In Part 2 of Revival From the Roots: Tour of Philly’s Neighborhood Schools, Jerry Jordan, President of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, and Helen Gym, Co-Founder of Parents United for Public Education, visit Edward Steel Elementary School in the Nicetown neighborhood of Philadelphia. Steel Elementary School is the last remaining public school in Nicetown. Neighboring schools have either closed entirely or have been turned over to Mastery Charter Schools, a charter management operator. It has had only three principals in 35 years in a district where leadership instability is a norm; many of Steel’s teachers also have long tenures at the school. In the past few years, however, the District has cut one-third of the staff at the school even as it added a middle school. As resources declined, so did the school’s test scores. On April 1, the District announced that it had targeted Steel for a charter conversion.Parents had one month before they would vote to determine whether their school remained a traditional neighborhood public school or whether it would be turned over to Mastery Charter. On Wednesday April 23rd, Mastery Charter presented their turnaround vision to Steel parents.. In response, many parents spoke out about the unfair, rushed and divisive nature of the process, decrying a lack of transparency and that it has not been accommodating to parents. Many parents spoke on behalf of their teachers, most of whom will be let go if Mastery takes over. Others recognized that Steel was in need of transformation, but raised concerns why they were not entitled to remain within the District to conduct transformation plans led by parents, teachers, students and administration long invested in Steel and the Nicetown community. The School Reform Commission will consider the Steel parents’ May 1st vote as a recommendation and hold the ultimate decision about the future of Steel. Please watch and share! And stay tuned for Part 3: Luis Muñoz Marín School.
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