by Naveed Ahsan
Videographer Amy Yeboah premiered her films Goodbye to City Schools and (Re) Inscribing Meaning on Wednesday night at the Scribe Video Center. The screenings followed the opening of an exhibit of photos by Philadelphia School Closings Photo Collective, a project curated by photographers Katrina Ohstrom and Melissa Holman, which showcases images taken in the spring of 2013 by 10 photographers, including Notebook photographer Harvey Finkle.
Goodbye to City Schools focuses on four of the 24 Philadelphia District schools that closed in June. (Re) Inscribing Meaning is about the choices that African American families make regarding their children's education.
Videographer Amy Yeboah worked this summer with the Notebook to complete a 30-minute documentary about this year’s wave of school closings. It’s called Goodbye to City Schools.
The project took her inside four of the 24 schools that closed for good in June: Germantown High School, Bok Technical High School, Fairhill Elementary School, and University City High School. The project was made possible through a graduate fellowship position at the Notebook sponsored by the Samuel S. Fels Fund.
At 7 p.m. on Oct. 16, the documentary will be screened at an event hosted by the Notebook and the nonprofit Scribe Video Center, 4212 Chestnut St., as part of Scribe’s Storyville series.
Last December, Superintendent William Hite announced plans to close or relocate 44 Philadelphia schools at the end of the school year. At most of the schools, parents, teachers, students, and other community members were outraged by the plan. Rallies to save the schools ensued, and the District dropped a dozen schools from the list; four others were spared by the School Reform Commission. But a majority of the efforts to save schools from being shuttered were unsuccessful. Ultimately, 24 schools were closed, with 5 more relocating or merging.
George Metz’s family is all too familiar with school closings.
His stepson, Shyheim Saunders, 17, attended FitzSimons from 7th to 10th grade. When that got shuttered in 2012, he transferred to Roberts Vaux for 11th grade. Now, heading into his senior year in high school, Shyheim will switch once again, attending Benjamin Franklin High School due to the recent closing at Vaux.
That adds up to three schools in three years for Shyheim.
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.”
As South Philadelphia High School opens its doors this fall for the new school year, it is a dramatically different place than it was in June.
More than half the estimated 1,400 students enrolled by late August to begin classes in the building on Sept. 9 would have been enrolled at the nearby Bok Technical High School, if Bok had remained open.
Instead, Bok and 23 other schools were ordered shut down by the School Reform Commission this spring, as a cost-saving measure.
As a result, thousands of children are heading for new schools this fall, creating new opportunities for some and the danger of chaos and disruption for others, as administrators already overtaxed by the District’s recent draconian cutbacks work to cope with the transfers.
This is a reprint of an article that originally appeared at PlanPhilly.
by Jared Brey for PlanPhilly
Less than two weeks after the Nutter Administration announced a comprehensive plan for selling and reusing closed school buildings, City Council held a press conference to describe its own plan, which involves the immediate transfer of $50 million to the School District in exchange for the District’s unused properties.
Speaking in Council chambers, Fourth District Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. said that the plan is necessary to keep the public schools open for the rest of the school year, which began Monday.
by Elizabeth Fiedler for NewsWorks
Sell off closed schools to help keep other Philadelphia schools open.
In essence, that's the idea being pushed by City Council President Darrell Clarke.
Philadelphia public schools are expected to open on time, despite continuing squabbles over funding. But City Hall politicians are still battling over how to pull together the $50 million in city aid they promised Superintendent William Hite would be there in time for schools to open on Sept. 9.
In one corner is Clarke, who points out that the Philadelphia School District has a lot of empty real estate on its hands, thanks to the closing of 29 schools.
by Mark McHugh
To help smooth the transition for students and their families forced by mass closings to change schools, the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and South New Jersey announced Monday that it would give the School District $50,000.
The money will be used to help make students feel more comfortable in their new schools and for their parents to meet and interact with other parents that are already acclimated to the community.
“The actual uses of the funding will be extremely varied,” said Deirdre Darragh, a School District spokesperson. The specifics, she said, “will pan out within the next few weeks as principals make requests.”
by Monika Zaleska
This summer, Amy Yeboah will complete a short documentary on four Philadelphia schools that closed this year, working with the Notebook as part of her fellowship sponsored by the Samuel S. Fels Fund. Yeboah, who holds a doctorate in African American studies from Temple University, talked to us about what she learned trailing teachers, students, and families during their last days of school and how their narrative unfolds on screen.
Tell me a little about your work and the project you’re working on this summer.
My dissertation was about education, particularly what’s going on with African American education and how we close the excellence gap. The Notebook wanted a short documentary focused on a couple of schools to try to give more meaning and narrative to what’s going on at a local level with families, students, communities, and how they’re impacted. The four schools we looked at are Germantown High School, Bok Technical High School, Fairhill Elementary School, and University City High School in West Philadelphia.