Nutter gets earful from Washington High students

Washington High student Johnay Washington, 17, gives Mayor Nutter a big hug. The mayor visited the Northeast school on the first stop of his "listening tour." He said he was seeking to restore "the personal aspect."
Washington High student Johnay Washington, 17, gives Mayor Nutter a big hug. The mayor visited the Northeast school on the first stop of his "listening tour." He said he was seeking to restore "the personal aspect." (AKIRA SUWA / Staff Photographer)
Posted: May 02, 2014

Mayor Nutter spent Wednesday morning speaking with students, teachers, and administrators at George Washington High School in the Far Northeast as part of his "listening tour."

"This is not a theory, this is real," Nutter said afterward. "What we've lost here is the personal aspect of it."

Although most of the complaints - not enough counselors or adults in general in the building, teachers paying out of their own pockets for supplies - were familiar, Nutter said hearing the anecdotes will "help carry the message that more funding is in fact needed."

Students spoke of the challenge in having one counselor for the entire school, to handle not just the seniors applying to colleges and for scholarships but the rest of the student body.

"We need more support, especially the foreign students" said Valeryia Pratasava, who moved to Philadelphia from Belarus last year. "Not just with scholarships, but adapting to school and an American lifestyle."

Washington has a diverse population of students, who speak 52 different languages. Yet because of cuts, Spanish is the only foreign language class offered.

Other students complained about not having enough after-school programs focused on post-high school careers, such as ROTC for those interested in joining the military. Others told stories of tests having to be postponed because the teacher did not have enough paper to print them.

Teachers Colette Ditoro-Werner and Mike McKinney met with Nutter in the library, which has computers and books but no librarian. The veteran teachers complained about not having the supplies needed to teach biology courses, or enough adults in the building to keep order.

Nutter said he found it reaffirming that students know what they have and don't have, and that they deserve better. "They are in fact resilient, but you can't survive and thrive on a daily diet of just resilience," he said.

Nutter's visit was the first of an informal series to see firsthand how budget cuts have affected city schools.


cvargas@phillynews.com

215-854-5520 @InqCVargas

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