A group of protesters gathered outside the School District of Philadelphia’s North Broad Street headquarters this week, continuing opposition to scheduled school closures.
Shouting chants like “Our children are not for sale!” the protestors cited their objections as the first of three consecutive days of public meetings the School Reform Commission will conduct to hear testimonies from citizens, many of whom will be affected by the school closures scheduled for later this year.
Philadelphia School District Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. revised his original plan to close 37 public schools, reducing the number to 29 with the Leslie P. Hill Elementary School in Strawberry Mansion remaining on the closure list.
Kala Johnstone, principal of L.P. Hill Elementary School, during her testimony before the School Reform Commission, said “believe it our not we at Hill are building something special. You may point to test scores, but we point to the fact that not one teacher put in a request for a transfer last year.”
Linda Cliatt-Wayman, principal of Strawberry Mansion High School, which was among the schools Superintendent Hite spared from closing, attended the meeting and voiced support for L.P. Hill Elementary School.
“The students of L.P. Hill are already in need of a great deal of support, but have been steadily deprived of the necessary resources that are crucial in the early years of their educational career,” Cliatt-Wayman said.
Strawberry Mansion High School and L.P. Hill Elementary share the same space within the Dr. Ruth Wright Hayre Educational Complex.
In an effort to save the L.P. Hill Elementary members of the Strawberry Mansion community and school administrators submitted a detailed proposal that included an outline for the expansion of early childhood programs that are already offered at the school.
Cliatt-Wayman also called for stability in the North Philadelphia community. “North Philadelphia is in desperate need of stability,” Cliatt-Wayman said. “Institutions that its residents can count on and produce educationally healthy children.”
Both Jonestone and Wayman received support and applause from community members who attended the meeting.
“I pray that [the SRC has] a heart and reconsider the closing of these schools,” Tanya Parker said. Parker is a community activist who is against the closing of L.P. Hill Elementary.
The School Reform Commission scheduled two additional public hearings for Friday and Saturday. The SRC plans a March 7 vote on the school closures.