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Northeast schools: 'Bursting at the seams'

By Benjamin Herold on Jun 10, 2011 06:26 PM
Photo: Benjamin Herold

Because every available classroom space is occupied, Bernie Rogers and his colleagues at Spruance Elementary often teach Corrective Reading and Math inside storage closets.

Bernie Rogers spends 45 minutes each day teaching inside a cramped storage closet.

Packed shoulder to shoulder, up to eight children sit in plastic chairs and hold their books and papers in their laps. Rogers stands almost directly on top of them while he conducts his supplemental reading lesson. 

Though Rogers and his students barely have room to move, he said the arrangement has its benefits.

 “We’re so close, there’s no room for them to fool around,” Rogers explained.

In the jam-packed public schools of Northeast Philadelphia, which have undergone a demographic sea change over the past two decades, such scenes are common.

Rogers’ school, Gilbert Spruance Elementary, currently enrolls 1,322 students – almost 500 students more than the building’s official maximum capacity. In District parlance, that means a “utilization rate” of 158 percent, nearly double the ideal rate of 85 percent.

As a result of the overcrowding, Spruance has no classroom space available when small groups of students need to be pulled out of their regular classes. So Rogers and his colleagues teach wherever they can: The ends of hallways. The faculty lounge. And yes, even in closets.

“Anywhere there’s space,” said Michelle Diamond, a special education teacher who is one of two teachers’ union building representatives at the school. 

That could be the motto of dozens of Northeast schools. Unlike the rest of the city, where the School District counts 70,000 “empty seats” and dozens of half-empty schools, the Northeast copes with serious overcrowding.

According to a recent District report, 20 of the 45 schools in the region operate beyond 100 percent capacity. Another 16 are also considered overcrowded because they are above 85 percent utilization. All told, the District says that 94 percent of the 42,821 available classroom seats in the Northeast are filled.

“We’re bursting at the seams,” Arthurea Smith told officials at a May 10 community meeting. Smith is the principal of Farrell Elementary, which is at 122 percent of capacity.

But even as the District undertakes a comprehensive new “facilities master plan,” it is uncertain how much relief it can provide to the Northeast. There is little money for new construction. Because so many schools in the region have the same problem, less expensive options are limited. And officials are likely to have their hands full with plans to close up to 50 school buildings in other parts of the city.

A full list of proposed facilities changes will be unveiled in October, but the District has given residents of the Northeast little reason to hope.

“I get that there’s urgency,” District Deputy for Strategic Initiatives Danielle Floyd told the May 10 gathering.  

“But this area [of the city] is going to be very challenging.”

A city within a city

Overcrowded schools in the Northeast are nothing new. And because of the demographics of the area, the problem is not likely to go away any time soon.

The School District defines its “Northeast meeting area” as the region bounded by Tacony-Frankford Creek on the south, the Delaware River on the east, Bucks County on the north, and Montgomery County on the west. That area includes neighborhoods in the so-called “Lower Northeast,” such as Frankford and Mayfair, as well those in the “Far Northeast,” like Torresdale and Fox Chase.

Altogether, the region is now home to almost 425,000 people – more than live in the entire cities of Oakland, Calif. or Cleveland, Ohio.

Over the last twenty years, the Northeast has seen “remarkable racial and ethnic change,” said Larry Eichel, project director for the Philadelphia Research Initiative (PRI) at the Pew Charitable Trusts. Once almost entirely White, it is now a hodgepodge of different ethnicities and cultures.

According to a recent study by PRI, the Northeast has lost one-third of its White residents since 1990. But during that same period, the region’s overall population has grown by 5 percent, primarily because of big increases in Hispanic and Asian residents.

“The Northeast used to be seen as a very separate place,” said Eichel. “But now, it’s becoming a lot more like the rest of the city.”

The dramatic diversification is evident in the community served by Spruance Elementary, a triangular Lower Northeast neighborhood of roughly 30 square blocks bounded by Roosevelt Boulevard, Castor Avenue, and Knorr Street.

In 1990, this area had just 22 non-Latino Black residents. Now, it has 3,814, according to an analysis conducted for the Notebook by Michelle Schmitt, the project coordinator for Temple University’s Metropolitan Philadelphia Indicators Project.  

That’s an astonishing 17,236 percent increase.

During the same period, the neighborhood’s Latino population has grown by 647 percent, and its Asian population by 325 percent. In addition, an estimated 38 percent of neighborhood residents are foreign-born, up from 15 percent in 1990. And an estimated 86 percent of children in the neighborhood attend public schools, up from 65 percent in 1990. 

