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Reaction to Brown’s departure from S. Philly

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Superintedent Arlene Ackerman said that there is a racial divide among the staff at South Philadelphia High School. She commented after leaving a meeting with teachers to discuss the resignation and immediate departure of South Philly principal LaGreta Brown.

South Philly High students did not know about Brown’s resignation until told by a reporter.

"I’m surprised with the news, but it’s a good thing she finally left," said Duc Le, a 17-year-old junior at South Philly High. "She tried to make everything look normal after we were attacked."

Vinh Tong, a 19-year-old junior there, said that Brown’s departure was a good thing and added that now it remains to be seen what is in store for the school.

"Now we need to do what the new principal wants us to do," he said.

Ackerman told the media that the new principal, Otis D. Hackney III—currently principal at Springfield Township High—would start as the new principal at South Philly on July 1. Retired District principal Ozzie Wright, who has been an administrator at the school since December, will serve as interim principal immediately.

The South Philly High School Asian Advocates issued a statement in response to the resignation. They "are hopeful about" the new principal and "believe the District has missed an important opportunity to engage the broader community in an important dialogue on finding the best leader for South Philadelphia High School."

"I felt that the school needed new leadership for the fall," Ackerman said. "I didn’t think that this school, particularly the children, could take a change of principals six weeks out."

"This is a staff that is very troubled and split racially," she said. "And you cannot have racial divide in the staff, a division in the staff, and not expect it to spill over into the school, which is what it is doing."

"I agree with Dr. Ackerman," said teacher Juan Acevedo. "There is a great divide in the school among the adults."

In reference to the racial divide, Ackerman said her staff would go back to the school to conduct one-on-one interviews with the teachers.

"We are going to listen to what the teachers have to say," Ackerman said.

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