School District of Philadelphia Board of Education Action Meeting Testimony, May 26, 202222

by Lynda Rubin

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Action #29 under consideration
The Administration recommends that the Board of Education authorize The School District
of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent or his designee, to execute and perform an
amendment of a Memorandum of Understanding, as follows:
With: Center for Supportive Schools
Purpose: Peer leadership and adult mentorship programs to support student transition from
elementary to middle school and middle to high school
Start date: 7/1/2020
Original end date: 6/30/2023
Amended end date: 6/30/2028
Original value of services not to exceed: $500,000
Additional Value of Services: $1,000,000
Total value of services not to exceed: $1,500,000

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Action Item #29 describes a worthy effort. I just have a few questions.

  • What happened to the money for the years 2020-2022 during Covid? Extending the contract beyond  3 years? 

This effort requires consistent and increased staffing in schools – 

  • Will schools lose teachers to leveling, affecting school staff available for this program? 
  • Will this program be affected by teachers leaving teaching, in part due to their feeling overwhelmed with documenting statistics instead of support for actual inroads made with students? 
  • Wouldn’t preserving schools actually in neighborhood communities provide stability?

I fear the written intent, however attractive it may be, will be thwarted by the realities in our District, unless we change our priorities.

And now, I have to speak from the heart! Children have my heart. My heart is broken by yet another senseless mass school shooting right after the racist attack in Buffalo, followed by empty “thoughts and prayers” responses. 

We must help our children to process this trauma, and allow them to link it by sharing to their own experiences in order to start healing. We must help them gain stability and their trust in us  again. Children act out and become angry, or shrink into the walls, because they feel vulnerable and not heard. 

We must make schools a “safe haven” again where students feel known and who have developed relationships with staff due to staff longevity and consistency with the school and community.

I fear Wanding and making 10-14 year old children walk through metal detectors can do more damage to their psyches by making them feel that they are seen as possible gun shooters; especially if there has been death or injury in their own families. Also, Wanding & Detectors used just once, then not for months, puts an open season tag on those schools. I don’t get it.

We can say it’s to make them safe, but we’re adults, not children who hear and feel things differently. Anger, and even excessive playfulness, may be their defense mechanisms for poor self-concept, self-blame, not feeling trusted or processing loss.

I urge this Board and the new Superintendent to rethink schooling from a student’s point of view and how to maximize their trust in us and, thus, themselves in the classroom.