Arts & Entertainment: The Race for Mayor and The Potential Impact on the Arts in Schools

NextMayorLogo2015As we get closer and closer to the Philadelphia mayoral election, one of the focal points of discussion will be the candidate’s plans for bettering education in Philadelphia.

Yearly budget cuts have plagued schools, resulting in layoffs, lack of adequate supplies and the removal of after school programs.

Many outside organizations with a connection to the arts are taking a close look at how the next mayor could affect art programs in public schools. The Picasso Project is one such organization.

Under the umbrella of Public Citizens for Children and Youth, which advocates for better health and education for the children of the region, the Picasso Project offers a mini-grant program to Philadelphia schools to make sure that children and youth still have access to the arts. The Picasso Project has reached roughly 35,000 students through its mini-grants to 121 schools since 2004.

 

WashingtonSmithPN2015CityHall“The arts are essential to learning,” said Linda Fernandez, project director for Picasso Project. “We need to make sure that when funding is being allocated, that we’re also keeping the arts in mind and putting value towards that.”

Certified in art education, Fernandez was formerly a teacher in the school district. However, Fernandez was directly affected by the lack of arts funding- her time spent as a teacher involved teaching everything but art.

“I really didn’t feel like the students were allowed to be as creative as I would like,” Fernandez said. “I wanted a really creative environment. I wanted to build, to explore, to learn in multiple different ways and it was just too constrained.”

Similar to PCCY, the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance is an organization that has been a committed advocate for the arts. Maud Lyon, president of the organization, also believes arts funding is a necessity for Philadelphia public schools.

“Art and culture is an incredible tool for helping children develop their talents and teach them critical thinking,” Lyon said. “Art and culture should be an integral part of a good education. Unfortunately, too often, these activities are not considered essential so they suffer disproportionately in budget cuts.”

With the Picasso Project, Fernandez will look very closely at the debates to see whose platform aligns with that of the Picasso Project and PCCY.

“Whoever will be the next mayor, we want them to have arts in the forefront,” Fernandez said.

She believes that although the city has been making positive strides to support the arts community of Philadelphia, that same support hasn’t trickled down into schools.

“So that’s where we really hope the next candidate, the next mayor, will put an emphasis on,” Fernandez added.

Lyon believes that emphasis is needed from the city’s next mayor. She highlighted why the youth in the city need the funding.

“Many urban students come from disadvantaged backgrounds,” Lyon said. “School is their primary access to music lessons or to attend museums, theaters or concerts.”

High school students must fulfill arts requirements in order to graduate. That means that elementary and middle school students are the most affected by cuts in arts programs.

“The artistic development of a young person stops at the eighth grade,” Fernandez said. “If they don’t feel some level of accomplishment and they don’t feel good about the work that they’re creating, that’s where their artistic development stops.”

Cambriae Bates, an alumna of the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, now engages in poetry and creative writing in Philadelphia and beyond. She believes her school and its focus on creative development helped her realize her voice. This increased Bates understanding of many genres, styles and platforms of writing.

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“Students who may not learn best through the traditional classroom teaching approaches are the ones who are suffering the most,” Bates said.

As a member of Babel, the first spoken word poetry collective on Temple University’s campus, Bates has used her platform to conduct poetry workshop’s with Philly’s youth searching for a creative outlet to express themselves. While Bates understands the strides that many teachers and principals have taken in utilizing outside organizations to keep arts inside classrooms, she believes these efforts do not reach every student.

“When outside organizations bring their programs to the schools, they only go to one class,” Bates said. “Other students are still missing out on any type of arts education. Teachers, regardless of the subject they teach, have to begin to add arts within their curriculum.”

“Visual art students excelled in geometry in my high school because they were constantly measuring in order to make ratios accurate in their pictures and to create balance in their life,” Bates added. “Vocalists had to learn Italian if they wanted to sing many opera compositions.”

As debates begin to heat up in the coming weeks, many will keep their eyes and ears opened hoping to hear of a candidate who is ready to take a firm stance on changing the current state of education. While there are many layers within the discussion of education in Philadelphia, those most affected hope that alternatives other than cutting arts funding in schools will be addressed.

– Text and images by Patrick Smith and Deneia Washington.

