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October 2013 Vol. 21. No. 1 Focus on Schools in Crisis

Theme articles

Now sharing a building, 2 schools seek collaboration

After a successful battle to keep Beeber Middle School open, parents are a little uneasy that SLA@Beeber moved in, too. But the goal is mutual benefit.

By by Sonia Giebel on Sep 14, 2013 08:38 AM
Photo: Harvey Finkle

Rayette Bosley (left) and her daughter Raynae stand outside Beeber Middle School in Wynnefield. They campaigned to save it when it was threatened with closure.

Dimner Beeber Middle School was headed for extinction. 

Since it was barely a quarter full and posted poor academic indicators, the District planned to close it and send a few hundred Beeber 7th and 8th graders to nearby Overbrook High School.

But for Raynae Bosley, a rising 8th grader, Beeber was working.

In 7th grade, she said, “all of the teachers didn’t give up on me and they kept getting me up to the next level.”

“I really didn’t want the school to be closed at all.”

She was not alone. The Beeber community, including Raynae and her mother Rayette, launched a fierce and successful campaign last spring to keep the school open. 

But the Bosleys are still concerned about the school’s future because Beeber’s rescue came with a catch. They were never formally notified that the middle school would be sharing the building this fall with the first cohort of 9th graders attending a new satellite campus of Science Leadership Academy, a popular special admission high school. 

“I believe a lot of the parents were hoodwinked because we weren’t told until after the fact … that there was going to be another school pretty much renting space with our students,” said Katherine Stokes, another Beeber mother. 

Stokes believes SLA is moving into Beeber’s Wynnefield neighborhood to test the location for expanding its enrollment and ultimately push Beeber out. 

“I truly believe this is probably the last year for this building and this school as Beeber itself,” Stokes said. 

“We fought long and hard to keep this school open, not knowing that this was in the works. So we basically saved the school for someone else.”

Superintendent William Hite focused attention on Beeber on opening day in September, when he chose to escort one of its students to school in the morning.

A study in contrasts

Beeber, in a stately and sturdy 1930s building, started out as a junior high school, with a 7th, 8th and 9th grade. This is just what it will have next year, although in two distinct schools with different demographics and different educational approaches.

The building sits in a pleasant, almost bucolic neighborhood, surrounded by neat twins and row houses and just a block away from parts of Fairmount Park. Nevertheless, it has the statistics associated with a failing urban school. 

Test scores have been mostly below those of the District as a whole, although 7th and 8th graders did better than entering 6th graders. (This year, the school no longer has a 6th grade.)

Beeber was once on the city’s persistently dangerous schools list, and last year almost all its students – 95 percent – qualified for free and reduced price lunch. Its enrollment, almost entirely African American, has been plunging, largely due to the lure of charter schools. Since 2010-11, it fell from nearly 500 students to just over 250 last year. The building can hold 1,100. 

SLA, on the other hand, which operates in partnership with the Franklin Institute, has become one of the District’s most popular schools in the eight years since its founding. It is known for its interdisciplinary, project-based curriculum, in which students pose and answer essential questions. Its test scores are high, and its student body encompasses the races and ethnic groups of the city as a whole.

SLA is gaining a national reputation – Microsoft founder Bill Gates has visited the school – and it holds a major annual conference on educational technology called EduCon. It has far more applicants than slots in its Center City campus, which enrolls fewer than 500 students.

“The whole impetus for [SLA@Beeber] was that so many kids were coming and interviewing and we had so few seats,” said SLA founder and main campus principal Chris Lehmann. SLA had 800 students on its waiting list – students deemed suitable and qualified for whom there was no room. 

Plus, Beeber’s location in West Philadelphia makes it easier for more students from other parts of the city to get there.

“Traditionally, that is not a neighborhood with magnet schools,” Lehmann said. 

The staffs at both schools are hoping that the co-location will prove mutually beneficial and have had some conversations about how the schools might work together. 

But there is still a lot of uncertainty. And with the District’s funding problems and instability, there has been little chance to hash out ideas. 

“We have the opportunity to bring together two distinct schools … for collaboration in powerful ways,” said Lehmann. But, it is “a tough conversation to have at a time when schools aren’t sure which teachers are going to be in the building.” 

Collaboration is ‘paramount’

Current Beeber teachers have ideas for the schools moving forward together, most of them based on the hope that the older SLA students can be role models for the Beeber students.

“My hope with SLA in the building [is that they will] inspire our kids to push harder academically to possibly be admitted,” said Beeber special education teacher Bethany McCabe. 

SLA admits students based on test scores, grades, and disciplinary record, but also based on interviews to make sure they understand the school’s approach to learning. They have privileges and opportunities, such as a one-to-one laptop-to-student ratio, that Beeber students do not. 

