Dec 22, 2010

Allentown School District


One of the most amazing things about Allentown is that the population, despite the problems, has remained about the same since 1928. That was the year Allentown celebrated reaching 100,000. Today, we are about 106.000. Although the numbers stayed the same, the demographics have changed drastically. We are now officially a minority city. When I grew up, there was a saying, If you ain't Dutch, you ain't much. How's that for political correctness? Today, if you want to see a Pennsylvania Dutchman, you have to look at the picture on a bag of pretzels.

During my school years, a delinquent was a kid smoking a cigarette in the alley. Today, we have machete attacks, and parents beating someone else's kid in a classroom. In this environment, should we be concerned about math scores in Singapore? There is a disconnect between the discipline problems and the preoccupation for better scores on the standardized tests; Increasing civility is much more important. If we could get that math score up, will the public overlook the machete attack? We'll build a new school next to Jackson Elementary, move the students, and put the machete attackers in the old Jackson. Then, we'll take the real achievers and put them in an academy of excellence. Let's hope not too many parents insist that their child belongs in the academy. Let's hope that the prison school works out. We all agree that all the students are a precious commodity. What we really need is safe classrooms, conducive to learning. We need supervised streets, conducive for getting to and from school safely. Isn't it interesting that a child can leave Central Catholic at 4th and Chew, and be safer than a child leaving William Allen at 17th and Chew?

The photograph, from the late 1940's, shows a kindergarden class before Lehigh Parkway Elementary School was completed. One of the twin houses served both as the neighborhood school and church.

14 comments:

gary ledebur said...

I, as do you and many folks, look at the good old days with nostalgia. I remember my teachers and schools with a quiet pride. Nevertheless I also remember Billy Sudo who was not allowed to attend school with me, even though he was my friend and neighbor. His IQ was 68. My grandmother told me not to walk home from school with Jimmy Swan--he was "colored." Jimmy dropped out of school because he was embarrassed because he got Fs and we made fun of his hand-me-down, too small clothes. Miss Pratt, our art teacher, put a painting on the board and we were graded on how well we copied it. I did not do well and have hated art since. Mrs.Herr, the principal, would use a paddle on little Barbara Howard because she was late for school. Barbara was poor, "colored" and had to walk across town (probably 2+ miles). Barbara dropped out of school at age 12. I could go on and on but you get the point. Yes, many things were better for kids like us, but for Barbara, Billy, Jimmy and others they were not. I still hate crafts, painting and drawing.

michael molovinsky said...

this isn't a nostalgia piece, it's about the flawed current priorities of the allentown school system

Anonymous said...

What exactly are the "flawed current priorities?" Do you have much experience with management of a multi-million dollar school system? Again the reference to the $33,000 government relations consultant is just picking the "low hanging fruit." Allentown hires a new superintendent, gives him a $24 million deficit going forward, machete attacks by students and in a matter of months starts criticizing him.

gary ledebur said...

The above comment was from me and shame on you for your continued negative attacks. I am leaving this blog for the holidays and maybe permanently. I can no longer stand the constant complaining, criticizing and general mean spirited comments about the "element" Muslims, Palestinians, elected officials, school administrators, bureaucrats and politicians and veiled references to Puerto Ricans. You and your readers will not have the Progressive Liberal to kick around any more. (I had a love/hate relationship with RN.) There is no holiday spirit on "Molovinsky on Allentown." I still hate art.

michael molovinsky said...

anon 7:23, this post doesn't mention the consultant, but, since you mention it; zahorchek has added and proposed numerous administrative posts to implement the "new" education idea's culled from around the country, but no additional aides in the classroom!! that is the flawed priority.

michael molovinsky said...

gary, sorry to see you go. i will accept, although not agree, with your description of this blog as negative and critical. i will NOT accept that I make comments about any "element" or" veiled references" to any group. comments, which appear from others, may be more blunt than I'd prefer.

Anonymous said...

Mike,

I think the public comment by the president of the Allentown Teacher’s Union was telling, her comment was that teachers deserve combat pay, especially at Allen.
The school district is a reflection of the poor state of the city and how municipal mismanagement has allowed poverty to explode. Don’t forget the press report that poverty rose in the city from 20% in 08 to 29% in 09. The new census numbers on Allentown’s economic demographic should be very sobering. Meanwhile council spends its time on grand minutia and political pay offs, the mayor never stops raising campaign funds from city businesses, and the school district holds out its hat to so it can pay its ever escalating bills.
Yep, what a surprise things are the way they are.

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

Mike,

One more thing, the salary the district pays the new superintend is far more generous than we can afford. He turned around and hired more high salary people. These costs are supposed to be covered by federal grants. We know how that works when the funding runs out.
Gary, I enjoy your posts.

Scott Armstrong

michael molovinsky said...

scott, i present the quote from the president of the teachers union below, so that the "gary's" don't think all criticism of the school administration only emanates from this blog.

"We know the economic realities," Tretter said(Teacher's union president). "But we have a situation where teachers are walking into schools not feeling safe. Our teachers, at Allen [High School] in particular, should be getting combat pay, not being asked to freeze our wages."

Anonymous said...

safer at 4th and chew...most of those kids are bussed home to the suburbs at public expense. Wonder what it would cost for Allentown to bus its kids??

Patrick McHenry said...

MM -

Regarding the "Academy of Excellence", I saw on another blog that it is now being considered for 4th and Allen Streets.

I don't think that making the better students attend a school in a troubled neighborhood is much of a reward for doing well.

While Central Catholic is at 4th and Chew, another poster pointed out that many students arrive and depart via a school bus. I know the location has been a problem in the diocese and there have been many talks about moving out of the city.

In addition, I know Central is very proactive in taking care of their students (and punishing them for any wrong-doing) in the surrounding neighborhood. This seems to be in direct conflict of the ASD policy, which seems to be that their responsibility for students ends at the curb of the school.

Monkey Momma said...

Regarding the standardized test scores - it would seem ASD has no choice but to pay attention to test scores, since federal mandates and funding are all determined based on the flawed federal funding priorities.

I believe test scores would improve dramatically, however, if safety were dramatically improved at the schools. And the only way safety and civility will return to students is if PARENTS insist upon it. Yet, we see no such push from ASD parents. Witness the day(s) after the machete incident at Allen High: the school was reported as having received "little" feedback or questions from parents, and school attendance was at a normal level. I guess it was just another day in Allentown, huh? I honestly do not think parents in other school districts would have responded with the same nonchalance.

And to Gary: I enjoy your comments, and I hope you have a Merry Christmas. I think you are reading things in MM's post that arent' there, though. It is important that people like MM and yourself talk about demographics in this city, as demographics and culture have changed dramatically in Allentown. Both of you have raised important points about how demographics may or may not affect things like student safety and the learning environment. Without this discussion, Allentown really is lost, so I hope you'll come back and set folks straight when you see continued errors in judgement. In terms of the holiday spirit, well...I view this blog as a kind of long love letter to Allentown - maybe the Allentown of days gone by or the Allentown that could be - but a love letter nonetheless. Molovinsky's criticisms are straightforward and thought provoking. Your input rounds it out, so I look forward to reading more exchanges between you and MM.

Looking To Escape said...

It is important that people like MM and yourself talk about demographics in this city, as demographics and culture have changed dramatically in Allentown
.
If you are being asked to fund the corrections to the problem, you have every right to comment on them.

Anonymous said...

Gee, HATING the arts is not very cultured at all, I must say.

Plus, I thought all hate speech had been outlawed...

Meanwhile, tossing out the race card and class warfare at every opportunity is not only rather exhausting, but very unbecoming, as well.