A Green Administration will focus intensely on supporting and investing in our public schools. The dysfunction and safety concerns that our next mayor will need to address are a direct result of a lack of leadership from the Mayor’s Office, and they can be corrected through a collaborative approach. The fact of the matter is that we are setting up our children to fail. Derek saw it firsthand as the father of a son on the Autism Spectrum who went through the Philadelphia Public School system. Further, as the son of a retired Philadelphia Public School teacher, he saw how vocational education was removed from neighborhood schools. Under a Green Administration, the School District will pivot from the decades-old mindset that attending college is the only pathway to success. We need to prepare our youth with the skills to succeed in future careers, with clearly delineated paths to those careers. A Green Administration will prioritize connecting students with job opportunities in the community and exposing them to careers they may have never thought of otherwise. This includes expanding career and technical education programs across the city, as well as investment in the arts, which has seen unprecedented disinvestment over the last decade. Finally, we can expand our ability to achieve these goals by providing dual-enrollment programs with the Community College of Philadelphia.
Since his time on Council, Derek has been a champion for improving the infrastructure of our schools. While in law school, this advocacy was nurtured during his time teaching at his Mother’s school (Olney High School). He witnessed, firsthand, the antiquated and dilapidated conditions of our City’s public schools. Additionally, Derek’s Mother dealt with asbestos concerns during her tenure at Olney, as well as his son while attending Hill Friedman. Yet, the safety concerns involving asbestos continue to linger even after Derek passed legislation to hold the School District accountable for its removal. The failure to protect our children, faculty, and other community members from asbestos rests squarely on the shoulders of the School District and, as Mayor, Derek is committed to holding them accountable through a collaborative and focused partnership. We will not put our school community in harm’s way due to the District’s unwillingness to comply with the City.
Additionally, there are various issues that have not been properly addressed in our local system of education. Principally, the lingering impact of COVID-19 and the current impact of gun violence on our students. We need to provide additional resources for students who have been severely impacted by these twin crises. Without providing the behavioral health supports that our students need, we are failing to prepare our next generation of citizens and leaders. As Mayor and as a Past President of the Pennsylvania Municipal League, Derek will be a vocal advocate and will use his statewide network of mayors to lobby the General Assembly, using the recent Commonwealth Court ruling that found Pennsylvania’s means of funding education as unconstitutional, and for additional State funding to address these concerns in Philadelphia and across the Commonwealth.
Derek is prepared to appoint School Board members who share his commitment and vision for our public schools. Upon entering office, we will assess all current members of the Board to understand the experience and perspectives comprising the current body. We will also solicit and vet prospective appointees to fill vacancies that may arise. New and existing members of the Board must be committed to data transparency, clear and constant communication, and supporting traditional and non-traditional public schooling within our city. Derek has experienced firsthand the breakdown of communication between the Board and City government, most saliently in regards to removing asbestos and other physical hazards from our schools. As Mayor, Derek will facilitate cooperation between the parties by implementing mandatory hearings for all District-related legislation, as well as agreed-upon benchmarks by both the Board and City regarding new project implementation. The City cannot infer what the District needs, and the District cannot do its job without resources and support from the City. Finally, he will assess the Board’s performance with regular internal and external reviews, inviting stakeholders including parents, educators, building staff, and students for regular focus groups to recalibrate operations as needed.
School Safety: Opportunity and Investment
This approach towards education is an integral part of Derek’s public safety plan (i.e., Getting Guns Off Our Streets) to dramatically reduce shootings and homicides in the first year of a Green Administration. The public safety plan calls for Presence, Accountability, Opportunity, and Investment as a strategic way to reduce gun violence. In addition to using funds from the $1.2 trillion federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to invest in Philadelphia to create jobs and make our city safer, these federal funds can be used to improve our schools to make them more sustainable and to remove hazardous environmental materials.
Program Management & Best Practices
In order to improve the infrastructure of Philadelphia schools, a Green Administration will work with the School District of Philadelphia to develop a Master Plan to address the disparate conditions of our schools. Further, a program manager will be hired to implement this Master Plan with a mix of federal, State, City, and School District capital funds to transform Philadelphia schools. Using the best practices from the 21st Century Schools - Baltimore and other similar initiatives, the program manager will renovate existing buildings and develop various types of new school facilities. These new facilities will range from mixed use City/School District buildings that will combine City and School District capital dollars to new buildings like the Northeast Community Propel Academy to joint venture projects like the South Philadelphia Community Health & Literacy Center, which includes a City health center, a primary care practice, a Free Library branch, and a City recreation center.
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