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.”
Take a look inside the gymnasium and see sixth-grader Monye Butler doing jumping jacks, push-ups on a mat and sit-ups on an exercising ball. The exercises that Butler is doing are a part of the circuit-training circle that the students at Ferguson Elementary participate in. It’s a way for the students to continue to be active by keeping their body moving during the school day.
“Gym is a lot of fun,” Butler said. “We do a lot of exercising. It’s a way for the students to keep moving. I don’t mind doing the exercises because I’m an athlete. I like playing basketball with my friends and brothers. This is another way to keep me active at school.”
Ferguson started participated in the Healthy You Positive Energy initiative (HYPE) in 2011. The initiative is between the city of Philadelphia and the school district. The program raises awareness about the importance of making activity a daily habit and ensuring kids learn healthy habits at a young age. The school was later selected to do a video as a part of the First Lady Michelle Obama “Let’s Move” campaign where they came in as a honorable mention.
“The students do a great job with this initiative,” said Dean of students and HYPE coordinator Rhonda Hicks. “Each month we try to do something different. On some occasions we have morning movement, where I call out different movements to songs over the PA system and the students do those movements. We want our kids to eat right and exercise more. What we are teaching them now will help them live a healthier lifestyle in the future.”
For eighth-grader Allen Morris-Smith, being a part of HYPE is about teaching other students the importance of being active.
“Our message is all about trying to get more kids are age moving,” Morris-Smith said. The school does a really good job of trying to help us get that message out. Through the activities that we do, we are not only staying active, but also fit.”
“It’s really all about options,” said eighth-grader Tobias Bostic. “Students here use to go to the store and get bags of chips, but now they get fruit. We eat salads as a part of our meals. It’s OK to eat things you like every now and then, but it’s all about moderation. It wasn’t easy at first, but our health and well-being is important to a lot of us. If we can do it; anybody can do it.”
In addition to its core curriculum, all Ferguson students participate in computers, gym, and music classes. Separate classes that are offered to students include strings, band, and vocal. There is also a school choir that meets everyday after school. For selected seventh and eighth students they participate in a new program at Ferguson called Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID). Through the program, students learn how to be “college ready” through skills they learn in AVID classes.
“I’m a part of the strings class,” said third-grader Jada Williams. “I play the violin, it’s something that I always wanted to play and I’m happy I get to learn more about the violin here. I also play at Temple University after school on Wednesdays and Saturday mornings. I just want to keep learning as much as I can, because that will help me be a better player when I get older.”
Principal Carol Williams has been with Ferguson for 18 years. This is her first year as principal at the school. Prior to becoming principal, she was a teacher, community leader, school growth teacher, and assistant principal.
“Ferguson is home to me,” Williams said. “Our goal has always been to have our students achieve. We offer our students a variety of programs and curriculum to help them grow both mentally and personally. We want them to achieve academic excellence, but we also want them to learn life lessons in the process.”
Williams is also reaching out to parents. She will be having a parents make a difference conference later this month. The parents will get a hand-on experience of seeing what their kids are learning during school. They will get a chance to sit-in on classes and interact with the teachers, counselors, and the principal. Williams also want to start having round table discussions with parents, so that they can voice their opinions and concerns.
“This is our way of letting the parents know that there are opportunities for them to come in and talk to us; even volunteer,” Williams said. “I want them to be informed and see what we are doing while their kids are at school. The parents, staff, teachers, and myself needs to be on the same page and support one another in order to give the kids the best education experience. We all want to see the kids succeed and help them prepare for their future.”
As you step inside the hallways of Blaine Academics Plus, and take a look around the classrooms, art room, computer lab, and math classes, you’ll begin to notice a common pattern — hard working students, and a dedicated community of faculty, staff, administration, and parent volunteers, all striving for excellence.
“Our goal at Blaine has always been to give the students the best educational experience that they can receive,” said principal Gianeen Powell. “Our teachers here do a great job of working together to change children’s lives. We have teachers here that not only go above and beyond academically, but also personally. They motivate them to do more than what there are expected and they inspire the students to become anything they want to be. At Blaine, we push and motivate each other. It’s a collaborative effort among everyone, and I truly believe that’s why the school has been so successful.”
Blaine is a kindergarten through eighth-grade school with several special needs classes and a headstart (Pre-K program). The school’s mission is to establish a serious academic tone, increase standardized test scores, improve daily instruction and create organizational excellence and enrich student’s lives. The school has an enrollment of 279 students.
