would like us to identify you in the tagline. We typically put the person's first and last name, then say "The writer is a 5th grade teacher at xxxx or The writer  is the executive director of xxxx."

Thanks again.

Wendy Harris

Submitted by Dina (not verified) on October 3, 2012 9:21 am

The most striking thing I heard in this report was how the North Philadelphia charter school stressed UNIFORMS. At Green Street Friends they were talking about hands-on and conceptual learning. Again, many charters (and, indeed, urban public schools) are all about compliance. Students whose parents can pay are thinking about rich learning experiences. ALL children can benefit from these experiences.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 3, 2012 10:36 am

Yes, made me think of Chris Lehman's article on educational colonialism:

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 7, 2012 12:55 pm

The charter and traditional public schools are focused on compliance because their funding is directly impacted by this.....unfair but, true.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 3, 2012 6:59 pm

A majority of Philadelphia households are not within the catchment of a high-performing public school. Catchments of most high-performing schools have housing costs beyond the reach of middle class families. That is the real issue affecting the stability of middle class families and their choice to stay in the city or leave. Charter schools with proven records have long waiting lists. Even if people have the funds to pay for private school, they too have waiting lists and high admission criteria.

In this story, a family chose to move to a catchment of, according to test scores and feelings of other families noted in the article, a high-performing school. Ok, so they have access to such an acknowledged “good” neighborhood school. That puts them ahead of many similar families. I think this story would have been more successful if it had offered profiles of a range of people throughout the city who are trying to make the system work for them and how it has or has not turned out. That would have been more informative than just focusing on the particulars of one family.

The fact that she felt her child's needs were not being met, or the school culture didn't mesh with her outlook or expectations, really just clouds the issue of access to quality schools. That is another story altogether. Obviously this child has gone through a lot in recent years: divorce, relocation, change in household income, etc. That level of upheaval could carry over to his feelings about school. A lot of children in the district are dealing with challenging situations at home and could use the support of counselors or other school personnel. Of course, those support positions are the very ones that are being cut, along with literacy coaches, etc. People who could make a difference in the life of this young student are being squeezed out by deeper and more stringent cuts every year. That is a story worth pursuing.

Her frustration over not being able to fit into the culture of Moffat is a third story. That, too, might merit a follow up. I have been involved in parent/school relations myself, and it would be oversimplifying to say that the issues noted in this story are either 100% the school’s fault or 100% the mother’s. Parent involvement can be great, but it can also be very challenging. People are human and each person brings their own issues, strengths, and weaknesses to the table. When one’s children are involved, emotions run high.

This story raised too many issues without sufficiently delving into any of them. After reading it, I felt there was a lot left unsaid.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 3, 2012 6:28 pm

I appreciate your comments. Public schools are the "great middle" - they can not meet the needs of every family to their exact liking. It would have been nice for my children to go to a private school but I had neither "stocks" nor an ex-husband who could pay half the bill.

Submitted by Joan Taylor on October 3, 2012 8:48 pm

Thank you. You clarified my dissatisfaction with this story. Private schools are like haute couture...nice for the few who can afford their exclusivity, but not necessary to life as most of us live it.

As an aside, I have to wonder...what do those teachers at Green Street Friends get paid? Ms. Lewis was making a salary--130k-- that public school teachers can only dream of. I imagine the parents who make the private school choice are expecting their kids to land at the top of the salary scale as a result of their expensive education. How many of them would make this investment if they thought their child's earning potential would never outpace that of their child's teacher?

Submitted by MBA to M'Ed mom (not verified) on October 4, 2012 9:03 pm

I am making this investment only because I want my son to at least GRADUATE HIGHSCHOOL. I can not afford to leave Philadelphia (long painful expensive story) and I don't want my son to hate school and drop out like 50% of the kids in this city do. I also would never forgive myself if I had sent my son to school knowing what I know after 3 years. The risk of him not being what he could be with a decent elementary and high school education is too great and too damaging to risk.

If he even choses to go to college, I would also never forgive myself if he was so far behind other students like what my dad experienced when he went to college up north in the 60's after graduating from a segregated school in Jackson Mississippi.

