School Board Meeting

March School Board RECAP!

Did you miss the March school board meeting? Check out our recap to stay up to date with everything going on in the district.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of everything spoken about during the school board meeting, rather some of the items/topics that stuck out to us here at UrbEd. To watch the recordings of all school board meetings go to

Positive Announcements

Several students in the Philadelphia area have been recognized for their achievements. Laila Johnson, a senior at CHS, was named Senior of the Month for February. Meanwhile, Jack Jiang and Arielle Dahan were honored as regional champions of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Additionally, Sophia Roach, the Student Board Representative, received the Princeton Prize for Race Relations. Finally, the Board President Mr. Streater shouted out Strawberry Mansion High Schools’ recent successes.

Lottery Process for Criteria Based High Schools

The district is facing challenges with vacant seats in its criteria-based high schools. It is projected that 800 seats will be empty, but 316 eligible students who applied for these schools may fill some of these spots.

The district is planning to relocate $3 million to ensure that employees at criteria-based schools maintain their positions, subject to the principal's discretion. An independent audit of the special admissions lottery process is due in May/June.

There are concerns that the previous admissions process was not administered fairly, and that neighborhood schools often get left behind. Before the lottery, 1200 students got into special admission schools without going through the criteria-based administrative process.

Additionally, many non-special admit schools are also experiencing enrollment drops and projected position losses. Despite this, more 9th-grade students have met the criteria in 22-23 than in pre-pandemic years (although PSSAs were not used in 22-23 years).

There is a call to balance the human touch with equity, making sure that all kids have access to the criteria-based schools. Some students and parents are critical of the admissions process, with concerns that requiring test scores for admission is a mistake and that admissions changes will cause harm to many Black and Brown students.

Girls High, FLC, Saul, Lankenau, Motivation, Hill-Freedman, Parkway Northwest, Parkway Center City Middle College, Science Leadership Academy at Beeber, and Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush have all reopened admissions. However, admissions changes have been described as "a slow-rolling disaster that will cause harm to many Black and Brown students."

Some speakers suggested that Saul's administrative problem is not due to a lack of interest, but rather an admissions problem. Parents have criticized the admissions process as unfair. Lux Ferritin, a Saul freshman, notes that there are fewer kids in agricultural programs, which is a larger problem. Finally, some students have pointed out that the district should not require re-application to current schools just because they are moving up a grade, while others have raised concerns about the lack of empathy in the process.

Asbestos in Schools and Other Building Concerns

The district anticipates that more damaged asbestos will be identified in the coming months, which is a major concern. As a response to asbestos concerns, the district has completed asbestos management work at Building 21 and has conducted side-by-side environmental testing in collaboration with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT). In addition, the Sayre pool will be reopened through collaboration between the district and the city.

To manage environmental work more effectively, the district has implemented a digital management system. Building 32 students are doing a combination of virtual and in-person learning at Strawberry Mansion, which is another school facing environmental challenges. Some stakeholders are deeply concerned about the health impact of environmental problems. Hitchner expressed worry about future cancer diagnoses, and Derrick Houck has petitioned about the asbestos and lead in Building 21.

Inclusive Playgrounds

Evelyn Otero suggested that the district consider inclusive playgrounds, as not all kids can play on the current playgrounds.

Dropout Rates

In February 2023, there were a total of 3,373 dropouts across Philadelphia. According to the district, the highest risk of dropping out is in 9th grade.

Gun Violence

In honor of the victims of gun violence in Philadelphia, there was a moment of silence at a recent meeting.

Teacher Attendance

The district is working to improve teacher attendance and expressed gratitude towards the PFT and others for collaborating to find solutions.

District Staffing Changes

There will be upcoming changes in district leadership, as Deputy Subt ShaVon Savage and Chief Talent Officer Larisa Shambaugh are leaving. Interim personnel may be named to fill these positions.

Charter School Updates

There were mixed feelings regarding charter schools. Demi Caul was upset with the board's decision to deny Global Leadership Academy's application for a new charter high school. Meanwhile, some students from Belmont Charter High School expressed positive experiences, but Antonio Archer mentioned that his neighborhood school was unsafe and had metal detectors. AP at Memphis St Academy, Blumenstock, targeted charters, particularly black and brown-led charters.

City Pools

Several students and advocates called for the reopening of city pools. Ysef Reavkesob, a sixth-grader, stated that he almost drowned and wants the Marcus Foster and Pickett pools to reopen. Phinneas Doughterty also advocated for the reopening of city pools, saying that "we all need to learn to swim."

Sayre pool will be reopened through collaboration between the district and the city. Evelyn Otero suggested that the district consider inclusive playgrounds since not all kids can play on the current playgrounds.

Vacant Student Board Representative Position

Jeron Williams II has expressed concerns about the vacant student board representative position, stating that there is currently no plan in place to fill the position. Sophia Roach remains a member of the board.

Budget Discussion

The district's budget will invest in physical, social, and environmental safety, with plans to expand police safety zones, safe paths, safety officers, and counselors for high-need schools. The district will hire an executive director and other staff for environmental management services.

The district's budget has only about 10% of flexible funding, meaning that many programs and initiatives are constrained by financial limitations.

Watlington has emphasized the need for investment in teachers and teaching as a profession, stating that attendance and literacy go hand in hand. It's essential to connect with kids long before kindergarten and to provide high dosage, high impact tutoring for struggling students. He expressed that the district is committed to making improvements in student achievement and the quality of education provided to all students.

Language Access

There have been concerns raised about language access for parents speaking indigenous languages, with Moon Mom and EdLaw Center lawyers expressing urgent concerns. Ferguson spoke about the need for better language access services for speakers of indigenous languages.

Education Check-in

Education check-ins have shown that 34% of students in grades 3-8 scored proficient or advanced, down 1.3 points from 2018-2019 and 8.1 points below the target of 56%. Investments in reading levels have been made, but only successful reading specialists have seen improvements in students' reading levels. The district is moving from a balanced literacy approach to structured literacy instruction, but concerns have been raised about teachers not being properly trained in teaching reading.


Want to make your voice heard? You can sign up to testify at the next board meeting. This next meeting will be especially important as the District is deciding on the budget for the next fiscal year.


Remember Election Day is May 16th!

This primary is especially important in Philadelphia as we are electing a new mayor! The mayor has an incredibly important role in Philadelphia education from supporting tax policies that can take money away from Philly schools to choosing the School Board. Check out PA Youth Vote on instagram @payouthvote for more information about how the candidates have talked about students.

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