by Charlotte Pope
Now that the School Reform Commission has voted to close 23 schools, the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools -- a major voice in the school-closings debate -- is regrouping and laying out its next steps.
About 200 people came together Wednesday evening during the group’s general assembly to hear about a new three-part campaign focusing on school funding, community schools, and charter school accountability.
This is a reprint of an article that originally appeared on Parents United for Public Education's website.
by Tomika Anglin
On Dec. 13, 2012, the School District of Philadelphia recommended 37 schools for closure. There were impassioned pleas and hard-worked proposals. There were well-written reports of community input. There was anger. There were tears. There were rallies, chants and marches. There was organization, mobilization and solidarity. And then the School Reform Commission voted to close 23 schools. They voted against our children. Against their safety. Against their education. Against their future. So what do we do now as parents and a concerned community? How do we impact this bureaucracy that is called the School District of Philadelphia? How do we impede this assault on our children’s future?
by Bill Hangley Jr.
The School District’s deadline for alternative community proposals for its closure plan has now passed, and all 38 proposals received have been posted on the District’s website.
The alternative plans represent a wide range of responses to the District’s recommendations. Some are highly detailed blueprints endorsed by powerful officeholders and complex proposals citing multiple partners, while others are brief plans from community groups and individuals.
One consistent theme: Many schools propose addressing under-utilization by expanding their program offerings or grade spans. Some suggest bringing in new schools to share their buildings. In a few cases, schools offer alternative plans that they believe are cost-neutral and will meet the District’s overall goal of saving money.
by Charlotte Pope
Dressed in uniform, students of the military academies at Leeds and Elverson came to District headquarters Tuesday to hear alternative proposals to the planned relocation of both schools.
They joined parents, teachers and community members -- about 40 attendees in all -- at the meeting, the fourth of an additional six sessions that the District scheduled this month to focus on individual schools or groups of schools slated for closure or relocation.
The District has proposed to move Elverson and Leeds to the Roosevelt Middle School building, combining them to create Philadelphia Military Academy High School.
The School Reform Commission will hold a series of public hearings over three days to hear testimony on the proposed school closures before the commission votes March 7. The meetings will take place Feb. 21, Feb. 22 and Feb. 23. All hearings will be held in the auditorium at the School District of Philadelphia headquarters, 440 N. Broad St., and will be divided up according to District planning area.
Those who want to testify must pre-register by calling the Office of Parent, Community & Family Engagement at 215-400-4180. Pre-registration runs from 9 a.m. Feb. 19 through noon Feb. 21. No more than 10 speakers will be permitted to testify about each school that is slated to close, and the guidelines as outlined in the District’s speaker policy for SRC public meetings will apply to the hearings.
The dates and times of the hearings are listed below:
The School District of Philadelphia has proposed closing 37 schools in June and relocating seven others. The announcement has sparked heated debate and criticism by parents, students, and community members.
The Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia has concerns that school closures could present serious consequences for students with disabilities and English language learners.
Speaking at a community meeting at Bartram High School two weeks ago, Superintendent William Hite announced that the District was inviting community members to submit alternative proposals to its school-closings plan. So far, the District has received
13 14 proposals from parents, education networks, School Advisory Council members, and others. All are posted on the District's website.
Update: Today the District extended the deadline to Feb. 6 to submit individual plans for the Facilities Master Plan process. Those who still want to submit a proposal can do so by email.
The School Reform Commission is expected to vote on the closing recommendations March 7.
Here are some of the proposals' recommendations, concerning five of the schools slated for closure.
Mayor Nutter has named parent activist Sylvia Simms to replace Lorene Cary on the School Reform Commission.
Simms, who was a District bus attendant for 15 years, said she was "honored," "excited," and "surprised" by the appointment.
In a statement, Nutter said that Simms "will bring an incredibly important and unique perspective to educational advocacy" to the SRC.
by Charlotte Pope
The biggest fear for the young students who came out to the school-closings meeting at Overbrook High School on Tuesday night was clear: Would their safety be at risk?
In a room of about 300 people, some of the youngest voices in the school-closings debate took the floor at the West Philadelphia school to relay their concerns about the hazards of traveling across unknown neighborhoods, bullying, and increased conflicts among students.
"I want my school to stay open, where I feel safe," said Judea Williams, a 3rd grader at Gompers Elementary, one of the schools slated for closure. "I don’t want to have to watch my back all of the time. If I move to Beeber, I will have to be in school with a bunch of 8th and 7th graders, and I don’t want to be around them because they might have fights. The little children that are tiny might get hurt.”
by Charlotte Pope
More than 100 parents and community members from the Penn Alexander catchment area came to a special meeting Tuesday with Superintendent William Hite and other District officials. Participants were split as to the best policy for getting into the high-achieving school's coveted kindergarten class.
After about 70 parents formed a line in the freezing cold Friday -- four days before the registration was due to open -- the District announced it was changing the first-come, first-serve system to a lottery, causing a firestorm of protest.