Music teacher Alex Cifelli and his team of hardworking students will be sharing their rendition of Annie! Students have been working hard putting this fabulous performance together. We invite all our fellow school district employees and their families to see Annie, Daddy Warbucks and the mean but laughable Miss Hannigan!
James Rhoads participates in Green Schools Program
The Recyclebank Green Schools Program encourages students and faculty to get involved and take action to green our school and community. Recyclebank rewards residents for taking everyday green actions, such as increasing household recycling and reducing energy use. Those rewards, or Recyclebank Points, can then be redeemed for discounts at hundreds of businesses, or donated to help fund “green” projects in local schools — including West Philly’s very own James Rhoads.
Each semester, the Recyclebank Green Schools program awards environmental project grants to schools in Recyclebank communities. Together, these schools, their students and their communities work together to encourage residents to donate points that Recyclebank transfers into real dollars for schools — thereby turning a community’s green actions into funds for a local school. Since 2007, Recyclebank has granted close to $350,000 to more than 100 schools.
President of the Home and School Association, Nikita Porter is leading the efforts at Rhoads. The school and community have until March 15 to collect points and two-liter bottles that will help students build a green house. Students will garden fruits and vegetables and donate the produce to elderly and local community organizations.
Alexander Adaire receives grant to promote healthy initiatives
Alexander Adaire Elementary is excited to announce that they received a grant for $2,400 from the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association. Titled “Fuel Up to Play 60,” the grant will help the school promote healthy initiatives. Seventh-graders who attended the Healthy You Positive Energy (HYPE) Leadership Initiative in the Fall brainstormed with Principal, Jenette Oddo, advisor Christina Long, and Alyssa Smith, School Wellness Coordinator from the Food Trust, to develop ideas to improve health and fitness at the school. After interviewing the staff, school nurse, physical education teacher and food services, the students decided on applying for funds to teach fellow students how to pack healthier lunches and to pay for KINECT X-Box games to get kids moving during in-door recess.
Take a look inside John Reinhard’s math room and see eighth-graders Conwhite Speller and Kiersten Worrell. The two students have notebooks opened and are engaged with the math problems the teacher assigned. With summer officially over, the students of Grover Washington Jr. Middle School are eager to learn and embrace everything this upcoming school year has to offer.
“I’m actually excited to be back at Grover Washington,” Speller said. “This year, I think I will learn more because a lot of our teachers are preparing us for when we enter high school. Most people who enter high school are already nervous, but by our teachers helping us prepare for the ninth grade now, I definitely think it will help all of us in the long run.”
For fifth-grader Cilah Velez-Reid, the start of school just didn’t mean the end of her summer-it also meant starting a new educational journey at Grover Washington.
“Summer ending for me this year is a little different from past years,” Reid said. “This year I’m starting at a new school, which is Grover Washington. I really didn’t know what to expect, but I’m not nervous at all. I’m interested in science and athletics, so I’m looking forward to learning more about science and participating in cheerleading and softball.”
Named after the late, great saxophonist Grover Washington Jr. for his dedication to the Philadelphia community and its children, the school is known for its music curriculum and programs. The district has two new music teachers this school year. Grover Washington has four itinerant music teachers that come into the school through the Philadelphia Arts in Education Partnership (PAEP), which provides quality arts in education experiences for children. The partnership includes teaching art through math and math through art. The partnership also includes STEM education through technology.
“This school is preparing me for my future in a lot of different ways,” Worrell said. “I’m very involved with everything at the school. I’m in the choir, I play the violin, I’ve been in some of the school musicals, and also play field hockey. I just like to be active, I’ve always looked at school as a place to get a quality education, but I always wanted to take full advantage of everything the school has to offer also. Because this is a music school, I have received a lot more opportunities than other schools. I’m looking forward to continuing my education here this school year.”
Fifth-grader Kiyah Jackson was also excited about the new school year. This is the first year that Jackson is attending Grover Washington. She is already looking forward to learning more about the music program.
“It was a little adjustment for me coming here,” Jackson said. “It was a new building and atmosphere, but so far everything is going good. The teachers and others students have been nice. I’m already interested in learning more about the different genres of music. I don’t know too much about different instruments and genres of music, so I’m excited about getting to know more about that. I’ve always been interested in playing the violin and now I have the opportunity to learn.”
In addition to the schools music curriculum and programs, Grover Washington is known for being a diverse school. While 60 percent of the 735 students are from the African Diaspora — African Americans, Caribbean Americans and native Africans — about 20 percent are of Asian descent and another 20 percent are Latino, according to principal Terry Pearsall Hargett. Yet another thing that is unique about Grover Washington is that many of the administrators and staff either have roots in or still reside in the neighborhood.
Grover Washington is in the early stages of cataloging items in the building. The school plan is to give away the good items to families, organizations, and possible schools in Haiti.
“What makes our school so unique is not only the arts, but how diverse our school is,” Hargett said. “I want my students to not only learn at school, but to also have a sense of community and give back. “Haiti is still struggling and their families are sitting right here in the community. This is an opportunity to support another community that’s half a world away. Our kids can learn so many skills in the process and it helps them to have empathy for other people. We want our students to succeed and grow academically and personally.”
Grover Washington Middle School’s Principal Terry Hargett believes that arts education is important. As an administrator with a cultural and performing arts background, she finds coming to the helm of a school named after the late legendary saxophonist is an ideal fit. Consequently, within the past year that Hargett has been at the school her colleagues, the teachers and even the students have bought into the vision that expressing one’s creative gifts enhances academic prowess.
Just ask 14-year old Natron Moore of Olney. The eighth-grader placed second in the school’s science fair earlier this year. He has already been accepted to be apart of the freshman class at Central High School this fall.
