Monday, August 15, 2005

Mayor wants schools back?

From today's Inquirer, more on Mayor Street wanting to start talks about ending state control of Philly schools. Michael Nutter (next-Mayor hopeful) wants control back by the time the next Mayor takes office. Dwight Evans (staying in Harrisburg for the time being) wants to keep control in Harrisburg.

Fortunately, for Henry, our students will continue to thrive, whether John Street, Michael Nutter, Ed Rendell, or George W. Bush is in control. The parental involvement, community engagement, student commitment and performance, and the dedication of our Principal, faculty and staff make Henry the successful school it is. During years of decline in schools in other neighborhoods, Henry remained strong. Considering the current generation of Henry families and staff, Henry will certainly remain strong, regardless who holds the pen.

I agree that state control of the district can't and shouldn't last indefinitely. I agree that starting to layout a plan for returning control of our schools, is a good idea.

Using my own brand of calculus, here's that I think we need to see before deciding when it's (a) safe, and (b) appropriate to turn control back to Philadelphia.

Benchmarks to return control to city

1. Tectonic movement in Harrisburg. Part of the reason Philly schools saw years of decline is because Harrisburg short-changed the district. If control reverts to Philadelphia, what's to keep legislators from the rest of the state from going back to ignoring our schools?

2. Rather than a blip in good results, I'd like to see several years of district-wide improvement. Unlike Henry, many schools still are not showing progress. I'd like to see the recently announced CEO region, comprising 11 persistently failing schools, have a chance to start moving forward under special attention. Although many schools have shown improvement, and Henry is placing well among city and state results, the overall trend is too short to say the pattern is on auto-pilot.

3. I'd like to see a healthy upswing in enrollment before changing captain and crew. Under city control, Philly schools saw years of declining enrollment, due in large part to the reaction of parents to a system that was not showing improvement. Let's give parents a chance to feel more confidence that we really have sustainable change before we give our schools back to the city.

I hope Philly does reclaim control of our schools in the not-too-distant future. But given the city's track record with our schools, I'll feel more comfortable if that happens a little farther down the road to success.

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