GC Board of Trustees should look before they leap

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By Mahleah Chicetawn

There was a time at Girard College when they went about their daily task of educating children quietly; the media wasn’t reporting about the college and reporters weren’t interviewing anyone associated with them.

All that changed with the hiring of Autumn Graves as president. Not only did she engage the media in writing puff pieces about her, but she made sure that every article that the Philly Tribune wrote mentioned a rather unsavory period of the college’s history – when minorities weren’t allowed.

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Girard College President Graves believes she’s above the law

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Another article by Mahleah Chicetawn.

For the staff and students at Girard College June 30, 2012, Autumn Graves last day, it might as well be June 30, 2020; her departure can’t come soon enough.

Continue reading on Examiner.com Girard College President Graves believes she’s above the law – Philadelphia School bullying | Examiner.com

Blogging Onward – Dick Clark Would Be Proud

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The late Dick Clark featured a Top Ten segment on Bandstand. It listed the most popular songs of the day and was a highlight of the show for his teenage dancers.  Well, we’re kinda getting the same feeling from this blog thing. What started out as a message board hoping to attract 100 or so people daily, reached the point yesterday of having over 900 people visit the site!!

We recall our initial reluctance in even getting involved in something like this.  We did so primarily to gain exposure for an article we had written titled A Hummer’s View. Originally, we intended to publish the article as the June 2011 issue of the Steel & Garnet, but that was thwarted by our termination as alumni director in May 2011. (That’s another story)

Anyway, after mailing copies of the article to people who we thought would be interested in reading about GC, it was suggested to us by Joe DiStefano of the Philadelphia Inquirer that we post the article online for reference purposes. Joe obviously doesn’t know of our technological shortcomings.  An old Girard friend came along, fortunately,  and put us on the WordPress.Com  track. So, here we are.

We don’t pretend to be anything more than what we are; a vehicle for people to express their feelings about a school they love. As Martin Luther King Jr. so aptly put it, ” Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”  That’s our mantra.

 We face an opposition that is both arrogant and  concerned only with their self interests. We promise to be anything but silent ! We will not rest until the welfare of Girard College and its students become the principal concern once again of the Board of City Trusts.

So turn up the jukebox Dick, we’re going to rock around the clock!

ahummersview is upset

Lead By Example

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On April 20th, 2012 I walked into the auditorium for the Upper School’s crossover. As usual, breakfast was sub-par and the thing that was on my mind most was getting through my day and going home to relax. But that is not how my day went.

I walked into my first period class, excited to start the project that lay ahead of me. And then, all of a sudden, the atmosphere in the room was drastically altered. It was an eerie, morose feeling of loss and confusion. I remember that feeling as it came to me the previous year around the same time; the time when teachers were being laid off. I looked up at my teacher as the look on his face matched mine. I felt his pain, his anguish and worst of all, neither of us could help each other. The inevitable had happened. The layoffs had begun.

Never has news hit the hallways of Girard College and disrupted a school day the way this news did. I walked through the halls and looked at my fellow classmates as some shed tears for the loss of their favorite teachers. Feeling as though there was nothing I can do I went to one of the teachers and asked her if everything was alright. She responded with a simple, and honest, no. She wasn’t the only one. All of the teachers said the same thing to the students. “No, everything is not ok, but do not worry.” And to the seniors, being the leaders of the Upper School, were given one solid piece of advice; “Lead by example, everything will be alright.”

When I started my education at Girard , I heard a plethora of information about the teachers. I heard about how in eleventh grade I would take a class with, arguably, one of the most dedicated and well educated teachers in the whole high school. I heard about how I would be in the  class of one of the nicest and most capable math teachers, who could make you understand the most impossible seeming math equations. I heard about how I could expect help if even the most capable of math teachers could not help me to solve mathematical equations. I heard about how I would have the option to learn more about the world of technology and programming; but not anymore. Now I am asking what happens next. These individuals served as pillars for many behind the walls. The continuity of seeing the same people year after year has served as a comfort for many of the students at Girard.

Since Ms. Graves started, her program decisions started to chip away at our institution, at our home, at our traditions and values…at those pillars. Each year, respected and loved teachers started to go and this year is no exception. As things stand as I write this, students on a “fit campus” can look forward to one health/pe teacher from first to twelfth grade. Students who aspired to working in the technology field in the future had their dreams extinguished with the elimination of technology courses. For the students who go to the library and are greeted with the cheerful assistant of the human resource available to help them with projects and research papers, they can say goodbye to that. Let us not forget about the promise made to the students, by the administration might I add, to increase the SAT scores. How can that happen with a decrease in the math teachers employed by the school? With one less math teacher, and specialist, how can the students expect to get the attention that they need mathematically.  It seems to me that with the decrease in math teachers, and the specialist, that the teachers will have more classes and students to worry about, creating a cramped and unfocused classroom environment. Not to mention what kind of stress this will put on the teachers. I worry for the younger students and their test grades when a math job as well as the math specialist job was eliminated. What can the students look forward to? Well, being foreign language experts!

