Aug 12

Building Hope

So… it has not been a great time in the School District of Philadelphia of late. Today, many of the conversations at the principal meetings were around how we were going to deal with this crisis in our schools. As an educator, as a parent, as a citizen of Philadelphia, it has been really hard lately to maintain a sense of optimism – and generally, I like to think of myself as an optimistic person.

But… last week, a group of educators sat in the SLA library and planned a school. The SLA @ Beeber faculty worked together, wrote UbDs, planned projects, fiddled around with Canvas, and generally took the next big step toward starting our second campus. SLA teachers came in and worked with the SLA @ Beeber crew, and while there were definitely a few “drink from the firehose” moments, all in all, no one ran screaming from the room wondering why they had signed on with this group of crazy people. And that’s a good sign.

And it kind of makes sense that I was thinking a lot about the summer of 2006 when the founders of SLA came together at The Franklin Institute to plan. Back then, we really were making it up as we went along. Yes, we had a vision, and yes, we had a plan to enact that vision, but we didn’t really have a sense of what it would look like in practice. And while the community of SLA@B will make it their own and make it different from what we built, we have a sense of what it will look like.

In the past, when I’d thought about the idea that we might some day get to scale SLA, I’ve thought about how my hope was that we could build a structure that was thoughtful and strong enough to let another group of educators and students to learn from what we’ve done, to use that structure, and then to breathe life into it themselves, making it their own. And that’s what it felt like to watch the SLA @ Beeber teachers make the structure their own over the course of the week.

As hard as this summer has been, as much as we don’t know if we will start the year with counselors or with any money for supplies, I watched a group of educators work together to build the structure necessary so that 125 kids can breathe life into our second campus. I saw parents and teachers and students of SLA give of their time to help make SLA@B a success. And all summer long, we’ve spoken to families who are so excited to walk this walk with us, and that is why we even tried to do it in the first place.

I cannot wait to see what the SLA @ Beeber community does this year. They are literally building hope.

Apr 18

To Our Philadelphia Sports Teams – We Need Your Help

[Update: I've started a change.org petition to gather support for this issue. Please take a moment to add your name.]

To the owners of the Philadelphia 76ers, Eagles, Flyers, Phillies, Soul, Union and Wings,

The kids of Philadelphia are some of your biggest fans. They wear your shirts and hats. They go to your games. They cheer for you. They celebrate with you when you win, and they agonize with you when you lose.

And now, the kids need your help.

I’m sure that you’ve read about the dire conditions facing the School District of Philadelphia. The schools are facing down $300 million in cuts. Next year, the School District isn’t able to provide any funding for counselors for schools… there isn’t even funding for secretaries, and we all know that school secretaries are the ones who really run the schools.

And in that context, the School District has had to de-fund high school athletics.

You can help us there.

Last year, Philadelphia sports teams had over $800 million in revenues. The entire athletics budget of the School District of Philadelphia was $7.1 million this year. Less than one percent of your revenues would fully fund athletics for the students of Philadelphia.

No one needs to tell you how important sports are for kids and schools. You know the joy a community takes in a winning team. You know all the lessons young people learn when they work hard and sacrifice for a team. You know that for so many of our student-athletes, sports are the reason they finish high school. And you know that for so many of our student-athletes, the relationship they have with their coaches are among the most important mentoring relationships in their lives.

We need your help.

We cannot lose all that athletics mean to our schools.

Our kids are your fans, a couple of our kids will be your future stars, our kids are your city.

Fund our student-athletes. They need the chance to play.

Thank you for your time,
Chris Lehmann
Principal
Science Leadership Academy

[Philadelphians and friends of Philadelphia - feel free to add your name as co-signers in the comments.]