My dad's mom was maid in Jackson and can barely read and write or do math. Her parents were share croppers and illiterate with no education, her mother was a slave in Georgia, also illiterate. A highschool education is priceless to those of us who know what the cost is to Americans who were blocked due to racism, jim crow and slavery from receiving even a high school diploma. Worth every sacrifice you have to make.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on October 5, 2012 9:31 am

You do know that Roxborough HS spends about $12,000 per child (last I looked at PSD school budgets). If Friends did not also have a religious affiliation (Quaker (though a more democratic, non culture specific religion I couldn't imagine)), I would suggest they open their doors as a charter. Seems the innovation could be "universal kindness and respect":)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 7, 2012 12:50 pm

I agree these schools are very difficult to get into for a number of reasons. Financially, most people can not afford it even if they can qualify for some degree of financial assistance. Also, it is very competitive. The admissions process is grueling with all the play dates, interviews and so forth. I know of people who have the financial means to go to these kinds of schools, go through the admissions process and still get rejected. I also know teachers who work in the Independent school sector. They are not dealing with the same issues that we are dealing with in the district so, it's very unrealistic to expect the same kind of environment.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 3, 2012 7:46 pm

I find it interesting that no one is asking if these incidents even occurred. Why wasn't the school asked about her claims? Why weren't more parents asked for their opinion. To me it appears to be exaggerated. I do not think Ms. Lewis will ever be satisfied with the schooling her son receives, paid for or not. I think some parenting classes are in order if all your son does is play with Legos , not listen when you tell him to get ready, and arrive late to school when you live 3 blocks away.

Submitted by Joan Taylor on October 3, 2012 8:02 pm

I wondered about this too. It sounds like the staff at Moffet is doing something right. I suspect there's more to the story.

Submitted by MBA to M'ed Mom (not verified) on October 3, 2012 10:10 pm

Moffet now has a wonderful principal, and in each grade, some fantastic teachers. But you are right, there is a lot more, tons of it about why I was am so passionate at every SRC meeting and Parent Meeting I attend. Everything mentioned had to be confirmed with proof and with more than one person who was involved in resolving the behavior that created each incident.

I shared it all with the new principal and she was quite horrified about what happen before her tenure at the school but still professional and kind to me and my child. But she has a lot on her plate and a lot of things to clean up and that takes time. And it's not like the district has its act together yet either. Good Principals like that need support and resource and not have to spend their time cleaning up the nonsense that my child experienced.

If you have some resources or support, please reach out to her, she's one of the good ones and we need to support her.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on October 4, 2012 9:06 am

I find your contribution to our community to be quite poignant and valid. Of, course, I encourage you to keep speaking up and standing up for your rights as a parent and citizen. I value your effort and ideas and respect you very much. Thanks.

Submitted by MBA to M'Ed mom (not verified) on October 4, 2012 6:29 pm

Thanks Mr Migliore!! Same goes to you! I know you understand all too well why I throw myself out there each time. There are many parents standing beside me who's struggle is so much worse than mine, especially those who have more than one child in different schools all over the city.... In person, I have had quite a few teachers (including some at the school I work this school also) and parents at soccer practice, in the school yard of my teacher's aide job and my son's school.

I am so saddened by the hatred directed by a few people towards our most vunerable population. And I am really beginning to understand why teachers who care, flee Philadelphia SD, leaving the students and parents with the worst of the worst. How heartbreaking it must be to watch your coworkers abuse the system. Some of my fellow students talk about how much it hurts now that we are starting to get hired in the classrooms, and I have also had teachers discuss this with me. What can we do as a community to clean this system up, so the awesome teachers want to stay and our kids love coming to school to learn and graduate and become productive members of society?

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on October 5, 2012 9:08 am

In the end it doesn't matter about the "facts"; What does matter, and this is why this story is so relevant, is that Ms. Lewis chose a school that was not her neighborhood school. In my opinion being saddled with tuition is not something a parent will take on for trivial issues. Really, it was a matter of responsiveness on the part of the principal to what was important to her, a parent. It is fortunate that Ms. Lewis takes the time to voice and pinpoint the causes of her unhappiness. Most other parents would simply leave and not bother.

On the larger issue of school choice, quality options, and "highly qualified" teachers, I'm of the opinion that it would be far more relevant to get "highly effective" principals. You can have the best teachers and they will only be able to teach as well as the principal dictates. On the other hand, if you have a great principal, he/she will work to bring up the skills of his/her teachers.

