The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

Thanksgiving in Philadelphia

on November 30, 2015

Today’s post is my first one since November 18th, when I took off for visits to the Midwest and the east coast. It is about good news for public schools in Philadelphia that I found in the local newspaper, “The Philadelphia Inquirer.” If I had stayed at home for Thanksgiving I might never have known about it.

Readers not familiar with Philadelphia need to know that that this large, historic, bustling city also has high rates of poverty, gang violence, and crime. In addition, its public schools have been under-funded for years and many of the school buildings are in poor condition. In recent years charter schools have blossomed all over the city and several public schools have been closed.


Today, four days after Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the wisdom and dedication of Philadelphia’s leaders who have committed themselves to revitalizing the much neglected and scorned public schools. Unlike politicians in many other places they are not pushing for higher standards, more rigorous learning, and better test scores, but working to provide students in public schools with the services that will help them to live healthier, happier, and more rewarding lives.

Last Monday Darrell Clarke, the City Council President, announced that the city’s leaders were now “Speaking with one voice.” He promised that they would work together to ensure that the Philadelphia School District’s buildings would soon “be crowded with essentials for urban children and their families: social services, health care, and job training.”  He added that schools would soon have all the services already present in the city’s jails: “You can’t tell me that we can deliver these services in a prison and we can’t deliver them in schools.”

Standing with Clarke was Mayor-elect Jim Kenney. The two had just returned from a trip to Cincinnati where they visited the city’s newly created community schools dedicated to providing the full range of health services and learning supports for students and gathering places for their families and other involved citizens. In those schools they saw well-equipped dental clinics and eye centers where students could get not only eye examinations but also free glasses. They also saw attractive areas for community members and volunteer tutors to meet and plan activities. Mayor Kenny has pledged to create 25 community schools as well equipped as those in Cincinnati over the next four years, starting as soon as he takes office. He said, “ We can do this if we stop complaining about not being able to do it. If we can build two mega-facilities to house sports teams, we can take care of these kids.”

Clarke’s and Kenney’s announcements were met with approval by school leaders and the community activists attending. Otis Hackney, a current Philadelphia school principal and a past a community school leader, selected by Kenney to be the new Chief Education Officer beamed with enthusiasm. The only people who appeared unenthusiastic were the leaders of the city’s charter schools. Clearly, they were displeased about not being included in the proposed school improvements. As the mayor made clear, “This model can apply to any school, but we have a responsibility to take care of our public schools.”

All I can add to Clarke and Kenney’s statements is “Amen.”


One response to “Thanksgiving in Philadelphia

  1. Nancy Belkov says:

    Thank you for sharing this news about Philadelphia and Cincinatti schools. It seems like Community Schools are just what we need in so many urban areas!


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