The Chester Fund for Education and the Arts, a private foundation also known as The Chester Fund (TCF), recently announced its plan to apply to open a charter school in the Chester Upland School District.
The proposed charter school would ultimately serve students in Kindergarten through 12th grade, building on the successes of Chester Upland School of the Arts (CUSA). The school will be called Chester Charter School of the Arts.
The Chester Fund for Education and the Arts is a nonprofit organization founded by Swarthmore College music professor John Alston, who is dedicated to providing Chester’s disadvantaged children with a first-rate, arts-enriched education that will prepare them for college and success in life. Alston is also the Founder and Director of the acclaimed 120-voice Chester Children’s Chorus.
In 2008, TCF formed a partnership with the Chester school district to create CUSA, with TCF providing private funds for arts and technology programming as well as teaching assistants in every grade and an extended-day program for the older children. This year CUSA will serve 275 Chester children in Kindergarten through 5th grade.
“Last year CUSA had such a terrific year; the school has made so much progress both through social and academic performances,” Alston said. “The school’s fourth-graders made a twenty percent gain in reading proficiency and fifteen percent gain in math. They improved their results as third graders last year. Then in the middle of the summer, all of our staff was furloughed.”
CUSA was the latest school in the Chester Upland School District ravaged by massive reductions in the school district budget as a result of the state government’s cuts in education funding.
In the wake of these events, CUSA’s educational programs have been compromised and all but two of the classroom teachers have been laid off due to teacher-union seniority rules.
The inability to protect staff and programming was the key reason TCF decided to terminate the partnership, effective the end of the current school year (June 2012), and apply to open a charter school.
“The principal team has told us proudly that the new teachers in the building are wonderful teachers,” Alston said. “I’m glad we have extraordinary teachers in the building and after teaching with each other for one year or five years together they will be even more extraordinary. The issue is we don’t know where these teachers will be after next year; we don’t know if they will be in our building or somewhere else in the Chester Upland School District.
“The advantage of being a charter school is that you have more control over your budget and you always know a year in advance what our budget will be,” he said. “We deeply appreciate the partnership we’ve had with the district over the last three years, but also realize that to continue educating Chester children, we have to be able to design our own programs and hire and keep the best teachers. The only way to accomplish this is to apply for a charter school.”
The process has begun for the new charter school. There are currently six different locations that that are being tossed around for the school, but a definite location has yet to be determine.
The charter school will open in September 2012 pending approval of the charter application. All students in the district will be eligible to attend.
“The children’s education must come first,” said Maurice Eldridge, board chair of TCF. “We are saddened by what has happened, but we are excited about our future charter school.”
As the unemployment rate nears eight percent in Pennsylvania and nine percent across the country, many people are wondering what they need to do in order to obtain a good job in today’s job market.
Rather than viewing this issue as cause for despair, Tyrena Richardson looked at the unemployment rates as a cause for action.
Richardson, a member of the Prayer Chapel Church of God in Christ in Upper Darby, was unemployed for nine months after working in human resources since 1996. Determined not to let her situation defeat her, she decided she was going to help other people who were going through the same situation.
Richardson will be teaming up with her church for a job fair on Friday, Sept. 16 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The job fair will be held on the church’s grounds. The event is sponsored by Seeking with a Purpose (S.W.A.P.) ministry. The ministry’s mission is to help people who are looking to be gainfully employed. Richardson is the ministry leader.
“Rather than going through why I am going through this, I decided that I wanted to help other people that was going through the same thing as me,” Richardson said. “I went to my pastor, Reverend Nathaniel Goodson Jr., and asked him if I could help people find jobs by giving them advice. I started helping people with their résumés and [began] conducting mock interviews with people who were uncomfortable in job interviews.
“I do a face-to-face assessment with people when I go over their résumé,” she said. “I ask them, does their résumé capture what they want their employer to see. A lot of the résumés that I do need to be a little bit more detail oriented. In your résumé you have to [shape] it to what your accomplishments and skills are, so I think the most crucial part for job seekers is having that confidence and putting it down on paper. I want people to understand how important it is to sell yourself in order to obtain a job.”