McCabe hopes that these new elements in the building will motivate her students. She believes incorporating project-based learning into Beeber’s curriculum “would be great” and hopes teachers will have the opportunity to learn about this from their SLA peers. 

Chris Johnson, the principal of SLA@Beeber, sees professional development for the teachers as a distinct opportunity. 

“If Beeber staff wants to participate in our professional development, that’s not a problem,” he said.

But he was quick to add that “if folks think we are going to take our program and put it in place at Beeber … I don’t know if that’s going to work due to a thousand different reasons.”

Either way, these will be two distinct schools. SLA will occupy the third floor, Beeber the first two. SLA and Beeber students will most likely not be eating lunch together. 

“Our students need to know that these are two separate schools,” said Beeber principal Joseph Starinieri. One obvious difference that students will notice: Beeber has a dress code, and SLA does not. “At this point in middle school, to get that privilege, [they] have to home in on skills to get into that school,” he said. 

Ron Morris, a long-time Beeber administrator who will be a teacher in the fall, sees cultivating a strong relationship between the two communities as paramount, especially given the differences in the student demographics.

“It would behoove us, before things get strained, to work together, to collaborate,” he said. Morris worries some “jealousy issues” may arise between the two different communities. 

So, “before that even happens, we as instructors have to come up with a plan … for kids to do something together … and make it seem like a family even though there are two different programs,” Morris said. 

Incorporating families may be the key. Stokes, whose daughter Maiya Jones is entering Beeber’s 8th grade, said she would like to see the two schools organize public meetings. 

“I would love to take the initiative to get an open dialogue. People are generally standoffish when they don’t know what’s going on,” Stokes noted. “I would hope to be an integral part of building that bridge and hoping it’s an inviting atmosphere.”

Stokes and her daughter, who aspires to a nursing career, are already scouting high schools and said they would at least explore whether to add SLA@Beeber to the list. 

Raynae Bosley, who plays the trumpet and enjoys singing and acting, has her sights set on Central or Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts. Could SLA be a possibility? She’s not thinking about that right now.

“I’m fine with it,” she said of SLA’s co-location in the building, “as long as I’m still going to get the help and nobody is going to be giving up on me.” 


About the Author

Sonia Giebel, a Haverford College senior, was an intern at the Notebook this past summer. 

