440 North Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19130
May 10, 2012
Dear members of the School Reform Commission,
On May 1st, 2012 Thomas Knudsen wrote to you the following:
“By approaching the matching process more creatively this year, our Chief Academic Officer, Penny Nixon, was able to open over 2,000 seats in some of our highest performing schools without changing our overall school budget picture.”
As a teacher at one of those high-performing schools I can tell you that I appreciate the sentiment but am concerned about the implementation. When my school was founded six years ago it was under a very different model of secondary education. Former CEO Paul Vallas envisioned a series of small schools catering to specific aspects of need in the Philadelphia school system. While I may not agree with everything he helped create during his brief tenure, I think certain schools identified as “high-achieving” are that way in some part due to their size.
At a very basic level, the measurement for empty seats in schools is somewhat misleading. Not only does it count “seats” that might double for other purposes already, it disregards some serious limitations of our buildings. My school does not have an auditorium capable of holding the entire student body and our cafeteria strains to hold even a fifth of the current capacity. Adding students will either overcrowd midday lunch periods or force students to have “lunch” during their first period of the day.
In considering this plan I urge you to look at the physical plant of the schools you are suggesting can “take more students.” Additionally, I hope you scrutinize the “empty seats” measurement more carefully in order to create an accurate representation of what the School District can actually do.
One Letter Per Day Campaign