By Greg Windle
Good evening, my name is Greg Windle. I’m a resident of Mount Airy, and a proud graduate of Philly public schools. I’m here today on behalf of Philly Democratic Socialists of America in support of the Our City Our Schools’ Transform our School Facilities campaign.
When I have kids, I want to send them to my neighborhood public school, but what I’ve seen leaves me worried that their health and safety would not be the highest priority. Our schools face a toxic crisis. But the district seems to spend more energy fighting parents and local unions who ask for environmental remediation, than they spend on collaborating with school communities to complete this urgent work. The fights that parents and staff had to have just to get the District to remediate asbestos at Ben Franklin, TM Pierce, and SLA Beeber are only the most high profile examples.
But there’s hope. The school district’s Lead Paint Advisory group proved that community oversight works. Students and staff were safer while community members helped determine best practices, review environmental data, and inspect construction projects in our schools. I was discouraged to see the District scrap that process and replace it with a rubber stamp body that has no meaningful oversight, access to data, or ability to determine best practices.
We can no longer tolerate the toxic conditions in our school buildings and the lack of a clear plan to address them. The children of our city need this board to compel the school district to comply with the demands of the parents and neighbors who gathered outside this building tonight. We are asking that:
Information must be shared with parents and unions including the most recent environmental data, construction timelines, and progress updates.
An independent board must oversee spending priorities, construction progress, and decide on best practices for construction processes and environmental testing. This board must be made up of parents, students, and representatives chosen by every union with staff working in public schools.
The school district must create a master facilities plan to rebuild or repair every school, remediate environmental toxins, and reduce each school’s carbon emissions using union labor and minority-owned companies.
I urge you to act with urgency, and rebuild our toxic schools so that every child in Philadelphia has a safe, healthy, and modern school in their neighborhood.