Community activists aim for alternative plan to avert Philly school closings

As the Philadelphia School District faces the prospect of closing dozens of schools and a dramatic reorganization, community activists are rallying together to find an alternative.

In the face of a financial crisis and declining enrollment, the Philadelphia School Reform Commission used private funds to hire The Boston Consulting Group to map a future for the district.

The plan, released in April, calls for closing 64 public schools over five years and reorganizing the entire district into independently run “achievement networks.”

Critics don’t like the plan or those who devised it.

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“These people — they’re not from Philadelphia so how would they know exactly what’s going on with Philadelphia? And they’re not necessarily educators, they’re just consultants,” said Jilisa McCullough, a Masterman High School student from West Philadelphia.

Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, agrees.

“The plan certainly lacks the inclusion of voices of school district employees who do this work every day, and know how difficult it is,” said Jordan. “Certainly the parents of the children and the grandparents who send their children to the schools should have some say about what happens in schools.”

Seeking to include more voices, community activists, student groups and union supporters say they will submit their own plan to the School Reform Commission.

Andi Perez is the leader of the student activist group, “Youth United for Change.”

“We know the system’s broken. We’ve been saying it for years” said Andi Perez, the leader of the student activist group Youth United for Change.

“But the plan that they’re proposing is not a plan that’s going to change anything. It’s not talking about teaching and learning, it’s not talking about professional development, it’s talking about management shifts into the hands of people who aren’t experienced educators,” Perez said.

The SRC has praised the Boston Consulting Group’s road map as a way to save money and educate the city’s students more effectively.

School closings are slated to begin in fall 2013.

Critics will begin holding open meetings to draft their plan on Sept. 22.

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