After spending the better part of six months designing a brand new high school – meant to be a model for transforming the educational experience for ordinary students – Saliyah Cruz disclosed abruptly this week that she will be leaving to take a new job.
To put it mildly, everyone from Superintendent William Hite to students and staff who had made leaps of faith to join the new school were surprised and disappointed. The school, called the LINC (for Learning in New Contexts), shares a building with Roberto Clemente Middle School in Hunting Park.
Arthur "Larry" Melton, the retired principal of the now-defunct Bok Technical High School, has become the seventh Philadelphia principal to face official punishment as a result of a probe into widespread PSSA test cheating in the Philadelphia School District.
Melton, who was at Bok for a decade, surrendered his teaching and administrative credentials in July, according to a state website that reveals disciplinary actions against educators.
The notice of action states that he "violated the integrity and security of PSSA testing for multiple years."
When students showed up in school Monday, Saliyah Cruz and Neil Geyette embarked on the most important phase of an ambitious effort to reinvent the high school experience for many students in Philadelphia.
The two educators have designed and are running two brand new, non-selective high schools in North Philadelphia. Geyette is principal of the U School and Cruz is leading the LINC, which stands for Learning in New Contexts.
There have been no meaningful teachers' contract negotiations all summer because District leaders have declined to schedule any talks, union leaders told several hundred members who came to a general membership meeting Tuesday.
Teachers are returning to school this week without a contract, facing bare-bones conditions in schools but still under pressure to agree to contract changes that would save the District about $30 million.
Beginning high school is daunting enough for most young people. But this year, students in Philadelphia face worries that most of their counterparts in more reliably funded districts don’t have.
Will their schedules be disrupted if more layoffs become necessary and some teachers disappear? Will counselors be available to make sure they are taking the courses they need? Will their high school even offer all the courses they want – in some cases, courses that attracted them to that school in the first place?