Catherine Blunt transcript of testimony before School Board on July 9, 2017

Click on timestamp 31:44 to view Catherine’s testimony.

Members of the School Board, Dr. Hite, and Members of the Larger Philadelphia School-Community

I am requesting you, the newly appointed School Board, to vacate the SRC June 21ST Vote which truncated Strawberry Mansion High School by removing its 9th grade for the upcoming school year (2018-2019:  Resolution A-19, Section B.

Further, I am requesting that a subset of the Board meet with the Strawberry Mansion Advisory Committee, now the Dr. Hayre Strawberry Mansion Advisory Committee, to reconsider the removal of the 9th grade from Strawberry Mansion High School, a school that was rededicated to pay tribute to Dr. Ruth Wright Hayre, Philadelphia’s first African-American High School teacher, our first African-American High School Principal, and our first female School Board member.

Three of the 4 SRC Members voted to approve Resolution A-19, section B to “truncate” Strawberry Mansion High School to a 10th to 12th Grade School for the 2018-2019 school year. And, Testimony from Dr. Hite alleged the “truncating” was necessary to put programs in place to attract students to Strawberry Mansion, and he gave assurances that the 9th Grade will be restored for the 2019-2020 school year.

The Strawberry Mansion Community, however, is not hopeful!

The vote to remove the 9th grade from Mansion involved:

  • Fran Burns = voted YES after requesting Dr. Hite to explain school district planning for Strawberry Mansion
  • Retired Principal Marge Neff  = voted NO after raising concerns that removing the 9th grade reduces the population further, abandons returning 9th graders from Charter and other schools, and did not seem to benefit the planning process
  • Bill Green voted = YES
  • Appearing indecisive, Chairperson Estelle Richmond finally voted YES ONLY after  several minutes of a seemingly improper sidebar conversation initiated by Dr. Hite who was seated next to her

I testified against Resolution A-19 [B 19] explaining that satisfying state and school district 9th grade requirements is easy because 9th graders only need the 4 basic required subjects of English, Math, Science, Social Studies and 2 electives. [However, the 227 remaining Strawberry Mansion 10th through 12th graders require academic courses as well as choices of Career and Technical Education programs which should have been the school district’s focus, instead of redirecting the two 9th grade classes that Shawn Bird (Chief of Schools) revealed were slated for Strawberry Mansion in the fall of 2018].

Dear School Board Members, with your assistance and support, the Dr. Ruth Wright Hayre Educational Complex at Strawberry Mansion High School will rise, like the Phoenix, from the ashes of this community’s neglect and despair to become its beacon of hope, once again. I request that your meet with the Advisory Committee because we do have a plan for Strawberry Mansion High School.

Catherine Blunt, Public School Advocate, Retired Principal, and Retired Teacher

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