Nutter meets with third graders in South Philly

Mayor Nutter visits Sharswood Elementary in South Philadelphia, a makeup session for a March visit he canceled. "You should always keep a promise ... if you make it," third-grader Bella Triolo reminded him Friday. ABI REIMOLD / Staff Photographer
Mayor Nutter visits Sharswood Elementary in South Philadelphia, a makeup session for a March visit he canceled. "You should always keep a promise ... if you make it," third-grader Bella Triolo reminded him Friday. ABI REIMOLD / Staff Photographer
Posted: May 26, 2012

Nine-year-old Bella Troilo’s lunch Friday with Mayor Nutter was nearly four months coming. He had to cancel his original visit to Sharswood Elementary, where she is in third grade, but Bella was determined to hold the elected official to his word — and did just that.

Waiting patiently in the South Philadelphia school’s library, Bella sat with her parents, drinking lemonade and eating chicken nuggets, when the mayor walked into the room.

Nutter greeted teachers and the students anticipating his arrival, but he was sure to immediately apologize to Bella for his March no-show. The mayor had planned to read a Dr. Seuss book to students at the school as part of Read Across America, as coordinated by the nonprofit Philadelphia READS. But he had to cancel due to a scheduling conflict.

"The kids were really sad. They had signs all over the place that said, ‘Welcome, Mayor,’?" said Adrienne Jacoby, executive director of Philadelphia READS, which offers programs to improve children’s literacy.

The mayor’s chief of staff, Everett Gillison, and Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers read a book in his absence.

But Bella, upset about the unkept promise, wrote a letter to Nutter’s office, expressing her disappointment.

"You should always keep a promise ... if you make it," Bella said at the lunch.

Her mother, Dorothy Troilo, 36, said her daughter called it as she saw it.

"She was so excited that he was coming, and then that day, she came home from school and was really disappointed because he didn’t come," she said. "I told her to [write a letter], and I told her not to be afraid to say what she really felt, and she did."

Students in the class enthusiastically asked the mayor questions about his work schedule, his free time, and how he likes working with City Council.

He explained as simply as possible that he wanted to get more money for schools by taxing properties according to their market value, or the Actual Value Initiative.

Though the mayor’s visit didn’t include a reading session, more than 200 of the 550 students at the school performed a workout dance for him in the school courtyard.

Bella danced in the line closest to where the mayor stood, moving her sparkly, multicolored shoes in unison with her classmates. Her mother and father, James Troilo, watched from the sideline, recording their daughter’s performance on an iPhone. Nutter was sure to point out Bella’s letter before he left.

"Every now and then," he said, "you write a letter to someone and something comes of it."

Like Bella’s parents, Amy Purdy, assistant director of Philadelphia READS, said she was proud of the student’s story.

"Bella is a huge reader, as I understand," Purdy said. "It’s a great story of how a young individual ... can change someone’s actions."

Contact Angelo Fichera at 215-854-2771, afichera@philly.com, or follow on Twitter @AJFichera.

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