NBC10.com - Rosemary Connors
Emotions run high during the School Reform Commission vote to close 23 schools and spare four others. NBC10's Rosemary Connors reports.
The Philadelphia School Reform Commission voted Thursday night to save four public schools and close more than two dozen in an effort to save the cash-strapped district about $24 million per year.
Schools that will remain open are: TM Pierce Elementary School, Taylor Elementary School, Roosevelt Middle School, and Paul Robeson High School.
Schools set to close at the end of the 2012-13 school year include 12 elementary schools: 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, and Alexander Wilson; three middle schools - George Pepper, Anna H. Shaw, and Sheridan West Academy; and eight high schools - Edward Bok Technical, Charles Carroll, Communications Technology, Stephen A. Douglas, Germantown, Robert E. Lamberton, University City, and Roberts Vaux.
School officials say many of the buildings have too many empty seats and are in poor condition. Philadelphia School Superintendent William Hite tweeted shortly after the vote.
"The decision to close schools is always difficult but now we must come together to ensure all students are safe and successful," Hite tweeted.
Opponents say the closures will hurt struggling neighborhoods, disrupt students' education and lead to blight.
Hundreds attended the School Reform Commission meeting immediately after a rally. Nineteen people were arrested on disorderly conduct charges after they tried to stop the school closure vote from taking place by blocking the doors to the auditorium. All 19 were issued a citation and later released, police said.
"These terrible attacks on our teachers, attacks on our students, we have to stand up and fight back, and that's what we were doing tonight," said retired teacher Tom Whitehorn.
Among those arrested, was Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.
"Close schools that have [a] 92 percent graduation rate. Close schools that are doing well; if you do that, then what choice do communities have but to say 'enough is enough' even if it means getting arrested.”
Jerry Jordan, the current president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, released a statement shortly after the vote.
“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.
The entire school closing process wastes time and money that would be better spent exploring what it really takes to ensure that all of our schoolchildren get what they need. Instead of starving our schools, then shutting them down, we should be fighting for adequate education funding so that every school can provide students with the materials, programs, services and extracurricular activities that define a quality public education.
The thousands of people who attended the rally at the school district building today remind us that the fight to save public education in Philadelphia is only beginning. The PFT will continue to stand with the community and demand that the SRC, school district, mayor and governor reset their priorities from cutbacks and concessions to reinvestment in our public schools. “