In 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.
“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.