Netter Center, U. City High School relationship in question
Netter Center has promised to continue supporting UCHS, regardless of the school's potential to close
February 21, 2013, 9:14 pm·
Idrees Syed | DP
The Philadelphia School District’s School Reform Commission’s March decision as to whether or not to close University City High School could significantly damage the Netter Center for Community Partnerships’ relationship with the students.
On Wednesday, faculty at UCHS — located on 36th and Filbert streets — told their students that the the School District’s updated Facilities Masters Plan kept UCHS on the list of schools recommended for closure. According to the plan, the school’s ninth through eleventh graders can stay together if they choose to attend Benjamin Franklin High School, located on 550 Broad St., next year. They also have the option to transfer to other community schools.
The transfer will present some logistical issues with the University-Assisted Community Schools partnership, although the Netter Center has promised to continue supporting the students.
AJ Schiera, a teacher at UCHS, 2009 College graduate, 2010 Graduate School of Education graduate and Leonore Annenberg Teaching Fellow, explained that the geographical movement of the students will present difficulties in accessing the school.
“No doubt the location of University City and the group of students we have is unique and has led to much of the progress that we’ve made,” Schiera said.
Patrice Berry, the UCHS Community School Site Director and the Director of the Student Success Center, echoed this worry.
“I can imagine that people might redirect their attention and their energy to schools that are immediate,” Berry said. “That’s not to say the Netter Center isn’t interested in continuing the partnership.”
If students at UCHS do choose to attend BFHS, their teachers won’t be joining them. Since UCHS teachers incorporate many elements of Penn programs into the school day, Netter Center’s continued partnership with the school will be lacking a crucial element, Berry said.
The Netter Center began working with UCHS in 1994, and their partnership encompasses four main areas — the Student Success Center, academically based community service courses, Moelis Access Science and the Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative. Over 30 Penn undergraduate and graduate students work more than 100 hours a week as tutors and mentors to UCHS students.
These Netter Center projects help UCHS students with their post-high school planning, help the school provide healthy cooking classes and give students paid internships at the Hospital of University of Pennsylvanian and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, among other things. According to Schiera, Penn’s involvement at UCHS has generally created a “college culture” there.
Although the Netter Center does not have any specific plans in the case of the school’s closure, the center wants to continue serving the students at UCHS.
“The Netter Center has been and remains profoundly committed to a partnership approach that would improve education,” Netter Center Associate Director Cory Bowman said in an email.
Students, faculty and Penn officials alike lament the possible end of the partnership. They stress that the partnership has benefited Penn as well as UCHS.
Schiera first became involved in working with UCHS through an ABCS course he took at Penn.
“The relationship between UCHS and Penn is not one directional but mutually beneficial,” he said. “So many undergraduates walk away learning more about how urban schools work.”