A Groundbreaking Public School's Groundbreaking
Last Thursday afternoon youngsters
and adults gathered at the future site of the Penn-assisted PreK-8 Neighborhood
School to celebrate the collaboration and cooperation that has created a
partnership and a unique school.
President Judith Rodin said, "It is not everyday that a new public
school is built in an American city--especially a groundbreaking public
school that will benefit thousands of neighborhood schoolchildren in the
years to come." She pointed out that this was a day many years in the
making for the many partners "who have banded together to renew the
social and economic vitality of University City."
She said the school will feature small classes, a cutting-edge curriculum,
state-of-the-art facilities, open green space; it will serve as a hub for
professional development; be a neighborhood resource for the community,
and its students will reflect the diversity of University City.
Penn will not only lend its talents to this school but, she said that
Penn's commitment to "strengthen other West Philadelphia schools will
"I have already seen a team of parents, educators, neighbors, community
associations and leaders rally to make this new neighborhood public school
a dream come true," said Vice President Steve Schutt.
A grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts helped launch the school planning
effort. A gift from Penn alumnus Samuel Schwab will make possible a terrific
playground. A grant from the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service
will help create a rain garden on school grounds. Critical support has also
been received from IBM and the Horace Goldsmith Foundation, the President
This project was a product
of creative partnership that involved many from outside the University including:
Pedro Ramos, president of the Philadelphia School Board of Education; Ted
Kirsch, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers; CEO Phil Goldsmith,
Jerry Jordan, PFT Chief of Staff; David Hornbeck, former superintendent
of Philadelphia schools; his chief of staff Germaine Ingram; West Philadelphia
Cluster Leader Janis Butler; Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell and Mayor John
Street and concerned community groups.
Here at Penn, GSE, led by Dean Susan Fuhrman, has also been involved,
especially Associate Dean Nancy Streim; project coordinator Ann Kreidle
and director of teacher education Jeanne Vissa. Dean Fuhrman also thanked
Vice President Steve Schutt and special project coordinator Lucy Kerman
for their "boundless dedication, guidance and support." The dean
said, "I can assure you that the educational program being developed
for this school will always draw from the soundest research on how our students
best learn and develop."
To symbolize the bond between Penn and the school, President Rodin planted
nine seeds from "some of the grandest and most beautiful trees in North
America"--Franklinia trees, named after Franklin by John and
William Bartram, who discovered the tree. Each seed represents one class
in the new school. Then the children, some of whom are expected to attend
kindergarten or first grade here, planted marigolds before helping with
the groundbreaking, complete with hardhats and colorful shovels.