Comments (58)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 12, 2013 9:37 am
While understanding the parents' dismay, the reality of this bleak financial picture demands that the district maximize their existing real estate resources, or close them. This seems like a good compromise, perhaps there can even be some synergy between the dual occupants. As an alum of Beeber and Overbrook High, it would be great to see education (and test scores) succeed.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on September 16, 2013 6:14 pm
It's astounding how little you seem to know about the facts. Beeber would have closed in June if that murder hadn't occurred near Overbrook. SLA would have been given the whole school. There is NO financial crisis except the one One Term Tom created so the charter lie advocates and their Apartheid buddies could "solve" the crisis. Never let a crisis go to waste to paraphrase one Michele Rhee. It's ALL about money and separating the haves from the havenots. It's been going on for 400 years. Did you attend class at school??
Submitted by linda (not verified) on September 14, 2013 11:25 am
Let me get this straight: 1. Beeber school was to close until 2. The shooting and death in the playground across from Overbrook last year at 4:00pm on a Thursday afternoon 3. Then the plan to have 7th and 8th graders hanging out although on separate floors of Overbrook with 9th-12th graders was dropped 4. Now SLA with Admin Chris Johnson [formerly of Ben Franklin?] says that the two schools won't mix for a thousand different reasons but the teachers can attend the PD that the SLA school offers? 5. The kids won't have to wear uniforms for SLA but do for Beeber 6. The kids won't be on the same floors with SLA kids being placed literally higher up on the upper floors 7. But somehow it is now the Instructors "have to come up with a plan" so that the kids can successfully interact? When was the community, faculty, staff consulted? I won't wait for this answer because bottom line Beeber will carry out this last group of 7th and 8th graders and the children in the remaining elementary schools will have SLA or whatever neighborhood schools are available to matriculate....... By the way, the SLA leadership is suspcious with its entry into the building making all things questionable....including the test scores. Linda K.
Submitted by Annonm (not verified) on September 14, 2013 12:56 pm
SLA admission requirements are high - proficient/advanced test scores, As and Bs, good attendance, no behavior problems, and an interview with a project. Students also have to write an essay on the spot before the interview. Hite/Khin have opened 3 magnet schools - SLA Beeber, Workshop (former private program at the Navy Yard), and Hill-Freeman (expanded middle school.) Note they closed Lamberton HS which was in Overbrook Park. So, Hite/Khin is in love with magnets (just look at the Tweets about Central) but ready to board up and close neighborhood schools. Mastery Incorporated, KIPP Inc., Young Scholars Inc., etc. will not take the most difficult students. Hite/Khin will keep open a few neighborhood schools to "house" the most difficult students. (This year, for example, the principal from Univ. City was moved to School of the Future which has admission requirements. The principal selected the students from Univ. City he would take. The rest had to go to Ben Franklin. So, Hite/Khin are going to "dump" students in a few schools, blame the schools for "failure" and praise the magnets.)
Submitted by linda (not verified) on September 14, 2013 5:21 pm
Your logic sounds reasonable...hence, I figure I will still have a job for the enxt 10 or so years in the SDP Linda K
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 14, 2013 7:41 pm
SLA is not a Utopia, although the school clearly functions as one. "Special admission" doesn't even begin to describe the dance students have to do to even obtain admission. Now SLA moves into a school which is historically low performing and whose population, for the most part, includes students who probably have no chance of ever getting in. And now the new building administrator...this is what he was told to call himself...says that teachers can participate in PD. They will deign to let them do that. As far as the students are concerned, however, that would be a no. SLA students apparently don't further underlining the divide between the haves and the have-nots. And no one thinks there's an agenda is all of this??
Submitted by Annonm (not verified) on September 14, 2013 8:26 pm
The comment by the principal - Chris Johnson (how did he get the job???) - is insulting to every teacher and student at Beeber. They will "allow" teachers into the PD planned, I assume, by SLA as if Beeber teachers can't do the same thing. The egos of the so-called leaders of magnets - SLA, Workshop, Carver, Central, etc. - need to be deflated. When you are highly selective in admission, your results should be the same. There's no magic in what happens in these schools.
Submitted by Annonm (not verified) on September 15, 2013 6:16 am
Here's Johnson's arrogant quote: "Chris Johnson, the principal of SLA@Beeber, sees professional development for the teachers as a distinct opportunity. “If Beeber staff wants to participate in our professional development, that’s not a problem,” he said. But he was quick to add that “if folks think we are going to take our program and put it in place at Beeber … I don’t know if that’s going to work due to a thousand different reasons.” According to Johnson, ot only are students at Beeber "less than" students at SLA, so are the teachers.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 15, 2013 8:52 am
And here,s the best part: Mr. Johnson is now excluding the type of students who comprised the enrollment of the school he previously led...Ben Franklin. These are students whose cause he once championed. Kids will not see the line in the sand unless we, the adults, show them that it's there. Educators worth their salt champion the cause of ALL students, not just the kind they believe they can teach.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 15, 2013 10:57 am
Amen Linda K.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 15, 2013 7:45 pm
Beeber student test scores are horrendous. You can't debate that.
Submitted by Christina Puntel (not verified) on September 15, 2013 9:10 pm
Screw test scores. Beeber students are showing what they know in myriad ways that test scores do not measure. Plus you read the article, the students feel supported and challenged. This article only scratches the surface. I hated the use of the word "jealous" to describe what students might feel about the uniforms, tech access, etc. its not jealousy, it's actually injustice. That's the feeling. Im happy Beeber got to stay opened but damn, this is really a long, strange trip huh?