Some of the businesses participating in the job fair are Allied Barton Security Systems, Colonial Penn Insurance Company, Community YMCA of Eastern Delaware County, the Philadelphia Department of Human Services (DHS), Embassy Suites Hotels, Horizon House Inc., Juno Search Partners, the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania, New Penn Financial LLC, Target, U.S. Army, U.S. Marines and U.S. Navy.
“I wanted to bring employers into the neighborhood, so that people who have varying skills set could meet different employers,” Richardson said. “The desire for the job fair is that it truly be diverse in nature and really transcend all lines of business and all industries.
“The job fair became a desire to give back to the community, because the church is a large part of the foundation of the community,” she said. “I want people to feel encourage, empowered and uplifted when they come to this job fair. They need to know that they are not alone and we care.”
In addition to the job fair, there will also be a free seminar for attendees. The seminar speaker will be career and leadership development consultant, coach and trainer of Career Consciousness Inc., Helen A. Richardson. Radio personality Marcus C. Smith, also known as Brother Marcus from Praise 103.9, will also be at the seminar.
“I just want to lift people up and inspire them,” Richardson added. “We all have the ability to touch a life. Everything happens for a reason, but it is up to us to help each other in time of need.”
Producing Philadelphia college bound scholars is just one job of George Washing Carver High School for Engineering and Sciences. The other is producing future leaders in engineering and sciences — scientists and doctors, well rounded and ready for the world.
“The workload here is definitely challenging; no grade on a test or subject we’re taking is easy, but everything we’re learning is preparing us for our future,” said senior Kiana Bland. “You learn very early how to balance your work out, but my experience here have paid off tremendously. I’ve already been accepted to Arcadia. I also want my major to pre-forensics. Going to Carver has made easier to figure out a plan for me future.”
Carver High is a magnet school with a curriculum that specializes in science and technology. Nearly 100 percent of students at Carver go on to college. Students also receive about $9.6 million in scholarships including Gates Millennium and QuestBridge scholars. The school also hosts a college fair every year with over 65 collegiate representatives, some even offering on-site admissions. There are currently 725 students attending the school.
“Carver is a really good high school,” said junior Steven Snipes. “The opportunities we receive are endless. Everything that we learn here is preparing us for college and the real world. Everybody here works really hard and is very dedicated. We’re the innovators of the future.”
Engineering classes offered at the school include: Principles of Engineering, Digital Electronics, Civil Engineering and Architecture, and Biotechnical Engineering, which will hone more advanced skills in biology, physics, technology, and mathematics and applies them to real-world biotech fields.
“What I really like about this school is the engineering courses that they offer,” said junior David R. Walter II. “I learned how to build imaginary circuits on our computer programs. Another thing that we do is if the school has problems with the computers they come to the engineering students. In the beginning and the end of the school year, we will bring the systems back on line or assembly them. Any minor problems they school comes to us. The program is very hands-on and the experience I receive here is incredible.”
In addition to the science and engineering programs, the school also has a three-year BioMed program. The program is designed to prepare students for careers in the medical sciences, research, and university pre-med programs. Students receive hands-on learning in the program through internships, university visits, field trips, SAT Prep, and talking with various speakers in the field.
“It’s the academics, teachers, and endless opportunities that make this school so special,” said senior Algeria Brisbon. “Dr. Basu has helped me in so many ways. I’ve done internships in my field and gotten into Drexel and UPenn because of his guidance. I plan on majoring in pre-med. The experience that I received here you cannot get at another school. When I go to college, I will be fully prepared because of the hard work and experiences I received while attending Carver.”
Sophomore Yonelkis Gutierrez has also learned a lot from Amit Basu’s sciences classes.
“I always wanted to be a doctor, but after taking a few science classes with Dr. Basu, I want to be a veterinary neurosurgeon,” he said. “What makes him a good teacher is his open door policy; I can always go to him for advice. He has also set me up with a mentor at Temple.
“It’s teachers like that, that truly makes a difference in our life. They want to see us succeed and are willing to go the extra mile to help us achieve our dream. Its nice to be at a school where everyone wants to help you prepare for your future.”
In addition to the programs and extra-curricular activities, Carver is also known for its numerous achievements. Carver continues to achieve AYP. Some awards the school has received over the years include: the National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence (2008), Middle States Accreditation (2010), National Academy Foundation Accreditation (2011), U.S. News and World Report– Bronze Awards (2008-2011), and the U.S. News and World Report– Silver Award (2012).
