Embattled Superintendant Arlene Ackerman
I plunked down a buck for today’s Inquirer and got treated to an upset stomach. As someone considering public school options, seeing 4 separate stories on our troubled schools was quite upsetting. Grab your Pepto-Bismol and read on.
- Assault on Learning: 7 part Inquirer investigation on school violence (part 2 “Violence Unreported” was published today)
The district’s 32 neighborhood schools, in 2009-10, varied widely in reporting assaults to Philadelphia police. Some schools notified police about most assaults, while others reported as few as three out of 10.
School Superintendent Arlene Ackerman’s recent punishment of teacher Hope Moffett reminded the NAACP’s Jerry Mondesire of “royal vengeance.” His comment made me think of my own run-in with the woman one writer dubbed “Queen Arlene.”
Corbett wants to cut funding for public schools by 11 percent, a prospect that leaves districts scrambling to figure whether they can preserve full-day kindergarten.
“Things have gotten worse, not better,” he said. “You can’t address the problem until you’re honest about it, and the district is not honest about it.”
It seems only appropriate, having written REJECTED! (and the sequel, REJECTED (again)), and ACCEPTED!, that I complete the trifecta of admissions articles. What happens if you are not rejected from a school outright, but also not offered a seat?
At charter schools, you are typically assigned a draw number. Technically, you are on the wait list no matter what in that regard, but if your number is 200 for a class of 25, you can hardly consider yourself to be on any kind of viable list–this was the topic of my “REJECTED” article.
If the school admits 20 students and your lottery draw number is say, 29, you’re in a more favorable position, yet one that has its own challenges. One thing you should ask each school–how many students are typically offered seats in any given year? The schools will generally answer this question with the caveat that results vary year to year. And heaven help you if you have a borderline wait list number at a charter that is going through uncertainty surrounding plans for expansion. With or without that kind of additional drama, the offering of seats is nerve wracking partly because of the general uncertainty, and partly because it is out of your control and even out of the school’s control to a certain extent–you are at the whim of those in front of you. Maybe a family takes a while to decide, maybe a family holds a seat at one school while holding out hope on a waitlist for another. You never know. I have heard numerous anecdotal reports of families being offered spots quickly, others being offered seats at the last minute. I don’t know how commonly that happens or if it more built up by the drama. Thinking about the tumultuous process of choosing schools coupled with real life (new jobs, relocation, or a whole host of other life changes) I wouldn’t be surprised if openings come up last minute. The whole wait list situation just adds to the timing issues around making school choices.
How about you? Have you been on a wait list? Have you been admitted or not? If so, please share your story–What school? What was your wait list number? If you eventually got an acceptance, when did it come?
I support one of the city’s best charter schools in its efforts to relocate to Chestnut Hill and I wrote a letter to our local paper to that effect (full text below with references). I was dismayed to see the headline in the same issue today, “Near Neighbors Opposed to charter school’s planned move to Chestnut Hill” as it claimed that all near neighbors present were opposed to the proposal. I was at the community meeting, as were several of my neighbors, voicing support for the proposal. At least the editorial “Charter school might be best option” also in the same issue presented a more balanced view.
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Here’s my letter:
I live on Rex Avenue and attended the community meeting to consider the application of Green Woods Charter School to move to Greylock Manor. I urge everyone to give serious consideration to the proposal. I realize that there are issues that need to be resolved. Before we dismiss them as insurmountable, I implore you to give their application every chance to succeed.
My family resides just two blocks from the Chestnut Hill Avenue entrance to Greylock Manor. I am searching for a school for my older child who is scheduled to start kindergarten this Fall. I am on the Green Woods Charter wait list. In my capacity as author and editor for PhillySchoolSearch.com
, I have been documenting my school choice process, and talking to school officials and parents all across the Delaware Valley along the way.
The huge volume of traffic to phillyschoolsearch.com
is evidence of the struggle parents face to educate their children; I am not alone in my struggle. The Pew Charitable Trusts released a study last June (reference 1
| reference 2
), “Philadelphia’s Changing Schools and what Parents Want From Them” that found that parents increasingly want more options. For some parents, the struggle will force them to leave the city or make what they feel are compromises in their children’s education.
Green Woods is one of the most highly regarded elementary schools in Greater Philadelphia. They are consistently one of the top performing charter schools in the city, winning top ratings and awards. To be clear: this is not a good school that is asking to make Chestnut Hill its home, it is an exceptional school.
Like many of you, I have been dismayed by the open storefronts and stagnant housing values in our neighborhood. A top-notch school can only improve property values and attract more commercial vitality to the avenue.
Green Woods, in particular, and it’s conservationist ideals will benefit not only the immediate neighbors, but the environmental efforts throughout the immediate region. It is ironic that easements are at issue, because they are, in the words of the Chestnut Hill Historical Society, for “caring for native wildlife and their habitats, safeguarding water quality, preserving important historic buildings and structures, and keeping open space in an ever-crowding region.” (reference
) These values precisely match Green Woods’ conservationist mission. With this common ground, surely some solution can be found that brings Green Woods Charter here and still reflects the spirit of the easements.
I too, am concerned about the traffic and other issues that people are raising. But let’s let Green Woods representatives do their due diligence and try to solve these problems. In my opinion, we should not be erecting barriers to Green Woods Charter, we should be wooing them.
In case you missed it, my first rejection.
Chalk this one up as yet one more thing that I never thought I’d have to deal with when making a school choice–tuition insurance. When you are writing a check for $10-$20K, I guess getting some insurance is probably prudent. Costing around $6 for every $1K of tuition, these insurance policies will reimburse you for some or all of your tuition expenses should your child need to withdrawal from school for health reasons, dismissal, or non-health reasons such as financial hardship or relocation. Sounds like a pretty prudent investment, right? Well, as with anything be sure to read the fine print and don’t assume your situation is covered. At one provider, A.W.G. Dewar, reimbursement for “withdrawal for other than medical reasons” requires that the student actually attend the school for “more than fourteen consecutive calendar days.” So, for example you can write a tuition check in July and get a job transfer in August, you get bupkus because your child doesn’t start in September. In my opinion, it’s probably still prudent to get this kind of insurance, but you need to understand what you’re getting. These insurance companies partner with individual schools, so if you are accepted to a private school, the school will send you the materials for the appropriate insurance company.
While insurance is really a nice thing, I think what I’d really like is assurance. Assurance that tuition isn’t going to cost me 50% more by the time my son graduates high school. Not much chance that wish will come true.