New year, new chapter for South Phila High School

August 31, 2010 3:08:11 PM PDT
As the new school year begins at South Philadelphia High School, officials hope it marks the beginning of a new chapter as well.

Orientation for new students was held on Tuesday, and Superintendant Arlene Ackerman was on hand, promising that this year would be better than last, when the school was racked with regular violence between black and Asian students.

"It's very important that young people know that we will not tolerate any kind if inappropriate behavior at this school. We love the diversity here," Ackerman said.

The school has new Asian arts and languages classes and anti-bullying workshops for students, as well as diversity training for teachers.

South Philadelphia also has a new principal, Otis Hackney, who left a more comfortable perch leading Springfield High School in Montgomery County.

"I was really excited to come here because if there's a place to make an impact, this is it," said Hackney.

"He spent the summer in the community, working with the various community organizations, working with the parents, working with the staff," said Ackerman.

On Tuesday, families from both communities sounded hopeful. Action News spoke to a mother, Tamika Ayler, who - with her daughter - moved into the district from Delaware.

"The new principal, I think, he's going to do a great job here, and I feel confident," Ayler said.

Action News also talked to Meihui Huang, who just moved to Philadelphia from China six months ago. Her older sister said the family was more excited than scared about the school year.

A community liaison confirmed it's a common feeling with Asian students.

"Students are excited to start the school year," Jennifer Chiu of Project Building Cultures said. "They're ready to go."

Ackerman said she intends to return to South Philadelphia a number of times this year in hopes of celebrating its triumphs, not tensions.


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