The final month: State Rep. Kinsey recalls good times in the GHS Class of 1976 as bitter end nears

When state Rep. Stephen Kinsey learned that his alma mater was slated for closure, he jumped head first into a grassroots effort to keep the 99-year-old school open.

Still disappointed about the decision to shutter the school, he told Mayor Michael Nutter and School Reform Commission Chairman Pedro Ramos just how much it means to him and others during a recent meeting about public-school funding.

But Kinsey’s fond memories of his time at Germantown during the early 1970s aren’t tainted.

What he remembers most

“Germantown was like a close-knit family even though you had different folks from different sections of Germantown,” he told NewsWorks. “You know, the Pulaski Town, Brick Yard, Dog Town – those were the gangs that were prevalent back then. But there was still some friendship even if you lived in Brick Yard, even if you lived in Haines Street or Dog Town. No matter where you lived at, there were still some friendships that allowed you to cross over and go visit your friends.

“Now not everybody may have liked it, because you were in their territory, but by the same token when you had that type of friendship slash family it sort of gave you a green card to go and visit other territories.

“Then I think back to certain teachers. Ms. Thelma Hill was my English teacher. She was a young, young teacher at the time and she was really focused on students getting serious. Especially Germantown being predominantly African-American and she was an African-American teacher. She was the one I recall vividly saying, ‘You know, you got to get serious about your life.’

“You had teachers there that sort of taught us that transformation. Aside from our moms and dads, you also had teachers who helped guide that transformation from boys to men and girls to women.”

“They had a plan and the plan was, outside of what was happening in the environment, they made sure that when you came to school it was like one focus, one mission. And that mission was, ‘You’re going to come here to learn and we’re going to do our best to teach you, but you’re going to come here to learn. We’re not going to take any crap. We don’t have time to play. You’re here to learn.'”

What now?

“There’s a concern about what public education is going to look like going forward if the [School District] doesn’t get their $300 million that they’re requesting. What would public education look like going forward?

“Being that Martin Luther King, which is in my district, or any other school – Roosevelt, which is in my district – the Logans, the Lingelbachs, the A.B. Days. I was very clear [with Mayor Nutter and Ramos] that I don’t want Philadelphia to be a second-class city as it relates to educating our students.”

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 and former students.

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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