By Jesús Jiménez
“SLA is shutting down.”
“The School District hates us.”
“We’re not receiving enough money”.
These are just a few of the rumors that continuously float around the hallways and classrooms of SLA every year.
In a school district like Philly’s, many students are constantly hearing about budget cuts, layoffs, and maybe some debt here and there. But when a community is as friendly as SLA’s, no one wants the school to close or lose their friends and teachers.
Misinformed students play a large role in the creation of these rumors. Some believe the school district picks on SLA when teachers try to organize ambitious field trips, while others believe the SLA community fundraises the school’s $3 Million for the budget on their own.
The panic in this situation no doubt is going to create a few exaggerations. As long as educators and families are unaware of how the SDP will deal with those problems, this panic will continue to spread year after year.
In an interview, Principal Chris Lehmann was quick to dispel rumors of bad treatment from SDP.
“The opposite is true,” he said. “They’re trying to give the kids the type of education kids at SLA get.”
Rumors are not helped by regular turnover at the School District’s top levels. Arlene Ackerman, who last year took a $900,000 buyout from the SDP, filed for unemployment shortly after. Following Ackerman was a “Chief Recovery Officer,” Thomas Knudsen, who has suggested borrowing $300 Million to pay off the SDP’s debt and wanted an additional $112 million through closing schools. His idea was to layoff more people in order to make up for what the district couldn’t pay off.
However, this year is different. William R. Hite will be serving as the new Superintendent for the School District of Philadelphia.
Exactly who is William Hite? Before coming to Philly, Hite was a superintendent in Maryland. While working on noteworthy achievements, he has helped improve Maryland’s second largest school district and help it receive nationwide recognition for making AP classes more accessible to students.
Mr. Hite’s experience as an educator has allowed him to take new challenges, and he’s hoping to give Philadelphia the education system it really deserves.
Mr. Lehmann believes Superintendent Hite’s mission is critical to the future of education in Philadelphia.
“He understands that he has to work with what has happen and work with our structure. He’ll see and observe and then take that and use vision to help move us forward.”
When asked what specific challenges Mr. Hite faces ahead, Principal Lehmann said this “ … Profound financial crisis. Navigating through that crisis and getting us through those times.”
However, Lehmann is confident about the future with Hite. “Everything that I’ve seen from him so far, is that he’s the right man for the job.”