Testimony of Barbara Dowdall to the BOE, November 21, 2019

 Public School Dreams

My intended primary {but including, in good conscience, all still-operating GTown schools built before 1962 and thus likely at risk for asbestos exposure} Germantown public school dream this evening references the site, right in the heart of my lifelong community, where Germantown High School, the first racially-integrated public high school in Philadelphia, was shuttered one year short of its 100th anniversary, and across the street from Fulton Elementary School where parents, sitting in its sweet library, were informed by a laptop-armed 440 staffer that it, too, would be shut down that year.

Abandoned so, left to advancing weeds, easy prey for invaders who stripped them of copper pipes and wires, their vacant windows staring across the street to the even longer-abandoned Town Hall, and just up Germantown Avenue from our abandoned YWCA, snapped up at bargain rates, dropped, purchased again for no apparent purpose — neighbors near and far were on the edge of despair – until the spark of a horrifying rumor: developer plans to raze the high school, replace it with a strip mall, with the great lawn sloping down to the avenue to be paved for a parking lot brought our amazingly varied community groups (more, it is said, than in any other neighborhood in Philly) to renewed life and common purpose, coming together to form the Germantown Fulton Campus Coalition. So here and now is the unique opportunity for the still fresh-in-many-ways, blessedly locally-controlled Board of Education to join with the community to dream with us and restore a public school presence in possibly exciting and creative ways: Germantown Heritage High School: for a 100th year celebration of its predecessor? Utilizing of the Germantown and Fulton Libraries as anchors for the planned restoration of all district school libraries with librarians? A combination lower school and high school (with evening diploma programs for adults) linked with the Germantown Historical Society for in-depth research and restorative construction in History’s Backyard?

Make this your new approach. Involve yourselves, board members and staff, with neighborhood individuals* and groups** instead of Madison Avenue, Boston or Pacific Coast corporate entities. Tap our city-born and bred city planners for study, data collection, analysis and…planning!

Might the story of Hinchliffe Stadium in Paterson NJ provide a useful analogy?
“Resurrecting a Field of Dreams: Can the Rebirth of a Negro League Stadium Revive a Distressed City?”

In the 1930s and ’40s, the game flourished here as segregation kept black players out of the major leagues. In 1933, the stadium’s first complete baseball season, Hinchliffe hosted the Negro leagues equivalent of the World Series….When the stadium fell into disrepair in the 1990s and closed in 1997, part of Paterson died too.

Hinchliffe, vacant since 1997, is one of the few stadiums from the Negro leagues still standing. An architectural gem and a symbol of perseverance amid racial injustice, it became a casualty of this economically distressed city’s more pressing needs. After multiple failed attempts to fund its revival, a ninth-inning save seemed unlikely.
Until now.

After much debate in the last several months, a proposal to transform Hinchliffe into a multisport facility, primarily for children and high school teams, cleared its last local hurdle recently when City Council members approved the development plan.
Construction is expected to begin next year, in time for the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Negro leagues. Once home to the New York Black Yankees and the New York Cubans, Hinchliffe was host to such players as Monte Irvin, Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell and Paterson’s own Larry Doby, the first black player in the American League.

Barbara McDowell Dowdall

Barbara McDowell Dowdall Germantown Resume*

Germantown Resident 1947 – Present
Edwin H. Fitler School 1952-1958 Roosevelt Junior High School 1958-60
Unitarian Society of Germantown 1949 – Present
Girl Scout Troop #119 @ Church of the Advocate 5250 Wayne Avenue
Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) of Germantown a. Summer Camp and Swimming Lessons 1950’s b.Y Teens 1960’s (with Clarice Herbert, 1st African American Executive Director) c. Assistant Leader, Girl Scout Troop 1970’s d. Weight Watcher’s 1990’s e. Board and co-president with Linda Samuel of Linda’s Flower Café 2000’s
Summer Reading Club Vernon Park Library 1956-59
Brother Bruce J. McDowell, Germantown High School Class of 1966.
Resident and founding member of Tulpehocken Apartments Coop, 1969-82
Founder and bassoonist, Germantown Woodwind Quintet, 1974-1986 Played at opening of Northwest Regional Library, July 1978
English Department, Germantown High and Germantown Lankenau High Schools 1986-89 AP English teacher, Germantown High Saturdays, 2006
Author, Teachers Institute of Philadelphia (TIP) Curriculum Unit: “Germantown PA: Researching the Great Road Welcome Mat” 2006
Volunteer, Germantown Historical Association, 2010 – 2012
Member, Education and Housing Committees, **Germantown Fulton Campus Coalition (GFCC) 2019
**Northwest Philadelphia Public Schools (NW PHL)