“This is an extraordinary example of neighborhood change,” said Schmitt.

Spruance’s changing student body has reflected this transformation.

According to School District data, Spruance’s White population has declined 62 percent since 2001-02. Over the same time period, the school’s African-American population has grown 45 percent and its Latino population has grown 34 percent.

“We’re very proud of our diverse population,” said Spruance principal Betty Klear, noting that the school has four bilingual counseling assistants and a mural painted several years ago to celebrate the changing student body.

‘If you build it, they will come’

The pressure on student enrollment in the Northeast is not expected to let up anytime soon. Based on projections prepared by outside consultants, the District is planning for continued population growth and increasing diversity in the area.

For the students and staff at Spruance, that will likely mean a continued need for creative use of space.

Closets will likely still be used for small group instruction. Wheelchairs and other equipment for Spruance’s students with multiple disabilities will likely still have to be “stored” in the hallway. And crowded classrooms – often with more students than would otherwise be contractually allowed – will likely still be led by “co-teachers” who share both responsibility and space.

“You work with what you have,” said Klear, stressing that overcrowding is no excuse for poor academic achievement.

Indeed, last year Spruance met its Adequate Yearly Progress targets under No Child Left Behind. More than 52 percent of students scored proficient in reading on the PSSA and 62 percent in math. About a third of the school’s 8th grade graduates went on to special admission high schools, said Klear.

Klear said the school’s solid performance has contributed to its high enrollment.

“Parents want their children in places perceived as good schools, and schools here have a good reputation,” she explained.

For years, students from other parts of the city were bused to  the Northeast via the District’s desegregation program. As recently as 2001-02, ,more than 10,000 students of color were transported from their home neighborhoods to otherwise predominantly White Northeast schools, including Spruance.

That effort has been scaled back dramatically, however. Now, Spruance’s racial diversity comes from the new families who have moved into its catchment area.

District officials said they have been trying to keep pace with the swelling demand.

Seven of the 14 “Primary Education Centers” the District has built since 1997 are in the Northeast, including one opened at Spruance in 2001. That facility now holds 12 K-2 classrooms.

An addition was built onto Franklin Elementary in 2002, while Lawton and Ziegler were expanded in 2008. Both Lincoln and Fels High Schools were replaced in 2009.

“Not every school has been touched, but we’ve made a lot of investment,” said the District’s Floyd, who is in charge of  the facilities planning process.

Moving forward, said Floyd, options include building more additions and  redrawing boundary lines. But these only work if there is room on school grounds and the neighboring school is not also overcrowded.

“We don’t want to just shift the problem to the school next door,” said Floyd.

A more likely move for the District could be to change schools’ grade configurations. Overcrowded K-8 schools like Spruance and Mayfair, for example, could be converted to K-5 schools. A new middle school option would have to be created, but Superintendent Arlene Ackerman has signaled that the new facilities plan will prioritize a return to “traditional” middle schools serving grades 6-8.

But even this type of move could prove controversial.

“A lot of families love the K-8 model,” acknowledged Floyd. “We’re trying to find a balance.”

In the end, the best solution to overcrowding in the Northeast might be the most difficult of all: significantly improving the quality of schools in other parts of the city, which could ease the influx of school-age children to the region. But as things stand, said Klear, the demand at Northeast schools will likely overwhelm whatever strategies the District might pursue.

“What’s the line in that baseball movie?” Klear asked, referring to the film Field of Dreams. “‘If you build it, they will come?’ That’s pretty much the way it is up here.” 

Editor’s note: Michelle Schmitt of the Metropolitan Philadelphia Indicators Project is the author’s wife.

This story is a product of a reporting partnership on the facilities master plan between the Notebook and PlanPhilly.

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Comments (69)

Submitted by TeachersStandTogether (not verified) on June 10, 2011 7:28 pm

K-8s can be a bit scary for the younger tots, as 8th graders - who these days are adult-sized and not used to their ever-changing bodies - go gallumphing through the corridors, unmindful of the small bodies around them.

K-5s are much more intimate - small enough for most of the staff to know most of the students by name, an important factor in primary school education.

A good compromise solution is to house the younger ones in at high-tech, environmentally friendly Primary Education Centers like the one at Moore Elementary.