“I’ve been at Blaine since Pre-K and I can honestly say that the school has helped me become a better person,” said sixth grader Jaquil Gordon. “The work here challenges you and the teachers here really care. The students push each other to get better.”
Sixth grade students at Blaine not only learn math, science, and social studies in Jamal Dennis’s classroom, but they also learn life lessons.
“I just try to be there for my students both academically and personally,” Dennis said. “I really care about my students in aspect of their lives, especially when it comes to their future. They know that I demand respect from them and I will give them that same respect back.
“With the lessons that I teach, I try not to just teach them, but I want them to apply what they learned in the classroom in their life. I want them to use what they learned to solve problems and make good decisions. I always tell them success comes with practice and hard work. If they do the work and challenge themselves; they will have success.”
For sixth-grader Shamika Fox, going to Blaine has not only help her grow as a person, but it also helped her realize her passion.
“Going to Blaine made me realized I love to write; its my passion,” Fox said. “I like to write adventurous stories because I create my own world in it. I just want to continue to learn as much as I can and build on what I already know. I want to succeed and going here is helping me to do that.”
Blaine is apart of the Philadelphia Campaign for Healthier Schools. The program’s goal is to decrease the unhealthy foods in the school, promote healthier food choices, and to increase physical activity and exercise.
“We just don’t want our students to perform well academically, but we also want them to eat right and exercise,” Powell said. “It was a little bit of an adjustment for the students as first, but now its something that the students are use to. That particular program is a good addition to the school.”
In addition to its core curriculum, students at Blaine have also received an educational experience outside of the school setting. Blaine has taken students on educational trips to the Zoo, Art Museum, Franklin Institute, the Free Library, the historic home of John Coltrane and other academic and cultural institutions.
“When it comes to teaching art, I like to teach them art terms and art history,” said art teacher Chris Chariw. “I’m able to do a lot of different things through the program. I want the students to get a real hands-on experience in art. I want my students to be creative and reach their full potential artistically. The students love the class and are interested in it. I just want them to get to best overall experience in art and I’m able to do that through this program.”
For fourth-grader Trinity Coker, going to Blaine is overall learning experience.
“I’ve been only going to the school for two years, but I really like here,” Coker said. “I’ve learned so much and everyone here is really nice. The teachers are willing to help if you need it. This year my favorite subject is math. I like doing division and multiplication. I really like this school and I’m happy I came here.”
Fourth grade teacher Karla Verschot has been at Blaine for the five years. She said what makes the school so unique is the staff approach to teaching.
“Blaine has high expectations for academic excellence,” Verschot said. “This is the ultimate school setting. We are doing everything to provide the kids here the best education. We want to help them learn, but also help them grow as a person. We want to help prepare them for their future, but also the real world.”
Hearing the orchestra practice Zimmer’s “The Dark Knight” and seeing students playing the guitar are just some of the activities that go on during a normal school day at Academy at Palumbo Liberal Arts High School.
Known for its academic excellence, Palumbo is a selective, college preparatory magnet school. Originally modeled after Central High, the school’s purpose is to create a diverse community of college bound scholars who are responsible, ethical, and caring citizens while including a rich cultural arts experience.
“Our goal has always been to prepare our students for college and the real world,” says principal Adrienne Wallace-Chew. “Palumbo continues to excel academically. We have a 100 percent graduation rate for our seniors and we are continuing to provide them with the best education and programs.
“We are considered small for an academic school, but the students here does extremely well and always take full advantage of the opportunities that are given to them. We are doing everything that we possibly can to make sure all of our students succeed.”
Some of Palumbo’s arts activities and classes include vocal music, instrumental music classes, visual arts instruction, theater instruction, choir, band, orchestra, drum-line, and social play.
This is the first year that the music program has been back at Palumbo after a brief hiatus. The school has an itinerary music teacher that works with each section of the orchestra once a week. Orchestra students also have a class one period a day. There are currently 40 students in the orchestra.
“The music program at Palumbo has been a learning experience for me,” says junior Kayla Gonzales. “Last year, the orchestra was going through a few rough patches. Our teacher had gotten sick and from there things just started changing. Both the students and the school overcame it though. The orchestra continues to grow and we have a great teacher in Mr. Jordan.”