It is ironic that Ms. Ackerman would champion parents by supporting the creation of alternate schools and even vouchers, when by doing so she was admitting her own negligence in holding her principals accountable. (Conspiracy theories aside.)

It will yet be seen how a "network" will be a better system than the Regional offices in holding principals accountable. Then again, it wouldn't take much to beat the old system.

Submitted by Phillip Aiken (not verified) on October 4, 2012 6:18 am

We must be very careful what we say if we do not know or understand why some one feels the way the do! We do not know what a person has been through to try to get help for their child! We often do not have all the facts and I was there when this women cryed out for help at the round table. If you have never had any of these things go on with your child then I am glad you have not , that being said I do not recall this women even naming a school! What I heard her say is , " her son was in one of the schools that was considered one of the better school!" I could not read this and not say something! We all do not take the same path to get the help that our children need and desreve! It is not help her to tear her down! We must learn as adults to look at the bigger issue. Which was trying to see why and what way can we meet the needs of her child! For these of you that felt it was right to take shots at her and the child it is not "Ok"! I am not saying that I agree with all of what she did, however I do understand her frustration with the system that we have in place! We all know that nothing in life is perfect, however we must be willing to sit down and talk about real issues in our schools! They are not going to just go away by acting as if these issues do not exist!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 4, 2012 7:19 am

It should NOT be this difficult to educate children in Philadelphia. This has been going on for years. Good programs should be offered at EVERY school. Sad to say after years of the blame game this cannot be solved. It's time to stop working agendas and put children first.

Submitted by Phillip Aiken (not verified) on October 4, 2012 12:03 pm

I will again say as a parent that is and aways be involved in my children's education, If you are a parent say who you are and if you are a person that woek for the SD then you know how to feach me if you want to have something to say to me! l do not throw rochs and hide my hands. I am more than willing to sit down and say to anyones face that in someof our schools there are a lot of things going on and parents need to talk to their childrenat the end of their school day and address it ! I do not need to uses any kind of agendas to speak the truth! If you notice I do not sudmit anything I say anonymous! Can you say the same thing! I am tried of people making statements about people and hiding. Parents should be well informed about what is being done to our students and teacher. This is why we are loising good teacher from our schools! I know who I am and no one is pulling my strings! I will all ways be a parent first! I will never sell our students short!

Submitted by BocaCPA (not verified) on December 21, 2012 1:43 pm
that really does suck having to go through and endure all that.Advisory
Submitted by aisha vax (not verified) on January 19, 2013 7:30 am
It should NOT be this difficult to educate children in Philadelphia. This has been going on for years. Good programs should be offered at EVERY school. Sad to say after years of the blame game this cannot be solved. It's time to stop working agendas and put children first.Chota Bheem
Submitted by organi (not verified) on June 19, 2013 6:15 am
Thank you for this sensible critique. Me and my friends were just talking about doing some research about this. We were thinking about going to the library for doing proper research, but the thing is that internet rules, we have learned so much more in sites like yours. Boni
Submitted by Bisnis Rumahan (not verified) on January 8, 2014 4:01 am
You do know that Roxborough HS spends about $12,000 per child (last I looked at PSD school budgets). If Friends did not also have a religious affiliation (Quaker (though a more democratic, non culture specific religion I couldn't imagine)), I would suggest they open their doors as a charter. Seems the innovation could be "universal kindness and respect":)
Submitted by Bisnis Rumahan (not verified) on January 8, 2014 4:16 am
While giving one's e-mail or cell number is a nice gesture, it isn't necessary. The district provides e-mail accounts but, it does not provide cell phones to teachers. In the past I have given out my cell phone number and I had one parent abuse it by calling and leaving irate voicemails because I did not return her phone call fast enough. That was the end of me giving out my personal cell phone number. I find it easiest to have parents call the school secretary and the secretary can in turn place a message in my mailbox. Once the message is received, Bisnis Peluang Usaha Sampingan Peluang Usaha Sampingan Terbaik Peluang Bisnis Rumahan Peluang usaha rumahan I can contact the parent during my Prep period. What some people don't get is that most teachers do not live under a rock. We have children of our own at home and responsibilities outside of school once we leave for the day. It really does take flexibility on everyone's part.

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