Submitted by Skoppster (not verified) on June 10, 2011 8:22 pm

As a teacher who has always taught middle school (12 years and counting), I agree it can be a scary place for the younger students K-4 and maybe 5. In addition, a true middle school in many cases can not accommodate modern things such as bathroom facilities for younger children without major renovations. I personal know many of my students range in size from 4' 2'' - 6' 3'' and in body wait from 85 pounds to over 300. Again, this is a true 7 - 8 grade middle school. To say it can not be done is not the case, but it would take a true transition and additional funding, funding that currently isn't available from the city or state and especially not the school district itself. Finally it is my personal opinion that many middle school students in the N.E., around the city and specifically in my school are going through transition not just growth and finding themselves, but in many cases they go home to take care of brothers, sisters, cook dinner, as well as everyday school project activities and homework.

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Submitted by MacMaven (not verified) on June 10, 2011 8:59 pm

Ben, what you fail to mention is that Spruance, Farrell, and Wilson, (all of which are overcrowded) are in the same catchment area of one high school - Northeast High School (NEHS). NEHS serves anywhere between 3200 and 3600 students a year with a current utilization rate of 143%. There are so many kids at NEHS that when the school moves back to a 7 period day next year (losing the 8th period Common Planning Time due to budget cuts), they'll have to revert back to holding lunches between 9am and 2pm to avoid fire code violations with too many people in the cafeteria. Very few teachers have a classroom they can call their own and need to "float" all over the building, lugging classroom sets of textbooks wherever they go. A really bad day is when the elevator is broken. Yet like Spruance, the NEHS staff are real troopers and try and make the best of a very difficult situation.

As overcrowded as NEHS is, there are still many people fabricating Northeast addresses to get into the school (this says something about the school). Sadly though, the district refuses to cap the enrollment and there are literally hundreds of walk-ins (not coming from the 3 feeder schools) every September. Classes are filled to capacity and these late enrollments have little to no choice of elective subjects and are just plugged into wherever there's an open seat. Until leveling happens in October, there's standing room only in most all of the classrooms and seats are first come, first served - with not enough seats or classroom sets of textbooks, then kids moved around again in October for leveling, it's not a good start to any school year.

As an extension to your article, why not interview where most of these kids go after 8th grade if not accepted into the special admission high schools?

Submitted by Benjamin Herold on June 10, 2011 9:37 pm


Thanks so much for sharing the numbers and the details about Northeast High!  Great post. 

You are very right - what's happening there is an incredibly important part of the overcrowding story and worthy of further attention.  I would love to do a follow-up there and in some of the other overcrowded school in the NE. 

In the meantime, perhaps others can use the comments here to share their experiences and insights: 

What are the day-to-day realities like in these overcrowded schools?

How are the budget cuts going to affect overcrowded schools?

How big an issue is families using false addresses?

Given that new construction is unlikely, what "rightsizing options" - ie, boundary changes, grade reconfigurations, annexes, etc - do you think can help at Northeast High and elsewhere?

Thanks again.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on June 10, 2011 9:57 pm

While I agree it is important to look at overcrowding at Northeast, this is not new. I taught there ten years ago and the "crossways," or where hallways meet, were always jammed with students and staff trying to pass between classes. Teachers floated and shared classrooms. The new Fels and Lincoln may or may not have space for "overflow." Meanwhile, there are also a few very large charter schools in the Northeast.

Part of the overcrowding is the perceived "safety" of the Northeast versus other neighborhoods. I have lived in the lower Northeast (Frankford), Kensington and West Philadelphia (NOT Univ. City). I haven't found "safety" much different at a block level. Philadelphia planners have to also find ways to "sell" other neighborhoods so business corridors are more attractive and viable. If home ownership increases, the neighborhoods will also become more stable and schools will improve. If the School District had more specialized programs, like Northeast Magnet, in all neighborhood high schools, this would also "spread the wealth" of more viable academic programs throughout the city. Currently, small magnet schools are concentrated in Center City (thanks to Vallas) and special admit programs were removed from neighborhood schools. Let all high schools have a magnet program and there will be some shifting.

Submitted by Benjamin Herold on June 11, 2011 1:17 pm


Great point about this not being new.  Here are the enrollment numbers at NE for the past ten years:

01-02: 3368
02-03: 3543
03-04: 3552
04-05: 3552
05-06: 3710
06-07: 3711
07-08: 3370
08-09: 3108
09-10: 3218
10-11: 3312

Over that time, NE High's White population has decreased by half while its African-American, Asian, and Latino populations have all grown dramatically.



Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 12, 2011 7:06 pm

You are correct about those numbers and the dramatic demographic change at NEHS over the past 10 years. What is really amazing is that in the last six years, NE has gone from roughly 1 out of 3 students testing Advanced or Proficient to about 2 out of 3 testing Advanced or Proficient, even with the severe overcrowding and demographic changes. This could certainly call into question some policies and perceptions both by the School District and the community. Clearly, something is working at NEHS and the District should use it as a model for others.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on June 12, 2011 8:42 pm

Northeast HS has changed demographically as the neighborhood changed. That said, Northeast also has a far lower SES than many neighborhood high schools. Economic background does matter. Northeast HS has more students who have parents with formal education which means they also have more experiences outside of the classroom that enrich the classroom. Northeast scores are also boosted by the magnet program. How many Northeast students start 9th grade but don't stay to be part of the 11th grade cohort that takes the PSSA? 8 years ago, about 1150 started 9th grade and 600 graduated. What are today's numbers? What percentage of Northeast 11th graders are in magnet? (To get in magnet, they need the same type of test scores as Central.) Put a magnet program with a similar percentage of 11th graders in every neighborhood high school and I"ll guarantee scores will go up.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 12, 2011 9:05 pm

A few students do have parents with a formal education, but for the vast majority of graduates, they will be the first in their family to attend college. Also, I'm not sure you are correct about a higher SES than other neighborhood schools. The number of recent immigrants from Asia, South America, the Caribbean, and Eastern Europe is huge and many of those parents not only do not have any formal education, they do not speak English and often live close to poverty. They do however have a strong sense that education is important and family expectations that they succeed. So, overcrowding or not, they do their part to make it happen. We have an excellent ESOL SLC that assists in this. Finally, only about 30% of the 11th grade test takers are Magnet. That means that roughly 1/2 of the Advanced / Proficient group are non-Magnet students, a number still greater than most other neighborhood schools.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on June 13, 2011 7:12 am

Northeast SES is 58.3% - most neighborhood schools are at least 80 - 90%.

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Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on June 12, 2011 8:34 pm

Northeast, primarily because of its size, has many extra curricular programs that few other Philadelphia high schools enjoy. I wonder how this impacts performance?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 12, 2011 9:32 pm

Northeast HS does have so many student activities that truly change the dynamic and feel of the school. Coming from another neighborhood high school where there were only a few options that few kids took advantage of to a school with real school spirit, student leadership, interesting clubs, and long held traditions, I think it really does impact performance. The students actually want to come to school everyday and do well. They want to get involved and be apart of something. They have relationships with coaches and sponsors that add another layer of adult support for their academic and social development. This has to help students achieve in the classroom.

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Part of the overcrowding is the perceived "safety" of the Northeast versus other neighborhoods. I have lived in the lower Northeast (Frankford), Kensington and West Philadelphia (NOT Univ. City). I haven't found "safety" much different at a block level. Philadelphia planners have to also find ways to "sell" other neighborhoods so business corridors are more attractive and viable. If home ownership increases, the neighborhoods will also become more stable and schools will improve. If the School District had more specialized programs, like Northeast Magnet, in all neighborhood high schools, this would also "spread the wealth" of more viable academic programs throughout the city. Valquiria de Clash Royale niveles Currently, small magnet schools are concentrated in Center City (thanks to Vallas) and special admit programs were removed from neighborhood schools. Let all high schools have a magnet program and there will be some shifting.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 7, 2011 2:40 pm

Notheast had 3600 students at the close of 2011. Believe me, I am in the building. It may say 3300 but those are most likely the numbers the district is stating as our report. The building is set for 2600 students, it looks a little better to only be 700 over rather than 1000 over.

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Submitted by Skoppster (not verified) on June 10, 2011 9:09 pm

Though I can not confirm that, I am sure you probably know better than I. I agree all administration, educators and support staff are at the mercy of politics and yes all of our goals (educators and politicians) are to meet the needs of the students and community. What all schools need is more of an active voice from the parents to help make some of these changes happen. They are the ones that do have the power to speak up and step up to the plate to provide the politicians with the feedback needed to help make these changes occur. Active and involved parents can make that difference. if there is one thing I as an educator would like to see is more parental involvement in the schools, not just in the N.E., but around the entire city of Philadelphia. I personally know from my 12 years in a middle school that once students enter this realm (middle and high school), it seems many parents / guardians take a step back or do not know how to deal with all the changes in their child's personalities and development. Don't get me wrong, there are many, many excellent involved parents out there, but to truly have a partnerships with the parents we need them to reach out and take more of an active role in the process.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 11, 2011 12:30 pm