Senior Travis Goffredo continues to excel in the music program at Palumbo.
“There was a time where the music program died here,” Goffredo said. “I decided to get with the itinerary music teacher to try to keep the music program going. I would conduct two days a week. We were doing everything to make sure the program would survive. It was a lot of hard work, but it was worth it.
“I hope my drive in music has helped influence other students in the program at the school. Music is a huge part of life; I play all percussion instruments. When I go to college that’s what I would like to major in. I’ve done a lot of things in music for Palumbo as well as outside of the school.”
Orchestra teacher James Jordan said it’s Goffredo’s passion for music and academic excellence that has helped his chances for getting into a good college.
“Travis has been invited to audition to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia,” Jordan said. “That’s really a honor for any student. Curtis is the most prestigious music conservatory in the world; it rivals Julliard. Students who attend Curtis don’t have to pay tuition because they earn a fellowship. We’re all hoping Travis does really well and gets accepted there.”
In addition to the music program, Palumbo offers Advanced Placement courses including literature, statistics, chemistry, studio art, biology, and psychology. The school has achieved AYP every year since its inception.
For Yahana Gheberhiwet, ceramics is one of the classes at Palumbo that she enjoys taking.
“I always wanted to learn about ceramics,” Gheberhiwet said. “When I would go out and see something beautiful that was made, I would always want to know how they did it. In ceramics, we learn everything from texture to designs. This is just something that I like to do. I don’t want to major in art. When I enter college in the fall, I want my major to be biology.”
Philadelphia Magazine ranked Palumbo as No. 4 for best public high schools in Philadelphia. Last year, the U.S. News and World report ranked the school No. 21 for best high schools in Pennsylvania and Palumbo also received the Jefferson Silver award winner for community service. The school was also the “Get Schooled” attendance challenge East Coast champions in 2012.
“This is one of the best schools for academic excellence,” said sophomore Kamea Morris. “Everything we learn here is preparing us for our future. The curriculum at times can be tough, but I think it will be all worth it in the end. Nobody wants to go to college unprepared. I’m looking forward to college, but right now I’m just enjoying my time at Palumbo.”
Over the years, students at Palumbo were accepted to over 100 different colleges and universities across the country, including Morehouse, Spelman, NYU, Temple, Villanova, University of Pittsburgh, DePaul, Syracuse, Florida A&M University, Howard, University of San Francisco, Drexel, Penn State, and Saint Joseph’s University.
“This is my last year at Palumbo,” says senior Lachae’ Solomon. “Some of the colleges I’m currently looking into include Hampton, Spelman, Temple, and North Carolina A&T. I want to do something in social work. Palumbo is a good school, especially academic wise. The school is very diverse; we’re like a family here. I’m going to miss Palumbo, but I’m thankful for the great times that I had here.”
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.”
Known for being one of the newest neighborhood schools in the district, Kensington High School for the Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) continues to provide students with a rigorous academic program as well as prepare students for post-secondary studies, careers and opportunities in the fields of the expressive arts.
“A lot of the students that come here are from the neighborhood,” said principal Debora Borges Carrera. “In addition to offering our students the best education and preparing them for college and careers, we’re also offering them opportunities in various programs including theater and cinematography. We take the interest the students have for the arts and build on it. We all want to see our students excel in academics and in life.”
Kensington CAPA was originally part of Kensington High school. The schools were broken up into smaller schools eight years ago including Kensington CAPA, Kensington Business and Kensington Culinary Arts.
Kensington CAPA moved into a new building in 2010. Neighborhood students who select Kensington CAPA must have an interest in one or more of the following: dance, choir, instrumental music, filmmaking, theater, visual arts. Some of the AP courses offered at Kensington CAPA include Calculus AB, Composition and Environmental Science.
Kensington CAPA made AYP in 2011 and met 80 percent of their targets on their academic report card. The school also has a full-time college access coordinator. Kensington CAPA has won various awards including Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum High School (2011) and the Blue Ribbon Commission (2011).
One of the most popular programs at Kensington CAPA is the Film and Cinematography Program, which is a certified CTE program.
“The experience we receive in cinematography is unique because a lot of students don’t get a chance to receive an opportunity like this,” said senior Ahmad Ibrahim. “I’ve learned so much from making beats to filming a documentary. I’ve had great experiences in this class and at Kensington CAPA. I’m looking forward to building on what I learned here.”
