Barbara Dowdall’s SRC testimony transcript from September 14, 2017

Barbara Dowdall SRC 2
Click the picture to view the speakers and go to timestamp 1:47:58 to view Barbara’s testimony.

Planting Seeds

Three graduates of Philadelphia public high schools (Central 1960, Girls’ High 1964 and Germantown 1966) meet in a…cheese steak shop {two wearing blue jeans!} What — besides being siblings and on the mature side of 65 — do they have in common? All three (and every other public school student in Philadelphia at the time) had a library in every school they attended (Edwin H. Fitler Elementary, Theodore Roosevelt Junior High and their respective high schools). Seeds planted by those librarians and libraries yielded avid readers, college graduates and still-active patrons of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

A high school classmate of our late sister (Charlotte Girls’ High 1958), found refuge in the library. Writing in this month’s Digital Supplement of the Alumnae News, Becky Rutberg recalls:

As a Girls’ High student, I felt I had failed to achieve success. I NEVER received an ‘A’ in any subject and graduated at the bottom half of the 195th class – English my worst nightmare. I felt overwhelmed in the classrooms.

Disappointment in my inability to achieve covered me like a shroud. The bright light of my GHS career was the library. That room covered with four walls of books connected me to a retreat from the hell of classroom activity. I would sit at a table and get lost in a relationship with the printed word, awed by the ability of an author to place such words on paper. Ruth Dean, our librarian, helped and guided as needed, no pressure.

Becky’s book, Mary Lincoln’s Dressmaker: Elizabeth Keckley’s Remarkable Rise from Slave to White House Confidante, was published in 1995. (One reviewer commented: Rutberg masterfully pairs the material from Keckley’s autobiography with background information on the country’s history through the 1800s, creating a powerful picture of the life of a slave before and after freedom…)

 

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Mary Lincoln's Dressmaker

Becky concluded:

Looking back through several decades of my life, I can truthfully say that the Girls’ High library helped me, an underachieving student graduate, and ignited something that sent me on a path I never in my wildest imagination thought I would travel in this life.

For near on 16 years, the School Reform Commission has unrelentingly tossed aside the seeds that would provide the youngsters in our schools (confirmed by powerful testimony like Becky’s and the most recent research) with the professionally-staffed, fully-resourced libraries that would yield a harvest of lifelong readers and writers. Like the parents and sibling of the youngster (representing our students, teachers and parents) in the classic children’s book, The Carrot Seed, the SRC has undermined and disrespected efforts to restore this precious and invaluable resource. Only with your replacement by an elected school board might we gain hope for a brighter tomorrow. Please help today be voting to disband.