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.”
Literacy events and programs provide opportunities to improve the educational outcomes and quality of life in our city and beyond. Throughout November, schools, libraries, and other literacy organizations will be participating through read-a-thons, book drives, celebrity appearances, and more.
Here are several events worth checking out in Philadalphia.
A wave of “people power,” has been spreading through the Upper Darby School District. Although it’s right in our backyard, many of us may not be aware of the struggle that has much to teach us here in Philadelphia.
Since the announcement of an “academic realignment plan” in April and the school board’s vote to approve it in May, parents, students and teachers have engaged in intensive and strategic organizing. And the bottom line is that they succeeded in getting the District to back off some of the proposed changes and helped restore $2.7 million in state dollars that had been slated for elimination.
In June, the U.S. Conference of Mayors – during the meeting at which Mayor Nutter became its president -- enthusiastically endorsed parent trigger laws, which allow parents to instigate a school turnaround. If 51 percent of parents sign a petition at a low-performing school, they can force drastic reorganization according to one of the four federally prescribed methods – from replacing the principal to replacing half the faculty to charter conversion to outright closure.
After months of maneuvering, the School Reform Commission is scheduled to vote Thursday on a $2.55 billion operating budget for the 2012-13 school year, including a projected $218 million gap that will likely be plugged through deficit borrowing.
But first, parents, advocates, and labor unions – angry at deep cuts to schools this year and fearful of a new “transformation blueprint” that would radically overhaul public education in the city – are planning to turn out in force to protest.
The tears fell freely at Julia de Burgos Elementary School Tuesday night.
During the fifth of 17 community meetings on the School District of Philadelphia’s facilities master plan, a flood of over 150 supporters of Sheppard Elementary implored District officials to reconsider their recommendation to close the tiny K-4 school in Kensington. Located just a few blocks away from de Burgos, Sheppard is one of nine schools the District has targeted for closure by 2014.
You could hear the crowd all the way in North Jersey from yesterday’s City Council hearing on the District’s 2011-12 budget.
Hundreds of people and about 130 speakers - among them many parents - packed into Council chambers asking the mayor and councilmembers to figure out a way to put back $600 million dollars set to disappear in part, due to Harrisburg’s state budget cuts.
Imagine us, the folk on Dauphin Street in North Philly, devoid of fancy degrees and titles. No Ed.D., Ph.D., M.A., or even a high school degree in many cases.
Yet, under proposed new legislation, there is a chance we may get more power to speak out on books in the curriculum or weigh in on effective classroom management. And supervise the principal, as if we were the board of directors (and theoretically we are). And work to boost the morale of a dispirited teaching staff that often feels taken for granted.
Or if none of that works, demand the school turn into a charter.
Far-out future or reality?
Parents have a lot to think about this week as it relates to charters.
Georgia Charter-School Operator Nixes Martin Luther King; Sticks w/Birney
The company - Mosiac Turnaround Partners - were awareded two schools to turn charter by the SRC, MLK high school and Birney Elementary. On the day of the announcement the company abruptly dropped its plans to work with MLK and instead said it would only work on the elementary level.