Northeast Times

School budget cuts topic of Holme Circle civic meeting

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 wkenny@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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