PHILADELPHIA—The three top officers of the American Federation of Teachers visited Philadelphia public schools today on the final stop of the AFT’s nationwide back-to-school tour, focusing on school-community partnerships and alternative programs designed to keep students from falling through the cracks.
“We want to shine the light on innovative programs that are successful, especially for at-risk students, and Philadelphia has some excellent programs that could be replicated in other school districts,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. Joining her on the daylong visit were AFT Secretary-Treasurer Antonia Cortese, AFT Executive Vice President Lorretta Johnson and Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan.
The AFT leaders were joined by the superintendent of Philadelphia’s public schools for a visit to Spring Garden Elementary, a school noted for high student achievement, outstanding teacher and student attendance, and a strong working relationship between its principal and teachers.
“Spring Garden Elementary is successful because the principal and her staff work as a team. This school exemplifies my belief that school reform must be done with teachers, not to them,” Weingarten said.
The trip also focused on alternative programs that target at-risk students. The group visited the Automotive and Technology Academy at West Philadelphia High School, a partnership between the Philadelphia school district and the Philadelphia Academies, renowned for its hands-on classes and rigorous science and math curriculum. Cars designed by Automotive Academy students have won top honors in the Tour de Sol, a green car competition.
“The Automotive Academy is a prime example of a school preparing students for the economy of the future,” said Weingarten. “More than that, it is the embodiment of what can happen when school districts and community leaders join forces to make positive changes at schools. This is truly the ‘four C’s’ of education reform—children, curriculum, collaboration and community—at work.”
PFT President Jerry Jordan said, “It’s important that our schools are diverse enough to educate college-bound students and those who need job skills and other kinds of supports so they can be productive after they graduate from high school.”
Emphasizing the role of the community in schools, the AFT leaders met with the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity. “A school—like the churches you represent—must be that haven for our most vulnerable children,” Weingarten said.
Philadelphia is the last city on the AFT Back-to-School Tour ’09, which also stopped in St. Louis; Houston; Baltimore; Portland, Ore.; San Francisco; Kenmore, N.Y.; and Boston.
To read stories, view photos and watch videos from each stop along the road, go to www.aft.org/tour.