“There has been so many success stories at this school, that its hard for you not to want to succeed,” said junior Jaime Scott. “It’s really up to us to take advantage of everything the school has to offer. This school teaches us skills that we will use on an everyday basis. I’m interested in computer and environmental science from an engineering standpoint.
“Both have influenced me since I was young and as I entered into high school my passion for both grew over time. I want to make them into professions. Mr. Koehler has definitely helped me with my dream, because of him I already have experiences in subjects that I’m interested in. As far as my future, I’m interested in being a programmer, environmental scientist, or physicist. My experience at Carver has been amazing; I love everything about the school.”
Hearing the harmonizing sounds of vocalists and seeing students playing various instruments are some of the activities going on during a normal school day at Girard Academics Music Program (GAMP).
Known for its academic excellence, GAMP allows students in grades five through 12 to pursue music as a major subject. GAMP students engage in a triad of musical fields including choral, instrumental, and theory, making this school one of the top performing magnet schools in the district.
“The music and academic programs are excellent,” says seventh-grader David Hiester. “All of the music programs are very well-rounded and there are so many options that students can chose from. I play the piano, clarinet, bassoon, bass, bass clarinet, and guitar. I use to play the alto saxophone. I’m learning everything about music and performing at a young age. By the time I graduate, I will have excelled academically and gained more experiences than students at other schools.
There are three choirs at GAMP including Middle School Choir, High School Choir, and the Concert Choir (for which students must audition). It is the Concert Choir that does most outside school performances and travels nationally and internationally. The students study a variety of choral repertoires, ranging from Classical, to Jazz, to Pop, to Broadway music.
“I always wanted to do something in music, so GAMP was a natural fit for me” says eighth-grader Camille Porter. “What makes this program so beneficial to me is that everything is hands-on. All of our classes are not too big, so we really get that one-on-one time with our teachers. I think that’s the best way to learn, because we learn things at a much faster pace and have more time to rehearse it.”
Students at GAMP also have music theory three times a week. Students are grouped by grade level and ability. In theory class, students learn the basic building blocks of music, including sight singing and ear training. Sixth-grader Claire Gunawan has only been at GAMP for two years. She said the most challenging class is music theory.
“Music theory is definitely hard,” she said. “It’s very complex and it’s so many different elements to it. I do think the class will help us perfect our skills. In order to become great, you have to know what it takes to be great. Some of the things we learn, great vocalists use when they perform. It’s hard, but I’m embracing the challenge.”
The school includes a music tech lab, science laboratories, high tech Cybrary and open study for collaborative work with peers and teachers. In 2009, GAMP added a full size, regulation gymnasium and cafeteria. The school also has a state of the art theater/auditorium to showcase their music and theatrical productions. GAMP has two shows a year; a talent show in the fall and a theatrical production in the spring.
“The academic standards at GAMP is very high,” says eighth-grader Anthony Grillo. “The teachers here demand a lot from all of us. They want us to be organized and work hard on all of our assignments. The workload at times can be tough, but so is the work in college. I want to be a lawyer, so being organized and working hard are qualities I will need to achieve my dream.”
GAMP has a 98-100 percent college acceptance rate among each senior class and scholarships valued at over one to two million dollars yearly.
For senior Kailah Liggons, going to GAMP helped her realize a new passion for theatre. After graduating, she wants to continue her education and wants to attend Sarah Lawrence College. Her major will be theater.
“Theater was something that I never wanted to do until I came to GAMP,” she said. “The first play I was ever in was Hairspray a few years ago, and I fell in love with performing. In addition to theater, I’m a part of College Bound for Girl and the Orchestra. I also might become the manager for basketball.
“This school has definitely helped me prepare for my future. Because I’ve been a part of so many things while I’ve been here, it won’t be that big of an adjustment when I go to college. With so many students accomplishing their dreams after they leave here, it’s hard not to want the same thing for yourself. This school motivates you. I know that I can succeed and my future is bright.”
Known for its rigorous curriculum, extensive music and arts program, and various electives, Hill-Freedman Middle School continues to have its students perform at an advanced level.
“There is no other school like this one,” said eighth-grader Chyna Moore-Smith. “The opportunities here are endless. What makes this school so different is that everyone is on the same page; we help each other. I’ve learned so much at this school.”
Historically, there were two schools: Hill and Freedman. Hill housed the magnet school program and Freedman specialized in serving special needs students. Until a few years ago, both schools combined. Now students interact with one another during lunch, at assemblies, and electives classes.
“The electives is a good way for the magnet school students to have an opportunity to communicate their opinions on the interactions they have when taking classes with the special needs students,” said principal Anthony Majewski. “Before we had two separate schools, but now we’re integrating. Our goal as an international baccalaureate school is to honor students with special needs and to bring them into the fold. It’s been beneficial because it brings awareness to our magnet school students, but at the same time it build socialization for the students with special needs.”
Pamela Taylor Anderson, International Baccalaureate Middle Year Program Coordinator, says what makes this school unique is that the school provides the best opportunity for both magnet school students and special needs students through the experience of learning from each other.
“We are constantly thinking of new ways to expand on the learning experience at Hill-Freedman,” Anderson said. “We’re very active when in comes to engaging and including our special needs population. Everything that we have done so far has been very successful. The students have a natural excitement for learning here. The different electives the school offers really take their learning experience to the next level.”
Every other Thursday, students take elective classes with one another. Students learn from a range of subjects such as cartooning, baking, dance, sports fitness, international gaming, the glee project, world domination, and reduce, reuse, recycle. Students will have six session with the first elective they choose and six sessions for the second. The second sessions will start in February.
“When I was looking into the different electives, cartooning was the most natural fit me because I like to draw,” said seventh-grader Mikayla Green. “I eventually want to learn how to make a video game. I want to know more about the skills it takes to draw a video game and how that drawing transforms into the game itself.”
One of the popular electives at Hill-Freedman is the S.T.E.M. Squad. This elective provides students with additional time to learn computer programming and robotics. Students learn “Mind Craft,” a virtual world application offered through Temple University. Students will also learn additional laptop trouble shooting techniques to solve simple computer problems.
“S.T.E.M. Squad is fun,” said sixth-grader Jason Gleaton. “It’s a great way for me to know more about engineering, science, and robotics. Everything we work on has to be a certain way or won’t work. The harder we work as a team, the better the results will be when we’re done working on the object.”
For sixth-grader Dia Lee, S.T.E.M. Squad is all about taking advantage of something he already likes to do.
“I like Lego’s and building things with my hands,” Lee said. “S.T.E.M. Squad allows me to do those things, but on anther level. We build robots; it’s hard because when you’re building something every piece has to fall into place. If the pieces don’t fall into place, you’re back at the drawing board and have to start all over. It’s all worth it in the end when you see your final result.”
In addition to electives, Hill-Freedman is also implementing a S.T.E.M. course. S.T.E.M. educator Ambra Hook leads the course. The school recently teamed up with the University of Pennsylvania to work on the Zebra fish project. Students in the seventh-grade participated in the Zebra fish project.
“When Zebra fish lay eggs they develop back into an adult with 48 hours,” Hook said. “The instructors of Penn bought with them a male and female fish and special containers to keep them in. Once the eggs drop safely, the students were able to see the eggs through different stages of development through a microscope.
“When I came to Hill-Freedman, I wanted to give the students the best experience in S.T.E.M., whether it’s through robotics, computer, science, or engineering. I wanted the students to completely understand the concept of S.T.E.M. by giving them a hands-on experience through various classes. The feedback has been really good so far, and the students enjoy the classes that I teach.”
Hill-Freedman continues to expand on its academic excellence, but Majewski says there is one goal he has yet to achieve.
“We eventually want to expand the school, so that it would include a high school,” he said. “It’s something the parents, teachers, and students want. We’re still in the early stages of everything, but I think if we had our kids from sixth to 12th grade, we’ll be able to see our students grow to their full potential.”
Working with plants, animals is routine
Ride pass Henry Avenue in Roxborough and you will see the largest agricultural farm school in the United States. W. B. Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences spans 150 acres within city limits and is on a mission to prepare its students for work in agriculture or science upon graduation. The school has 15 agricultural majors to choose from, and reports a 95 percent graduation rate.
