South Philly School ends up in the N.Y. Times for all the wrong reasons

The news of the funding crisis at Philly’s school district, which recently sent layoff notices to nearly 3,900 school employees, has gone national, with a report in the New York Times yesterday that could scare young parents away from wanting to live in South Philly.

The case in point the Times uses to illustrate this disgrace is Andrew Jackson elementary.

Pic from
Pic from

That’s the plucky little public school at 12th and Federal that has made great progress in recent years thanks to a dedicated troupe of neighborhood activists (like the Passyunk Square Civic’s education committee) and what several parents have told us is a principal who’s doing a bang-up job. But the report makes the situation sound grim:

PHILADELPHIA — When a second grader came to the Andrew Jackson School too agitated to eat breakfast on Friday, an aide alerted the school counselor, who engaged him in an art project in her office. When he was still overwrought at 11, a secretary called the boy’s family, and soon a monitor at the front door buzzed in an older brother to take him home.

Under a draconian budget passed by the Philadelphia School District last month, none of these supporting players — aide, counselor, secretary, security monitor — will remain at the school by September, nor will there be money for books, paper, a nurse or the school’s locally celebrated rock band.

“I am worried sick,” said Lisa Ciaranca Kaplan, the principal, whose homey school in South Philadelphia serves 410 students, speaking 14 languages, all of whom qualify for free meals. “How do I relieve teachers for lunch if I have no one in the lunchroom? I’ll be the only person in this building who’s not in a class.”

Of course, there’s still some hope. The layoff notices can be rescinded if an 11th-hour solution is found (Daily News columnist John Baer says Gov. Corbett won’t want the schools to implode while he faces re-election, for instance). Nevertheless, Axis Philly suggested in a story yesterday that the schools’ troubles on top of increasing taxes under AVI could be just the combination to slow all the progress neighborhoods like South Philly have made in recent years.

So, what do you think. Are you a parent who’s considering moving? Is this the last straw?

8 thoughts on “South Philly School ends up in the N.Y. Times for all the wrong reasons

  • June 18, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    Here is my gut reaction. (note: I have no children now but would like to stay in South Philly if I do)

    Even if they find some money for next year and re-hire some staff the situation is only going to be on the decline until stability is regained by a good financial plan moving forward.

    Expect what you would find at any company struggling to keep it’s head above water. Poor employee morale, great teachers frustrated and looking for new opportunities, new talent uncommitted for the long haul. Seems like the situation is so bad that hopefully a visionary can come in and start moving things in the right direction.

    A long process no doubt which means anyone with young children will likely not see any major change for the positive in the near future particularly while the distraction of clawing the district out of the hole takes the spotlight locally and now nationally. Is this too dramatic? Uggg.

  • June 18, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    I have a child at Jackson now and two more on the way there in the next few years. The budget would cause serious problems for all Philly schools obviously. But Jackson is an awesome school. The principal, teachers and families are what make it great. And the stuff in the works at Jackson, which many wonderful folks are working hard on, will make it among the very best in the city in the very near future. This Fall, for instance, we are going to build a roof-top garden and start a mushroom growing business run by the students. The fact that our schools are underfunded is terrible, but I have zero doubt that Jackson will continue to improve.

    • June 19, 2013 at 12:25 am

      Thanks for giving the positive outlook amid the gloom, Steve. All you other happy Jackson parents out there, please tell us in the comments what you think of the school.

  • June 18, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    I grew up in South Philly and still live here. I went through the public schools (A.S. Jenks, George C Thomas, and CAPA) and would love for my daughter to do the same but this is becoming an every year occurrence. It’s doomsday every single year. I would love for my daughter to go to the schools in the neighborhood but I have to consider what is best for her, which is either charters or moving to an area with better schools.

  • June 18, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    Steve — thanks for giving me hope. I’m one of those parents with young children who want desperately to stay in our neighborhood but worry that it’s just not an option. These articles are depressing, but we visited Jackson a couple weeks ago and it was absolutely inspiring! We’ll just have to keep an eye on things and keep our fingers crossed. (And join the PSCA education committee!)

  • June 19, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    We moved to the neighborhood a year ago, in the Jackson catchment and have a one and half year old daughter. I went to Philly public schools- McCall, Masterman, and Central and got a great education. I have every intention of sending my daughter to Jackson. However, I can’t imagine any parent wanting their child to go to a public school under this kind of budget, should it come to pass. I do think that good public schools are the engine of a successful Philadelphia and its frustrating that this crisis is occurring at a time when things are otherwise looking so positive for Philadelphia.

    • June 20, 2013 at 11:01 am

      David – I think a lot of what you and I received out of the schools is what we, and our parents, demaned of us. I think that we’re also more the exception to the rule.

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