Testimony of Maddie Luebbert to the BOE, February 27, 2020

Good evening Dr. Hite and members of the School Board.

I am Maddie Luebbert, an English teacher at Kensington Health Sciences Academy, a PFT member, and a member of the Caucus of Working Educators. Tonight I ask the Board to vote against the proposed charter for the High School of Health Science Leadership (HS2L).

I’m not sure where to start with this testimony. I could retell the story of the Philadelphia School Partnership visiting my school to plagiarize our mission and vision, which we’ve cultivated for years. I could argue that sinking money into a new school would divert funds from dealing with our environmental crisis. I could express my concern that a new charter school would not properly serve English Learners and students with IEPs. I could implore you to recognize our existing successful CTE programs.

But I don’t need to do any of that. By all accounts, the folks behind HS2L submitted a below basic application. Perhaps the applicants thought they could just buy a new school. I’d like to thank APPS for their commitment to publicizing these issues. Since I could not attend the application hearing in January (it was at 2pm on a school day), I read the detailed reporting from APPS. I don’t need to tell you how subpar this application is, because the School District’s Charter School Office and our watchdogs have already done so.

Over the last four years as a neighborhood school teacher, I’ve had deep conversations about increasing “rigor” in our curriculum and making sure our students are “ready for college and career upon graduation.” After walk-throughs, teachers are critiqued by their ability to teach with “urgency” from bell to bell, which completely glosses over the educational experiences our students bring with them, as well as all of the contributing factors that demonstrate how rigor for rigor’s sake is not the best choice for our students.

I say this to ask the District to walk it like they talk it, and demand “rigor” from all schools, from their inception onward. In fact, if we are going to pour our resources into a new charter school, we should demand a perfect application that describes the necessity of an innovative school with clarity. We have not seen that from HS2L. As an educator, I would not even accept this work as is. I’d have my student finish the assignment and review it with the rubric before turning it in.

We’ve told you many times how KHSA, along with our sibling schools with CTE programming, are already providing innovative, supportive, high-quality education for our students. Please deny HS2L and consider the ways we can strengthen our existing neighborhood high schools and CTE programs.