Catherine Blunt transcript of testimony before the BOE, August 16, 2018

Catherine Blunt-Retired Educator and Public School Advocate

Dr. Charlotte Ruth Wright Hayre was born into a prominent African-American family in Atlanta, GA in 1910.
At the age of 15, she received and accepted a scholarship from the University of Pennsylvania where she earned her B.A in Education her M.A in Literature as well as her Ph.D — in 1949.

Dr. Hayre was

  • the second African-American Junior High School teacher in Philadelphia when Black teachers were only hired for elementary school
  • the first African-American High School teacher – 1946 @ Wm Penn High School
  • the first African-American assistant principal – 1953 @ Wm Penn High School
  • the first African- American Principal – 1955 @ Wm Penn High School
  • the first female African-American to become a public school district superintendent – 1963 – District 4 in North Philadelphia including Strawberry Mansion High School. She served Philadelphia School District’s District 4 school-communities until 1976.
  • the first female to head the Philadelphia School Board – 1990 after having retired from the Philadelphia School District

Dr. Hayre believed all children can achieve, no matter the school or the community, given necessary supports, interventions, and encouragements.

In 1988 she founded the “Tell Them We are Rising Fund” and was among the first philanthropists to promise scholarships to 119 of North Philadelphia’s middle school students who graduated from high school.

In 1997, Dr. Hayre wrote her autobiography: “Tell Them We are Rising: A Memoir of Faith in Education.”

Dr. Hayre passed away at the age of 89 on January 30, 1999.

Therefore, it is fitting that the School Board of Education of 1998-1999 passed a resolution re-dedicating Strawberry Mansion Middle and High School along with the Hill Elementary School as the Dr. Ruth Wright Hayre Educational Complex.

Her picture is displayed prominently in a glass encasement in the main foyer. However the is the signage is missing over top of the casement identifying Dr. Hayre and memorializing the 1990 re-dedication of Strawberry Mansion and the Hill School Building.

Out of respect for Dr. Hayre, the African-American educator who achieved so many “firsts,” and to encourage the students she endeavored to mentor that signage needs to occur ASAP

In keeping with Dr. Hayre’s vision and legacy, I am requesting the School Board (a body on which she served)

  • to encourage the School District to provide these and future Strawberry Mansion High School students with every opportunity to be educated to their full capacity.
  • Specifically to acknowledge and advance Dr. Hayre’s legacy = by preparing Strawberry Mansion students to attend post secondary institutions of higher learning and / or preparing them to be career ready for employment providing a living wage and opportunities for advancement.