Testimony of Erika McFadden at the New Charter Applications Hearing, December 20, 2019

Good afternoon, my name is Erika McFadden and I have been teaching biology at The Academies at Roxborough High School since 2005. For the past five years, I have also been the Science Instructional Coach and now the Coordinator for the Academies of Health Sciences and Research.

Our HSR Academy, which consists of a biotechnology pathway and a kinesiology pathway strives to “prepare and empower students to be scientifically literate professionals” in any journey they take after high school. Recently we earned National Accreditation and were named a Model Status Academy by the National Career Academies Coalition, although you may not be aware of this, as the district did not publicize this hard earned honor at all, despite our best efforts. In fact, much of what we have accomplished at Roxborough had to done through outside grants, resources, and partnerships because of what seemed to be a lack of funding from the district.

We have worked continuously to foster relationships with local industries, professionals, and secondary education institutions so that our students may have every possible opportunity to succeed and gain experience in the health sciences field. So you can imagine my shock and confusion that there is funding and support available to open a new school with a similar mission and build their program from the ground up. Between the schools that are here today, as well as other schools with CTE programs in the district, the mission of this charter school is already being met. Those current health science schools could use any and all support the district has to offer to strengthen our existing programs.

It is also important to understand that while Roxborough is a wall to wall academy school, at the same time, we are a comprehensive neighborhood high school. Our students come from all over the city from a variety of backgrounds, but they come, every day. We have one of the highest daily attendance rates of any comprehensive high school, and we attribute that to our academy model. These are students who could potentially fall through the cracks, because their test scores or grades did not allow them to attend the magnet or criteria-based schools, and resources and staff are constantly being diverted away from their education to charter schools.

However, one of our principal’s favorite sayings is “find a third way.” When counseling was cut, we partnered with 1199C to help advise students on college and secondary education options; when there is no money in the budget for supplies and equipment, we partner with industry professionals and ask for donations of their equipment, when additional support positions like social workers were cut, we developed our own data tracking system to implement interventions early. What else will be cut from our students’ education while new charters are able to be funded?

Opening and funding a health sciences charter school, while not fully supporting our students in their health sciences program lets them know that, once again, they are not a priority to their district. But they are a priority to us, which is why we are here. On behalf of my fellow staff, our students and parents, and our business partners, we implore you to put available funding and resources into these wonderful programs that are already developed in your public schools.