Hello, my name is Coleman Poses. As a Northwest community member, I had attended a meeting in October regarding the conversion of the John Wister Elementary School in Germantown to a charter school. At the meeting the Philadelphia School District team displayed a number of Powerpoint slides which attempted to explain why Wister was undergoing this transformation. (slide 1)
One slide, which implied that a precipitous decrease in student enrollment over the past two years from about 275 to about 170 was due to parents’ lack of faith in the school. Yet when I inquired if any of those departing families had actually been interviewed about their reasons for leaving, the speaker, Peng Chao, admitted that they were not. Furthermore, he had confessed that he did not know why they had left.
Aside from the questionable connection between the decline in student population and the quality of the school, I found that such an abrupt decline in such a short time without the community or the press taking note of it also seemed somewhat suspect.
An analysis of the actual data on the School District’s website, however, uncovered that, over this two year period, student enrollment actually shrunk from 452 to 383 due to the school transitioning from K – 6 to K – 5. Moreover, four out of the remaining six grades actually showed an increase in student population.
(slide 3) On another front, based upon the most recent PSSA’s, there are at least five schools that have scored consistently below the three schools – Huey, Cooke, and Wister – currently scheduled for transformation. What is special about the proposed transformation schools? It may possibly have more to do with their strengths than their weaknesses. .
According to the Great Philly Schools database, Wister is in the 99th percentile for safety, and the 60th percentile for attendance, which is a testament to the dedication of the families and faculty at the school, and which could easily form the building blocks for future success if the proper resources were allocated to the school.
(slide 5) I present this information to you today to at least raise a doubt in your mind about the school district’s analysis, and ask you to exercise the due diligence with which you have been empowered to conduct an independent audit of the reasons for the school district’s proposal that will satisfy the desires and the aspirations of the parents, students, and citizens of this community. The Wister community deserves at least that much respect. Thank you for considering this request.
2 Pa. C.S.A. Sec. 551 et seq
Section 3. Review
The SRC may assume jurisdiction over controversies or disputes arising within this school district concerning any matter over which the SRC has authority granted by statute or where the SRC has retained jurisdiction in contract or policies.
In furtherance of its adjudicatory function, the SRC may hold hearings in accordance with law which shall offer the parties to a dispute, on notice duly given, a fair and impartial forum for the resolution of the matter.
Beyond the basic requirements of due process, a hearing may vary in form and content in line with the severity of the consequences that may flow from it, the difficulty of establishing findings of fact from conflicting evidence, and the impact of the SRC’s decision on the school district.
SC 696 Title 22 Sec. 4.13 Pol. 100, 102
The SRC shall act as the general agent of the residents of the school district in matters of public education.