Before the School Reform Commission voted to close 23 city schools and merge or relocate five others at an emotional Thursday night meeting, they heard the final, passionate pleas of more than 30 speakers.
That list included Germantown High School Principal Margaret Mullen-Bavwidinsi, whose school the SRC ultimately opted to close in a 4-1 vote.
Mullen-Bavwidinsi’s testimony was significant on two fronts.
She was the only principal to address the SRC.
Thursday was also the first time the school district veteran spoke publicly about the recommendation to close the historic, 99-year-old institution she’s helmed for the past four years.
During her nearly four-minute address, Mullen-Bavwidinsi focused on how the school has improved since becoming a Promise Academy, a district-led turn-around school, in 2011.
“I walked into a school that had 60 percent attendance, had been on the persistently dangerous list for seven years prior, had 30 percent homeless and a 33 percent special-education population,” she said. “Our PSSA scores were below the nine percentile for advanced proficiency in reading and math. The building was inhabitable and filthy.
“Today, we still have over 30 percent homeless, over 30 percent special education. Since becoming a Promise Academy, we have been off the persistently dangerous list for four years and have made a 100 percent increase in math PSSA scores and an 86 percent increase in our reading scores.”
Honoring promises made
Mullen-Bavwidinsi added that becoming a Promise Academy was the “best thing to happen to Germantown High School.”
She noted that the SRC and district officials initially told parents that the school wouldn’t close under the initiative.
“We only request that promises be kept, that equity of services be provided and allowed and, as Brown vs. the Board of Education alludes, keep the school doors open for all of our children in their own community and neighborhoods,” said Mullen-Bavwidinsi.
Roosevelt saved, possible expansion?
Four schools were saved from the chopping block Thursday night, including Roosevelt Middle School. Roosevelt, a grades 6-8 school in East Germantown, may expand its enrollment by adding grades.
Danielle Floyd, the district’s deputy chief of staff, told NewsWorks that district officials will visit Roosevelt on Monday to determine whether its East Washington Lane building could be become a 6-12 school, a request made by the SRC.
Members of the Germantown High School community had proposed that the school’s building be used for a K-12 school that could house students from Roosevelt and nearby Fulton Elementary, which was among the schools voted for closure.
SRC Chairman Pedro Ramos called the closure process “heart-wrenching,” but necessary in light of the district’s dire financial straits.
District officials have projected a $1.35 billion deficit over the next five years.