Corbett to visit Central HS today amid angry protests

ASSOCIATED PRESS Gov. Corbett will speak at Central High today with the senior class seated behind him. Some plan to protest his visit by wearing red.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Gov. Corbett will speak at Central High today with the senior class seated behind him. Some plan to protest his visit by wearing red.
Posted: January 17, 2014

IT WILL BE a day of firsts for Gov. Corbett when he steps inside Central High School this morning:

First visit to a Philadelphia public school since assuming office in 2011; first sitting Pennsylvania governor to visit Central; and, probably, the first time Corbett will be greeted by angry protesters inside and outside a school.

Student protesters will rally at 7:45 a.m. outside the Olney school, reading their Declaration of Students' Rights written by senior organizer Afaq Mahmoud. They will display photos of teachers who have gone "missing" during the Corbett administration.

Community groups also will come out in force about 9:45 a.m., about 45 minutes before students are expected to be seated for the ceremony. Representatives from the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, the NAACP, Parents United for Public Education and other groups are expected to attend.

Inside the school, Corbett will be greeted by a sea of red T-shirts, the color of union solidarity that will be worn by PFT staff, teacher George Bezanis said. Students will wear red or the school's crimson color, he said.

Central's No. 2 rank in the state's new School Performance Profiles is the reason for Corbett's historic visit. (Downingtown STEM High School ranked first.) He'll also present achievement awards to representatives from Carver and Masterman high schools.

"He's taking credit for something he underfunded," said Bezanis, a social-studies teacher.

Students, staff and community members said they find Corbett's congratulatory visit ironic.

Since Corbett has been governor, he has slashed education funding by nearly $1 billion throughout the state, and the cuts have hit Philadelphia schools hard. Before Corbett, Central had 145 full-time staff in fiscal year 2011, but that number has dwindled to 112 in fiscal year 2014, according to district figures.

And he took on the PFT this summer by tying funding to concessions sought from the union.

An open letter from Central staff to Corbett voices "discomfort by your visit" and calls for "an end to policies that marginalize our neediest students."

The governor will address the audience with the senior class behind him - a diverse class of various ethnicities, Bezanis said.

"It will be a nice photo shoot with the students, and he'll use it in the upcoming campaign," the teacher predicted.


On Twitter: @ReginaMedina

Online: ph.ly/DNEducation

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