Submitted by Annonm (not verified) on September 15, 2013 10:11 pm
Johnson is insulting Beeber teachers and students. Yes, it is an injustice that one group of students get 1:1 lap tops while others have crumbs. It is an injustice that one group is "trusted" to not wear uniforms while another group is not "trusted" for, in Johnson's words, "thousands of reasons..." This is not only going on in the same school district, but the same building! It is the same with West Philly HS and "The Workshop." Dramatically different resources while "The Workshop" took over West Philly's auto academy building. This is Vallas all over again!
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on September 16, 2013 11:31 am
As I said below, Johnson is widely known and disliked for his pompous, arrogant and stuck on stupid comments. He's a know nothing who needs to try to hide it with bravado. I'll bet Lehmann was forced to place Johnson at Beeber. In any case, he has no class and does SLA a disservice every second of every day. Staff just laughs at him.
Submitted by Ceage (not verified) on September 16, 2013 5:37 pm
Johnson must have really done something to you. Your comments about him are really over the top. Where did you work with him?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 15, 2013 6:47 pm
Does anyone know what the pft meeting is about? The message I received was cut off.
Submitted by Max Rosen-Long (not verified) on September 15, 2013 10:34 pm
Our school district is extremely messed up (I prefer to use stronger language), and it's true that there are gross inequalities between schools in resources and access to them- especially but not limited to magnets. That being said, why are public magnets the enemy? Magnets may certainly be part of the problem, and ultimately we want all schools to have the same resources and opportunities as Central, Masterman, or SLA. What stands in the way of that are systemic problems based on classism and racism. So shouldn't that be what we're taking aim at, rather than these schools? Going back to the title of this article, do you guys really see no room for collaboration in this arrangement?
Submitted by Annonm (not verified) on September 16, 2013 12:52 am
The impossibility of collaboration was raised by Chris Johnson - the principal of SLA / Beeber. He said there are a "thousand" reasons why it can't happen. There should be plenty of opportunities for collaboration when you share space. Ideally, there should be collaboration between all school - especially in the same neighborhood. But, the powers that be - including principals and 440 - have to want the collaboration to happen. (For example, why wasn't "The Workshop" returned to West Philly HS? Instead of creating a magnet school, let the program be a "magnet" within West Philly. Then, costs are saved on administration and more students will have opportunities to work together. Instead, a separate school with separate staff and administration was created. So much for budget cuts.)
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 15, 2013 11:13 pm
As a staff member who worked at Beeber last year and helped fight to keep it open, I was extremely disappointed in the last minute, closed-door politics that "saved" the school. It's so clear which students are the district's priority - over the summer, windows on the third floor were replaced. Instead of the frosted monstrosities that barely let in any light, SLA@Beeber has beautiful, crystal clear windows that brighten the entire floor and show students a beautiful view of the Philadelphia skyline. Why should "magnet" students have the right to look out the windows and dream of reaching skyscrapers, while neighborhood Beeber students are kept in the darkness?
Submitted by Jeffrey J. Jefferjeff (not verified) on September 16, 2013 7:27 am
Amazing isn't it? The special perks, and privileges these schools get. Not to mention the rules their staff and students are exempt from. What is the SLA 2 student uniform policy? LOL
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 16, 2013 8:12 am
Is it possible that the new windows were paid for by a grant given to SLA from Philadelphia Schools Partnership? Why is everyone so afraid to have students who want to learn and have struggled to get into a magnet mixed with a neighborhood school? My daughter is a freshman at SLA-Main this year. She is thrilled with what she has learned in the first week, alone. Why not look at this as an opportunity for the kids at Beeber to see what's out there for HS, given that there aren't enough guidance counselors any more. PS - SLA had more than 2000 applications for 125 spots. When SLA Beeber opened up, the spots went to the kids on the waiting list. Why is it wrong?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 16, 2013 9:54 am
It is absolutely possible that PSP funding allowed for the window replacements. That is fine, by itself. The problem is that there is a notable division in quality of conditions between children in the SAME building. The district could never afford to replace windows at Beeber and PSP would never offer to improve conditions for students who aren't in an elite program. It implies to the younger kids and the existing Beeber staff that they are undeserving of investment and/or a comfortable learning environment. Additionally, if the windows really are adequate for all students, why spend so much money on them for half the school when the money could be used for staff (counselor??) and curriculum materials with a direct impact on learning. I'm not arguing that a clean, well lit building isn't important-just against the appearance of backward priorities under a tight budget situation.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on September 16, 2013 10:07 am
There's absolutely nothing wrong with expanding seats in a magnet school. It does mean more children will be admitted, and there is less exclusion. Philadelphia is not like the homogeneous suburbs, where generally the motivation to do well in school is part of the culture. Instead, there needs to be enough families that value education within a school to help those who do not. Yes, clean facilities help with morale, but more motivation comes from within a child as well as his/her social support. If you haven't already noticed, there are those who stand to gain quite a lot from framing everything in terms of "haves" and "have nots". The "have nots" are used without conscience. These "rabble rousers" are not even the 1% or the charters. If what they advocate is followed, they will keep the "have nots" perpetually as "have nots", and their own privileged position as well. In this case, they want to keep SLA from expanding. SLA's expansion is not taking away from the District's budget. The funds were from a grant. The grant in fact is helping the District retain more students, and thus will help with the overall budget, and all its students overall. Title I, is another example of this fraudulent platform/argument using inequity. Very little reaches the "have nots"; instead (no surprise) most goes to the "haves".