As a teacher at Northeast High School who previously came from another notorious neighborhood high school, I am completely amazed at how well the school runs and how successful our students are despite the unbelievable overcrowding. I think the School District has overlooked the model of placing a Magnet school inside a neighborhood high school and the tremendous benefits that has for the entire school community. Northeast has a terrific Magnet school and an IB Program as well. That combined with a supportive Alumni Association, numerous traditions, a plethora of activities, and a general attitude of respect and cooperation between staff and students, make NE feel "small" despite the the 3200 + students. When students graduate, they regularly talk about the how they felt apart of the "band family", "football family", "SPARC family", etc. and these institutions break down the large school into numerous "families". Additionally, the staff has a CAN DO attitude that pervades the building. So floating, overcrowded classrooms, shortage of books, etc. don't stop them from teaching and making good things happen. We still have numerous kids who apply and get accepted to Ivy League schools and dozens who get into Penn State Main Campus, Temple, Drexel, and other private and public schools throughout the region. NE continues to provide opportunities for low income, working class, and immigrant students, often the first in their family to attend college, to be successful.

Submitted by MacMaven (not verified) on June 11, 2011 1:19 pm

I too, proudly teach at NEHS and all that you say is correct - thanks for elaborating. Let me add that as large as we are, using the Small Learning Community (SLC) model gives us the wherewithal to act as small schools within a school, smaller "families" as you say. With eight theme-based SLCs from which students and teachers can choose, NEHS has effectively created "school choice" within one building.

Aside from our renowned Magnet program, lest we not forget too (with as many English second language students we have - 57 languages) our exemplary ESOL program that with such success should be a model for all high schools; and, our phenomenal Career & Technical Education (CTE) program in Communications Technology that has successfully industry-certified hundreds of students in their trades. Even within the SLC model, all students still have access to AP and advanced courses, sports, band, clubs, activities, etc. How we pull this off is nothing short of amazing!

Another thing worth mentioning is that NEHS Magnet, acting as an SLC, is very much integrated with the rest of the school population and participates within the one school culture that we still uphold. The Magnet school is, and always has been associated with NEHS - it was created with us, it's a part of us, it's family. However, as the previous writer mentioned with having Magnet programs in all of the high schools, there is a caveat.... every time NEHS complains about the overcrowding, the district threatens to remove the Magnet program from NEHS.

NEHS would rather endure the difficulties and find/develop solutions to overcrowding rather than give up one of its own. This is a mark of a school that truly acts as family!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 11, 2011 2:01 pm

Sounds like a great place to teach. So sad that when you try to speak the truth about over crowding.....all you get in return are threats.

Every day the teachers in Philadelphia schools try to stand up for what's best for our students........Ackerman and her administration continue to bully us to long as we keep our mouths shut and play by her rules.....all is good. It is a disgrace how she just closes a blind eye to what is really going on in all the Philadelphia schools.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 12, 2011 1:15 pm

Don't say too much. Ackerman will try to destroy all the good you are doing.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on June 12, 2011 7:16 pm

It is so refershing to read about NEHS. I especially enjoyed reading about your magnet programs, small lerning communities and your "can do" attitudes.

Most Promise Academy high schools once had thriving magnet programs and SLCs created by teachers. That was before the state takeover and the Vallas regime destroyed all that and replaced it with the test taking curriculum and one size fits all ridiculousness.

Those magnet programs gave life to those schools. Teachers and students gave life to the SLC's. Our district was once a wonderful place to work and teach and learn. It is sad to see what has happenend to many of the neighborhood comprehensive high schools.

But it is Great to hear what you and your clleagues have done! Maybe the district can follow your lead....

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 13, 2011 3:30 pm

It's great to hear wonderful things about a Philadelphia high school and as a one time teacher there I can vouch for these good things. All is not perfect, though. Take a closer look at the programs at NEHS and one will find lots of racial segregation, separation, and tracking.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on June 13, 2011 3:52 pm

There are issues in every school. But if we want to resolve them in the best possible way for students, there must be an "open climate" for debate and discussion of what truly are the best practices for your students at your school.

Without an open climate you can not have real collegiality.

Submitted by MacMaven (not verified) on June 13, 2011 5:27 pm

I'm curious... what makes you say this about segregation, separation and tracking?

