Tuesday, August 09, 2005

My Dinner with Paul

After he finished paying for dinner, Paul Vallas said he'd be happy to come to a Henry group meeting to talk to parents considering Henry for their children.

The Philly schools CEO talked about the "magnetizing" of Lankenau High School, with Henry as one of the designated feeder schools for the high achieving high school. And the value of Springboard , in preparing students for advanced high school work.

When I asked about recent newspaper articles raising questions of his commitment to his job, he reiterated what he's said in the papers: he will stay at least through his current contract, which lasts two more years. He pointed out that the approved budget sets key initiatives in place for five years. So even if he were to leave, the proven and promising initiatives he's put in place will remain. He also pointed to the Declaration of Education, the School Reform Commission document that spells out key values to which the SRC has committed the district's resources and energy.

He talked about the 100-hours of professional development that every teacher in the district will participate in this year. The accelerated after school programs, which will work with students who are already doing well in school, and help them do even better. The strength of the new science component to the core curriculum. The social studies component of the core curriculum, which is being tested this year and may be launched fully, next year.

For nearly two hours at the Trolley Car Diner, this evening, Paul Vallas shared a table with NW Regional Superintendent, Linda Grobman (who facilitated the meeting), and parents from Henry and Jenks schools. A Jenks parent initiated the meeting to discuss how we might coordinate efforts to educate the neighborhoods about our great schools and recruit neighborhood families into the schools.

Throughout the meeting, Vallas and Grobman fielded a barrage of questions and ideas from seven parents who have kids in either of the schools. They were open and frank about the challenges and opportunities of these two schools and the district. I'm still absorbing impressions and clarifying details from this meeting, so I'll post more on this, soon.

One impression remaining from this and other conversations I've had with parents from other schools: I'm glad we have a Principal and staff that we can work with at Henry. We may be unique in that, also.

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