Video by Mindy Saw.
By Tamir Harper
Editor in Chief
On the evening of Tuesday, September 12th, Science Leadership Academy Center City held a meeting to announce that the district plans to co-locate the school with Benjamin Franklin High School at 550 N. Broad Street.
The move into the new building will happen for the 2019-2020 school year, which gives time for the district to complete a total redesign of Benjamin Franklin, for which they have budgeted 20 million dollars.
A powerpoint delivered by Principal Chris Lehmann explained that the redesign will seek to make SLA feel at home and also improve the building conditions for Benjamin Franklin High School students as well.
This week will be the start of that redesign, with design development happening this school year, and construction slated to start in July 2018.
In attendance were students, parents, SLA Staff and School District of Philadelphia officials like Spokesperson Lee Whack, Assistant Superintendent of the Innovative Network Christina Grant, the Chief Schools Officer and a few other of Superintendent Bill Hite’s cabinet members.
After the introductory powerpoint presentation, attendees split into small groups to discuss their concerns and brainstorm around their vision for the move.
Mr. Lehmann believes that, in some ways, the news was hard for the SLA community to hear. “We [the district] have to honor people process in coming to terms with that change.”
Lehmann noted that many parents went through that process pretty quickly. “By the end of that meeting parents were like now what, what has to happen, how do we make it work, what does it look like and got to that next place.”
Throughout Monday’s meeting, Mr. Lehmann stressed how involved parents and students will be involved in this process. Parents and others will be able to sit on a building management committee to ensure that student and parent voices are heard throughout the design of the building.
Despite these assurances, some attendees of the meeting were not satisfied and felt blindsided by the announcement.
During the small group breakout conversations, Freshman and Senior parent Sharon Baker-Smith spoke with Chief Schools Officer Shawn Bird and told him that the move wasn’t smart or safe.
Other parents stressed concerns about climate and safety of their children during dismissal and in the possible co-mingling of spaces. But some were on board and wanted to see how the district can design an innovative space that would work for both schools.
But for those who weren’t on board, Dr. Bird tried his best to calm parents down and give them the reasoning behind the move, but he wasn’t very successful.
Another frequent question was about what the curriculum and culture at Benjamin Franklin would look like when SLA joins them at Broad and Spring Garden.
Officials from the district explained that Benjamin Franklin has a new principal, who is working to stabilize the culture at Benjamin Franklin.
Sophomore Horace Ryans attended the meeting and felt as though that the SLA community barely had say in it, but did not think anything can be done to stop it.
Regardless, he is hopeful. “What we can do is continue to love and care for each other like we already are because SLA isn’t SLA because of the location, it’s SLA because we make it this way.”
Some students and parents were concerned about enrollment dropping at SLA, but Mr. Lehmann believes that the school will still have a “vibrant population that is diverse and represents the entire city.”
Technology Teacher Marcie Hull, who has been with SLA since its first year, stated that some freshman are excited about the move and is ready to tackle this challenge. Some students have been worried about teachers leaving, but Mrs. Hull said she “will not be going anywhere.”
As proof of her commitment to the school, she is currently pursuing her Ed.D to become a Senior Career Teacher and grow in her position at Science Leadership Academy.
She wants students to know that “this is part of the progress that is going to create better opportunities for more kids in the city.”
Seniors who will not be directly affected by the move had some thoughts as well. Senior Ella Burrows said, “I feel hurt that this wasn’t more of a conversation, but we can all be hopeful and stick it out with each other and have faith that things will workout like they are supposed to.”
Burrows also shared that “things happen for a reason so I like to think of this as an obstacle just waiting for us to overcome.”
SLA Alumnus Luke Risher told me over the phone after hearing about the move, he “feels as though the district should be transparent and communicative because this is definitely a choice that blindsided us (the SLA community) that has given us very little process and time.”
Lehmann wants all freshman and sophomores to “be part of it, we are going to make this as transparent as we possibly can.” He wants students to voice their concerns thoughtfully.
As expected, on Thursday, Sept 14th the School Reform Commission approved the funding to renovate Ben Franklin high school for a co-location.
Upcoming meeting dates about the redesign will be shared with the community as soon as they are available via www.scienceleadership.org.
Students at Science Leadership Academy have always known that the building in Center City would not be their permanent home. Since the building is not owned by the district, the School Reform Commission has to approve the renewal of the contract every couple years since the original lease ran out.
In the past couple years the school has been thinking of finding a new home, a permanent home, this time. The options would be moving to an empty school or even into the School District Headquarters at 440 N. Broad Street.
Last month, April 2017, a flyer of the Student Union was passed around the students at SLA. It was stated that the school was “officially” moving, and there were rumors at the school about being moving to the empty Vaux High School building in Lower North Philadelphia.
In late April, the district informed SLA that they would like to do a last renewal before moving to a permanent location. They said it would be a 2-year-lease, it would expire in June 2020.
