The final month: GHS volunteer says youths ‘in utter state of confusion’ as closing day looms

As the final day of Germantown High School’s 99-year history approaches — the Class of ’13 will don caps and gowns on June 19 — NewsWorks will present a series of stories including interviews with grads, former students and members of the extended school community.

Today, we hear from Joan Myerson Shrager, who works with GHS students through The Stained Glass Project. She took exception to a story in which Bill Cosby told NewsWorks that he agrees with the decision to close the school.

What follows is an email Shrager sent NewsWorks on Monday morning:

Mr. Cosby, as usual, shoots his mouth off from the vantage point of a Hollywood millionaire.

What does it matter that once upon a time ago he attended Germantown? The word on the street is that his degrees are mostly honorary anyway. I wonder how much hands-on work he has done with kids like the ones he usually so roundly castigates.

Deep-seated problems

There were indeed protests concerning the closing of Germantown, but having run an after-school program for more than seven years with Germantown High School students, I am not surprised there was too little too late.

In all the years of our wonderful program, I can count on one hand the parents I’ve ever seen in support of some pretty wonderful kids.

It never ceases to amaze me that our kids have accomplished as much as they have with so little parenting. It also surprises me that all the successful alums from Germantown’s history deserted ship long ago. Just imagine if they had helped over the years.

Having worked with these kids for as long as I have, I have a close relationship with many. They are unfailingly surprised when they meet kids from similar demographics who speak better than they do and who have mastered basic skills.

When they met the lovely little kids from the Community Partnership School in North Philly, a school to whom we donated stained-glass windows, several asked me how come those kids were so smart.

Sadly, they are not smarter, just much better educated than our kids from the Philadelphia school system.

Money is poured in to their education. Now that I am seeing that almost everyone of our kids has had to take remedial courses when admitted to area colleges it sure makes me wonder what they were doing at Germantown.

Community disconnect

Over the years, Germantown has been relatively uninterested in our program and decidedly unhelpful.

This is a program run by The First United Methodist Church that offered course enrichment as well as our art program, all pro bono.

For years, it was almost impossible to communicate with the principal. Only when I facilitated having Mayor [Michael] Nutter’s coming to the school to honor our kids did she respond despite repeated attempts to contact her before and to keep an open line of communication.

Now that the kids are in an utter state of confusion, she quit precipitously. Our kids feel deserted by her. One girl described the principal as “rude.”

Bigger picture

There’s much to the story of the closing of Germantown, and let me assure you that as of today, our kids have no idea what their future will be.

There apparently has been no support for them, no teams from the administration assuring them that they will be OK.

Most believe they are marked targets for gang warfare at Martin Luther King High. One youngster told me, “You don’t need to be in a gang, they claim you because of where you live.”

Our students were noticeably negatively affected this year by all the chaos.

I am happy that they can finish the year with us with a trip to the Ojibwe People’s School in Red Lake, Minn.

At least they know we keep our word and fight like hell to make their dreams come true.

I am still not sure that destroying the school is the answer.

I think it was a source of pride for many and now that the neighborhood is stripped of several schools, how can the neighborhood get any better?

Schools are often the stuff of memories and pride. Now that is gone.

NewsWorks wants to hear from graduates and former or current students in order to share their favorite memories from their time at the 99-year-old building.

To that end, we’re asking you to send your memories via email (subject line: My GHS Memories), the comments section or call (215) 351-1293.

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