Germantown: Residents Want City Hall to Bring Education Back To The Neighborhood

NextMayorLogo2015In regards to the 2015 mayoral election, many citizens of Germantown are less concerned with the individual candidates and more so with what officials at City Hall have in store for the future of their community’s schools.

It was just two years ago that Germantown residents suffered from the school district’s decision to permanently shut down Germantown High School, the neighborhood’s primary local high school. This ultimately left students from the neighborhood little choice but to travel far distances beyond their immediate community to receive quality education.

Since the decline of secondary public education, Germantown students, parents and academic administrators are collectively looking for the next mayor to provide a durable blueprint to secure education within the community.

“In the past two years, Germantown has seen a number of our schools closed, most prominently our high school, so I think that there’s been a significant impact on our community both in regards to the economic impact and the opportunity that our students have,” said Julie Stapleton Carroll, CEO of Philadelphia’s Principled Schools Inc. “Our hope with the mayor race is that whoever’s elected is able to pull together all the opposing forces that have been keeping us from moving forward in regards to funding for our schools.”

Principled Schools Inc. is a startup nonprofit located on Germantown Avenue that is designed to support the growth of quality administrators in Philadelphia’s schools. The organization pushes for the implementation of vocational schools, technical assistance and governance capacity building in order to bring greater resources to schools throughout the city.

“One of our schools in Lingelbach operates on a $160 budget a year and so the resources are really tapped,” Carroll explained. “We need a mayor who can go out there and force the state to provide a fair funding for us. Currently, 50 percent of students in our neighborhood are dropping out of schools with little to no skills whatsoever. We want to be able to provide them with the opportunity to have something that they can use.”

Providing students direct accessibility to quality public education is essential to the vitality of Germantown’s youth and at the top of the community’s list of expectations for the next mayoral contender.

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“Parents want their child to have the best possible foundation,” said Joseph Martin, CEO and founder of Acclaim Academy. “We’re finding that if we’re able to create that solid foundation going forward from early childhood, we’ll be able to develop young people with higher paying jobs.”

Acclaim Academy is an early childcare center that provides afterschool care to children ages six to twelve. The academy aims to provides private school quality education to inner city children.

Martin believes that in order for Germantown and the city of Philadelphia to be successful in the scope of education, those in City Hall should consider adopting the Keystone STARS Program as a mandatory grading system for all early learning programs.

Keystone STARS, which stands for Standards, Training/Professional Development, Assistance and Resources, is a program under the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services that provides families with a tool to gauge the quality of early learning curriculums. The program provides a research-based quality of standards based on a grading level between one and four on the STAR scale.

“I think parents are looking for the next mayoral candidate to provide a sound foundation for their children to move onto elementary school. For them to be able to read ideally coming out of early childcare going into kindergarten,” Martin said.

– Text by Lauren Dunn. Images and video by Jared Whalen.

Northeast Philadelphia residents discuss education reform

Gathered at a diner in Northeast Philadelphia, residents concerned with education expressed their needs for teachers who care about students, practical skills training and overall improved quality. Reporting for TUTV: Jade Jarvis at Temple University.

Kensington: What Do You Want From The Next Mayor?

With the Philadelphia mayoral election coming up, each section of the city has its own concerns and expectations about which candidate will take on the title.

Philadelphia’s diversity shines through in many cases; however, elections do not tend to be one of those times. The city is primarily Democratic, which has been displayed in that the elected mayor has been a Democrat since the early 1950s. This Democratic streak is not expected to be broken this fall.

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John O’Connell, a valet attendant in the city, was not optimistic about the area of Kensington being taken care of.

“If you want my honest opinion, unless the new mayor is tough on crime I don’t see there being any change down here,” O’Connell said. “I know that City Hall doesn’t really care about this region of the city.”

One candidate, Anthony Williams, has said he hopes to focus on areas like Kensington, however. On his campaign website, Williams states that he finds it necessary to increase neighborhood events. O’Connell said that Kensington could “absolutely” benefit from these types of festivities.

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Jessica Duval, a registered nurse, said the mayor should work more closely with police officers.

“I’d like to see the mayor work more closely with police officers to clean up the streets,” Duval said. “I want to see more police on the ground in my neighborhood rather than just patrolling.”

Each of the running candidates plans to focus on the schooling system in Philadelphia, which is a topic that weighs heavily on those in Kensington.

