Analysis by Edward Kent
Columbia is now facing a dilemma of its own making with the private school it recently established at B'way and 110th St. which was to accommodate its faculty children along with a selection of neighborhood kids. It turns out that there is not room in the school to fit in half of its faculty children, so proposals are now being lofted to exclude the community residents to make room for the faculty children -- see recent Columbia Spectator commentary to that effect.
In contrast Penn sought also -- and primarily -- to enhance its neighborhood public schools rather than simply to add yet another expensive private one to which some residents would be allowed to apply. Enhancing local public schools is quite common in many neighborhoods in NYC, e.g. Riverdale, where private contributions have enabled a wide range of extras for kids there, also drawing into the public schools children of the well off even in the face of considerable competition from local private schools, e.g. Horace Mann. And there is another excellent public school here in Manhattan supported along similar lines.
Imagine what could have occurred in Morningside Heights had Columbia opted to put its energies into improvements in all our neighborhood public schools. I assume that Columbia would have been assisted happily in such efforts by Columbia Teachers College, the Bank St. College of Education, which used to bill its School for Children as a demonstration school for public schools, and other neighborhood institutions and concerned educators.
The following is an excerpt from the article on Penn's out reach to its community schools that I recently posted as a forward from Jordi Reyes- Montblanc, Chair, CB #9M:
The public schools of West Philadelphia were in especially bad shape. Not only were they overcrowded and antiquated but also three elementary schools located there ranked at the bottom in state administered math and reading tests . . . . .
Improving the Public Schools
To make the neighborhood a place where families would sink roots, we had to improve public education, and as we considered our approach, the university and a large number of stakeholders agreed that we needed to build an inclusive neighborhood public school. We also realized that for this public school to succeed, it had to involve the school district, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, and Penn in a true partnership.
We worked on this project for 3 years-one to reach the three-way agreement, another to come up with a design and plan for the school, and a final one to address the fears and concerns of residents, some of whom were suspicious of our motives, and others who didn't want to be left out in the cold. In the tripartite agreement, Penn made substantial financial and staff commitments. It provided a ground lease for the site at a nominal cost, made available a subsidy fund of $1,000 per student (up to $700,000 a year) for 10 years, and provided the expertise of our Graduate School of Education (GSE). The City of Philadelphia supplied the capital funds for the school's construction and worked with GSE to hire the principal and teachers. The union, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, agreed to relax rules regarding class size and other matters, giving a "Demonstration School" designation to the school.
We faced many complex issues in developing this agreement. One difficult and protracted discussion revolved around the nature of the school: magnet vs. neighborhood. We successfully argued for a K-8 neighborhood school, seeing it as an important element of sustaining the area's revitalization. This decision led to deep discontent on the part of parents living just outside our school's boundaries. In response, we undertook financial and pedagogic support for a nearby elementary school while continuing significant work already underway in other schools in the area.3 Ultimately, with the leadership of the GSE, we created a public school near Penn's campus for up to 700 neighborhood children
(see Figure 5). In addition to its educational mission, it is strengthening the city's existing neighborhood schools by providing professional development and serving as a source of best practices. Also, by linking the school to ongoing neighborhood revitalization, the school is evolving into a community center that offers many vocational, recreational, and adult education programs; cultural events; and a town hall where the community can come together to explore and debate issues and visions of the future.
All the markers of success are now beginning to show in University City as described above. In addition, public/private partnerships have taken hold. The West Philadelphia Initiatives are winning national and international recognition for design, creative land use, and economic impact.4 And far from robbing the university's academic future to pay for this progress, our engagement has played a critical role in enhancing Penn's academic reputation.5 Making the Link from Practice to Theory But that is not the end of the story, as the engagement with West Philadelphia stimulated a further question: What impact can the lessons of the West Philadelphia Initiatives have on the university's academic agenda?
While remaining fully committed to contributing to a robust, healthy future for our neighborhood, Penn has recently devoted significant resources toward its research and practice related to urbanism in founding the University of Pennsylvania Institute for Urban Research (Penn IUR). This initiative exemplifies our belief that the university's identity and academic mission are deeply linked to the future of cities. We believe that we must now reflect on how the WPI efforts and, more generally how our commitment to our city, translate into a meaningful research and instructional agenda with broad application.
Just as we worked with our neighbors to transform West Philadelphia, through this institute we hope to form creative partnerships among our faculty and with others including urban planners, government officials, foundation leaders, urban developers, and concerned citizens who are looking to transform their cities. From our West Philadelphia Initiatives, we have seen first hand that by their very complex nature and scale, cities pose great challenges to researchers, activists, and policymakers. Meeting these challenges requires an integrative approach that merges the social and physical sciences with engineering, urban and regional planning, and architecture. It requires a broad perspective that engages the biomedical sciences and the humanities, as well as the professions of law, education, business, social work, and communications. And it must rely on new technologies in communications, geographical information systems, and computer modeling to capture and understand the complexity that has thwarted so many previous efforts at improving urban life.
Finally, we knew that we should draw on Penn's long and continuing record in contributing to the scholarly dialogue about urban issues.
6 As it draws from all parts of the university, the Penn IUR is focusing on three areas: understanding and advancing knowledge about successful city-building processes, including equitable development; exploring urban growth patterns, concentrating on how economic, demographic, and spatial transformation have resulted in urban forms unprecedented in history; and supporting new modes of urban spatial analysis employing information technology.
[The 21st Century Urban University: New Roles for Practice and Research Judith Rodin. American Planning Association. Journal of the American Planning Association. Chicago: Summer 2005.Vol. 71, Iss. 3; pg. 237, 13 pgs]
"A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort
to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope." (Livy)
Ed Kent 718-951-5324 (voice mail only) [blind copies]
Edward Kent blogs at Blog by Ed Kent.
This story was modified 10/5/2005 5:37:23 AM:
This story was modified 10/5/2005 5:53:11 AM:
Story posted to BNN 10/5/2005 5:31:18 AM