Barbara Dowdall SRC testimony – March 17, 2016

Barbara Dowdall SRC 3-17-16


Good evening, I am Barbara McDowell Dowdall, a resident of Germantown since the age of 18 months, one of four siblings who attended Theodore Roosevelt Junior High, and a member of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools (APPS).

F stands for Fearlessness

I Integrity

T stands for Truthfulness

L for Loyalty (Rah, rah, rah!)

E stands for Earnestness

R for all the Rest

F I T L E R          Our Fitler is the best!

This was our song when I commenced (we didn’t say graduated) from Edwin H. Fitler (onetime Mayor of Philadelphia *) Elementary School (then a mere 61 years old) to Roosevelt Junior High (then only three decades old) in midwinter of 1958. Although warned away by predictions that I would be robbed at knifepoint in the locker room – warnings sufficient to move the majority of parents of my white classmates to seek “better seats” for their children at Mifflin, Henry, Houston, Jenks, Cooke and elsewhere – my parents saw no reason to “save me” from Roosevelt ( a school rich in music — instrumental and vocal – art, sports and other extra curriculars), despite the fact that the racial balance had reversed from majority white to majority black in the four years since my older brother’s attendance there. Thus I encountered Joy Simpson, future opera singer; JoAnne Robinson, future French teacher and Vaux Jr. High colleague; Cynthia Morgan, future professor of psychology and California University Dean; and Stephanie Garrett, future Federal government official who, when I asked whether she had a comment on our school’s fate, commented: “My mother and I attended Roosevelt. Seems it would need a major update. The building is very old.”

Very old! 92 years old this year. And victim of so many changes and permutations over the years: junior high (grades 7-9), middle school (grades 5-8), shuttered school, re-opened school with another school enjoying occupying its third floor, middle school, now elementary school absorbing students from the shuttered Fulton. Original second floor library relocated to basement, then following leaks and eliminated librarian, no library at all. Classroom doors that could not lock, and telephones that did not work. Broken front steps and trash-strewn lawns. Racially isolated and underfunded, echoing Germantown’s earlier history of segregated schools in Pulaski Town.** And now, a new and wonderful prospect: to be turned around and richly resourced, with only the demand that current teachers, almost certainly never consulted on what staff, materials and other supports they might have needed to bring order and achievement to a battered school, be dispersed en masse bearing the label of failure, to jobs that may or may not exist, in schools no better cared for or about. Beware John B. Kelly and Lingelbach! The Fickle Finger of Hite may target you next!                                       #       #       #


*His relations with his employees were of the most cordial character. It is said that he never had labor troubles in his plant.

Edwin Fitler


Edwin H. Filter

Mayor of Philadelphia (1887-1891)

Biographical sketches of Edwin H. Fitler

Edwin H. Fitler | Wikepedia

**Two public schools were established in the late 1880’s, one designated “Colored School.” As African Americans filled the smaller homes in Pulaski Town, whites vacated gradually. Thomas Meehan Public School was built in 1901 as a replacement for the earlier segregated Black school, possibly spurred to completion by the recent Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court decision validating separate but equal public institutions and accommodations (15-16). More segregated facilities followed: the Penn School Club, the Pulaski Town Free Kindergarten Association, these two then joining to form the Wissahickon School Club, eventually, the Wissahickon Boys Club. Despite these events, Pulaski Town kept and integrated face going into World War I. Gradually, over the 20th century, a series of segregated schools, founded with apparent good intention, gave way to integrated education (Germantown High School in the public sphere; Germantown Friends in the private), and recreational facilities (YWCA and Germantown Boys Club). Even so, large areas of Germantown remain racially segregated by residence and educational venue, as white residents departed for suburbs near and far….A classic example of seizing long-denied opportunity was African American teacher of mathematics, Mary Wright. Mrs., later Dr. Wright, served as the first Black teacher at Roosevelt Junior High, Germantown High School and the Philadelphia High School for Girls, eventually assuming the role of vice principal, the first Black administrator there, some 120 years after the school’s founding. Sadly, many public schools in Germantown that began, gradually, to welcome African American students, saw an exodus of white students — resulting in a re-segregation of these historically exclusive institutions. It should be noted that Germantown High School itself, opened as an integrated school at the very beginning of the 20th century.

Germantown PA: Researching the Great Road Welcome Mat by Barbara Dowdall

Further reading:

Jim Crow Segregation Lives On: An Examination of Pennsylvania’s Race-Based Pubic School System | Atlanta Backstar – October 1, 2015






















Edwin H. Fitler School. Built in 1897. Scheduled to be torn down in 1970. Turned around as Fitler Academics Plus. 119 years old.

                 Roosevelt Junior High School. Built in 1922-24

Germantown High School (1914 – 2013)

Further reading: