School District Celebrates Start of 2017-2018 School Year with 30 Second Graders at Bell-Ringing in New Literacy Classroom at Pennell Elementary

Posted on September 6, 2017
Categories: Press Releases

PHILADELPHIA — School District of Philadelphia Superintendent Dr. William R. Hite,  Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and 30 second graders marked the first day of the 2017-2018 school year with the traditional bell-ringing ceremony at Joseph Pennell Elementary School. The celebration took place in a newly modernized classroom, which has been completely refurbished to support the District’s focused work on early literacy.

“We begin this school year with tremendous momentum because of the hard work by students, parents, teachers, principals, school staff and community leaders. This year we can achieve even greater things if we stay focused on our goals,” said Dr. Hite. “We continue to make progress toward our anchor goal of 100 percent of 8 year olds reading on grade level. The new literacy classrooms we are in today are just one part of our comprehensive plan to improve literacy rates. This year early literacy coaches will work with all K-3 grade teachers and every K-3 classroom will have leveled libraries so our students gain the literacy skills they need for a lifetime of learning.”

Dr. Hite was joined by Mayor Kenney, Pennell Elementary School Principal Jason Harris, Councilmembers Cindy Bass and Jannie Blackwell, and other invited guests. Pennell Elementary is one of eight District schools receiving investments this school year in Pre-K through second grade classrooms designed to improve literacy in early grades. Some of the physical improvements include new technology and manipulatives to support small-group instruction; desks, chairs and other seating options better suited for students’ age groups; improved lighting; and new paint, cabinets and closets.

Dr. Hite will visit six other schools, including George Washington High School, a newly named Community School by the Mayor’s Office of Education, and Juniata Park Academy. At Juniata Park Academy, Dr. Hite will tour the school’s art studio and visit a sixth grade Social Studies class to discuss the importance of diversity. At George Washington High School, Dr. Hite and Mayor Kenney will eat lunch with 9th Grade Academy students and stop by a student-created diversity mural completed this summer.

The School District is now in year two of an investment plan which has grown to $526 million, including investments touching every school in the District. Some of these investments include:

  • New technology, computer and science labs;
  • Nurses and counselors in every school;
  • Ninth grade academies focused on college and career readiness;
  • Early literacy coaches who will work with all Kindergarten through third grade teachers; and
  • Leveled libraries in all K-3 classrooms so students gain the literacy skills they need for a lifetime of learning.

“We’re starting this school year strong,” said Mayor Kenney. “Both our teachers and administrators have contracts this year, the City has put 22 new social workers into schools, and thanks to our Out of School Time and Rebuild initiatives, our students will soon have more opportunities for learning and development after the final bell rings.”

“Thanks to City Council and the Philadelphia Beverage Tax funding, PHLpreK will ensure more students arrive to Kindergarten ready to learn, and we’ve expanded opportunities and supports for the students at eleven community schools. While we still have challenges ahead, I know we can rise to the occasion thanks to a City Council committed to supporting education and a recognition among all Philadelphians that our students’ achievements are critical to Philadelphia’s success. From our business leaders to our non-profits, we all must commit to the goal of creating great schools where students feel safe, supported, and prepared for success,” added Kenney.

“This year our scholars will have the opportunity to thrive in a beautiful, highly engaging literacy environment that lends itself to ensuring academic rigor and positive student outcomes. Sound literacy and instructional pedagogy, coupled with resources and technology to support best practices, truly make up the formula for academic success for our scholars. Our scholars deserve this, and so does our city.” -Jason Harris, Principal at Joseph Pennell Elementary School

“At Juniata Park Academy, we celebrate our cultural diversity and strongly advocate the arts through our music, art and dance programs. As you enter our school, country flags welcome you and display our various school community’s origins. We also proudly celebrate being a K-8 Peer Leader school and have a single school culture, implementing a comprehensive literacy framework from Kindergarten through 8th grades. This school year, we are excited to work with the Children’s Literacy Initiative in order to continue providing effective literacy instruction.” -Marisol Rivera Rodriguez, Principal at Juniata Park Academy

“George Washington is proud to become a Community School this year. We are committed to supporting student growth through small learning academies while building community among our students, staff, and neighbors. We have three learning academies: the International Leadership Academy and CTE Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) Academy, which expose our students to post-secondary opportunities, and our 9th Grade Success Academy, which focuses on the transition into high school and goal setting. Each learning academy has a team of teachers, leaders, and support staff who work to support the academic, social, and emotional needs of our students.” -Susan Thompson, Principal at George Washington High School.