This Tuesday, December 15th at 5:15 pm, a protest is scheduled to push back against the planned takeover of John Wister Elementary School located at 67 East Bringhurst Street. In previous years, parents voted loud and clear against the same tactics at Steel and Munoz-Marin. This time the voices at Wister are being silenced by the lack of democracy thrust upon them by the School District of Philadelphia and the School Reform Commission. “What is happening to Wister is Disaster Capitalism,” says 22-year old veteran teacher Robin Lowry. “A crisis is created and used as an excuse to take over schools. Every time you take a resource or a staff member out of a school that you know is struggling, you create a crisis. Poor kids go to resource-poor schools, and rich kids go to resource-rich ones.”
Wister parents recently voted internally by a 2 to 1 margin to reject charter conversion, yet, Mastery Charter has been actively contacting families about registering for the next school year and the flyer advertising the meeting this Tuesday at 6 pm has the Mastery logo at the bottom. Local Mastery Charter staffers have also infiltrated the neighboring businesses with literature and conversations with community members about their plans for the school. How can an entity be so confident that a school is theirs when no vote has been cast?
Mastery Charter has a 19% suspension rate and minimal internal supports for families experiencing trauma or tough challenges. The new 2.0 curriculum that they rolled out earlier this year still includes teaching very focused on test preparation as opposed to critical thinking, and they have not released any data in regard to college retention rates after graduation.
The Wister community is calling all students, parents, teachers, clergy, and community organizations to support the fight against the injustice of turning the school over to a charter operator against the will of the parents and school community by turning out this Tuesday at 5:15 pm.
Similar tactics are being used at a second school is also scheduled for a charter conversion. Jay Cooke Elementary School in the Logan neighborhood will be voting on December 15th on the proposal. Activists are confident that parents will reject the idea of becoming a charter school. Jay Cooke has a tight-knit staff and supportive parents.
The SRC and the School District of Philadelphia wants to create “high-performing” seats for every child. Unfortunately, this terminology creates a tiered school system with “winners” and “losers.” Evidence and research exemplifies that when school districts are starved for funds, which results in fewer resources and staff, then the quality and safety of the school environment suffers. The solution is not a charter conversion. The solution is multi-layered and must be uniquely prescribed to each school because people are not widgets, and a one size fits all medicine does not attribute to any long term holistic and sustainable answers.