“With all of the things that have happened with the Philadelphia education system, I’m hoping for some stability,” Duval said. “I feel like, in Kensington, the schools aren’t that great. So I’d hope that the mayor would work on fiscal policies and would put more money back into the schools.”

The area of Kensington is highly Latino populated, meaning that candidate Nelson Diaz could inspire many. Diaz, the first Puerto Rican to graduate from Temple University‘s Beasley School of Law, already has expectations set for him.

“I feel like a Latino mayor would focus more on bringing health care into the community,” Duval said. “It seems like a lot of the Latino community has limited resources for health care, so I’d like to see a Latino mayor bring in more free and Spanish-speaking clinics so that our families can get better health care and more ways to keep our families healthy.”

Duval went on to say: “I’d be in favor of Diaz but, as a female, I would like to see Lynne Abraham get into office. It would set a good example for women that says that we can achieve things.”

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Lynne Abraham recently made waves by announcing that she is in favor of the decriminalization of marijuana in Philadelphia. Marijuana is currently decriminalized here, however, and citizens did not believe that a new mayor would have much of a say in changing that.

“If the new mayor isn’t on board, I don’t think it’ll cause all that much of an issue,” O’Connell said. “The new mayor could butt heads with City Council, but I think it’s pretty much here to stay. It’s probably making police officers’ lives a lot easier.”

O’Connell backs former city Councilman James Kenney, the candidate who sponsored the bill that decriminalized marijuana.

O’Connell excitedly expressed his support by saying, “Kenney all the way!”

– Text and photos by Sabrina Iglesias and Clayton Russell

Strawberry Mansion: Residents Discuss Issues They Want Next Mayor to Address

Strawberry Mansion residents shared their concerns about the upcoming 2015 mayoral primary, and the impact a new mayor might have on the community.

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Many residents focused on the quality of education in the area, as well as community development, from broken sidewalks to abandoned houses.

Although some residents were unsure of the current candidates and where they stand on the issues, most were happy with the last eight years of leadership from Mayor Michael Nutter.

Nutter will have finished serving the maximum of two terms as mayor later this year, therefore opening up what has traditionally been a Democratic seat.

– Text, images and video by Robert Kennedy and Evan Little

Northeast Philadelphia: With a New Mayor, Comes Hope for Change in Northeast Philadelphia

NextMayorLogo2015Northeast Philadelphians had a lot to say when asked about the upcoming mayoral race. Issues such as education, revitalization and prison reform were all topics of discussion.

“Right now you have two front runners that are political heavyweights,” said city councilman Bobby Henon of the Northeast’s 6th District. “They have different stories and come from different walks of life. They come from different parts of the city, and they have different platforms.”

Henon feels that the enthusiasm that the candidates bring to the election will spill over to the voters, which will help increase voter turnout. In terms of what Northeast Philadelphia needs help with, Henon believes it’s education over all else.

“I think it’s a concern in the Northeast,” Henon said. “There’s not enough charter schools for Northeast residents and they don’t feel confident in the school system. The school system needs resources, and it should be the number one focus here for our kids. We want people to stay in the neighborhood.”

Henon believes that choosing a school is important for residents of any city.

“You have a decision to make,” Henon continued. “It’s the most important decision you’ll ever make aside from starting a family and that’s where to send your kids to school. This must be addressed.”

Councilman Henon encourages the candidates to engage the residents of Philadelphia.

“It’s important to get people involved and engaged and to make them feel like a part of the solution,” he said. “I think that we have an opportunity with the mayor’s race now to do that. The only way to really get a sense of the direction of Philadelphia is by getting out there and talking to Philadelphia.”

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Lisa Deeley has lived in Rhawnhurst her entire life. She sits on many different committees and boards and is an active member of the Rhawnhurst Athletic Association. Deeley’s passion for her community has lead to her candidacy in the race for city commissioner.

“I’m very civically active in my neighborhood, so my concerns come out of my passion for my neighborhood  which I have always had,” she said.

Deeley believes that there needs to be a stronger concentration on the different neighborhoods in Philadelphia.

“Throughout all of Philadelphia, the neighborhoods feel as though they are under-serviced,” Deeley said. “Hopefully with the new administration, and an enthusiastic council, we’ll see a lot of new initiatives working into the neighborhoods.”

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Deeley also feels that revitalization and redevelopment of Rhawnhurst is important, specifically in terms of schools, recreation centers and housing.

