OUT & ABOUT: It’s School-Closing Day

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BY DENISE CLAY/ If you’re not busy today, and you’re a fight fan, you might want to head down to 440 N. Broad Street, otherwise known as the School District of Philadelphia building. I say this because if you like a good fight, you’ll get front-row seats for a real donnybrook today.

You see, the School Reform Commission is voting on whether to close 29 schools today. They were going to close 37, 18 of which were in North Philadelphia, and the Boston Consulting Group, the organization whose report inspired the District to break out the chainsaws and go all Friday the 13th, wanted even more schools shut down.

But after sitting through a series of public meetings featuring parents looking for a legal way to tar and feather him, Superintendent William Hite decided to take a few schools like, for example, Strawberry Mansion HS, off the list.

But for activists, 29 schools are too many, especially in light of eight schools’ being shuttered last year.

So a coalition of groups including the Philadelphia NAACP, Parents United, Action United and others, went to City Hall to ask Mayor Michael Nutter to request a one-year moratorium on closing schools. They rallied outside City Hall while a smaller group that included Philadelphia NAACP President J. Wyatt Mondesire and Helen Gym of Parents United met with the Mayor.

I could have told ’em what he was going to do, because I had heard it on WHYY that morning: Mayor Nutter isn’t going to ask for a moratorium. He’s not going to ask for more money for schools. He’s not even going to demand the state give the School District back to the city.

(I got the answer for that last one when the late Arlene Ackerman was dispatched as Superintendent.)

And to Mondesire, it shows a failure in leadership.

“We were hoping he would lead,” he said. “It’s disappointing that he isn’t.”

For Gym, the closings are a manifestation of a deeper problem. “It’s as if we’re slowly defunding public education,” she said.

Mondesire hasn’t ruled out filing a civil-rights complaint against the District should it make good on its closing plans.

And to be honest, the fact a disproportionate number of the closings are still hitting North Philadelphia makes a complaint based on civil rights a righteous one.

It’s not too late for parents and others to make their voices heard. The SRC meeting starts at 3:00.

But like most good fights, I’d get there early if you want ringside seats…

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