City officials on Monday named nine schools that have been selected to receive extra money and support to create hubs for social, health, and other services in their neighborhoods as part of the new community schools initiative.
Otis Hackney, the city's chief education officer, announced that the first group of community schools are: William Cramp Elementary and Murrell Dobbins, Career and Technical Education High School, both in North Philadelphia; F.S. Edmonds Elementary, East Mount Airy; Edward Gideon Elementary, Brewerytown; Kensington Health Sciences Academy; Logan Elementary; Southwark Elementary; South Philadelphia High School; and Tilden Middle School, Southwest Philadelphia.
"While we don't think this initiative will be a complete solution to our problems, we certainly can agree that this will put us on a trajectory not only to build stronger children but also stronger families, stronger communities," Toni Damon, principal of Dobbins, told an audience of city and School District leaders during the announcement at City Hall. "I'm standing here so composed, but on behalf of my colleagues, I just want to say we are so excited!"
Mayor Kenney, who plans to develop 25 community schools over the next four years, said the goal is to identify the specific needs of students, parents, and their communities, and then forge partnerships with private providers to offer the needed services in the schools.
"We cannot expect our children to succeed academically if they come to school hungry, sick, or too traumatized to learn," he said.
Kenney added: "This initiative is going to build on the work that the district is already doing."
City Council President Darrell L. Clarke is a longtime backer of community schools. "There may not be a library, there may not be a hospital or health-care services in every neighborhood, but there is a school in every neighborhood in the city of Philadelphia," he said. "That's why we think it's very important to have these services in schools."
Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. and every member of the School Reform Commission attended and thanked Council and Kenney for their support.
"Supporting children and families is a shared responsibility," said Marjorie Neff, chair of the SRC. "Partnerships help strengthen the link between schools and their communities."
Drawn from 31 applicants, the nine schools were selected on the basis of poverty and risk factors in their neighborhoods, including high rates of asthma, diabetes, and obesity.
Five of the schools are in police districts that had the highest number of shootings in 2014. At four of the schools, more than 20 percent of the students are learning to speak English.
Afterward, Damon said that making Dobbins a community school "helps us bring in the professionals who are trained to deal with some of the issues and challenges some of our children and our families have."
She said that having such services available would have helped during the last school year, when one of her students was shot and another student was arrested in another matter.
Shauneille Taylor, principal of Gideon, said she hopes to bring pediatric health care into her school and begin a food pantry to make sure her students "have food in their refrigerators, in their cupboards."
Toya Mitchell, president of the Home and School Association at Edmonds, said there are many foster parents in her area.
"We want to have programs that will help them," she said.
Susan Gobreski, director for community schools in the mayor's education office, said $4 million will be used the first year to launch the program.
She said community school coordinators will be hired and trained this month and next.
"There's a lot of work to do," Gobreski said. "We'll be working with school staffs in August."
The schools will assess the needs in their neighborhoods and develop plans to meet them and then implement those plans in December and early next year.