The School District of Philadelphia’s budget crisis will affect every public school in the city, including the relatively prosperous Robert Pollock Elementary School in Holme Circle, according to the outgoing principal.
Dr. Marilyn Carr will retire at the end of the current term after 25 years in the district and 43 years in education. During the April 24 meeting of the Holme Circle Civic Association, Carr warned of severe budget cuts planned for Pollock and other schools if the district doesn’t eliminate its $304 million deficit by next fall.
“The district has said to me we could have 850 kids in that building. If we did, they’d be sitting in the hallways,” Carr said of Pollock, which has grown from 568 students to 783 in the last five years.
“We have no room. All the classrooms are overcrowded.”
Carr broke away from what she described as an “emergency meeting” of all district principals at Lincoln High School to keep her prior speaking engagement at the civic meeting. Superintendant William R. Hite Jr. called the principals meeting.
On April 29, Hite testified at a City Council budget hearing and reportedly warned of “cold, harsh scenarios” if the city and state do not come up with an additional $180 million for the district in fiscal 2014. Hite reportedly testified that the city, the state and the district’s labor unions will have to share the financial burden, although Council has raised property taxes twice in as many years to subsidize the schools further.
Carr won’t be around to deal with next year’s spending cuts. She was among 54 high-seniority principals, including seven in the Northeast, who accepted buy-out packages from the district. Meanwhile, the district plans to close 23 schools and move those principals into vacated positions.
Those spending cuts barely make a dent in the deficit, however, according to Carr — a Chicago native who moved to Philly in 1985 after her husband died in a trucking-related fuel explosion.
“We were slashed over 46 percent of Pollock’s budget,” she said, speaking of the emergency plan in the past tense. “Every school — elementary, middle and high school — will open only with a principal and teachers.”
Assistant principal positions would be eliminated as would counselors, librarians and their assistants, office staff, nonteaching assistants, aides, cafeteria workers and many nurse positions. There will be cuts to books, supplies, summer programs, music, sports, gifted programs, advanced placement, in-school suspensions and desegregation services, she reported. The district would continue to pay for school police, special needs services and bilingual counseling assistance, among other programs.
Pollock has become a popular school because it has endured the district’s long-term financial woes and established itself as a Blue Ribbon school. Pollock serves students in kindergarten through sixth grade.
The Holme Circle Civic Association presented Carr with a plaque thanking her for her distinguished service, while state Reps. Ed Neilson and John Sabatina, along with aides to state Sen. Mike Stack, state Rep. Kevin Boyle and City Councilmen Dennis O’Brien and Bobby Henon recognized Carr with citations from the city and state lawmaking bodies. ••
Reporter William Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or firstname.lastname@example.org