Testimony Bob Nelson to the BOE, January 30, 2020

Good evening. My name is Bob Nelson. Thank you for the honor of speaking tonight. I am in my 11th year as a school counselor at Kensington Health Sciences Academy.

I remember when Tim Metheney, the CEO for the proposed High School of Health Sciences Leadership Charter School, came to visit our school in 2016. He had an in-depth tour and was very interested in and complimentary of our program model. When I read the proposal, I felt like I was reading a proposal from our school, about our school. In other words, I did not see much new or different in the proposal.

Instead of picking at the Charter School proposal, I prefer to share some recent accomplishments:

  • During the last three years, our two principals each received the Lindback Award for exceptional leadership in leading our Health Sciences Academy.
  • Two years ago, at the state HOSA conference, our health sciences students were awarded 13 out of the 14 medals that came to the school district.
  • Our school is one of the safest high schools in the city.
  • In our region, we have the second highest attendance rate of any high school – students like coming to our school.
  • Our graduation rate is in the upper half of the district and over 90% of our CTE program students graduate. The majority of our students go on to study health sciences in higher education.
  • The state just completed a CTE audit of our program and we received the highest rating.

Each year, our community school gets better. The proposal is well crafted. However, we have proven success…the proposal can only talk about what they want to do.

Of particular concern…we are a neighborhood school, while the proposed charter seeks to be a city-wide admit school. The marketing plan for student recruitment ends just three blocks from our school! Under Dr. Hite’s leadership, the district CTE office has carefully worked to spread CTE programs reach across the school district to increase equity of access to programs for all district students. This proposal does not do that. It does just the opposite.

Also, of particular concern is the competition for limited health sciences resources in our area. It is not fair to our students that this proposal seeks to compete for opportunities our school has developed and managed for our students for years. There is no reasonable answer to this challenge.

I am opposed to the creation of any new charter schools which will drain additional resources out of our neighborhood schools.

If you chose to support the health sciences charter school application, I respectfully suggest you help them find a location, with direction from the district CTE office, that will increase equity of student access to health sciences programs. The proposal as written, to place their program in our neighborhood, may meet their business needs, but is not well thought out from a district-wide educational perspective.

Instead I respectfully recommend you invest in our established program, and in the other established health sciences programs in neighborhood schools across the district.

I invite you to visit Kensington Health Sciences Academy to see how effective a health sciences program can be in a neighborhood school.

In closing, please remember we are a neighborhood high school, and Philadelphia students, and their neighborhood schools, need your support.

Thank you.