The cinematography program teaches kids how to use a video and film camera. Kensington CAPA cinematography teacher Derrick Savage added to the program by including music production, script writing, lighting, producing and directing.
“The students literally do everything in this class from the concept of an idea to actually releasing it to a theater,” Savage said. “I want my students to be inspired and take their ideas and turn them into something. They need to learn that there is a world that exists outside of their community, neighborhood and their head and they can be a part of it.
“When my students first saw the equipment they were intimidated, now their experts. I tell them all the time, when something intimidates them and gets difficult just keep moving forward and before you know it will be behind you.”
For senior Halyya Ngo, cinematography is another way for her to express herself creatively.
“Cinematography allows all of us to express ourselves artistically,” she said. “I’m able to put all this creativity into one piece through video to show everyone who I am and where I come from. Once you see the final product, you just have an amazing feeling, because you know you just created that video. This is a class that I always enjoyed coming too.”
Students normally do their project planning and pre- and post-production in the control room. Music production is also done in the control room, where students use Logic and MCP.
“In the music production program, students learn how to make music,” said junior Aaron Garcia. “They also learn how they can use their music in their videos. Since a lot of students are inexperienced with the music program, they normally come to a student like myself who knows how to use the program.
“From there we will produce what they need for specific shots or the video itself. These programs are very hands-on as well as a good learning experience. All of us make sure we take full advantage of the different opportunities that are given to us.”
In addition to the core curriculum, the school also offers special programs in theater, stage crew, Bible club, academic tutoring, dance, journalism, yearbook and student government.
“The overall experience at Kensington CAPA has been great,” said senior Donisha Perry. “This school offers so many programs and activities. I always wanted to come to a school based in the arts because I like to sing, so this school was perfect for me, plus it’s in my neighborhood.
“Even though I graduate this year, I’m looking forward to building on what I learned here and apply it when I go to college. I’m currently looking into Bloomsburg. Going to this school not only makes you want to become better academically but also personally. We all want to succeed and strive for excellence. Kensington CAPA is not just a school to us, but we’re family.”
At Lewis C. Cassidy Academics Plus Elementary School, students are learning more than just reading, writing and arithmetic. They are also learning the importance of giving back to their community and how to achieve their fullest social, emotional and academic potential.
“I have been going to Cassidy since kindergarten and this school has been the best learning experience for me so far,” said sixth-grader Brittany Walker. “I’ve learned so much in all of my classes. I’ve done numerous projects that helped connect academics with the community and the world. Math is currently my favorite subject. I love adding, dividing, subtracting and multiplying fractions. I’m excited for what I will be learning next.”
In addition to its core curriculum, Cassidy offers various programs to their students. In December, the school’s community service project was a drive for Jane Adams Place, an emergency homeless shelter in Philadelphia for mothers with children. Students gave away toys, bathing products, and winter accessories.
A popular program at Cassidy is Peaceful Posse, a peer-mentoring program. Fifth- and sixth-grade students participant in the program. The program meets every Friday. Fifteen girls and 15 boys are targeted for the program.
“This program was our way to combat bullying,” said Principal Deidre Bennett. “It helps the kids to understand that they have to work together and support one another. We’re trying to get them to work as a team peacefully in the same environment. It’s important to not just provide excellent education to the students, but to also give back to the community.
“I tell my students all the time you can be very intelligent, but if you don’t have the moral base it doesn’t mean anything. A part of being intelligent is understanding how what you do as a person can effect everyone around you. What we try to do with our students is to encourage and empower them to meet the challenges by being lifelong learners and critical thinkers.
First-year teacher Blair Robertson-Fisher not only takes pride in working for a school she once attended as a kid, but she wants to also see her students succeed. Her daughter currently attends the school.
“Coming back to Cassidy has been exciting new journey for me,” Robertson-Fisher said. “I attended this school as a child and I always loved the neighborhood because it’s where I grew up. Even though Cassidy is a large school, it’s very close knit. That’s one of the many reasons why I wanted my daughter to go here. She likes the school. She’s in the second grade, but in a different classroom.
