Teachers and parents speak out at SRC meeting

February 22, 2013 11:02:00 AM PST
Teachers and parents spoke out Friday for the second day in a row against plans to close more than two dozen city schools and relocate thousands of students.

The Philadelphia School District is encouraging people to express their opinions on the School Reform Commission's recommendations. This morning's hearing before the SRC was a stark contrast to last night's hearing that had protests and a much larger and louder audience.

Today LP Hill Elementary school teacher Eileen Wager said the school was a mess when she was hired, but in two years she has seen a drastic change.

"I became convinced that our kids not only had a chance of success, but if given an opportunity, our school can make a difference," said Wager.

She like other educators and parents continue to try and prove why the SRC should keep their school open.

Some see this week's announcement to close 29 schools instead of 37 as a sign.

Barbara Parhel, whose children will be affected, says, "The only way things can be done is if people speak out."

Superintendent Dr. William Hite is against the one year moratorium that many are pushing for, but he is positive about public comments, because he says it impacted his revised recommendations.

Reverend Wayne Weathers told Action News that he is has a real concern with two schools closing within a block of one another.

"There is a compromise in certain locations but not a compromise in a community where I serve as pastor," said Reverend Weathers.

The top issues brought to the forefront were safety, classroom size, and the fact that many students don't want to change school.

The SRC Chairman Pedro Ramos says that 40 percent of middle schools are empty.

"We have more buildings and fewer students than we've ever had," said Ramos.

He also questioned the superintendent on what would happen to the staff at schools set to close.

"Our hope is that there will be room for everyone as we go through this shift. But we have to follow the contract," explained School District Spokesman Fernando Gallard.

On Thursday night hundreds came out in protest against the SRC's proposed plan.

Many say children will have long walks through dangerous or unfamiliar neighborhoods to reach their classroom.

"It took my wife and I thirty minutes to take that walk and it was 1.2 miles," said Antoine Little.

"It's never specifically how is it going to help our children achieve by pulling them out of their schools and neighborhood," said Luigi Borda, teacher.

Dr. William Hite says the decision to close the schools will save the district $24.5 million. It's money that Hite claims will go toward helping children achieve in the classroom, but critics fail to see that argument.

"$24 million in the scope of things is not a lot of money, it comes out to $100 per kid per year," said Anne Gemmell of the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools.

"If they want to cut things why can't they cut their paycheck, their benefits, why do the kids have to suffer?" said Charlene Collins of Headstart.

Public hearings will continue Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. at 440 N Broad Street.

The SRC is expected to vote on March 7th.