by Barbara McDowell Dowdall



Webster: failure to do as one should   

Oxford languages: a failure to do something, especially something that one has a moral or legal obligation to do 

Dowdall: a missed opportunity

For most board members, except for President Wilkerson, former member Chris McGinley, and current member Cecelia Thompson, the opportunity missed was attending, observing, and speaking at meetings of the School Reform Commission—essential for making the return to local control a meaningful change. 

Also missed were countless opportunities to engage with registered speakers at our now local board meetings, to ask them for additional information or recommendations that would improve operations and instructional outcomes.

Inexplicably: the addition of venues for parent, community, staff and student input through Student Support and Achievement and Facilities and Finance Committees was de-opportunized and rendered another omission.

Speaker and time limits that tell the public that a maximum of one hour per month, not a second or two more, is all the board is willing or able to tolerate, constitute another missed opportunity. 50 or even 100 “listening” sessions cannot counter the power of that message.

 The greatest missed opportunity, of course, was not seizing the moment, in the board’s earliest days, to plan and set aside funding for the restoration of our libraries with Certified Teacher Librarians. Random donations, volunteer staffing, and classroom shelves with books, like random donated playgrounds, are among the starkest omissions of equity. 

Even as donation- and volunteer-based an organization as the West Philadelphia Alliance for Children, in the words of its Executive Director Jenny Lowman, has come to advocate for dedicated school budget funding for a “functioning library with a certified librarian at the helm” in every school as “a major priority in the campaign to improve students’ literacy skills.” Now is the time. Correct that omission. No need to wait for a new superintendent!

A current candidate for Governor in Virginia is campaigning to ban one book, Toni Morrison’s Beloved. Without our libraries, we are effectively banning thousands.


Southwest Germantown neighbor Kim Peel and Philadelphia Goat Project Fernhill Park visitor /vegetation snacker  greet Little Red Riding Hood (Principal Dr. Pressley—Dress as Your Favorite Literary Character Day) in John B. Kelly Elementary School’s play yard. 

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