This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
The Philadelphia School Reform Commission hosted a marathon meeting Thursday night featuring a slate of nearly 70 public speakers. The bulk of the testimony showcased opposition to the District’s proposal to convert three of its elementary schools into neighborhood-based charters.
Opponents started early. Before proceedings began, a coalition organized by the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools protested in the atrium of District headquarters, shouting, "Dr. Hite, we will fight" above the piped-in classical music.
Jay Cooke Elementary Home and School Association president Deborah Azore said she didn’t want to see the last traditional public school taken from her Logan neighborhood.
"You can’t just do what you want and keep it all charter. What do we have for public? We have nothing," she said.
That sentiment was expressed by many of the speakers during the four-hour SRC meeting.
"We can fix it. If you give us a chance, we can restore John Wister back to the glorious educational institution that it once was before," said Germantown parent Kenya Nation Holmes, who called on the District to invest in Wister as a community school.
Pamela Williams, a West Philadelphia pastor, chided the District for labeling Huey Elementary a failure after it had been stripped of resources after decreased funding.
"I will shut this city down," she yelled at the top her lungs after her microphone was cut. "Huey School will not be a charter school. I promise you that."