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BLOG: A Open Letter to the Wissahickon School Board

An overview of the seven months since the Wissahickon School District Administration announced their recommendation to close Mattison Avenue Elementary School.

To: The Members of the Wissahickon School Board

The administration of our school district has a goal of closing Mattison Avenue Elementary School. In June they explained to us that is was only a recommendation and the full rationale for closing the school would be explained. We are still waiting.

The original presentation in June cited three reasons to close Mattison; declining enrollment across the district, inefficiencies in transporting elementary school students, and the transition from 3rd to 4th grade for the Mattison students.

Interestingly, all three points were quickly found to be non-issues or unsubstantiated. The enrollment projections have so far proved to be incorrect, especially in the case of Ambler Borough, and the transportation issue is laughable when almost all Mattison’s students walk to school. It has been shown repeatedly over the last seven months that any issues regarding transition have been caused by Shady Grove’s administration, not the transition itself.

Fast forward to October and now all of a sudden the district cites that the ONLY reason Mattison is being closed is due to “poor” test scores (never mentioned in the original recommendation). Again, this has been proven as unsubstantiated. Mattison has achieved AYP every year and while the percentages of 3rd grade students achieving Advanced & Proficient on the PSSAs are slightly lower than when compared to Shady Grove, that difference is easily explained when one compares the socio-economic make-ups of both schools. Shady Grove had only 16% of its 3rd grade population last year classified as “economically disadvantaged” compared to 51% of Mattison’s 3rd grade population.

The administration was kind enough to share 3rd grade PSSA data after the October 8th meeting but they neglected to include the percentage of economically disadvantaged students. Using the population data from the Pennsylvania Department of Education website, the information for the 3rd grade students from across the district in 2012 is shown below:

<see attached graph image>

The data clearly shows that the overwhelmingly high percentage of economically disadvantaged students are thriving at Mattison. However, it should be noted that the overall PSSA results are affected by the significantly higher percentage of economically disadvantaged students.

During the October hearings the administration repeatedly tried to point out all the things that the students of Mattison were missing out on attending a small K-3 school, again all of these points were found either invalid or ludicrous. In fact, the students of Mattison thrive BECAUSE of their small school and central location to a variety of resources that they can walk to. They don’t need 22 acres of fields around them since they can walk to three different borough parks that are within blocks of the school. Students can walk to the library, fire station, police station, playhouse, movie theater, drug store, and soon a grocery store. Additionally, the Wissahickon Valley Watershed is also within walking distance for outdoor education opportunities in addition to the borough parks.

Unless Mattison will be closed to save less than 1% of the district’s budget, which we have been repeatedly assured that the school is NOT being closed to save money, then there are no other reasons to close this school. The simple fact that the administration keeps changing the reason for closing the school undermines our confidence that the actual reason has even been disclosed.

The administration says that they want to move the Mattison students to increase test scores but they have yet to show anyone how taking the same students and moving them to another location with the same teachers, curriculum, and socio-economic challenges is going to increase scores? In fact, by moving these students the administration would be removing their local support system, the small school family that knows and supports their learning so that they excel, and separate their parents & guardians from their children’s school where they can no longer remain involved due to distance and transportation challenges.

If the district was serious about increasing test scores they wouldn’t have removed staff from Mattison (which they have now identified as needing to have higher scores). Instead they would have added additional staff. They would have looked for ways to better communicate with the parents and students that don’t speak English as their primary language. They would have looked for ways to connect to the students and families even more than the herculean efforts that the current Mattison staff and H&S already have made (and the district has claimed as their own) in meeting the needs of the Mattison students.

Please consider all that I have written, all that I have said at previous board meetings and hearings, and all that the HUNDREDS of other parents and students have said over the last seven months. As Representative Todd Stephens stated at the October 8th hearing, if 100% of your constituents tell you that they don’t want you to vote to close the school, it is your job to listen to them.

Thank you,

Christine DeLaurentis

District Parent, Community Member, & Taxpaper

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Stop the madness January 17, 2013 at 01:01 PM
Madison Avenue students "are treated like crap" once they get to Shady Grove, said Christine DeLaurentis, one of a group of parents who has fought the closure. "Our kids are seen as the other side of the tracks." you want to expand on this ridiculous comment ?
Walt Priestley January 17, 2013 at 02:01 PM
Seems they have their own adjenda. Anyone really suprised?
Stop the madness January 17, 2013 at 02:05 PM
whom are you referring to?
Christine DeLaurentis January 17, 2013 at 04:02 PM
You can ask any parent of students that have made the transition to Shady Grove. Our children are treated like second class citizens there. There are definitely wonderful teachers and other parents that try, but overall the environment set by the SG administration is that the "Mattison Kids" are trouble and they are treated accordingly. There is little to no expectation of success for our children. If you attended Mattison it is assumed that you are dirt poor and less intelligent than the SG students. Our children THRIVE in middle school (Mattison students scores drop at SG and then go up again once they are in middle school) in SPITE of their time at SG because of their start at Mattison. Mattison's administration expects high levels of acheivement from every student & treats them all accordingly, SG is happy if they show up, do their homework and don't have discipline issues.
Christine DeLaurentis January 17, 2013 at 04:02 PM
It is apparent by the comments of the school board members on Monday night that they too see Mattison's students as poor & unintelligent since it is necessary to send them (same kids, teachers & curriculum) to another buliding for a "better" education. Our children will continue to succeed in spite of the school board's misguided decision and they will do so because they have already had such a great grounding at Mattison and their community will do what it needs to for support. They will do so in spite of the huge hurdles that the school district administration and school board have placed in front of them

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