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 16, 2013 8:02 am
Is it possible that the new windows were paid for by a grant given to SLA from Philadelphia Schools Partnership? Why is everyone so afraid to have students who want to learn and have struggled to get into a magnet mixed with a neighborhood school? My daughter is a freshman at SLA-Main this year. She is thrilled with what she has learned in the first week, alone. Why not look at this as an opportunity for the kids at Beeber to see what's out there for HS, given that there aren't enough guidance counselors any more. PS - SLA had more than 2000 applications for 125 spots. When SLA Beeber opened up, the spots went to the kids on the waiting list. Why is it wrong?
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on September 16, 2013 10:11 am
OK----Let's cut to the chase here. Chris Johnson is an arrogant, dismissive, pompous, wise mouthed, know it all who needs "to be all dat" 24/7. He's the opposite of the schmoozer that Lehmann is. Johnson is enormously disliked for all of the above, especially because he's a colossal zero. Bringing Johnson into this environment was a MISTAKE and everyone knows it. Lehmann was very likely forced into it. OK--Let's cut to the chase here too----Beeber is still open because of that killing next Overbrook High last May. PERIOD. Beeber would have gone en toto to SLA but for that tragedy------------and everyone knows that too. The parents of Beeber Students need to be very worried because in the Spring, it is very likely Beeber will be closed with SLA taking the whole building. Beeber is a fine school, whose Principal plays by the books but in this corrupted environment, it doesn't matter. The fix is in as of now and unless this whole Apartheid Education Mentality stops, it will only get worse for the real, neighborhood schools. The PEOPLE need to fight back and not accept being told that chicken shit is chicken salad to paraphrase one, LBJ.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 17, 2013 4:01 pm
Yes, I agree with Joe. Chris Johnson talks a lot but does nothing... He is never in school and acts as though he knows everything. He cannot evaluate teachers and does nothing...He is all about himself.. what background does he have to become SLA principal ?He will work on SATURDAYS because he is never in school premises during school hours.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on September 17, 2013 4:02 pm
Johnson will bore you to death with his rhetoric. Everybody knows what you know. He was very likely forced on Lehmann, at least I've heard that from a few folks and considering Johnson's penchant for saying dumb things, it would make sense. Yes, he's all about crash and burn and works hard at it.
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Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 29, 2013 9:07 am
I would like to mention that the new "crystal clear windows on the thrid floor" are paid for by money generated by SLA (student store, donations, fundraising, etc). There are no special perks and this isn't done or paid for by the School District. Mr. Johnson and his crew of dedicated teachers an parents quickly dove into refurbishing their space at Beeber over the summer and even cleaned and painted exterior areas and the the fencing surrounding the school. They used their own time and resources to furnish the new location from District surplus. If SLA@Beeber were the true golden children that you're making them out to be, everything would be new, sparkling and the very best the District could ill afford. As far as the comment made by Mr. Johnson. Everyone is taking it as a have's vs the have-nots. The SLA model of education cannot be immediately be transplanted into an existing program. It could be done over time. SLA did not have a plan to take over or push out the Beeber students and families. The reality, as sad as it is, is that the school would have closed its doors completely for this year and the students moved to other locations. This cohabitation of the building affords the Beeber families to have their children complete their education in a place where their feel comfortable and supported. I'm not so naive as to believe that there are not jealousy issues between the two programs, but after talking to some SLA@Beeber students, the recurring theme is that kids from Beeber come to the third floor and steal things from lockers and trash the bathrooms. That's not a great way to build community. The crime reports for the school are abysmal. As far as the uniforms go, there IS a difference. SLA@Beeber is a high school, whereas Beeber is not. Just like every other parent in the city, we were looking for the best opportunity for our child and jumped at the chance to join the SLA@Beeber community. We didn't even consider the location. We don't think of SLA@Beeber to be the salvation of the school or the neighborhood, which many are lambasting Mr. Johnson for. It's not his fault that the enrollment and test scores were low and that the City and District planned to close it. Instead of focusing on the negative, come to the open house to see what the school and SLA have to offer. You will be more than pleasantly surprised.
Submitted by Annonm (not verified) on September 16, 2013 2:05 pm
Here are more shenanigans. The "Workshop," a new magnet school that was previously a private 2 year program at the Navy Yard, has 7 teachers, a principal, a secretary for 97 students. (They were suppose to have 60). One teacher, Michael Clapper is a new hire. He taught in the District in the 1990s for 5 years, went to Penn and was a professor at St. Joe's. How did he get hired when we have over 700 teachers laid off? He has NOT been a District employee since at least 1999 / 2000. Just like Hauger, who was no longer a District employee but given the principal position, CASA and the PFT are not making sure laid off staff are hired first. (And yes, why does one school get 7 teachers for 97 students while other schools are packed?)
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on September 16, 2013 5:54 pm
Yes, I've heard lots of stories like yours, not just about SLA but other schools too. If ANY of them are true, CASA and the PFT are killing us by "friendly fire." It's hard to imagine that all of these stories are false though they better be.
Submitted by Annonm (not verified) on September 17, 2013 3:29 am
What I wrote is true - there are plenty of shenanigans involving The Workshop since it was founded and funded. No exaggeration - just the facts.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on September 17, 2013 11:43 am
I am sure you are right.
Submitted by Samuel Reed III on September 16, 2013 10:24 pm