“Being at this school I was able to be recommended to participate in a summer program,” said Moore. “I was part of a team of students who did an educational project with Exxon Mobil. This is just a great school to learn in.”
Seventh-graders Patricia Cannon and Deon Lynch agreed. The 12-year-old Olney residents were quick to point out that being involved in the school’s extracurricular activities, especially arts, stimulates them academically.
“I have been involved in track and being a part of the step team,” said Cannon. “I got to perform at rhythms at the pep rally. The teachers here help you and they want to see you do well, so they help you to understand your work. Since I’ve been here my grades got better and I know want to go to CAPA when I graduate.”
“I love going to music, gym and science classes,” said Lynch, an aspiring astronaut. “By having different programs at the school it has helped me to focus (academically) more. This year I’ve learned about the planets and the geography of the Earth.”
When Romeo Cochran, the teacher resource liaison, pulled out the school’s calendar it revealed the many exciting events that students are engaged in this spring. The eighth-grade students are taking two trips. First, they will be going to Neshaminy Playground and then they will be taking a daylong trek to New York City on Friday, June 1.
The honor students will be recognized with a barbecue, after having attended an honors ski trip earlier this year.
During May, students will be participating in many school initiatives that will be a collaboration with local congregations in Northeast Philadelphia. There are productions throughout the month, including “Grover’s Got Talent.” This will be a special Spring Showcase that will be held May 23, and the students will participate in the Olney Choral Festival on May 24.
Spirit Week will take place from June 4 to 8. This will focus on athletics at the school. There will be field events and sports competitions in the school’s courtyard. It will culminate with a festive dance gala on Friday evening.
The school has its own Arts Zone, supported by PECO, which has adopted the school. When students performed in the “Annie Jr.” production they were able to show off not only their theatrical talents, but also the musical aptitude of the school’s orchestra, band and choir.
“This was a phenomenal show,” said Hargett. “I was amazed at how professional the kids were. I was really proud of them, and all who came were equally amazed.”
Hargett is quick to list the many attributes of students having a well-rounded education that includes music, art, and theater. “Arts education, first of all, teaches students how to focus which is a life skill,” she said.
“Two, it teaches them the importance of self-discipline and delayed gratification. Finally, it teaches them that perseverance pays off. This is what it takes to be successful academically and the performing arts teach all these to the students,” Hargett said.
Thus, many of the students who graduate from Grover Washington attend GAMP (Girard Academic Music Program) or CAPA (High School for the Creative and Performing Arts). Others go on to the top academic magnet high schools like Central, Carver High School of Engineering and Science, or Philadelphia High School for Girls.
Grover Washington also boasts of being a diverse school. Its lobby reflects this, as there is a “snowflake” mathematical model featuring globes. The display has traveled around to other schools and venues throughout the city.
The continents and countries represent the heritage of the school’s population. While 60 percent of the 735 students are from the African Diaspora — African Americans, Caribbean Americans and native Africans — about 20 percent are of Asian descent and another 20 percent are Latino, according to Hargett.
Yet another thing that is unique about Grover Washington is that many of the administrators and staff either have roots in, or still reside in, the Lower Northeast neighborhood. Hargett herself lives within walking distance of the school.
“I think living in the neighborhood gives me a special connection to the students,” said Hargett, admitting she often runs into students and their parents in the supermarket or gas station. “I see the kids all the time.
“They know that I understand the world they live in because I, too, am part of their community. Just as how this school integrates our special education and ESL children into the other classrooms, I think being part of the neighborhood makes the school environment more inclusive,” she said.
Over the next year the school will be involved in raising additional donations to bring the auditorium up to a professional level. Hargett, who was principal of Audenreid High School, which has a state-of-the-art stage, wants Grover Washington to have the same. Because it is the city’s only comprehensive middle school with a focus on the performing arts, she feels this is imperative.
“With the right sound and lights, it will bring out the best in the students,” Hargett said. “When I was in a building that had this it made a difference. You can see the talents of the children better and the children are more enthusiastic. I would like to also add a dance component, because these students are so talented and I want to give them more support.”
April is National Poetry Month. Perhaps no one is more aware of this than the students at the Grover Washington Middle School. The energy is high in the English classroom of teacher Sheila General. Students are making posters to show off their Japanese-style “haiku” poetry and are eager to share what they have written.
Mark Palmer reads “Cool Star” before his classmate Deminia Marin recites “Kittens.” The Asian poetry style involves writing three lines of verse with five syllables on the first line, seven syllables on the second line, and a final line of five more syllables. The students’ topics stray from the traditional nature theme, though some do attempt to follow it.
“Traditionally during this month many classes will focus on the usual lyrical poetry and limericks,” said General, who has been a Philadelphia School District teacher for 25 years and has been teaching at Grover Washington since its opening 12 years ago.
“I wanted to not only celebrate National Poetry Month, which is April, but also the fact that May is Asian Pacific Heritage Month. Since we have many different heritages in this school, I thought using haikus was a way to celebrate poetry this month and then continue the Asian theme into next month,” General said.
So Taquisha Mitchell said her haiku dealt with “Cheetahs” because of her fascination with the larger cats, while Kalid Fisher chose “Wilderness.” Christian Jones and Rahmir Dyson created a collaborative two-verse haiku entitled “Tigers,” since they initially wrote about the same animal, while Darman Johnson wanted his poem to focus on the theme of nature in “March.”
As for General, she was pleased with results of the poetry. The children were mounting their poetry onto posterboards. Their work will line the school’s corridor right alongside interesting themed walls that feature everyone from poet Maya Angelou to activist Cesar Chavez. “The children really brought their different backgrounds to this and I am pleased with the results,” General said.