Kenney promises school enhancements

Charles Mostoller

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney promised Wednesday to work closely with the school district to ensure that students stay in classrooms longer.

Kenney and his team are building a community-school model with Chief Education Officer Otis Hackney.

Last year, Kenney pledged to meet face-to-face with school principals on a regular basis to hash out the challenges they face and discuss ways the city might help.

“We found out by speaking to [principals] and going into the schools, is that they have some resources that they’ve developed on their own, and we don’t want to recreate the wheel, we want to know what it is they’ve developed, how can we enhance it, and what else do they need,” said Kenney.

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Kenney, Hackney and maybe a dozen school principals gathered together to answer questions from members of the media last night outside the mayor’s office after one of those face-to-face meetings.

“The key to community schools is having the resources in the schools that give teachers the ability to teach and not to be nurses, not to be psychologists, not to be nutritionists, not to be whatever other things we ask them to do because it takes away from their school time.

“And also, when we have community schools, children who have medical needs and other types of needs can stay in the schools while getting those needs [met] – as opposed to needing and eye exam outside the school and losing the kid all day long, and mom or dad having to take off work.

He went on to say, “Whether it’s dental, eye, nutrition, diabetes, medication; all those things can be done at the school so the child can be in school longer – the child is in class longer and not on a bus going to a clinic.”

“It’s a really exciting day,” said Todd Kimmel, principal of Horatio B. Hackett School in Kensington.

“The mayor made a promise and a commitment and we generally feel that he’s following through, so thank you.”

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“The key word the mayor used was ‘enhance,’ and I really think he’s going to enhance our schools, because our schools are great, but we need to make them even better. He’s given us the tools to do that,” said Sharon Marino, principal of McClure Elementary School in Hunting Park.

“We talked about facility needs, we talked about resources and staffing needs that we have within our schools and basically developing more partnerships for our schools to provide for support for students and our staff but also for our parents,” said Evelyn Nunez principal at Lewis Elkin Elementary School in Kensington.

A spokeswoman for Kenney said any additional costs associated with these improvements have yet to be determined, but the initiative would work to connect existing services to families within schools’ surrounding communities.

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