Testimony of Nimet Eren to the BOE, December 12, 2019

Hello. My name is Nimet Eren. I was a teacher for 8 years at Olney High School, and now and I am the proud principal of Kensington Health Sciences Academy, a public neighborhood high school.

This summer, the Philadelphia School Partnership met with me to discuss the goals we had for our school. We talked extensively about what we have learned from the partnerships we have created, especially in medical settings. Then, PSP asked to visit us on September 25th for a morning-long visit. It was a wonderful visit—our teachers and students were engaged in great learning, as they are every day. We then had more in-depth conversations about the challenges of building partnerships with settings such as hospitals and clinics. Then, before Thanksgiving break, PSP told me that they had “an exciting opportunity for KHSA,” and that they wanted to share it with me. I was, of course, elated, and scheduled a meeting with them on December 2nd.

The news they wanted to share was that they were giving seed-money to a potential charter founder to form a health sciences charter high school in North Philly. I was incredibly confused as to how this was an exciting opportunity for KHSA, when in reality, it just feels like competition for my school, especially because charters can have special rules and special admissions policies, and we cannot. I asked PSP how this charter school would be helpful to KHSA, and they said “I could learn from their charter model.” In response, I said we are trying to build a model for our neighborhood students, and we need support. They then explained what I believe is the real answer as to why they were not investing in us: because KHSA is neighborhood school not a charter school, we cannot have special-admissions criteria for their dream school. 

I have spoken to many educational leaders in the last week, and they have agreed that that the foundation of a health sciences charter school is not helpful to not only our school, but the many district neighborhood high schools that also have health-sciences programs such as Martin Luther King, Overbrook, South Philly, and Sayre.
I stand before the Board today to ask you to invest in our students in the neighborhood high schools. They are incredible students, and they deserve more resources, more internships, more opportunities, and more connections. I am just a third-year principal, and we have tried very hard to cultivate opportunities for my students over the last 2.5 years. We have connections at St. Chris, Einstein, UPenn, Jefferson, and more, but I still need your help. Please invest in our students. Don’t create competition for us—partner with us. Invest in the neighborhood high schools.