The vote meeting was scheduled for last week, but it was re-scheduled and planned for May 25th. Then, a few hours before the meeting, the district communicated to SLA that they only would be voting for a 1 year lease, contradicting their words from a few weeks ago. Finally, that is what they got. The SRC gave SLA the 1 year extension for the lease of the building.
Last year, at the meeting where SRC and SLA discussed about the future of the school, the SRC said they would give the school enough time to find a new home, but with the duration of the lease being shortened, the time to find a new building is shortened to.
Finally, on Thursday, May 25th, the vote meeting which decided the future of the location of Science Leadership Academy took place. Some students left with the teachers from school around 4:00 PM to go together to the meeting place, at the School District of Philadelphia (440 N. Broad Street).
Junior Tamir Harper, who was at the meeting, said “The meeting was long, it was hard, and it also upsetted me, it went as expected.”
Co-Principal Chris Lehmann explained: “SLA kids made their feelings known. It was important that students were there. They always support me with a degree of passion and energy they have for the school that is amazing. The students there took the opportunity they had to speak out about how important it’s the school for them.”
Lehmann acknowledged that the vote is a complicated issue, and remains hopeful for the future.
“Even if the results were not what we expected, we understand it, because the SDP is in a difficult financial crisis, and our lease is very expensive. Though, I have a lot of faith in the community to make sure that no matter where we end up we will remain the same and we will keep SLA as the transformative place it is.”
Harper also said: “It was tragic, because didn’t get the outcome we expected, but they did what they believed it was right. Even if the results were not what we wanted, we are not going to give up, we will continue fighting.”
Harper was happy with how SLA showed up to the vote.
“There was a lot of support from students who went to the SDP, of course Lehmann went too, and so did many teachers like Hull, Pahomov, and Kamal. After the meeting, SRC stated that they would work with us.”
Junior Kaamil Jones was one of the students who attended the meeting, and was inspired to speak before the SRC and give testimony as to why the vote should have been postponed.
“I think the amount of students that were there could have been more but we were also told last minute and it was benchmark season. It was a great turnout. I was kind of upset because of the results, but I feel like everything we fought for and said they didn’t care at all about that.”
Made in America is a famous music festival that happens every year in Philadelphia. The area in which it happens is near the parkway. In Made In America there are 3 stages that people perform on. There is usually a performance happening every second of Made in America. There are tons of food trucks with many different foods you would never think of trying. There is access to rides and games to pass the time. This is a 2 day festival that provides over 20 performances with tons of different genres like rap, r&b, alternative, etc.
The tickets go on presale, before the lineup is announced for around $150. After the pre sale the tickets can skyrocket to hundreds of dollars. Now looking at the price tag you might think that these are ridiculous prices, but when you see how many performers you get for this price it is well worth it. Now, the lineup is the most important thing. The lineup could go either way, amazing or horrible, you never really know.
“The lineup is disappointing” says Autumn Jerman who goes to Wissahickon High School.
I asked a current student what they thought about Made in America last year.“I liked the lineup last year, I didn’t think I would like lil ui but it was good!” I then asked her what she thought about the lineup for Made in America of 2017:“I think the lineup this year is bad…the previous years were so good, now its kinda wack.”
Made in America gives opportunities to learn and hear new music that you wouldn’t usually listen to.
This year at Science Leadership Academy Center City, class of 2018 seniors will be taking their senior portraits on June 8th and 9th.
These students will still be juniors while taking their senior pictures which creates confusion for some people. When this confusion was expressed in class, Journalism teacher Larissa Pahomov exclaimed “It’s always good to do things in advance.”
Senior Kayla Cassumba who took her senior pictures last year said, “I did want to take the photo, I had to make sure my hair, makeup, and nails were done to get a cute picture. The process took about 10 minutes but it went by pretty fast. I remember doing 5 different poses and I was able to choose which one I wanted on a website. Overall I did it because it was one step closer to graduating.”
“What excites me about senior pictures is that I can finally say “I’m a senior,”” said Junior Jaszmine Randle. “And I think it’s a good idea that we’re taking them this early so that the pictures are ready for the yearbook when that time comes, while also giving people to have time to get the money to purchase them next school year.”
With great help from this year’s yearbook coordinator, Pearl Jonas, some valuable information was discovered.
One thing that concerned a few people was whether the females would be able to wear either the pre-set male attire or pre-set female attire. In past years, the photography studio has sometimes resisted the request of a student to wear the “opposite” clothes that are designated for their gender. Can students switch it up?
The answer to both questions is yes. Without hesitation, rising seniors will have the permission to choose what pre-set attire they would like to be photographed in.
Seniors will also be able to refuse the picture taking process by simply not attending, but for convenience Ms. Jonas would prefer a head’s up prior to picture-day to clear up confusion and/or any unnecessary issues.
When it comes to the editing process, a majority of it is left up to the editors of the photography studio. However, students are allowed to choose which picture of themselves they would like to be featured in the yearbook.