Robert Jean LeBlanc
Robert Jean LeBlanc
James H. Lytle
For almost 30 years I was a principal and central office administrator in the School District of Philadelphia. I’ve lived in Philadelphia for more than 40 years. After leaving the Philadelphia schools I went on to Trenton, NJ, to be superintendent for eight years, than came back to Philadelphia to teach educational leadership at the University of Pennsylvania. My heart and my commitment to improving urban public schools have always been centered in Philadelphia.
James Jack & John Sludden, Research for Action
In 2012, the School District of Philadelphia closed six schools. In 2013, it closed 24.
Jerusha Conner (Villanova) & Sonia Rosen (University of Pennsylvania)
Rand Quinn, University of Pennsylvania & Nicole Mittenfelner Carl, University of Pennsylvania
Urban districts throughout the nation are contending with declining enrollment, aging facilities in disrepair, persistently low student achievement, increased competition with charters, and severe fiscal constraints. Philadelphia is a case in point. Over the past year, the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) was forced to borrow $304 million dollars to cover basic operating expenses, close 24 of its 242 schools, and lay off thousands of its employees. As of this writing, schools have been allotted a principal and a secretary but must anticipate operating without assistant principals, counselors, or support staff. Essential student programs have been curtailed or eliminated, and the district faces the very real prospect of yet another round of closures ahead of the 2013-14 school year.
Sam Reed III
As a 15-year veteran teacher, I became an accidental teacher activist. When I say accidental activist, I recognize the very public position teachers hold. Teaching and learning are not passive acts, and being an activist could be considered a natural response to redress the issues of educational access and relevance for 21st century learners. Prior to becoming a teacher I was in the Peace Corps and ran my own information service and training company in Botswana. Over the years, my teaching stance has become that of a teacherpreneur. Teacher activism is at the heart of being a teacherpreneur. In this moment in education reform, where teacher agency meets opportunity, it became important for me to embrace my role as a teacher activist.
On the first day of my tenure as a Philadelphia School District Teacher, I made the following observations. 1. I don’t have a desk in my classroom. 2. There are also not enough desks for my students. 3. I have been assigned to teach a subject completely different than the one that I took the state test for. 4. S#%$! It’s 7:45. The bell just rang and I can hear my new students coming down the hall.
Summer is a merciful time of reflection and restoration for a teacher. Much of the meaning of what takes place over the course of a year is imperceptible until the backward glance of summer. In my seventeenth summer as a teacher in the School District of Philadelphia, my annual retrospective is colored by what looms for all of us in Philadelphia. While Torch Lytle’s call for unified action to wrest control of our schools from the elites who make policy decisions is absolutely imperative, I cannot help but wonder about my place in this social movement. My most meaningful work is done at a very local level, in one small room at one small school. That combination can be an invitation to invisibility. As I look back over the past year, I want to see ways that my small-scale work can have public resonance.
Anissa Weinraub, Teacher Action Group- Philadelphia
We are at a tipping point in Philadelphia.
I say this as a teacher, fully committed to the promise of public education for all the young people living in this city I love, who has felt the repeated stab of the School District’s systemic dysfunction and the State and City’s structural abandonment.
I say this as a teacher activist, who is engaged in the community-wide fight for public education. I am a part of Teacher Action Group-Philadelphia (TAG) a member-run grassroots organization of educators working to strengthen our influence on the decisions that most affect us – how schools are run, funded, and governed – so that community control, equity, and fairness are back at the center of public education.