Mayor Nutter and Philadelphia School Superintendent Dr. Hite launch: STUDENTS SPEAK

By Gloria Dulan-Wilson

Hello All:

From time to time I've mentioned the level of frustration Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter has experienced at the hands of a governor whose every intent was the evisceration of the Philadelphia School District.  Not that he took it lying down - definitely not!  But this latest salvo, 

"STUDENTS SPEAK"  should get the attention of not only the new governor, Tom Wolf, but the entire community of educators and supporters, who appear to have gone dormant after the round of bogus charter school hearings that ended in early March.*
(*Actually, if Dr. Hite took the combined 40 proposals that were put forth for charter schools and incorporated them within the Philadelphia School District - he would have the most advanced school system in the world - there were some amazing proposals that can definitely be adapted in the transformation of Philadelphia's struggling school system ; a lot of work, research, and resources went into those proposals because of the love for the city and its children - it's a shame to let them go to waste, when they can benefit so many - they would both raise the educational standards and propel Philly to the head of the class at the same time - I'm just sayin')


STUDENTS SPEAK focuses on the most significant population of the school districts - the students themselves - the ones who have been routinely shortchanged by substandard teachers, out dated materials, equipment and supplies, dilapidated schools suffering from deferred maintenance as the result of a feckless state legislature that sapped the budget in much the same way Dracula sucked blood from his victims.

The students, whose parents get up and go to work every day to try and make sure they have what they need to succeed - have not been given the voice to express their feelings and the impact of the proceedings on them - well now they will.  

Mayor Nutter and Dr. Hite have joined forces to provide access as well as incentives and rewards for those who participate - and I hope the teachers are making it a mandatory participatory activity  - what a wonderful way to build citizen activism and involvement!!


If I sound a little excited about this, it's because I am.  As a former educator and counselor I've seen first hand what happens when you systematically dumb down education and information; when students live in and go to school in squallor; when teachers are short changed and not given the resources they need for their students.  

I've also seen what happens when you turn it around, when you engage the students, make them feel their value and give them the opportunity to, in some small measure, have an impact on their lives and their future - and believe me, there is no such thing as "too young or too old."  Children know when they're valued and cared for and they return it by opening up, blossoming, being more creative, spontaneous, enthusiastic - and they learn and inculcate positive, empowering principles. 

It was the reason I joined the Germantown Community Charter School Coalition - because of the devastating affects that were being visited on the community - first, from the withering of the budget and resources; then, from the closing down of the entire school.  Multiply that time 30 schools all over Philadelphia, and then compound that by students being transported and bused all over the community to schools in other neighborhoods, while their community schools stand like specters - and you get a sense of the antipathy that begins to grow as students get the very real sense that they are not a priority.  

But Mayor Nutter and Dr. Hite have come together to let the students know that this is not the case!  Parents, STUDENTS SPEAK  is a wonderful teachable opportunity  - while there are parameters your children must follow, it still causes them to use their talents, skills, analytical abilities to focus on issues that affect them -not just academically, but  mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally as well!  You can be an integral part, not by telling them what to say, but by helping them process their feelings and observations.  They can exercise their creativity, have fun with it, but also be part of a vital step toward their educational future!

Wow!  I can't wait to see what these wonderful Young Philadelphians come up with!  It's going to be awesome! 


This is a copy of the updated Press Release from the Mayor's office detailing the essay contest - of course the emphases in RED, and the expanded text size are mine - Time to get involved in our children's future -
Stay Blessed! 


Philadelphia, April 14, 2015 – Mayor Michael A. Nutter, joined by Dr. William Hite, Superintendent of the Philadelphia School District, and Jerry Jordan, President of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT), announced the launch of ‘Students Speak!’, a video and written essay campaign to encourage Philadelphia public school students to make their voices heard regarding the importance of full and fair school funding.  Video and written submissions must complete the following prompt: “Fully fund my education because…”, and can be submitted online at studentsspeak.phila.gov or in-person to the Mayor’s Office of Education (Room 115, City Hall).

“The individuals most adversely affected by the lack of full and fair education funding are young Philadelphians, but they rarely have the opportunity to be a part of this discussion.  ‘Students Speak!’ allows Philadelphia public school students to tell their fellow students, parents, teachers, school staff and concerned adults why they deserve a fully-funded, high-quality learning experience,” said Mayor Nutter.  “I want to encourage our kids to write or create a video essay and make their voices heard and I want to ask Philadelphians to take some time and listen to what our children are saying.  I want to thank the Daily News, Newsworks and Philly.com for its support.”

Written essay submissions must be between 250-500 words.  Video essays cannot exceed 2 minutes in length and must be uploaded through YouTube onto the Students Speak! website. 

The campaign, which runs from April 14 through May 5, will select six winning submissions in total, a video and written submission from each of the following grade categories: elementary school, middle school and high school.

"Students have been disproportionately impacted by these budget cuts," said Dr. William R. Hite, Superintendent of The School District of Philadelphia. "It is important that we hear their words and voices about their needs and what they experience each day in classrooms throughout the city. Their eloquence and passion is unmatched."

Submissions will be evaluated by a panel of judges from City departments.  Winners will be announced on May 8 via studentsspeak.phila.gov.  

“When it comes to the impact of funding inequity on our city's classrooms, no one has better insight than Philly's students,” said PFT president Jerry Jordan. “Education funding is a critical discussion topic, and the voices of our schoolchildren must be part of the conversation.” 

Of the six winners, one grand prize winner will receive an Apple Watch.  The other five winners will receive two tickets each to the Philadelphia Eagles home opener for the 2015-2016 season.  Additionally, the winning written essays will be featured in the Opinion and Editorial section of the Daily News, on www.Philly.com and on the Newsworks Speak Easy website.  Winning videos will be posted on www.Philly.com and the Mayor’s Office of Education website (www.phila.gov/education).




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