“This school is so unique in so many ways, because in addition to receiving a quality education, we are also getting hands-on experiences in the fields of agriculture and science,” said senior Debbie Lynn Mayo. “I want to become an animal behaviorist. I want to study the psychology of animals. Since being at Saul I’ve learned how animals react to certain things and how they think. I will already have a head start in my field by the time I graduate, and I’m looking forward to applying what I learned at Saul in college.”
The school boasts a working farm that includes cows, goats, sheep, and horses. Students haul 50-pound feedbags, drive tractors, harvest eggplant, study milk produced on site for bacteria, and care for horses.
It also has the typical high school features, such as athletic fields, in addition to its arboretum, nursery, cropland and pasture.
“Getting a chance to work with animals every day is something that a lot of students don’t have the opportunity of doing,” said sophomore Saria Cooper-Burks. “This school is a great learning experience. It’s not just about working with the animals;I’ve also learned information on family groups of the animals and gender by appearance. All these skills will be needed in order for me to become a veterinarian. The opportunities hereare endless, and the school does a good job of giving us opportunities academically and personally.”
For junior Isaiah Nelson, Saul gave an opportunity to be a part of a unique learning experience. Nelson didn’t want to go to a school in a traditional ssetting, and Saul also helped him realize a new passion.
“I didn’t want to just go to school in sit in a class all day, I wanted to go to school that was more hands-on, and Saul fit that description,” Nelson said. “When I first came here, I was interested in being a veterinarian, but with the help of my teacher Ms. McAtamney, I realized I was good at botany. I’ve created a natural dye out of an invasive weed. I went to city, state, and Indianapolis for Nationals. I won silver at Nationals.”
In addition to the school’s core curriculum, Saul students also participate in various clubs including Ag Business Club, Environmental Science Club, Floriculture Club, Greenhouse Management Club, Horse Club, Jr. MANRRS, Land Use & Management Club, Livestock Club, Meats Evaluation Club, Nursery/Landscape Club and the Pre-Vet Club.
Saul achieved AYP from 2008-2011. The school has multiple state champion career developmental event teams. It also participates in Philadelphia Flower Show exhibits and offers students multiple internship opportunities with community organizations such as Longwood Gardens. Saul has Pennsylvania's largest chapter of FFA, the organization formerly known as Future Farmers of America, and one of the biggest chapters in the country.
“FFA helps us learn a lot of leadership skills,” said sophomore Rodger Silby. “It’s an opportunity for students to research, compete, go out to different schools, and take trips. It helped me learn life lessons as well as learn things about myself. Being a part of FFA and going to Saul has really opened my eyes and let me see all of the great things that I’m capable of doing. It’s really a good experience.”
AP environmental science teacher and FAA adviser Jessica McAtamney helped develop a large community-supported agricultural (CSA) program at the school. She went to the White House, where she was honored as a "Champion of Change" for her work with Saul students.
“I was nominated for the Champions of Change through the FFA,” McAtamney said. “They recognized people who were working with students locally as agents of change. We went to the White House, where we sat on panels with the USDA and discussed agricultural topics that are of importance to the nation and students. It was definitely an honor to be nominated, but the students here help make my job easier. They are so dedicated, they push the limit academically, and I just love teaching and helping them succeed.”
Sophomore Chelsey Deal hopes that through the students’ success people will see how great the school is and how dedicated they are to their work.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about Saul students,” Deal said. “We’re not cowboys and cowgirls, but students who are taking the next step to achieve our dreams through a hands-on academic experience. We have good teachers, a diverse environment, and great opportunities. We are hard-working students who want to make a difference in the world. We’re the innovators of the future.”
For senior Devin Cruz, coming to Central High wasn’t just about receiving the best education; it was also about continuing the family tradition. Cruz’s older brother also attended the school and after seeing his success professionally, he, too, wanted to attend Central.
“From the time I was kid, I knew I wanted to attend Central High,” Cruz said. “It’s such a prestigious school. The majority of the people who went to this school have accomplished great things. The bar for excellence is set so high here, that when students continue their education it’s not that big of an adjustment for them because we are already used to the workload. I’m looking forward to using what I learned here and applying it in college.”
Central High is regarded as one of the top public schools in the nation due to its high academic standards. Today, Central’s student population has reached 2,350 students and 110 teachers. There is a school president, similar to a principal, and three assistant principals.