I've been teaching at NEHS for over 10 years now and what has impressed me most from day one is quite the opposite. Sure, there's the Magnet and IB programs that cater to the brighter students (as expected), there's the Special Ed classes that service special needs students (most are mainstreamed), and there's the ESOL program that supports English Second Language students (and moves them out to the general population when ready) - all provide services to the students based on their academic needs. Then there's the SLCs that offer theme-based elective courses and Magnet, Special Ed, and ESOL students take these courses too. You might consider this to be separation and tracking, but I'd say it's proactive and positively addressing the needs and interests of the students.

Further, I've never, ever, noted racial segregation at the school and this is what I just love about it. Sure, kids tend to hang with people of their own culture, race, and religion (remember, there's 57 languages), but it's self-selected and in some ways comforting for people. However, when these same kids mix in class they are nothing but kind and respectful towards each other. It's a joy to observe and gives one hope for this world.

Submitted by Audax (not verified) on June 11, 2011 12:40 pm

Ben, I think you need to expand to the HS level and not just NE. Washington, Fels, & Lincoln are all packed as well. Both Fels and Lincoln are new but I believe their utilization rate is well over 100%. Also, if it is over 100% are there not fire-codes that may be being violated by the District with all these students? I'm all for closing schools and whatnot but someone, somewhere needs to take a long deep look at this problem because those students deserve better than being herded like cattle.

Submitted by Benjamin Herold on June 11, 2011 1:37 pm


You are right about two of the other high schools in the region being overcrowded.  Here are their utilization rates:

Fels: 100.52%
Lincoln: 115.83%

Washington, however, is closer to the target, at 74.6% utilization.

Unfortunately, had to choose a focus for the story and went with the elementaries, but I totally agree there are some interesting dynamics in the high schools as well.  Perhaps someone out there can enlighten me - why weren't Fels and Lincoln made significantly bigger when they were replaced in recent years?

Another aspect of this that did not make it into this story is that the Renaissance charters have been allowed/required to cap enrollment at or near building capacity - we reported last September on wait lists at Mastery's three elementary schools, eg. 

Submitted by Audax (not verified) on June 11, 2011 8:05 pm

One of the reasons that Fels wasn't made bigger is because the neighbors never wanted it built in the first place, and they fought tooth and nail to keep it as small and as far away (hence its lack of athletic facilities even though there was plenty of land when it was acquired) from the housing stock as possible.

Rumor had it Lincoln was suppose to see a cap when it was built but I've no idea why that never happened.. From what I hear there is a lot of floating teachers who have to lug their stuff around all day without any one classroom repeating itself.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 11, 2011 1:40 pm

The inner cities are stocked with phony charters. Folks in the northeast know better to accept such crap. Kenny Gamble, John Q. Porter, Dwight Evans------Are you kidding me !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 11, 2011 1:37 pm

And 440 would never go after schools that serve the remaining white students. It is always easier to prey on the disempowered.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 11, 2011 4:50 pm

Correctomundo as the Fonz would say. Isn't it amazing the gall these sleazy semi humans have to do what they do to the poorest among us?? Just no conscience at all and The Queen has so many of the inner city folks hoodwinked with her corruption and disrespect for them Radio WURD can't say enough good thigs about Ackerman as she destroys the hopes of the kids with mailce and, of course, for profit.

Submitted by Meg (not verified) on June 11, 2011 5:44 pm

For years, Olney Elementary has rented space blocks away at a catholic elementary, housing all their kindergarten and first grades there. This has included second several times, too. They have portable trailers in the yard that are supposed to house pullout services, but in reality hold classrooms of 25 plus kids. During one state inspection, the class roamed the main building using classrooms for lessons whose students were in a prep class - like gym which is also in a rented space across the street.
This is not safe, healthy or financially responsible, but it is the reality that school has lived with for years.
My niece was stuck off site for kindergarten, first and second grades. She honestly believed the principal did not want her in the main building.

Submitted by Timothy Boyle on June 12, 2011 10:11 am

 While the fiscal responsibility of renting two annexes at the tenth highest lease cost in the city can be debated, I would contest the safety and health risks the trailers pose. Having taught in one of those trailers for two years, I found the space a pedagogical challenge, but not a health or safety one. The space was air conditioned, communication with the main building was no problem, and transitions for students were easy. A student might get wet in the rain, other than that using the trailers were not a big deal.

Parents generally feel very positive about the C street annex and prefer their youngsters in that setting, much like the little school house at Finletter. 

Olney Elementary's current building over 100 years old and there has been a public school at Water and Tabor since 1850. The capacity of the building is in the 500s. Our current population is just under 800. If the facilities master plan wishes to address the over-capacity so be it, but we do a great job with the space we are provided.

