Testimony of Coleen Orr, Public Hearing for New Charter Schools, December 20, 2019

Good afternoon, committee members, colleagues, and guests. My name is Colleen Orr, and I am the Health-Related Technologies – Pharmacy Technician instructor at Kensington Health Sciences Academy. When I interviewed at KHSA the passion I saw in Ms. Eren for our children was palpable, and a part of the reason I accepted the job was because I knew that the programs at KHSA were making a difference in the student’s lives. I am concerned that, if the charter High School for Health Sciences Leadership opens, it will hurt Health-Related Technology programs at public schools like ours.

On my first day at KHSA, my senior students asked me who I was and whether I would be there at the end of the year. You see, due to the CTE teacher shortage and the lack of financial aid for the mandatory training of CTE teachers there is a high turnover in many programs. I made a commitment to these students that I would be at KHSA for their graduation, that was three years ago. These kids wanted someone who would believe in them and challenge them so they could prove to themselves that they could be successful.

I had another student that year in my 10th grade class, who had an IEP and was struggling behaviorally and academically. When I asked him what he wanted to do, he told me he did not plan on a career in health care. We had a long talk about half-way through the year and he promised he would change his behavior. Last year, he was a C to B student. This year he has one of two internships at Einstein Hospital. Daily he comes to me and excitedly tells me what he did that day. One day he was upset, and he told me that on his way to work he noticed his uncle on the ground outside of his restaurant, unconscious and unresponsive; he called for help, performed CPR until the EMT’s got there, and saved his uncle’s life. Without the program at KHSA he would not have known what to do in that situation. He now has a path to a good-paying job in health care after he graduates. This student is just one example of the kids in our programs and what they learn. There are so many more like him.

If the proposed new charter school opens, I am worried about two things: the shortage of health-related technology teachers will increase in Philadelphia, and that students like the one I just described will have decreased access to quality internship programs in the healthcare field.

My hope is that you will not vote for the new Charter High School for Health Sciences Leadership. Invest in the students in the public schools with existing Health Related Technology programs and allow us to continue to provide the education and opportunities to these deserving students.

Thank you,

Colleen M. Orr, MSN, RN

Health-Related Technology Instructor

Kensington Health Sciences Academy

2463 Emerald Street,

Philadelphia, PA 19125