“I really enjoy teaching my second grade students. In addition to teaching them the core curriculum, I always tell them that they can achieve their goal if they work hard. I also want my students to have confidence and feel good about themselves. If they’re struggling in a subject, they have my support. I’m there for them and because of that they try even harder. My students are truly the best and I love teaching them”
Cassidy recently started a math online program called “First in Math.” The program helps students with their math skills. Every class at Cassidy participates in the program except kindergarten. If a class has the highest points in the school, they are team of the week.
“First in Math is a good way for me to learn math,” said first-grader Zakayah Williams. “We learn math through different games on the computer. It’s a fun way for me to learn. I really like coming to this class.”
Cassidy made AYP again last year for the second year in a row. As a result, the school was awarded with the Keystone Achievement Award from the Pennsylvania Department of Education for outstanding Academic Achievement, along with 92 other schools.
Some other points of pride at Cassidy include Read Across America Day, the Eagles Book Mobile, school newspaper, the MAP after school program, Caps for Cuties, Boys Latin and the Eat Right Now Nutrition program.
“My experience at Cassidy has been excellent; it’s a really good school,” said sixth grader Tatiana Amaya. “They have a lot of opportunities here that I don’t think I would be able to have anywhere else. We have excellent programs that will help us achieve our goals and help us grow as a person. We have excellent teachers and a great learning atmosphere here. The sky is the limit for all of us. This school is helping me prepare for what I want to be when I grow, and it has been an exciting journey so far.”
“Shaw is a good school,” said seventh-grader Daniyah Gregory. “The teachers and Principal Lang really care about us succeeding academically and personally. Shaw has a good learning environment and the students here help each other. It’s a good school to help prepare for our future.”
In addition to the core curriculum, Shaw has various programs that emphasize data-driven instruction. The data looks at students’ academics, attendance and behavior.
Achieve3000, which is a mainstream online program where students have the ability to improve their reading and writing, is one of the programs at Shaw. Through the program, students have the ability to improve their reading and writing. They will have the means to master the curriculum, meet the standards set by Common Core, and be prepared for college and a career one day.
“This program takes all of the print literature from the AP and break it down to a particular reading level,” said Principal Kwand Lang. “Prior to a student participating in Achieve3000, they must do a pre-assessment. Once a student completes that, the program levels every kid from kindergarten to post-high school, so if a student is reading a story about Sandy Hook at an eighth-grade level that story has already been modified by the computer to an eighth-grade reading level.
“This takes place every day at our school. Every week we receive information from Achieve3000 on how our kids are doing. Even if the students are excelling at grade level, we have other programs in place to continue to challenge them in reading and writing. The beauty about the program is that everyone will be reading the same exact story, but the story will be modified to that particular student’s reading skill level. No one will be able to pick up the difference by just looking at their laptop. The program has really been a success so far at our school.”
Shaw continues to provide the ultimate learning experience through its partnership with City Year. Nine core members currently serve at the school, focusing on attendance, behavior and course performance.
“This is our longest partnership in the city of Philadelphia, we’ve been here for 12 years,” said team leader Katharine Miller. “The experience I’ve had at Shaw has been amazing. Working with the students and seeing how resilient they are and how much they have to offer has inspired me to come back to City Year this year as well as looking into a future career in education.”
Some activities at Shaw include the chess club, debate team, Sonia Sanchez Literacy Center, Men of Shaw, Ladies of Distinction, an anti-bullying group, and boys’ and girls’ athletics.
“As of right now, I don’t participate in any activities, but I’m interested in volleyball,” said seventh-grader Chyna Chase. “I’m really good in volleyball, so I’m interested in doing that here. I was also interested in basketball, but I don’t think I will be good at it, so I’m going to stick with what I know. Shaw offers the students here a lot of different activities and programs to participate in. It’s really up to us to take advantage of it.”
Some points of pride at Shaw include the Voices of Philadelphia debate team champions (2010); City Year National Award recipient for Impact on Literacy (2011); and the 2012 City Year City-Wide Spelling Bee champions in 2012.
The school was also featured on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” for its partnership with City Year and the student government members were invited to visit the White House last spring. Shaw participates in the Diplomas Now Partnership with Johns Hopkins University. The school also received a $50,000 grant from the Cole Hamels Foundation for a new library.
For seventh-grader Sule West, going to Shaw has been a good experience.
“I like going to Shaw,” he said. “The atmosphere here is great, the teachers are good, I learn a lot, and I have a lot of friends here too. Out of all my classes right now, I would have to say my favorite class is social studies. It’s always good to learn about different places and time periods around the world.
