Friday, May 11, 2007

Vote for our schools, May 15

I have never been involved in political races, but I am this time around. The May 15 primary election stands to have lasting impact on Henry and Philadelphia's other public schools. Put the right people in office - people who have our public schools at the top of their agenda - and our schools will get the attention they deserve from our local elected officials. Send the wrong people to city hall, and our schools remain at the bottom of our city's priorities.

May 15, we have an opportunity to put Philadelphia’s public schools at the forefront of our city’s agenda. After five years of meetings in my living room, talking about my neighborhood school and our city’s public schools in general, I am convinced that people who have not committed to our public schools, who do not have “skin in the game,” are not in a position to really understand what’s at stake for families with children in our schools.

I know many excellent, dedicated teachers and administrators in our public schools - at Henry and beyond. They're doing the best they can with the resources and support they get. In Henry and some other schools, they're doing amazingly creative, effective work. In many of our city's schools, the resources (including personnel) just aren't there. Our dedicated professionals, who have the power to stem the tide of youth apathy and violence, deserve city leadership that is willing to work with them, to go to bat for them. We need someone with enough heart to make the big plays for our schools - how about the Aaron Rowan of local politics?

I believe the School District of Philadelphia is THE fundamental issue that our city, the Mayor and City Council must face: serve the district well and we greatly diminish unemployment, poverty, crime, etc.; serve the district poorly and we exacerbate these problems.

Three candidates in key races have kids in our public schools, right now. They know what it means to have a report card conference scheduled at 10:25 in the morning, to wonder what impact Paul Vallas’ departure may have on their children’s future, to wonder what a $100 million deficit may mean to their child’s daily life starting in September, and what a new Mayor and City Council member needs to do to put our schools at the top of our city’s agenda.

Michael Nutter for Mayor
No other mayoral candidate has a child in a Philadelphia public school.
Michael Nutter has a detailed, credible Education Plan, and a proven track record of working with Harrisburg to end labor disputes and to bring necessary funding into the city. As Chair of the Convention Center board of directors, Michael Nutter worked with the warring Convention Center unions, which were driving business out of town, and turned the mess into a well-functioning system that is now attracting top conventions back to Philadelphia. So adept was his leadership that the state is investing $700 million - that's real money folks - into expanding the Convention Center so Philly can meet the demands of the really big groups who want to come to America's Next Great City!

Michael Nutter spent two hours in my living room, the evening of opening day of school, last September, talking to parents from public and private schools, and listening to our thoughts. Here's how one parent remembers it:

"I keep going back to that meeting in September at your house when Michael walked in, sat down, took out his little notepad and said “I’m here to listen.” He didn’t come with bluster and say this is what we have to do. He genuinely listened, showed concern and took notes and echoed the same concerns we did as a public school parent."

Look for someone running up against the fence to make the big play for ethics reform, the smoking ban, and domestic partner benefits, and you'll find Michael Nutter's record stands up against Rowan's. That's the kind of playing we need for our schools, and Michael Nutter's the only guy in the Mayoral dugout who will do it.

Two Council-at-Large candidates have kids in our public schools:

Sharif Street for Council at Large
Yes, I know his father sold our schools to the lowest bidder, but I hope that people will not judge my son on my record. I have spent some time with Sharif and I am convinced that while he loves and honors his father as I do mine, he is his own man.

Andy Toy for Council at Large

I urge you to vote for these candidates on May 15, and to urge others to join us in putting our public schools at the top of our city’s agenda by voting for people who have kids in our schools. For them, our public schools aren't an issue to deal with. Our public schools are part of their lives, every day.

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