2000 Catharine Street
Philadelphia PA 19146
By the time I got to Chester Arthur (C.A.) I had seven school tours under my belt. Four of those tours were public schools and each school was nothing like what I thought it would be. By the time I got to Chester Arthur and their outgoing students and staff I was so confused. In the middle of my school tour with Principal Newman I literally stopped in the hall and said to her “Where is the sadness?” “Where are all the terrible things that I hear about in the news?” “Where are all the “bad” kids?” She just looked at me and said, “It’s not here.” Principal Newman paused and explained to me that no matter what the school districts constraints are they will not keep her students from getting the education they deserve.
Chester A. Arthur Kindergarten is two classes of 16 students each.
Although there is no fan fare regarding their efforts it is very clear that Principal Newman, her staff, and parent’s association have hustled and leveraged partnerships, sponsorship , and collaborations to get the school where it is today. I was really impresses that C.A. teachers have their in-service days at their partner school The Philadelphia School (TPS). That means while everyone is practically tripping over themselves to get into TPS, C.A. teachers are observing TPS classes and implementing their methodologies quietly down the street. STEM and robotics is also a huge focus at the schools for which they were awarded a $25,000 grant from The Verizon Foundation. the dedicated STEM room has programs for students at every level. When it comes to technology, if smartboards and chrome books are on your check list then you are covered. The upper grades are pretty much paperless.
The school has a lot of personality and it starts when you walk in the door. The gate keepers are clearly the ladies in the front office. Nothing gets by them. I watched as a bunch of tween-aged boys came into the office, said hi to me and then ask to page a teacher. The boys clearly did not ask in the appropriate manner for the experienced ladies that run the school office. After being corrected the boys quickly did a redo that involved “good morning and how are you today?” When I visited the classes I got the sweetest third degree from a very outgoing first grader named Naomi. Every time she saw me after that she told me to have a good visit. Something very special at C.A. is “Student of the Month.” Each month C.A. has a school wide initiative which ranges from academic goals to caring for others. The model student of the month gets their photo professionally taken and displayed in the school. I stood in a room surrounded by photos of C.A. students that were filled with personality and pride.
Unlike the most of the public schools I visited C.A. already has their new playground. This playground comes with a gym teacher that is young and clearly up to the challenge of his energetic students outside and inside. C.A. used to be a P.A.L. center so its gym is a good one. Apparently they are always getting hounded by the night-time pick up basketball leagues to let them use it.
Kids will be kids and as we walked through the halls to the upper school it was clear that a student had left her new lipstick mark on the cement walls. Principal Newman laughed. She believes in consequences and knows that in a school as small and tight-knit as hers it will take her five minutes to find the fascia wear culprit.
I am not sure why people are not buzzing about C.A. like they are Greenfield, Meredith, or McCall but it is only matter of time before local families figure it out. And yet again I leave another Philadelphia public school with a very different view then the one I went in with.