“Overall, my experience at Shaw has been a good one. The school has a lot of different programs and the school, as well as the students have achieved a lot. Everyone here really cares about us; they want to see us succeed not just in school, but in life.”
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.”
Enter an art room at Bache Martin Elementary School and you will see eighth graders Tatiana Scott and Dayzha Hunter working on their art projects.
“We recently finished our ceramic masks,” Scott said. “We put Vaseline on our faces first, we then took the plaster and dipped them into water and put them on our faces. We let it sit for a couple of minutes and then it got hard. A few days later, we had to paint it. It was a good way for us to describe who we were as a person. Instead of saying who we are and what we are about, we just let the art piece talk for itself.”
In addition to describing herself, Hunter’s mask also described her dreams and ambitions.
“My inspiration for my mask was my different personalities as well as my dreams,” Hunter said. “I think every person has different sides to them and that is clearly displayed on my mask. One of the things that stand out on my mask is the word NYC. When I grow up I want to move to New York City and become an actress.”
Bache Martin’s goal is to provide all students with the academic, technological and social skills needed to be productive and contributing citizens in our society. The school goes from kindergarten to the eighth grade.
“We try to incorporate great programs outside of the community that will link with our curriculum,” said principal Yvette Duperon. “The success of the school has been a collective effort with our various partnerships, the community, teachers, staff, parents, and administrators. We want to provide our students with the best overall academic excellence. Through are curriculum and programs we give our students the best opportunity to succeed academically and grow personally.”
Bache Martin has various partnerships with organizations throughout the city including the Philadelphia Zoo, the Philadelphia Museum of Art as a part of the Art Speaks Program, Temple University as a part of the Conflict Resolution Program, and the University of the Arts.
The school also has a partnership the Walnut Street Theatre’s through the Adopt-A-School program. Through the program, students and faculty members receive many unique opportunities to use theatre's resources, including in-school performances and workshops.
“I’m very creative and I love to act, so being in a class where you can read a script or re-enact a play is a wonderful thing,” said eighth-grader Haniel Lee. “It’s all about tapping into your creativity. We get a chance to express ourselves. It’s a unique situation that we’re in, because not a lot of other schools get an opportunity like this. We’re all taking full advantage of it.”
The program’s mission is to create a theatre-based curriculum by improving students' dramatic skills and guiding teachers through every aspect of producing a theatre performance. Bache Martin is currently in year one of a five-year partnership with the Walnut Street Theatre.
“I never was actually interested in the arts, but the theatre classes here has really opened my eyes,” said eighth-grader Konstantina Angelis. “I enjoy the classes that I take and it gives me an opportunity to express myself in another way. I’m a shy person, so it definitely takes me out of my comfort zone a little bit, but I embrace the challenge and the opportunity.”
Eighth-grader Sarai Ford loves to act, so participating in the theatre program was an opportunity to build on her talent.
“This program will definitely help you grow as an actor or actress,” Ford said. “The program is very hands-on and pushes all of us to our creative limits. It’s fun and I’ve learned a lot so far. I’m looking forward to building on what I learned.”
For third-grader Kasey Boddie, participating in the theatre program is exciting.
“Going to the Walnut Street Theatre class gives us a chance to act,” Boddie said. “It’s exciting because I like to act and sing. I haven’t participated in any plays yet, but I’m learning how to through the program. I would be interested in doing plays later on. I really like the class and my school.”
Some other points of pride at Bache Martin include the Reading Olympics, Playworks, the Philadelphia Orchestra School Partnership Program, ArtWell, Clay Studio, and the Barnes Foundation.
The Philadelphia Orchestra program cultivates students’ knowledge and love of orchestral music, develops students’ perceptive and creative skills and helps parents and teachers bring classical music into their homes and classrooms.
A Philadelphia Orchestra teaching artist has a regular presence in participating classrooms. They work side-by-side with classroom teachers using curriculum and materials created by the Orchestra’s education department. Students also attend an Orchestra School Concert as well as other concerts throughout the year. Orchestra musicians visit each school annually.
“The music programs at my school gives us a lot of opportunities,” said third-grader Phoenix Berta. “We learn how about different instruments and how to play them. Right now, I know how to play the recorder and the guitar. It’s a lot of fun learning about different music and the instruments. I really like going to this school and learning something different each day.”