doesnt have a name, but the Penn-assisted public school opened in
September. Here are some pictures, plus a talk with Principaland
Penn alumnaSheila Sydnor.
BY JOHN PRENDERGAST
think its a principals dream to be the first administrator of a brand
new school, says Sheila Sydnor CW74 GEd97. You get to see it from
dreamand that of a lot of other people on Penns campus and in West Philadelphia
whod been working toward it for three sometimes-contentious yearscame
true this fall when the University-Assisted Pre-K-8 Public School opened
its doors to about 80 kindergarten and first-grade students.
was 1998 when the University announced a partnership with the School District
of Philadelphia and the Federation of Teachers to create a new public
school as a key element in efforts to revitalize West Philadelphia, pledging
up to $700,000 in annual funding for 10 years. Though the plan enjoyed
support in many quarters, there were disputes over the boundaries of the
catchment area to be served and the potentially negative impacts on
other local schools. Despite those issues, which were resolved last year
[The Communitys Schoolhouse, September/October 2000], and construction
delays, the schools September 2001 opening was as originally scheduled.
call for starting a fifth-grade class next year, then adding classes each
year as pupils progress to reach an enrollment of 700 students by 2005.
For this year, the school is housed in the oldDivinity School building
at 42nd and Locust streets, but by next September Sydnor expects to be
in an adjacent new structure, currently under constructionby which time
they also hope to have decided on a name.
who was selected as principal of the school in late May after a national
search, grew up in West Philadelphia and attended Hamilton Elementary,
Sayre Junior High, and West Philadelphia High School. I had a good schooling,
she recalls. I had great teachers. I remember a lot of them. My experiences
were very good and very rewarding.
graduating from Penn with a major in education, Sydnor began teaching
in Philadelphia public schools. In her 25 years as a teacher, she experienced
both the move to open classrooms and more experimental educational methods
and the reverse-pendulum swing in more recent years toward a back-to-basics
approachexemplified by the requirement that public-school students wear
uniforms. At the Penn-assisted school, that means white shirts and navy-blue
pants and skirts.
never had uniforms when I came through, but there still was some type
of dress codethere were certain things you could not wear, such as jeans,
Sydnor says. I think the uniforms are great. It makes it easier for parents.
Its a little difficult at times when theyre all together to figure out
whos who because they all look alike now, but we dont have the discussions
or the conflicts about who has on what.