The newest president is Timothy McKenna. Prior to being president at Central, McKenna was an elementary middle school teacher at Fairhill and a principal at Willard Elementary and Furness High.
The Central selection committee, which included faculty, students, parents and alumni, considered 13 candidates. McKenna replaces Dr. Sheldon Pavel who was president for the last 28 years.
“It’s an honor to be the next president,” McKenna said. “We want to continue to prepare our students for post secondary education. I don’t want to make major changes to the building, however I do want to enhance some areas to make the school better. One of the areas we want to improve is the technology of the building. We want to update what we have and integrate it into the classroom. I’m looking forward to this year and helping the students at Central succeed.”
Central is a special-admissions school. Students must apply to attend, and only those with high test scores and grades are accepted. Students are kept engaged in academics, athletics, and social experiences through extra-curricular activities. There are 28 sports and 80 different clubs at the school. Within the past decade, Central has consecutively made Adequate Yearly Progress and won 92 Public League Championships.
“There are so many activities that students here can participate in,” said senior Tiffany Whitner. “I play softball, but I’m also the vice president of a new physics club that was started with my friend. We started the club because we wanted to help tutor other students in physics. Physics is a hard subject and its something that many students struggle with, so we’re hoping to help those students with the club.”
Students in the arts program get a chance to hone their skills in various classes. Some of the classes include art history, graphic design, photography, printmaking, sculpture and Web design.
“We have a phenomenal arts program at Central,” said art department chair, Benjamin Walsh “We have one of the only working black and white rooms in the district. That aspect is phenomenal because the students get to be exposed to that kind of process, which is now kind of a dying art form to the kids these days. All of our students in the program are extremely talented and go on to do great things with their careers.”
Senior Clarence Anderson takes an AP art class at Central. He said Walsh has helped him with his skills over the years. Anderson has been drawing since he was seven years old.
“He has helped me in so many ways,” Anderson said. “It’s always good to have a teacher who is as hands on as he is and want to see you succeed. I’ve definitely progressed my skills by taking the art classes here and it will help me achieve my dream. I’m currently looking at different colleges to attend next year and I want my major to be architecture.”
Students who have taken classes in art in Central has gone on to college and majored in fashion design, animation, illustration, interior design, industrial design, Web design and photography. While senior Eden Laramee currently takes an AP art class at Central, she doesn’t want to major in art when she goes to college.
“I want to be a marine biologist,” Laramee said. “I take the art classes because it’s something I love to do, but I wouldn’t want to make my career out of it. I just want to continue to do it as my own personal hobby.
No matter if students want to follow their dreams in art or in another field, Central has helped all of us work hard and realize our dreams. Everybody here wants to succeed and contribute to the world in some way. We’ve just been given the platform early to do so.”
Darrell Johnson, 19, started running track for Chester High School when he was 16-years-old. Over the years, Johnson has won numerous awards and ran up against some of Delaware County’s elite, but all of that is on the line as Johnson was recently told by the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) that he was ineligible to run track his senior year because of his age.
“When I heard that they weren’t going to allow me to run; I was upset,” Johnson said. “I was 16 when I started running track. I won my first medal in the ninth grade in cross country.
When I was in the tenth grade I wasn’t doing good; mainly because it was just better people coming out.
“Last year, I started to accomplish some of my goals,” he added. “My coach put me in 110 hurdles indoor and I moved up to sixth in the state. I have accomplished a lot since I’ve been running and it is something that I like to do, so the thought of not being able to run for my last year does bother me.”
In order for a student to participate in interscholastic athletics at a school in grades 10 through 12 the student must not have reached their 19th birthday by June 30, according to the PIAA website. Johnson turned 19 on June 15.
“From my understanding, and from what people have been telling me, … there is a four year eligibility for high school players as long as you don’t flunk in high school,” said Darren Johnson Sr., father of Johnson. “I just want him to be able to have the chance and opportunity to show his full potential, especially with this being his senior year and a lot of recruiters will be coming out to look at the kids.
“I’m real proud of my son. I support him and am behind him every step of the way. It does hurt to see this happened to him, but I’m hoping he will be able to run.”