Submitted by Meg (not verified) on June 13, 2011 2:25 pm

I hear that you feel you do well with the situation, but as a parent in the situation - there is a lot to be desired. One big issue was in the start time. We needed to rely on the older child to get her sister to school in the annex. That start time was the same as the other one, which was scary - that the little one was outside with no coverage for several minutes. We were lucky that there was often another parent waiting there and our older one walked to the main building with her older ones while she hung out and watched the little ones, but this was luck. It was not something we could consistently rely on.
They year our youngest was in the trailer was not good. She has allergies and suffered often with a classmate who would spray cologne on often during the day. He felt this was funny and nothing more than a stern word to him was done. She often came home and needed the vaporizer set up for awhile to calm her cough. Even a note from her doctor about this being a pre-asthmatic condition that needed school support got us nowhere with the situation.
I know Olney elementary is over crowded. We were hoping the "new" middle school at B and Olney would help, but it did not.

Submitted by Nik Zalesky (not verified) on June 13, 2011 11:22 am

I'll tell you what. I've had my son in NE elementary schools for 3 years. 3 different schools in 3 years, as a matter of fact. They are crowded, and it's tough for teachers to do their jobs. His teacher this year had to cut parent-teacher conferences to about 5 minutes a piece. However, come the end of this school year, we'll be part of the white flight out to Montco to give my son a better chance at a less crowded school. It's a shame, because I loved growing up in the NE, but the opportunities for kids that were there when I was young are gone now.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 13, 2011 4:02 pm

What happened to 70,000 empty seats? This sounds like a tremendous misallocation of resources. We need to bring in some people from private industry to do a study. We also need to bring in some compensation consultants to address the issue of why 22 year olds with liberal arts degrees are starting at 40K, while they would start at about 25K in private industry, IF they could find a job. We also need to study this business of teachers not contributing to their healthcare costs, while everyone else pays half of their costs. Either way, big changes are coming, the "Queen" notwithstanding.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 13, 2011 4:09 pm

When the economy is sound tea-baggers dismiss concerns about teachers salaries by saying things like, "you didn't have the initiative to start your own business." Now that we are (at least as of today) protected by a contract, the business class is complaining. You've leeched off our backs long enough.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 13, 2011 6:39 pm

Yea, that's what we need. More idiots with clipboards wandering around doing nothing. The SOLUTION is an elected School Board that answers to the people and not the special interests! What 22-year-olds are getting full-time jobs making 25k? That's $13/hr or so. Friends that I have with similar education backgrounds (Master's degree) and experience (years of volunteering, part time jobs, unpaid classroom hours, student teaching, etc) get paid about TWICE what I make.

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Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 14, 2011 12:44 am

There are high school students successfully commuting to high calibre magnet schools across the city. William Penn (designed for 3000+ students) on the Broad St. Line lies fallow, yet its twin is considered an architectural marvel in the mid-west. It has a pool, large playing fields, a radio/TV studio, horticultural center on the roof and yes, an antiquated heating/ac system that school officials say is too expensive to retrofit....maybe, a second opinion is in order with a consultation with the managers of the same physical plant in the mid-west to see how they do it. With vision, this school could become the high school for which it was designed, i.e. clusters of students with specific interests who test as per a magnet school to be accepted. U High is now enrolled at 25%, has a once lovely pool, and Germantown is enrolled at about 27%. At least six Others are below 50% and have been for at least five years. These schools are too expensive to keep open for three more years, no? Central is bursting at the seams at 138%. Masterman is also similar to Central and in an even older, tired building where teachers share classrooms on rotating schedules. Sure seems to me that with some creative, flexible minds working together in the same room with parents who are willing to consider a school that is further away then their local neighborhood school, that we might be able to consolidate schools, reinvent some diamonds in the rough and create new (old) schools with new missions while becoming much more prudent in our use of tax payor dollars.

Submitted by Amanda (not verified) on June 14, 2011 3:10 pm

This is total craziness. How is it that Americans can allow for such little space for these children to learn. This teacher is amazing. I am sure that most would refuse to teach under such circumstances.


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Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 15, 2011 7:53 am

I began my teaching career in a large middle school, which had many challenges in terms of student achievement and behavior. I eventually moved to a K-8 school, where I have been for several years. I can honestly say that K-8 is a better model for children. Many of our students started with us in kindergarten, and they are doing extremely well academically as upper graders.