Beeber Middle School and SLA @ Beeber, co-location is generating a new dynamic in the building. It has created an aspirational climate shift. Whether students can be accepted or not at SLA @ Beeber, it still creates visible role models for students. As for teacher colloboration, that is happening already as well, and it's not just one sided. Beeber Middle School and SLA@ Beeber teachers have talents and networks that can be mutually beneficial for both schools. As for the resoruces, Beeber can work with its parents, teachers and partners to secure grant funding and resources just like SLA does.

Joe K. what can I say, I am "the glass is half full kind of guy."

Our students are watching what we do. They all deserve the resources and evironments that promote 21st  century teaching and learning.   

Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on September 17, 2013 8:19 am
Lehmann has a reputation of being a sincere, serious person. He's creative, very smart and very approachable. Hopefully, he'll be able to force his will on Johnson to behave with at least, a modicum of respect, if not for others than at least for himself. Yes, the kids ALL deserve the same resources but what else is new ??
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 17, 2013 2:28 pm
Have all the special ed teachers been called back from layoffs? We were told they are hiring new special ed teachers.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 17, 2013 3:52 pm
Yes, the SDP is hiring brand new employees in many content ares, including Eng.,math, sci., soc. st. ,spec. ed., and music.A total violation of the CBA and Public School code statute.The District is even brazening about it listing the new openings on it out). I ,along ,with others contacted the PFT leaders and asked what they are doing about it.Take a guess what happened there. You wonder why they step all over members and the leaders of the AFT/PFT. It's all so disgusting and the PFT officers condon it by allowing it to go on.In fact, it has been for several years.The District, with union's inaction, did it last layoff in 2011 also. Contact Jordan and Kempin and ask what is being doing about it. Let me know if anyone even replies back to you. emails : and
Submitted by Stewart (not verified) on September 17, 2013 6:25 pm
I saw those PAREAP ads too (since I am among the currently laid-off) and also called the PFT to let them know about it. I actually talked to someone in the executive office and forwarded the ad link to them as well. Their take was that this was a speculative move by the SDP and until they actually hired new people before calling members back from layoff there was nothing to be done about it. They can gather all the resumes they like, but the PFT can only act once they use them. I have had contact from the district in the last week about being recalled (I have a couple of unusual certs), but no action yet, so it's hard to say from my perspective if they've actually hired anyone from outside at this time or are really just gathering resumes in anticipation of doing so after call-backs are done. This is a fine area for teachers who aren't laid-off to keep an eye on. If you have a new teacher show up at your school who isn't a recalled PFT member, be sure to get this info to the PFT and spread it around on forums like this so that both the PFT lawyers and those of us who are directly affected can take action.
Submitted by PFTeacher (not verified) on September 17, 2013 6:02 pm
It's a given that they're ignoring e-mails. Has anyone phoned them? They promised info on the contract negotiations at yesterday's Building Rep meeting, but then said absolutely nothing about them.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 17, 2013 5:36 pm
I expected first and second year special education teachers to be laid off, but as far as I know, no special education teachers were laid off. I personally know a second year special education that was not laid off and I was told by a principal that no special education teachers were laid off. Anyone know any different?
Submitted by Leo (not verified) on September 22, 2013 3:01 pm
As a student at SLA's main campus, I can tell you right now that there is no attitude of disrespect towards the Beeber community among students or faculty. SLA is excited to provide for more Philadelphia students, and to open the doors to the hundreds of wonderful applicants that there simply is no room for in our current building - a repurposed office building. We take children from every corner of the city with incredibly varied academic backgrounds. It has much less to do with test scores than it does with fitting SLA's style of learning. If Beeber students aspire to be a part of SLA's program, and they work hard and really care, they'll be happily accepted. Thats most of the criteria right there. About Johnson's comments, I see no disrespect. It's not that he looks down on Beeber teachers, he's simply looking for ways to collaborate. (Collaboration is one of SLA's 5 core values.) This is not a hostile takeover of Beebr's building. Its a compromise which allows SLA to do the wonderful things that it does for more children, and for Beeber to keep its doors open.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 22, 2013 6:11 pm
Your comment would have more credibility if you were honest. This is obviously not a student but a commercial for SLA!
Submitted by Annon (not verified) on September 22, 2013 6:51 pm
It was probably written by Chris Johnson to cover up for his arrogant comment.
Submitted by Leo (not verified) on September 22, 2013 6:55 pm
We both know that thats absurd, and you're avoiding the truth of the matter. I've been attending SLA for two years, and I'm perfectly happy to be critical of the points where my school falls short. I just feel that this distrust of SLA can do nothing but prevent real collaboration.
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on September 22, 2013 7:59 pm
