Category Archives: Education

Pottstown: Guidance Counselors are essential.

This video, part of a project called “Stories Behind the Numbers,” highlights the injustice in Pennsylvania’s formula for funding school districts. Focusing on Pottstown, one of the top five school districts with the highest disparity in funding, I interviewed parents, kids, teachers, administrators, school board members and community members to hear the impact firsthand.

The four-month-long project was done with in collaboration with a team from POWER, an interfaith organization representing more than 50 congregations throughout Southeastern and Central Pennsylvania.

In this story, an elementary school teacher describes the consequences of having no guidance counselor for her sometimes troubled students.

Photography: Kevin Hoffman

Pottstown: Ensuring students have adequate funding is essential

This video, part of a project called “Stories Behind the Numbers,” highlights the injustice in Pennsylvania’s formula for funding school districts. Focusing on Pottstown, one of the top five school districts with the highest disparity in funding, I interviewed parents, kids, teachers, administrators, school board members and community members to hear the impact firsthand.

The four-month-long project was done with in collaboration with a team from POWER, an interfaith organization representing more than 50 congregations throughout Southeastern and Central Pennsylvania.

Pottstown School Superintendent opens with this story: “Let’s assume that you’re really sick. How much do resources matter then? Which do you want? Two Tylenol? Or all the interventions necessary to bring about a cure?”

Education is no different, when you consider the how some students have to get by with much less than their affluent suburban counterparts.

Photography: Kevin Hoffman

Pottstown: Keeping high quality educators is essential

This video, part of a project called “Stories Behind the Numbers,” highlights the injustice in Pennsylvania’s formula for funding school districts. Focusing on Pottstown, one of the top five school districts with the highest disparity in funding, I interviewed parents, kids, teachers, administrators, school board members and community representatives to hear the impact firsthand.

The four-month-long project was done with in collaboration with a team from POWER, an interfaith organization representing more than 50 congregations throughout Southeastern and Central Pennsylvania.

This story opens with Pottstown Superintendent Stephen Rodriguez describing the frustration of losing talented teachers to suburban districts able to pay them $5,000-10,000 more than he can.

Photography: Kevin Hoffman

Pottstown: Tale of Two Cities

This video, part of a project called “Stories Behind the Numbers,” highlights the injustice in Pennsylvania’s formula for funding school districts. Focusing on Pottstown, one of the top five school districts with the highest disparity in funding, I interviewed parents, kids, teachers, administrators, school board members and community members to hear the impact firsthand.

The four-month-long project was done with in collaboration with a team from POWER, an interfaith organization representing more than 50 congregations throughout Southeastern and Central Pennsylvania.

Courteney Parry launches the narrative in this story. She contrasts the resources at Pottstown High School with those at a nearby suburban district from which she transferred at the end of her sophomore year.

Photography: Kevin Hoffman

“I will remember Ms. Hantman forever!”

Some teachers make a lasting impact on their students. The lessons they teach extend far beyond academics and, sometimes, can influence our life’s trajectory. Recently I interviewed 12 students of Lisa Hantman, a 3rd grade teacher at Philadelphia’s McCall Elementary School. The students, who ranged in age from 9 to 20, had vivid recollections of their time in her classroom. In this audio slideshow, played at Need in Deed’s Teacher Soiree and 30th anniversary celebration, they reflect on the role she has played in their lives.

“Push Through”: The story behind Jasmyn Wright’s viral video

When I first heard Jasmyn Wright’s motivational video on Facebook, now gone viral, I wanted to hear more. After all, Jasmyn teaches at a Philadelphia public school. And her “mantra/rap” was picked up by The Gap and used in the mega retail store’s fall back-to-school campaign.

So I went to Frederick Douglass, at 21st and Norris, to hear the back story. Here’s Jasmyn. And here are links to:

Being a presence for grieving children

A few weeks before Christmas, Jack and I witnessed a horrific car accident on Lincoln Drive –an overturned SUV with a mother and two children as passengers. From what we could tell, the mother did not survive. First responders extricated the little ones from their car seats. The image that stuck in my mind was two Disney backpacks sitting by the side of the road. What will life be like for these two motherless children? I wondered.

The experience prompted me to do what I know how to do: tell a story. I approached The Center for Grieving Children, a nonprofit whose counselors help grieving children heal and grow through their grief, and asked if I could produce a story about their work. They enthusiastically agreed.

Interviewing several of their clients, who ranged in age from 8 to 21, gave me insight into their losses and the ways they’ve learned to cope. Not surprisingly, it helped me heal, as well. Here is their story.

Using play to improve school culture

Twice a week during Independence Charter School West’s after-school program, Teacher Parrish teaches “junior coaches” games developed by Playworks parrish-hana , an organization that uses play to improve school culture.

In this episode of Growing Independence — the weekly podcast I produce for the school — we hear from Teacher Parrish; Coach Hana, the Playworks liaison; and students who are reaping the benefits.

Who knew play could build leaders?!!

Growing Independence: The story of a school

What happens when a successful, established charter school wants to clone itself in a new neighborhood, where the demographics and culture are entirely different? And what if the leader of the school is a first-year principal who has the job of hiring a whole new staff? What’s it like to get the project off the ground? Do parents buy in?

These are questions I wanted to explore in Growing Independence–a weekly podcast that documents Independence Charter School’s bold experiment in the high needs community of Southwest Philadelphia.

Every week I stroll the halls and playground looking for stories, told by staff, parents and, increasingly students, who this year span Kindergarten through 3rd grades. I’m learning a lot — Spanish, for one, since this is a language immersion school. Can you pronounce the Spanish word for the color yellow? Or sing the days of the week in Spanish? I can . . . now.

shannons-kids To listen to other episodes of this weekly story, check out Independence Charter School West’s Soundcloud page. Maybe you’re like me; you want to hear what happens!

 

Meet Momo: A Girl with Grit

 

Momo, West

Refatun Momo, who emigrated to the U.S. from Bangladesh at age 16, is known to her friends as Momo. They also know her as a young woman of tremendous strength and fortitude. You might call it “grit.” That’s what Fran Melmed and others on the JMB Award committee call it. They presented Momo with their annual award at West Philadelphia High School in early June. Listen to Momo’s story to find out why.

Jill & MomoMusic: Pianochocolate, “Promenade”

Photos: BDundon; Conrad Benner, www.StreetsDept.com