These are the words of a firm believer in the truth. Take this how you may but I implore you to read every line clearly and understand that Ms. Graves did exactly what she said. She resigned from her position and “made a statement”, and as she made her statement, I led by the example that has been set by my predecessors and those people who continue to do so to this day; I wrote my story. Maybe it’s time to write yours?

a concerned student

The Hunger Games at Girard College

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Academic and residential layoffs are over, or are they?  The Girard staff learned of the 8 layoffs from a press release on Thursday afternoon given by alumnus and Board of City Trust spokesperson,  Kevin Feeley.  For Girard staff, this week was comparable to “Reaping Day” and now the Hunger Games have begun.

Like the Reaping Day, the staff knew that the “60 days to the end of the calendar year” layoff deadline has arrived.  If you watched the Hunger Games, think about the families walking to the center of town for the drawing of the lottery.  Staff arrived Friday with the weight of the world on their shoulders.   Students walked around “trying to be adults” when they just wanted a warm hug and for someone to tell them it would be alright.  The shell shocked academic staff, one that has been reduced from 72 to now 44 in the past few years, was in no position to counsel and comfort on a day like that.

The names are revealed.  One should pause here to consider if the layoffs were done in a fair manner.  It was no secret that last year’s layoffs were “personal” because Graves just wanted people gone.  Well, she has proven her track record and made “personal” decisions once again. The initial layoff notifications were conducted in a very unprofessional manner as well. Those being laid off received an email at 930 Friday morning asking them to attend a meeting with the Vice-President/Security director/Dining services director/Human resources director/Federal programs coordinator. Yes, that’s one person. Also in attendance was the recently-resigned Lower School Dean who had to fill in for the Upper School Dean who was out of town on a outreach trip to Texas and for Ms. Graves.  It seems Ms. Graves found it more important to tour the campus with Mr. Feeley for picture taking than to attend to personnel matters.

And here is where the Hunger Games begins.  Because everyone who was laid off today has seniority over other teachers, the great bumping game begins.  Those who did not receive a notice are not able to relax because they don’t know if someone is going to put in a request to bump.  Can the requests be denied by Graves?  Of course, but guess what – come July 1st,  the school may have a qualified administrator who just may know something about education.So, as this year winds down and we look towards 2012-2013, here are some of the changes we can all look forward to:
3 teachers for 7-12 grade in all of the major subject areas
4 foreign language teachers for 7-12 (foreign language only requires 2 years for PA graduation)
0 computer classes for 1-12 (so much for “21st Century Technology Skills”)
1 PE/Health teacher for 1-12 (there goes “Fit Campus”)

Just a few years ago, Graves revealed her 6 pillars-goals for Girard College programs. Let’s see how these goals compare with her public spin and the cold reality. 

2009 goal Graves’ spin reality
21st Century learning Improved efforts no digital education
Fit Campus Improved reduction of physical and health education from 4 to 1
7 day boarding 2 year suspension on weekend program Never reinstated. Some children in homeless shelter on weekends, some students without basic staples like food on weekends
Premier institution for effective urban education “We have a responsibility to be a place of innovation that can provide solutions to urban education. We can be the great laboratory for educational creativity, and part of that is opening the gates of Girard so that our students get more exposure to the city and the city to us. That’s coming.” eliminated key programs designed to create a safe environment, eliminating faculty and staff who worked beyond the school day to care for students
raise the profile of Stephen Girard in this city and this nation focus on her role as an extension of the civil rights movement, cash in on Sam Katz’s desire to make films
update them (past practices) for
a 21st century education and implement them into our current program
“new approaches to science, math” eliminate 2 math teachers in Upper School, eliminate computer instruction 1st-12th
engage in an intense
financial and facilities capital strategic plan
engaged FSG to conduct strategic planning research which would be revealed in February. “This is not a plan that will sit on a shelf in an office and do nothing” buildings in disrepair
GETS being painted because alumnus paid for it and is making a visit. Strategic plan never revealed.
build a culture of philanthropy increased focus on fundraising
record setting events
more emphasis on fundraising and community partnerships
3-year fundraising total was less than her 1st year fundraising goal
alienated many outside community groups, forbids students and faculty from any fundraising plans that she didn’t create
Office of
Alumni Support
none? class of 1960 paid for 2 year part time position. Graves made it a permanent FT position despite layoffs in important areas
Planning to stay for “the long haul” resigning for family reasons nothing but trouble since hire
aiming to “make a statement” during her final months

