Hartranft Elementary School. Hartranft is a K-8 school at 720 W. Cumberland Street in Neighborhood Network 5. In 2015-16 there were 506 students enrolled: 64% African American, 26% Latino, 1% European and approximately 7% Other. 15% of students have some type of learning disability, .2% are gifted, 7% are English Language Learners. 100% of the school is CEP Economically Disadvantaged.
Present at the October 17th, 4 PM initial meeting were Principal Jason Lytle, District Superintendent George Roesser, about fifteen parents and grandparents, some school staff, several district administrators, PFT staffer Jackie Scott, and APPS member Lynda Rubin.
Principal Lytle conducted the meeting. He was very passionate about the strengths of the school but concerned about the welfare of his students and all of the members of the school community. He thanked the parents and community members for their continued support.
Mr. Lytle went through the power-point presentation that all eleven Priority Schools have been given. He said that the schools were chosen because of low SPR scores for three consecutive years. In addition to ELA and Math scores, attendance, climate and number of suspensions contribute to the SPR. He also repeated the district’s statements that:
- No school in this process will become Renaissance Charters this year.
- No recommendations have been made on any of the eleven schools.
- “We want your high impact ideas”.
The options for the school at the end of the process are:
- Entering the school in District’s Turnaround network.
- Merging the school with an existing high-quality provider. (It was never explained how that would occur in a neighborhood that was so economically disadvantaged, or that merging schools would in effect mean that at least one school was closed.)
- Engaging a contract partner, which was not explained.
- Initiating evidence-based plan for academic improvement, again unexplained.
- Restarting the school. (It was unclear whether they were talking about actually closing the school temporarily before it was “restarted”, but this does involve significant changes in faculty and staff.)
Mr. Lytle said that following this initial kick-off meeting, there will be two days when Cambridge representatives will come in to observe school, talk with staff and parents, check out the school’s climate, and look at current attendance and test scores.
Mr. Yates emphasized that he will not be making recommendations to Dr. Hite, but will deliver the “facts” of what he saw, as in “leading indicators” of climate and student ability to learn in a classroom. He stated that Dr. Hite alone would be making the decisions about the schools based on information from the report.
Mr. Lytle noted that data for 2015-16 was not included because it’s not yet in, but he’s confident that those scores will show improvement when they come out in January. He said that he welcomes all additional resources. He then said he was glad that somebody was actually coming into the school to see what was going on. He tried to give information about the very complicated SPR scores beyond what the power-point presentation showed. He said that scores were divided into:
- Climate – includes suspensions and attendance. Mr Lytle pointed out that the school’s attendance was trending up; that wasn’t included in the data shown from the 3 years starting in 2012-13.
- Progress – Math scores have been going up.
Mr. Lytle explained that each sub-category within the above categories was given a different point weight, suggesting that some sub-categories were more important than others, affecting the overall score.
Mr. Lytle said that he recognizes that the school needs help and that he was open to receiving supports. He stressed that in his three years at Hartranft, the school had already begun making progress and that he had had been working to gain community supports. For example, he has made arrangements for Temple University students to give math tutoring in the school. He said, “You can’t deny that a train is already moving in the right direction and that data didn’t reflect last year’s gains [the SPR data started in 12-13].” Principal Lytle spoke of how the community assists him and that the teachers and he work together very well.
He told the parents that he recognized that most have child-care needs, jobs, etc. and could not necessarily come to all of the focus group meetings. He told them that if they could only make one other meeting, they should pick the focus group meeting on the next day so they could actually give their thoughts to the Cambridge group.
I asked about options which would result in the faculty being forced to reapply for their positions, which would mean that most would not be able to return to the school. Mr. Yates replied that the federal government had taken that off the table 5-6 years ago as not a helpful component of a plan. I told him that the School District was still churning staff assignments every year, as recently as last year. Parents perked up at this question and said firmly that they didn’t want the school closed or teachers transferred out.
Mr. Yates said Cambridge was not going to give “programative” solutions to Dr. Hite, just “facts”. Mr. Yates admitted he doesn’t know this community. Parents told him that Hartranft needed community wrap-around supports, that the recreation center across street had closed and that had led to school decline, that many students are hungry and dealing with post-traumatic stress and other symptoms of poverty. They were concerned that there is no after-school support, especially for homework, and no activities to keep kids off streets.
District Superintendent Roesser praised Hartranft’s principal, staff and parents who have worked so well together. He talked about how everyone pitched in when a pipe broke, creating a flood in the building and that everyone made sure the students were safe and that there was no damage to any of the school’s materials. Mr. Roesser said that he wrote commendations to the Central Administration at the School District as to how well everyone responded to this unforeseen situation.
Submitted by Lynda Rubin
November 5, 2016