The continuity in terms of expectations, and seeing daily the teachers who have taught them in previous grades, has an intangible yet positive effect on their behavior and achievement. Ultimately, this is because the K-8 model allows relationships to be built. My colleagues and I have had the pleasure of teaching sibling and getting to know families, which has created an environment that money cannot buy. It is what makes our school special, and it works.

I fear this model will be dismantled due to the facilities plan, etc. and the older elementary kids will be shipped off to middle schools. I truly believe it will be to the detriment of the students and their families.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 15, 2011 9:56 am

I am a teacher at NEHS ,and it is a great place to be in spite of the overcrowding. For all the reasons previously stated, NEHS's strength is its diversity and can do spirit. Its program offerings are so varied for students. NEHS was able to keep music and art programs as well as its celebrated Magnet program with recent additions of IB, ESOL and Comm Tech SLC's and a 9th Grade SLC. I came from a school that had a takeover by an EMO and now is a Promise Academy. I watched this high school, which had a fine music and art program, an excellent Health Academy as well as the prototype for SLC's since 1972, stripped of every program starting with Hornbeck unitil the final death blow of the EMO. Unfortunately, there was little community or home and school support. This is not the case at NEHS. Thank God. Public education has been under attack for sometime. Our high schools have been dismantled. Programs have been cut. Magnet programs and working SLC's have been cut. NEHS is a model for what a high school can be, and what many were.

Submitted by PhillyStandUp (not verified) on June 15, 2011 5:00 pm

Can you be there on Tomorrow?
On Thursday, City Council will make critical decisions about the future of education for Philly's kids. Unfortunately, the needs of our children will be drowned out by the opponents unless we make ourselves heard. As a City, we are in support of City Council finding the money to fund our schools--no matter where it is. We know that our communities will be safer and more productive places if we have quality schools. Council will be feeling pressure from lobbyists. They also need to feel the pressure of a City demanding that they commit to funding our schools.
Be There Thursday! Bring your sign and support of public education.
Thursday, June 16, 2011 - City Council doors will open at 8:15am. Come as soon as you can!
City Hall, Room 400 - Enter at the Northeast corner of City Hall (bring photo ID).
City Council Vote - The battle for funding for our schools and our kids and our city is not over - it’s decision time.
Councilman DiCicco: 215-686-3458
Councilwoman Verna: 215-686-3412
Councilwoman Blackwell: 215-686-3418
Councilman Jones: 215-686-3416
Councilman Clarke: 215-686-3442
Councilwoman Krajewski: 215-686-3444
Counciwoman Quinones-Sanchez: 215-686-3448
Councilwoman Miller: 215-686-3424
Councilwoman Tasco: 215-686-3454
Councilman O'Neill: 215-686-3422
Councilman Goode: 215-686-3414
Councilman Greenlee: 215-686-3446
Councilman Green: 215-686-3420
Councilman Kelly: 215-686-3452
Councilman Kenney: 215-686-3450
Councilwoman Brown: 215-686-3438
Councilman Rizzo: 215-686-3440
Tell them we need: Kindergarten, Yellow Bus Service, Accelerated Schools, Early Childhood Education, Small Class Size, Counselors, School Nurses and Art and Music in Our Schools.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 15, 2011 10:53 pm

Pa. justices keep teacher-layoff case in lower court

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the Philadelphia School District will have to defend in Common Pleas Court its plan to lay off more than 1,500 teachers.

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers sued the district last week, challenging officials' decision to exempt about 200 teachers from Promise Academies, chronically underperforming city schools that run longer school days and receive extra resources. The union said the exemptions violated the teachers' contract.

The district issued more than 3,000 pink slips June 6; the PFT's court action involves only the teacher layoffs.

After Common Pleas Court Judge Idee C. Fox issued a restraining order against the district last week, School District attorneys moved to have the case heard in the state's highest court to avoid what they said could be a lengthy legal process. - James Osborne

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 15, 2011 10:14 pm

Pa. justices keep teacher-layoff case in lower court

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the Philadelphia School District will have to defend in Common Pleas Court its plan to lay off more than 1,500 teachers.

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers sued the district last week, challenging officials' decision to exempt about 200 teachers from Promise Academies, chronically underperforming city schools that run longer school days and receive extra resources. The union said the exemptions violated the teachers' contract.

The district issued more than 3,000 pink slips June 6; the PFT's court action involves only the teacher layoffs.

After Common Pleas Court Judge Idee C. Fox issued a restraining order against the district last week, School District attorneys moved to have the case heard in the state's highest court to avoid what they said could be a lengthy legal process. - James Osborne

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