In Support of Phillips High School

February 24, 2010 Leave a Comment

Check out this powerful statement by John Schmitz, a Phillips High School Teacher and longtime member of Teachers for Social Justice. Phillips is on the list to become a turnaround school and give over to the AUSL.
Why resist it? Simple – the accusations against us are false and our cause is just.
We at Phillips high school do not have a “dysfunctional” school as some of the powers that be have suggested. Quite the contrary – despite facing tremendous challenges - the Phillips faculty provides our students with an emotionally supportive and academically demanding environment. The students themselves have said so in polling data from CPS’s 2009-2010 High School Directory. 
86% of Phillips students reported having “supportive teachers and staff at school.” This places Phillips in the top 10% of all CPS high schools (9th out of 98 high schools). It also places Phillips ahead of all 7 of the elite, selective college prep high schools in this category.* 83% of Phillips students report having “academic rigor at the school,” placing Phillips 27th of 98 schools or in the upper third of all CPS high schools in this category. 
This is merely statistical evidence of what is self evident to those of us who work at Phillips or anyone who has spent a significant amount of time in the building that the faculty and staff at Phillips care about the students as learners and individual people. The genuine concern the adults at Phillips have for its children has provided the impetus for quality instruction and the creation of numerous programs and activities that benefit the students, especially their social and emotional needs.

Many of these programs have been years of sweat and toil in the making and all of them will be shredded with a turnaround. 
So resist we must. We are vested in the lives of the students we serve as teachers and staff but also as, mentors, moderators, coaches, counselors, and confidants. While our jobs are on the line, this is not why we resist so passionately. We are a well educated, competent lot; we’ll be fine.
Teaching is more than just a job. It’s a vocation – a calling, to reach out, to connect, to make a difference, particularly for those working in schools with the challenges Phillips faces. At Phillips numerous students are classified as homeless, almost a quarter have special needs; we have a high mobility rate, etc. The later statistic reflects the large number of our students that have been forced out of their homes and neighborhoods through the re-development of the CHA. Consequently for many students, Phillips and its staff are one of the few stable factors in their lives. The faculty at Phillips is not daunted by the task before us; we embrace it. We accept the challenge of trying to make a difference in the lives of young people who attend Phillips, so many of whom bare burdens beyond their years. We are committed to Phillips and the students it serves and it is that commitment and devotion that motivate us and why we must resist! 

John Schmitz – Wendell Phillips Academy Teacher j.f.schmitz(at)att.net
*The 7 selective, college prep CPS schools were categorized separately on the CPS survey and Walter Payton scored the highest on this measure with 84% reporting supportive teachers and staff.  
Download the Full Report HERE


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