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School Reform Commission Votes To Save Four Schools, 23 To Close

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By Chelsea Karnash, Todd Quinones

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The School Reform Commission has voted to save four public schools from closure in Philadelphia. However, 23 other schools on the chopping block will close.

The four schools saved are Roosevelt Middle School, Taylor Elementary, Pierce Elementary and Robeson High School.

“This was a difficult vote, but it focused on our goal to provide safe, high-quality seats while being fiscally responsible,” said Pedro Ramos, Chairman of the School Reform Commission, in a release from the district. “By not taking action now, we would continue the deterioration of our public schools to the point where they become obsolete to the children that we have sworn to serve.”

Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown also issued a statement that reads in part:

“Today’s decision by the SRC is the day we had hoped to avoid for some time, but as Bill Clinton said so clearly at the Democratic National Convention, it boils down to “arithmetic.” The funds simply are not there and in the absence of a change of heart in Harrisburg, we must take responsibility to work with what we have and to the best of our collective ability, make it work. Along with my colleagues, we will continue to work with the School District to offer recommendations, tweak the proposal and to offer new solutions to improve upon the plan passed today. I will be taking an active role in this pro-active strategy and I am encouraged that Dr. Hite and his team are receptive to our feedback.”

Reynolds Brown also said that “Today is a sad day for parents, students, teachers and all Philadelphians that care about providing the best education possible to our young people.”

According to the School District of Philadelphia, the following schools will close at the end of the 2012-13 school year:

Elementary Schools (12) – Fairhill, Joseph C. Ferguson, Robert Fulton, Leslie P. Hill, Joseph Leidy, John L. Kinsey, Anna B. Pratt, General John F. Reynolds, Walter G. Smith, George Washington, John G. Whittier, Alexander Wilson.

Middle Schools (3) – George Pepper, Anna H. Shaw, Sheridan West Academy.

High Schools (8) – Edward Bok Technical, Charles Carroll, Communications Technology, Stephen A. Douglas, Germantown, Robert E. Lamberton, University City, Roberts Vaux.

“Our goal is to provide every child in The School District of Philadelphia with an education that prepares them for the rigors of higher education, the workplace and life beyond our doors,” said Dr. William R. Hite, Superintendent, also in a release. “Our current financial challenges are undermining that goal. Closing schools with low enrollment and others with declining achievement is a step towards more effective utilization of resources and maximizing learning opportunities for all students.”

Meanwhile, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan said via a release, “The SRC’s vote to close 24 neighborhood schools is a stark illustration of how out of touch the School Reform Commission is with the parents, students, educators and communities that depend on these institutions.”

“School closings disrupt students’ lives and disenfranchise our poorest communities. It is a misguided, poorly planned and ultimately ineffective action that will do nothing to improve education in Philadelphia,” Jordan added.

Earlier on Thursday evening, 19 people were arrested, including the president of the American Federation of Teachers, during protests outside the School District of Philadelphia’s headquarters.

For more information visit: webapps.philasd.org.

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