Philly school board asks public what their year two priorities should be

Mike DeNardo
June 08, 2019 - 4:00 am

Mike DeNardo/KYW Newsradio

Categories: 

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia's first school year under the return to local control has wrapped up. Now, the school board is asking the public about what its priorities should be for year two.

Several themes emerged during the school board's public hearings Thursday, on what it should focus on next year.  One was from charter school students who pleaded for the future of their individual schools.

Students were bused in to ask the board to reconsider its decision not to renew Aspira's charter to run Olney High and Stetson Middle Schools. 

"I like the respect that goes around my school. I think if my school turns public, it won't work out the same," Abaliz Dominguez, a student at Stetson.

Karlie Harrison, a sixth-grader at Global Leadership Academy West, wanted the board to authorize GLA for a charter high school.

"I want to be able to tell any and everybody that I graduated from Global Leadership Academy High School," she said.

The board hasn't scheduled a vote on GLA's request. Board member Mallory Fix-Lopez, in an interview, said the question now is how the public input will drive the board's priorities.

"We've had a lot of individuals come out and testify and give insight to what their real experiences are, both in the charter sector and the district-operated sector,” she said. “I think moving forward the challenge now is to figure out what we do with that testimony?"

Another major topic was the state of the district's school buildings. 

Mike DeNardo/KYW Newsradio

Anna Perng, president of McCall Elementary's Home and School Association, emphasized the bathrooms.

"Students report seeing waste come back up after flushing, it's really gross,” she said.  “Conditions make it so that they wait and hold it in all day to use our local library's bathrooms.  So, I think that we have to really look at just meeting basic needs through facilities repairs."

The district warns of deficits in the years ahead, but it's finishing this school year with a $206 million surplus, and City Councilwoman Helen Gym suggested using $30 million of that for immediate repairs.

"An emergency facilities fund brings both a commitment, transparency, and real attention to one of the most vital needs that I've heard," she said.

After a year of local control, school board member Julia Danzy in an interview said she believed the district needs what amounts to better customer service.

"Probably the biggest thing for me is learning how disaffected many of our people are from our schools because of their feelings that the schools are not receptive to them," she said.

Danzy said she also believed the district needs to do a better job of telling the story of the progress it's made.