In criticizing our decision to begin charging teachers for health benefits and directing the $44 million annual savings to schools, Helen Gym makes an important point: Unless the School Reform Commission is open to and responsive to public input, it cannot meaningfully improve public education in Philadelphia (“SRC’s Contract Move Isn’t About Shared Sacrifice—It’s Looting.”).
I share the value Ms. Gym places on winning “the public trust,” but she considerably weakens her credibility with the sloppiness and bad faith of her attack on the SRC.
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Recently, I visited my brother-in-law at Radnor High School and was privileged to see him teach his ninth-grade English/civics class. When I walked in, his students were engaged in a debate about Plato and the notion of dissent versus rule of law in Athenian society. The students had finished reading John Stuart Mill and were getting their first papers back for revision. It was October 2nd.
A few days later, I attended a parent meeting at Central High School, one of the city’s premier institutions. Dozens of ninth graders had spent their school year with substitute teachers who changed every week. The substitutes were put in place to relieve teachers leading classrooms with 40, 50, or even more students. For these ninth graders, school didn’t really start until October 8th, when permanent teachers were finally assigned to them.
This is what a teacher’s contract was supposed to prevent.
And it’s why the School Reform Commission’s move last week to tear up that contract is about far more than the dishonest suggestion of “shared sacrifice” and health care contributions.
Veteran Daily News columnist Stu Bykofsky is taking a lot of heat for his recent coverage of the immigration debate, most recently with his article from earlier this week entitled, “Am I anti-Latino?”, which Philly.com Tweeted out as, “Byko: Am I a bigot?” Well, schools activist Helen Gym has responded with a resounding YES!, citing various examples from the Bykofsky bibliography of bigotry:
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Out at home? CBP attendance dropped last season. Photograph: Aero-Imaging, Inc./Newscom
The first 10 years of Citizens Bank Park, I think we can all agree, have been pretty great. Five division titles. Eight winning seasons. One magical night in October 2008. Many fans will claim 11th and Pattison as hallowed ground long after global warming turns it into a beach.
But do you remember when the decision to build in South Philly seemed like not just a defeat — but a complete failure of civic imagination? In the early days of the debate on replacing Veterans Stadium, folks were hot for a Camden Yards-style retro park smack-dab in the middle of downtown. Fans whimsically debated putting a new park at the old Schmidt’s brewery, near 30th Street Station, even on the waterfront. Politicians talked more realistically about two locations: North Broad at Spring Garden, and in Chinatown at 12th and Vine.
But each proposed site was eventually sunk by some combination of community or political NIMBYism and logistical or infrastructural clusterfuckery. So the new stadium arose in the shadow of the old one, in the expanse of parking lots and nothingness we call, as if it were an affliction, the “sports complex.”
When the Phils were the best team in town, it didn’t much matter where their stadium was. But last year, attendance dropped by half a million fans. And we may face another dismal August in South Philly. It’s worth asking: Did we blow it?
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Helen Gym, the Philadelphia schools activist and heavyweight champion Twitter fighter, is going to be honored by the White House, 6ABC reports.
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Photograph by Colin Lenton
Helen Gym advances, and Mayor Nutter inches warily back. She waves a thick stack of papers at him, each sheath a complaint lodged by parents lamenting the calamitous conditions in Philadelphia’s reeling public schools. There’s the kid with dangerous asthma at the school without a nurse on hand. The dyslexic, orphaned high-school senior applying for colleges with no counselor to lean on. The bullying victim who fled Overbrook High only to find it impossible to enroll at another school.
“This is what we’re fighting against,” Gym tells Nutter. The Mayor is just a few yards from his office door, but he’s the one shifting his feet, looking to get away.
Minutes earlier, Gym had wrapped up a news conference in the ornate Mayor’s Reception Room, where, with the assistance of City Council, she’d usurped a podium usually used by Nutter and his invited guests. Gym and her allies were there to tout their latest pressure tactic: written complaints designed to compel the state to meet basic education standards and shake loose some badly needed dollars for the district.
“It would be nice to have your support, Mayor,” Gym tells him. Nutter issues a few noncommittal mumbles, cleans his glasses, and back-steps for the stairway. Gym shrugs. Powerful figures often look for the exits when she approaches.
That’s what happens when you develop a rep as perhaps Philadelphia’s preeminent public agitator. Relentless, whip-smart, meticulously prepared and utterly fearless, Gym—a private citizen who works without the heft of any meaningful institutional support—has managed to build herself one of the city’s largest bully pulpits.
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