The Johnsons met with the PIAA board in Norristown on Sept. 14. The board consisted of about 28 members, who all voted that Johnson was ineligible to run track this year due to his age. The Johnson’s are appealing the decision.
“As a part of the appeal process we were told to get a petition from all of his teachers,” said Pamela Payne-Johnson, mother of Johnson. “The petition would say how good he is in school. I have to also go to the principal and the administration office. My son has never been suspended from school and his grades are up to par. I’m upset about this decision because this is his last year of school. He’s a good kid who deserves to play a sport that he loves.”
Chester athletic director Randy Legette says while this wasn’t the first time he went to a hearing in front of the PIAA; it was the first time the board told him no in that hearing.
“I been to eight or nine of these hearings and this is the first time they told me no,” Legette said. “I was shocked, but also this was the first hearing we went to where the athlete was over age. I thought we had a very good presentation and I don’t think they took us seriously enough.
“They just looked at the rules that they were following and stood by it. I wished they would’ve listened to us and took what we were presenting them with into consideration,” Legette added. “I just want him to be given the opportunity to live out his dream by allowing him to run.”
Johnson is still practicing with his track team. He hopes that he will be able to run for his senior year.
“My ultimate goal is to go to college and get my degree,” he said. “I still want to run for my school and my team, but I also know that there’s a possibility that that might not happen.
“Even if the outcome of my situation remains the same, I would still practice with my team because this is something I like to do and worked hard for,” Johnson added. “I just want to be given the opportunity to run.”
Often called “The Country Campus for College Bound,” Lankenau High School is a magnet environmental science school that is geared toward getting its students into colleges.
In addition to boasting a 90 percent attendance rate, Lankenau students score nearly double on standardized tests compared to city counterparts. Ninety-five percent of students attend college.
All students who attend Lankenau are transported from their neighborhoods to the school, some coming as far as Franklin Mills and others waking up five in the morning in order to get to school on time.
“Lankenau is a really good school,” said sophomore Janommys Bodden. “Even though Lankenau is known for being a science school, there is so much to the school than just that. They school offers us various programs that helps us push the limit academically as well as help us grow personally. Many of us come from different areas in the city and some of us wake up early just to get here, but it’s really cool to be a part of school that has so many students dedicated to preparing for their future.”
In May, the U.S News and World Report released their “Best High Schools” state lists, listing sixteen School District of Philadelphia high schools among the honorees in Pennsylvania.
Only 4,877 of the highest-scoring schools were ranked and/or recognized. Lankenau was recognized as a bronze medal school, making the school among the top 23 percent of the nation’s public high schools, as well as placing among the top 26 percent of Pennsylvania public high schools.
Some of the extra-curricular activities and clubs at Lankenau include: Grade recovery, credit recovery, year book club, chess club, dance team, college access, mentally gifted, Youthworks, and student government.
The school also has a travel program. Through the program, students visited France, Quebec and Montreal. Last year, students went to Costa Rica. Students had the opportunity to experience the rain forest, volcanoes, and interact with students from a local school. Students also went on night hikes, horseback riding, and zip-lined.
“This program is a good way for students to experience another part of the world through an environmental science experience,” said French teacher and advisor of the program Thomas Wolfinger. “A lot of the things that they learn in the classroom come to life through these trips. Our students are getting an academic and cultural experience. Not everyone lives the same way we do in the U.S., so students get a chance to see and experience other cultures while breaking down barriers in the process. It’s a good way for our students to get the most out of their academic career while at Lankenau.”
Students at Lankenau have the opportunity to take AP coursework and exams. The AP participation rate at Lankenau High School is 34 percent. Three AP courses at Lankenau have an environmental science focus including rain garden, Envirothon, and recycling.
“Going to Lankenau has helped me realize my future career path,” said senior Demitrious Harriott. “I’m good at math and science, so after doing a little research I decided I wanted my major to be chemical engineering. I currently take three science classes. Those classes will help me further my career when I go off to college. I already got accepted into Penn State, but I also applied to Howard and Pittsburgh. This school really strives to help you reach your full potential and succeed.”
For eighth-grader Jorel Thomas attending Lankenau is about taking advantage of the classes and programs at the school.