Leo. Leo. Leo!!! Can you hear yourself? This is a site followed by professionals who work with Philly students grades k through 12. Nothing about the tone, style or content of your last two comments sounds remotely like it was written by a student. Not even from a student of the highest caliber. Students could care less about collaboration, a word that has been abused by corporate reformers. Then next thing you know "students" will be talking about community "partnerships", another term hijacked by Hite and the SRC.
Submitted by Leo (not verified) on September 22, 2013 7:30 pm
Alright anonymous, I'm sure the fact that you are yet to encounter a politically minded student means that we don't exist. My name is Leo Levy, and I'm a sophomore at SLA. Look me up on the SLA website, I think I have a few assignments posted publicly under my name. Your distrust of me and inability to comprehend a student who understands situations on an adult level makes me really wonder why anyone would entrust their child to you. This is the issue. This is the reason why you folks distrust SLA. Its because SLA is a school full of adults who see high school students as real people, as citizens of this world. SLA entrusts us to look deeper into situations and to care and to understand. If you can't accept that, then please stop teaching children, because you are only holding them back. In addition, the fact that the SLA way is "scary" to you, because it gives the most inquisitive members of society, the young adults, the power to question the world around us is no valid reason to be antagonistic of SLA, SLA@Beeber and the SLA community.
Submitted by Miles Cruice-Barnett (not verified) on September 22, 2013 9:23 pm
And you as well Mr Anonymous are mistaken. Leo is indeed a sophomore at SLA and one of the brightest kids in my grade. You can find a link to his blog here and mine here As it seems you do not believe that high school students are able to hold their own in a political conversation I will not attempt to change your mind. I will however prove that you are wrong and I have sources to back it up.
Submitted by Allen (not verified) on September 22, 2013 10:21 pm
A student of the highest caliber not being able to throw out a proper argument? May I ask which grade you're referring to? You're a pretty condescending being, because nothing about the tone, style or contents in this comment you left, merely qualifies you to judge any students, let alone teach. What a joke.
Submitted by Cornellian (not verified) on September 22, 2013 8:03 pm
Student my ass! This sounds like copy written by the ProfitsThrough SLAs corporation. Maybe if you actually taught students you might be able to know what students really write when they communicate.
Submitted by Leo (not verified) on September 22, 2013 8:51 pm
Thanks for your faith in Philadelphia students, Cornellian. Its people like you who underestimate and generalize American youth that lead to a stubborn, obstinate culture that moves nowhere. You've disregarded my point and insulted me, but no one is better for it. I am an SLA student, whether or not you choose to accept it. I'm sorry that you couldn't put aside your distrust and ignorance for long enough to actually discuss the issues at hand.
Submitted by Allen (not verified) on September 22, 2013 9:05 pm
Such disgraceful language coming from adults, towards a sophomore student who attends SLA. Not that it matters if he's from SLA, but to Cornellian and the few others who've displayed their share of horrendous judgment, I can only hope that none of you guys are currently working at the SDP. Because if this is the case, then I see why the current status of the school system in Philadelphia is at its critical stage. Before I'm judged and assumed to be another one of SLA's commercials or Profit-to-SLA Corporation (what a load of crap), I am a recent graduate from the magnet school. The things I just read in response to Leo, only means that you perceive students as absolutely incompetent beings, incapable of composing adequate and proper structure to an argument. In this case, a strong argument that you guys are in complete denial of. However, you can tell it's likely from a high school student, just from the few grammatical errors (no offense to Leo) that were in his statements and responses. Unless, the competent and respectful adults here, haven't caught on to them either. Cut the crap, and stop holding students back. Lastly, Cornellian you stated "Student my ass! This sounds like copy written by the ProfitsThrough SLAs corporation. Maybe if you actually taught students you might be able to know what students really write when they communicate."--so belligerent. Why is that? Oh right, your communication skills aren't so up to par itself. You taught students? I'm baffled.
Submitted by Miles Cruice-Barnett (not verified) on September 22, 2013 9:56 pm
I am sorry, but you are sorely mistaken. Leo is indeed a sophomore at SLA and one of the brightest kids in my grade. You can find a link to his blog here and mine here As it seems you do not believe that high school students are able to hold their own in a political conversation I will not attempt to change your mind. I will however prove that you are wrong and I have sources to back it up.
Submitted by Anna (not verified) on September 22, 2013 9:38 pm
Hi I'm Anna Sugrue, another student at Science Leadership Academy. Leo was just posting about this on facebook and I am honestly quite shocked that you have so little respect for teenagers that you can't even try to believe that we have the ability to understand conflict and articulate an opinion. Did you see the protests students from across the city held at the end of the last school year? We care. And we understand our situation and our community more than you seem to. I know neither Leo nor I are teachers, but we probably read more realistic accounts of "what students really write when they communicate" they you do. Us teenagers have crazy, passionate energy in a way that adults don't. You should read an angry high school kid ranting in a facebook post - they can be pretty damn smart. With people like you and situations like this, we have more of a need to prove ourselves as intelligent young people than adults do, and we don't have deadlines and teachers to bore us out of trying. Please respect my piers and respect my school as we respect yours. SLA has taught me to fight for what I believe in and never take my privileges for granted. I can assure you, the students at Science Leadership Academy respect Beeber as a place of learning just as much as they respect SLA. I understand your concern, but please try to fight forward instead of bickering backwards.
