West Philadelphia High School
At West we are engaged in a campaign to ensure community involvement in the plan for our new school. We want to use the new building we will be getting as an opportunity to redesign the school both physically and educationally. We are determined to make West a school where students want to be, where there is no violence, where every student is challenged academically and prepared for whatever they want to do after high school, and where students have a say in their education, and where the community is deeply involved in the life and health of the school.
We believe that the best way to do this is to have four small theme-based high schools, serving the families that attend West now and the same number of students. We encouraged community participation in the process of developing the physical design for the new West. We successfully organized to get the District to include more community participation on the design team. We advocated for the building to be designed with three separate wings, one for each of the small schools we are proposing. In the end the District refused. We were, however, able to get them to make some small revisions to make the building more in line with our small schools vision.
We continue to work toward successful transition to our new school by addressing issues that concern students now. In Spring of 2008 we conducted the “Big Listen”, where PSU members went into classrooms and heard from hundreds of West students in facilitated discussion. These discussions were aimed at hearing from students themselves what they think are the real causes of some of the challenges facing West and what can be done to solve them. After the Big Listen we produced a report for our principal, in which we proposed several solutions. One of the immediate results of this was that students and staff enjoyed a day of relationship-building at Fellowship Farm. This was designed after a similar project PSU did at Bartram High School several years ago. We are looking forward to making sure that students and parents voices are involved in how federal funds West is receiving this year are spent to enhance student achievement as we continue to prepare and organize for the new school.