Good evening. My name is Maddie Luebbert, and I am a teacher at Kensington Health Sciences Academy and a lifelong Philadelphian. I am proud to work at a neighborhood high school, where we provide a life-saving community for students who do not have a place elsewhere.
Our neighborhood schools are starved for resources, then repeatedly punished for failing to measure up to schools playing by completely different rules, especially around staffing, enrollment, and partnerships. Neighborhood school students are not given the same opportunities as their charter school peers.
Based on the application narrative, the High School for Health Science Leadership plans to have strict control over their enrollment. They’ve opted to not even accept transfers after 10th grade since their healthcare career tracks begin that year. KHSA has no such luxury. Although our students begin a state certified CTE track at the start of tenth grade, we are proud to welcome new students no matter when they join us.
HS2L has proposed a large, top heavy staff, with numerous administrators and support staff. They can afford positions that seem like a luxury from the perspective of a neighborhood school. For example, with their own school psychologist, they will be better equipped to serve students with IEPs.
They’ve also budgeted for four ESOL teachers by year four, when they will have a comparable population to KHSA. 20% of our students are identified as ELs, and yet we have only 1.5 ESOL teachers stretched thin and barely able to provide services to our students.
In theory, a neighborhood school like KHSA is free to make staffing choices like these. However, managing a budget for a traditional school means choosing to lop off an arm to save a leg. Our resources are finite, with half of our funding coming from our state’s deeply biased funding formula. Principals may have to gamble on a certain position, leaving another job vulnerable to leveling.
With their own dedicated Director of Career Experiences, HS2L will have unprecedented access to healthcare partnerships. KHSA staff have worked ceaselessly to find “career experiences” for our students, which are required for those in CTE programming. A traditional school’s principal has to choose between networking and development, or ensuring the smooth daily operations of the school.
Furthermore, somehow HS2L has already received the enthusiastic endorsement and guarantee of partnerships that KHSA has sought for years. I wonder why the administrators of Temple, Jefferson, Drexel, CCP, and the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine are suddenly passionate about partnering with public schools. Where were these partners before? Where is the investment in our students?
If we invested in traditional schools even a fraction of the resources HS2L has arranged through corporate nonprofit sponsorships and support from “eds and meds” that want good press instead of paying PILOTs, there would be no need for a student or their family to choose between traditional and charter schools. All of our neighborhood schools would thrive. This is the true purpose of public education: To support the collective good.