Submitted by Mitchell (not verified) on September 22, 2013 9:41 pm
To those writing obviously negative posts, hi. I'm Mitchell, another of those "SLAbots who were paid to write good things about the school". No, I am a student at the school. And, all I really want to say is that I am disappointed at the level of your arguments. I have run into a number of internet trolls in my time, and this experience has been highly reminiscent of those moments. I hope you honestly believe in what you are writing, but I really wish you had a more accepting, adaptable, rational mind. Now, I may be generalizing a bit, but, based on the comments you have posted, I don't have a shred of respect for your opinions. Now, I have to represent my SLA community, so I won't say anything to strongly worded. I just want you to take a look at what you are writing. Is this really how you want to be seen?
Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on September 22, 2013 10:14 pm
Thousands of Philadelphia students are very intelligent, thinking, and active human beings. That said, some of us find Mr. Chris Johnson's comments about Beeber very insulting and arrogant ("thousands of reasons..."). Students who attend magnet schools may be more empowered because the School District is academically stratified - there are layers and layers of special admissions schools (and charter schools with admission requirements in practice if not on paper). SLA has rigorous requirements for admission and considerable outside funding and support. (SLA has a grant from the so-called Phila. School Partnership, a partnership with the Franklin Institute and had enough money to hire two staff members in August - no other school has that amount of extra funding other than "The Workshop".) Intelligence is not limited to students in magnet schools - students in neighborhood high schools are also intelligent, engaged and active. (Many of my students are not be able to post their work because they don't have internet access or a computer at home.) Until all students are treated equitably - including funding, resources / equipment, and expectations (e.g. uniform policies, flexible schedules, 1:1 lap tops, etc.), there will be mistrust in the School District. Currently, there are both magnet and neighborhood schools without counselors, in classes with more than 35 students, in dilapidated buildings, etc. Why should a few schools have what they need while others starve? Why should one school have two counselors when most high schools have to share one with 6 or 7 other schools? Why should a few schools have 1:1 lap tops when most schools are trying to make 6 - 8 year old lap tops, shared by hundreds of students, function ? There are many more inequities in the School District. Hopefully, SLA, a well resourced school compared to most Philadelphia high schools, will be willing to share more than its ideas but also its resources. Many of us have plenty of ideas and experiences that SLA staff could learn something from...
Submitted by Andrew (not verified) on September 22, 2013 9:11 pm
Hi, I'm Andrew Roberts, a sophomore at SLA and the fifth of such to comment on this blog. I simply want to confirm that we at SLA's main campus are excited about having new classmates from West Philly. It is a true shame that only 500 people can experience the amazing things we get at SLA. I have flourished in the project based learning style, and could not have been at a better school. The partnership we have with the Franklin Institute is truly one-of-a-kind and opens so many doors for students to learn and grow as I have done. I think it is amazing that more people have the opportunity that I was lucky to get. I'm sorry you don't think that a good product will come out of the collaboration between our schools.
Submitted by Jane Cruice (SLA parent) (not verified) on September 22, 2013 11:28 pm
Though these issues can invoke strong opinions and folks can sometimes express their feelings about them passionately, there is truly no need to be insulting or rude, particularly to these young people who have (once again) made their community proud with their articulate comments. To the students on this thread (and yes I know they are students because one of them is my son): Never stop standing up for yourselves, even in the face of ignorancelike the display above! You are amazing citizens and leaders, you make us proud! To the inarticulate adults on this thread: grow up.
Submitted by Morgan Caswell (not verified) on September 24, 2013 7:45 am
I'm also a student at SLA, and if it were not for Mr. Lehmann we would also be underfunded. Lehmann won grant after grant and fundraised unbelievable amounts of money in a short time; we're a new kind of school and people like to give us grants to see how this works out for us. You know what, the core values can be annoying at time, but collaboration is important and the average student does care about it. And its not that we distrust the kids at Beeber, but SLA and Beeber Middle School are two different schools in the same building. Mr. Johnson had no intentions of being arrogant when saying that it wasn't his business to stop Beeber staff to come to PD, he was saying that he wasn't going to stop them if they want to come. SLA culture is very different from one of an average school, and that was on purpose. SLA and Beeber will have different rules, but I don't believe that it will inhibit the reactions between the middle schoolers and the high schooler. I find it disappointing that people have so little faith in our students, SLA staff sees us as people with valued views and opinions. This is not only limited to our school, this is also true in many other schools.

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