“The make-up of Northeast Philly is a lot of single family dwellings, a lot of rental properties and a lot of mixed use,” she said. “But what we don’t have that we’re seeing in other parts of the city is that re-development and new construction. Like the change of scenery, both economic and residential in the neighborhood.”

She believes that recreation centers are an important part of any neighborhood.

“If you drive by a rec center in a neighborhood and its rundown, the equipment is all broken and the lights are busted out, people see that,” she said. “They think, I don’t know if I want to live here.”

Deeley also talks about how thankful Rhawnhurst residents are that their schools are still open.

“Public schools in the Northeast are still thriving, and they have pretty maximum attendance,” Deeley said. “So if we can keep that up, and improve their appearance, we can to improve our schools. But there is a obviously a major budget restraint.”

She also believes that Northeast Philadelphia has great community groups and some of the best civic associations in the city.

“Our community groups are really willing to get active and to help create change,” Deeley said. “But they just need a little help from the administration, so hopefully they will get that from the upcoming election.”

Rich Frizell is president of the Holmesburg Civic Association. He believes that prison reform is one of the most important issues regarding Holmesburg.

“We have Holmesburg prison here, obviously,” said Frizell. “Mayor Nutter had talked about wanting to reform the prisons and stop people from being re-incarcerated with real, true, parole and reintroduction into society.”

Frizell says he would like the new mayor to also help with parks and recreation.

“My primary goal is to have our slice of Pennypack Park get more notice because the people who work for me work very hard,” said Frizell.

– Text and images by Siobhan Redding and Allie Kachapuridze.

Walnut Hill: Community Association Encourages Residents to Stand Up and Be Heard by Voting

NextMayorLogo2015Walnut Hill Community Association President Horrace Patterson believes that the primary election and November general election could impact the community significantly. As president of the association for the past four years, Patterson finds that drugs, crime, cleanliness, schools, abandoned buildings and vacant lots are plaguing the community.

“In my opinion, Mayor Nutter hasn’t done anything directly to help Walnut Hill, to be honest about it,” said Patterson.

The community is involved with several of the local schools such as Henry C. Lea Elementary and West Philadelphia High School. Patterson expressed significant concern for the school funding issue, which he believes is important for the next mayor to address.

Patterson isn’t the only Walnut Hill Community Association board member to share concern over the next potential person to take office.

“To have compassion, be knowledgeable, have connections and the perseverance to actually want something for our children’s education,” said first vice president Lorna Peterson. “Not to stop at obstacles and close doors but to actually be able to work and create a plan to stand for education for our children.”

The stop and frisk situation is another key subject that the community feels strongly about as crime is always a primary concern. Patterson feels that an outside entity to examine and overlook the police department is necessary.

Local businesses are the heart of the community in Walnut Hill. As a local business owner, Patterson understands the community’s sense of urgency to be tax friendly on owners’ pockets.

Residents are concerned about the changes that a new elected official could bring to their community. Specifically, some residents are worried about gentrification. Some in the community are afraid of being pushed out of the neighborhood, especially by the University of Pennsylvania. However, Patterson is not concerned.

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“The University of Pennsylvania does a lot for employment,” said Patterson. “They have come into the neighborhood and taken houses that are run down and beaten up and fixed them up. I’m all for Penn coming into the neighborhood and improving it.”

“I see gentrification as an opportunity to educate people,” said Peterson, “to give them the desire to reach for something higher and can connect them to resources as long as they are giving the residents access and information.”

Peterson feels that the local government overlooks the residents, the community and the inner city, which is why she volunteers with the Walnut Hill Community Association and the Community Leaders program. Through these organizations, she is able to create partnerships with the community and address the community’s concerns.

“I like to remain optimistic because that keeps me happy and thriving but I don’t really see or hear a plan,” said Peterson. “I don’t see anyone’s focus in the inner city to help this city.”

Through outreach from their website, email and Facebook page, they encourage the community to stand up and he heard.

“One of the ways that you can stand up and be heard is to go out and vote,” said Peterson. “Then you are also being an example to the generations behind you for them to go out and vote.”

The Walnut Hill Community Association tries to be that link for people to be heard. While the association does not suggest that they vote for any specific candidate, they do suggest that the residents do things in their city, community and neighborhoods to make a difference and be heard.

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– Text and images by Casey Yoos and Max McGee.