Friday, February 15, 2013

The closing of Jay Cooke Jr. High

Philly activists pack a City Council hearing on school closures. (City Paper)
Now it's Cooke K-8 in the Logan neighborhood of Philadelphia. I was transferred there in 1956, when it was Cook Jr. High, because I was a white kid, one of the last in my North Philly neighborhood, about to attend all-black, segregated  Fitzsimons Jr. High. But after a minor scuffle with a group of kids over lunch money (mine), the system decided that the all-white Cooke would be a better place for me. So instead of walking to school, I had to ride three buses and a train from my Strawberry Mansion neighborhood.

Jay Cooke
Now I read that predominantly-black Cooke Elementary  is "underutilized and targeted for closure Supt.William Hite's plan to close 37 city schools by next fall.. Of course lots have changed since I went to Cooke. Now 94% of Cooke students are considered “economically disadvantaged,” and 86% are African-American. The district claims that Cooke is at just 42% utilization, and fewer than half of all students score proficient in math and reading. Cooke’s test scores have also shown "statistically improbable" swings in the wake of an investigation of cheating at dozens of Philadelphia schools.

Cooke students are set to be relocated to Logan Elementary, Grover Washington Middle School or Steel Elementary in Nicetown.

Daniel Denvir writes in The City Paper:
Parents, teachers and community members are outraged. The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS) have put forward an alternative proposal that calls for curbing the rapid expansion of charter schools, de-emphasizing standardized tests and ending state control of city schools. In the neighborhoods, the message is blunter still: Don’t close our school. Four thousand people, according to the district, have attended 14 community meetings. Last month, City Council called for a one-year moratorium on closings.
As for Fitzsimons, Philly's corporate-style school reform  hasn't been kind to my almost alma mater. In September 2005, the district converted Fitzsimons, a coeducational middle school managed by the for-profit Victory Schools Inc. since 2002, into an all-male middle and high school. It became an all-male school after the district established The Young Women’s Leadership School for females. After the redesign FitzSimons reported increases on assaults targeting students and teachers.

Margaret Harrington, the chief operating officer of Victory, described Fitzsimons as having a "transition problem." 

At the end of the 2010-2011 school year, it was turned into the Thomas FitzSimons High School- Promise Academy. In August of 2011, budgetary issues and political conflicts within the district negatively impacted the school's program direction and FitzSimons didn't open as a Promise Academy. It was once again tuned into comprehensive neighborhood high school adopting some of the "reform" measures associated with the Promise Academy model.

As of Summer 2012 KIPP Du Bois Collegiate Academy, a charter high school that is part of the national KIPP network, was housed at Fitzsimons.

As of now, 40% of high-school students affected by last year’s closings are now in schools slated to close.

And so it goes.

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