There are more foreign language teachers in the Girard College Upper School than English teachers. This is also true of Science (3 teachers) Social Studies (3 teachers), and Math (3 teachers). Students in need of remedial support no longer have a Math Specialist to turn to for assistance.  How does that make sense when there is a concern for the standardized math scores?  It is also notable that there are 14 administrators at a school with 44 faculty members and less than 450 students. To add fuel to the fire, Graves has employed a fundraising office to do the job that she listed as an area of “extensive expertise.” This group has yet to raise their own salaries. The money paid over three years to the lawyers to negotiate union contracts (another of Graves’ areas of “expertise”) likely exceeds a teacher’s salary. The same lawyer had to defend Graves’ decisions regarding layoffs last year. Of the three teachers who we slated for arbitration, two of them were offered a settlement to return to their positions at Girard. Is the Estate willing to go toe to toe with the teacher’s union again?

Who will step into question Graves’ decision making? She continues to protect administrative positions–many of whom are under qualified and incompetent–while she turns away some of Girard’s most effective educators and most deserving students?

Will the new Chairman of the Board of City Trusts, Ronald Donatucci, come to the rescue?

ahummersview is perplexed

Girard College President drops another bombshell

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Ms. Mahleah Chicetawn is spot on once again!

Ms. Chicetawn has published a number of articles about Girard over the past few months.  Her latest mirrors ahummersview’s post from Monday.

The faculty is reporting that this particular announcement, which is shrouded in mystery, has upset the students. The students are being left to worry about who’ll be here next year or even if they’ll still be there next year.

Continue reading on Examiner.com Girard College President drops another bombshell – Philadelphia School bullying | Examiner.com

Past articles written by Ms. Chicetawn can be found here.

Pulitzer Prize Winning Hummer

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Congratulations to Wesley Morris! !!      Girard Class of ’93

Read more here  http://articles.boston.com/2012-04-17/arts/31350279_1_pulitzer-prize-boston-globe-critic

Girard in Anguish – Layoff Notices Friday

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Well, it didn’t take long for the glow of a successful Gala Friday night to wear off. Monday morning at 8:20 am our beleaguered, lame-duck president, Autumn Graves announced that “drastic changes” would be announced this coming Friday.

Why the lady insists on subjecting the students to unnecessary anguish with her every action is beyond us. We’re told by faculty on campus that the kids this week are besides themselves.  Look, they’ve known now for months that layoffs would continue and the possibility is real that their stay at Girard  will be greatly impacted. How many times do you have to rub their nose in it? Our kids have enough social discord in their lives without our administrators adding to it.  Announcing that an announcement is coming is not helping matters.  

A troubling aspect to us , and there are several, is that we’re told by an executive on campus that AG is “bitter and plans to make a statement with the layoffs.”     Excuse us!  The economic problems at Girard are not the personal problem of any individual.  Her lack of  skills is an entirely different matter. If that, in fact, is her attitude, we would strongly suggest that her employment be terminated immediately!! For this would be but yet another example of the pettiness of her character.

ahummersview is saddened

Stephen Girard Memorial Committee – Dead or Alive?

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We’re confused. According to Guide Star, contributions to  the SGMC are no longer tax deductible.  They point out that the charity has not complied with the IRS requirement that a form 990 be filed each year.  In fact the IRS is claiming that  a 990 hasn’t been filed for three years, thus automatically losing their tax deductibility privilege.

In case you’re not familiar with the SGMC, these are the folks, generally alumni, who collected the funds for the construction of the statue of Stephen Girard that is placed at his former farm site in South Philadelphia.  It is a beautiful likeness of Girard and visiting the site has become a tradition for many during Founder’s Day weekend.  

What’s confusing is that we have a copy of the 990 form for the year 2009.  It clearly shows that $1600 was received in contributions for the year and is signed by Joseph Garbarino, Treasurer, on Oct. 1, 2010, as well as an accountant.  We don’t know why that wouldn’t be an acceptable submission.

As of the October 1, 2010 date ,the committee had a total of $13,646 in their account. That would seem to be an ample sum for them to continue to maintain the statue.  Are they planning to do that?  Maybe Joe or the committee administrator can enlighten us.

ahummersview is curious

Getting Hit On – Surprisingly

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When we started this blog in late January, we did so with the expectation that we might receive 20 – 30 hits per day.  Much to our great surprise, that hasn’t been the case at all.  

We average over 200 hits per day now and have been known on two occassions to exceed 600 in a day.  That leaves us a bit overwhelmed and greatly impressed with the number of people who are interested in what’s going on at Girard College.

With the alumni association discontinuing an independent issue of the news and the college issuing only fluffed news releases, we guess people are turning to us to fill the void.   Fortunately our readers, or most of them anyway, are able to offer cogent responses to the issues of the day.  So, congratulations to you for keeping your brothers/sisters informed!!

ahummersview comes from everyone

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