Good evening. My name is Deborah Grill. I am a retired teacher and certified school librarian, the parent of a Philly public school graduate, and a lifelong resident of Philadelphia.
I want to welcome you and wish you well in the task ahead of you. I know it won’t be easy. You are taking over a district traumatized by 17 years of state control and the policies and actions of a state legislature that is hostile to public education. The District has been destabilized by inadequate funding, the cost of unfettered charter growth, school closings, corporate ed reform experiments, and the outsourcing of services to sub-standard edu-vendors.
I hope your first steps will be to restore stability to the system by ensuring that every school is safe and staffed with an adequate administrative, teaching and support staff and that that staff has the resources they need to ensure students learn and thrive. Invest the Districts limited funds in the strategies that are supported by a solid body of research: smaller class size, reading specialists, school libraries with certified teacher librarians, just to name a few.
Many of our students live in poverty and suffer from trauma as a result of that. Ongoing research on the effect of poverty finds that this trauma affects a child’s health and impedes learning. Any educator will tell you that learning is facilitated by the relationships that are formed between students and the adults in the building. Even Bill Gates acknowledged that when he attributed the small class size and the relationships he had with the adults in his school to its success as a great learning environment. Smaller class size, restorative practices and more counselors and non-teaching assistants go a long way in fostering healthy relationships within a building. When you are faced with deciding among funding the latest computerized learning systems, outsourcing services to an edu-vendor, or one of the strategies I mentioned, I hope you opt for those that have been proven to work. These strategies may cost you more that the latest technological innovation, but our students are certainly worth it.