440 North Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19130
May 11, 2012
Dear members of the School Reform Commission,
Yesterday evening I attended the budget meeting at West Philadelphia High School and I was amazed at the outpouring of spirit and passion shown from students, parents, teachers, and community members alike. The fact that a 10th grade student from the school was able to interject with an eloquent and articulate demand for a large community discussion is impressive at the very least. Aside from the myriad comments demanding more transparency in policy-making and cries of help for our children, the one major flaw in the meeting was this: your lack of knowledge relating to on-the-ground issues in our schools.
Chairman Ramos mentioned a transition to use of Restorative Practices in schools and Commissioner Houston offered DonorsChoose as a potential way of restoring funding to parts of our schools. It seemed to me that these comments were well-intentioned but not completely informed.
As a former teacher from the pre-Renaissance West Philadelphia High School I can tell you that Restorative Practices are quite helpful in reducing tensions between students, they help foster community buy-in for schools, and make sure everyone has a voice in conflict. As a member of DonorsChoose, I can tell you it is a non-profit venture created to facilitate the crowdsourcing of funds for specific purposes in schools. This year donors from all over the country assisted me in the purchase of graphing calculators for my students.
These programs and more are currently running in schools across the city. I appreciate immensely the vision you are trying to implement: improving education for our children. But the only way to do that is to understand all the pieces that can be used for that purpose. Come visit our schools - see what is happening in classrooms across the city and ask us what to keep and what to remove. We are just waiting to help.
One Letter Per Day Campaign