Notes from the Field
Submitted by Joy of Teaching on September 19, 2012
Dear Dr. Hite,
Welcome to Philadelphia, the Cradle of Liberty! We have some amazing historical sites to see during your stay. Do take advantage of them. In the meantime, we the long-time citizens of this wonderful city would like you to know that we do not trust you! We are sorry about this, but we feel this relationship should start out on an honest footing. We have been kicked and beaten down so many times by the likes of former superintendents, politicians, entrepreneurs, administrators and one another that our immediate reaction to your arrival is wrought with fear and trepidation. And that’s just the honest ones! Corruption runs deep in this city, try to avoid it at all cost. It usually ends badly for us citizens.
Oh, truly we would like to welcome you with open arms and put you on a pedestal. We want to believe all the things that we heard you say at your introduction meetings. Typically Philadelphians are the forgiving types; see anything related to the Eagles football team. But, when it comes to the head of the Philadelphia School District we lack the fortitude to forget the past. It has been a hard road for all involved. The scars run deep.
We approach your arrival like a mouse approaches a piece of cheese…slow, wary and with caution. We are in the midst of a financial crisis that threatens to end the free public school system as we know it…or are we? Honestly, we citizens are not sure. However, that is what we have been told. The Pennsylvania State government, it seems, no longer would like to participate in the free public education system. Unfortunately, there are some pesky laws out there getting in their way. It will be your responsibility to navigate both the local, state and federal governments to equitably fund our schools so that all of our youngest citizens receive their right to a free and equal education. We hope you are up for the challenge!
We believe that you were made aware of our many concerns during your initial visit with the teachers, administrators and citizens of our great city. Charter School conversions, Charter School Organizations, lack of transparency, unqualified administrative staff, parent engagement, just to name a few. Most of our concerns stem from the dishonest leadership who have come and gone during our tenure as Philadelphians. You will be hard pressed to change our opinions and distrust. But that is what you must do. You will not be successful unless you have us in your corner.
So we say to you welcome, take your time, build trust through transparency, respect the stakeholders ignore those who would want you to do anything less. Show trust to your teachers, identify your best administrators, and listen to them. Visit The Constitution Center. So that maybe “We the People” can trust and support you in saving the school district; our children’s best opportunity to a free public education. Oh, and please, don’t ever say “It’s for the children” just show us that it is.
Joy of Teaching