“This school is the ultimate learning experience,” Thomas said. “Through our classes and programs, we don’t just learn from our teachers, but from each other. I want to become an actor, so my experience here will help enhance my craft in the long run. I plan on participating in drama class and taking full advantage of everything this school has to offer. I want to succeed, and this is one of top schools in the city to help me do that.”
Robotics will be the newest program implemented into the school. Lankenau will be teaming up with Devry University to start a robotics. Devry University Director of Community Outreach Emily McGill and the college’s professors will work with science teachers at Lankenau. Since this would be the first time the school is starting the club, they would not be participating in any competitions this year.
“Our students are the ones who have been pushing for a Robotics club,” said principal Karen Dean. “Our chemistry teacher Angeline Johns will be working with the professors at the college. We take pride in giving our students the best education. We always had a emphasis on the science field at this school, but by adding robotics students will have a greater opportunity to look at a career in science.”
For ninth-grader Mauriyyah Pryor, fashion is something that has always been a part of her life. Pryor makes shirts in her spare time and helps her grandmother at her hat store in Philadelphia. She is hoping Murrell Dobbins High School will not only help hone her designing skills, but also help her prepare for her future of becoming a fashion designer.
“I heard that they had a good business program here,” Pryor said. “I just found out that they have a good designing program, so I’ll probably look into that. I’ve always been interested in fashion. I’ve learned a lot just by working in my grandmother’s store, but I think the program here will teach things that I don’t know. I’m looking forward to it.”
Toni Damon is the new principal at Dobbins. Damon was an assistant director at Central Montco Technical High School in Plymouth Meeting. Before being appointed, Damon was interviewed by a large panel of students, parents, community representatives, and faculty at Dobbins. She is the first woman principal in the school’s history. Former principal Charles M. Whiting was the first African American in the school’s history.
“We want to establish a place where students know that this is a place for learning,” Damon said. “I want all of out students to understand that whatever they want do with their career in the future, we well help them prepare for it. We want to them to succeed academically and personally. The sky is the limit for all our kids and I’m just honored to help them achieve their dreams. I’m looking forward to the school year.”
In keeping with the traditional philosophy of the C.T.E program, Dobbins High offers a full compliment of vocational programs and a comprehensive academic program in order to prepare students for entrance in the workplace and/or college.
“No matter what program the student’s chose, all of our goals here is to help prepare them for their future,” said commercial and advertising arts instructor Troy Stratton. “With technology being such a huge part of our everyday lives, graphic design and printing is really popular with high school and college students. In the last four years, we have competed in the Pennsylvania computer fair competition and have gone to states. The students really apply themselves and have set the bar on so many levels when it comes to the field. The best is yet to come for all of them.”
Ninth graders get the chance to experience each of the vocational shops. Tenth graders select one trade area for concentration study through their senior year. The vocational shops include business education, graphic occupation, web design, barbering, cosmetology, culinary arts, fashion design, professional baking, and plumbing.
“I want to own my own carpentry business,” said ninth-grader Sherrod Nixon. “I work with my dad right now to help fix houses. I’m more interested in the plumbing aspect of it though. I’m only in the ninth grade, so I won’t be able to fully participate in the program until next year, but I do think it will help me with my future. My goal is to go to UCLA and be a student athlete.”
Students in the culinary arts program learn skills in quantity cooking, purchasing, inventory control, menu planning, safety and sanitation, serving and kitchen management. The program has a full service bakery and restaurant on site. In the future, the school wants to expand the program by opening the doors to the community by allowing businesses, organizations, and residents to come in and eat for lunch.
“Culinary Arts teaches students the skills they need to be successful in a working restaurant,” said culinary instructor Majorie Kloss. “Just recently, the students made dinner for the football team prior to the game. Food is the biggest business in the world. In addition to teaching them how to cook, they learn responsibility, hard work, dedication, and teamwork. It’s all about preparing these kids for the real world; these are quality skills that they will need for the rest of their lives.”
Eleventh grader Rashai West has been in the culinary arts program for the last two years. While she said going to Dobbins High is a good overall experience for any student, she did have advice for the upcoming students.
“Just learn as much you can while you’re here,” West said. “The work load at times can be hectic, but you just have to stay on top of things. Most importantly, just have fun. No matter what program you chose it will help you grow as a person and prepare you for your future.”