The chants echoed outside the Philadelphia High School for Girls as about 50 teachers, students, and local community organizers rallied on a chilly Saturday morning in support of mayoral candidate Jim Kenney.
“Yes we Kenney! Yes we Kenney!”
Volunteers from the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers gathered to canvass the neighborhood, knocking door to door asking folks to vote for the former city councilman.
“If we’re going to improve the quality of our schools,” PFT President Jerry Jordan began, “if we’re going to have books in our classrooms and not in the basement of an administrative building, if we are going to have safer schools, we are going to need to have Jim Kenney sitting in room 215, that’s the mayor’s office.”
Kenney recalled visiting Julia De Burgos Elementary School in North Philadelphia and meeting with student leaders who told him about a project they had been working on regarding crime in the area.
“They had been locked down four times in a month because of shootings outside their school,” Kenney said.
The students made banners and marched nine blocks, stopping at a corner with drug dealers and asked them to let the students be educated.
“There hasn’t been a lockdown since,” Kenney said. “If we can continue to instill that kind of passion in our kids, our teachers and our principals, I think we’re going to make this city a much better place.”
Suzanne Cappo, a 25-year math teacher at Andrew J. Morrison School in Olney, said getting involved has kept her up to date with the ills of the education system.
“People have to become informed and this is one of the ways,” Cappo said. “Kenney is a big union guy, he’s down-to-earth and he’s been around. Our schools need to improve but can only do so with the proper resources.”
Officially endorsed by the PFT on March 16, Kenney has opposed the expansion of charter schools, which employ non-union staff, and has also criticized the School Reform Commission for unilaterally canceling the teachers’ contract.
The Democratic mayoral primary takes place on May 19. Kenney is running against former district attorney Lynne Abraham, state Senator Anthony Williams, former state Senator Milton Street, former mayoral aide and PGW executive Doug Oliver and former city judge Nelson Diaz.