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Rep. W. Curtis Thomas' Statement on Illegal Sale of William Penn High School


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Rep. W. Curtis Thomas' Statement on Illegal Sale of William Penn High School

  1. 1. FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas D-Philadelphia Contact: Marilyn Kai Jewett 215/560-3261 STATEMENT State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas: Sale of William Penn is Illegal June 24, 2014 I am increasingly angered by the blatant disregard of the interests and wishes of the residents of the communities East of Broad Street regarding the closing and illegal sale of William Penn High School to Temple University. In 2001, Mayor John Street and Governor Mark Schweiker reached an agreement that transferred control of the School District of Philadelphia to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. According to the law that established the SRC, the governor appoints three of the SRC members, while the mayor of appoints two members of the commission. Four years ago, the SRC concluded that there was a need to keep William Penn High School open, but would have to close the school temporarily to address capital needs. The consensus was that it would reopen in 2014 as a career technical school. Members of the William Penn Development Coalition have met consistently with School District Superintendent William Hite who assured them as recently as May, that William Penn was not on the disposition list of schools to be sold. To my knowledge, there has been no formal resolution to reverse that decision or to turn the property over to the city. That’s why it’s troubling to me that on June 12, the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation contacted the William Penn Coalition, and told them to put $15 million on the table by June 13 or their proposal would be dismissed. That is unheard of and illegal, especially since Temple University was the only other party interested in acquiring the William Penn property. Although the coalition submitted their proposal for the reopening of the school as an educational center and building trades program in a timely manner, the fix was obviously in for Temple to win the bid. First of all, PIDC and the city have no legal right to sell property that doesn’t belong to them. State control of the school district also includes their property. The SRC must comply with the PA Public School Code in all matters pertaining to the school district. The PA School Code requires that hearings be held to allow a period of public comment before a school is closed and sold. That was never done. -MORE-
  2. 2. Second, there was no official notice of a marketable appraisal of the William Penn property. Third, there is a conflict of interest when you have a Temple University official sitting on the Board of PIDC. At what point does the interest of the students and the community come first? Once again, I am opposed to the marketing and sale of schools to entities that are not operating in the interest of the community. There are 650 homeowners and 500 seniors that reside within blocks William Penn. Have they been consulted about Temple’s plan to establish athletic fields and recreation space for Temple students? No! These are hardworking people who pay taxes to support higher education, pay additional sales tax and will pay an additional cigarette tax to support public education. Shouldn’t they have a say so? Has Temple president Neil D. Theobald met with the state legislators that represent Temple – a state-related university that receives funding from the commonwealth? He hasn’t met with me or the community even though they contribute to his salary. According to the PA Public School Code, 2PACS, Chapter 5, Subsection N, the secretary of education upon receipt from the majority of the SRC, may issue a declaration of dissolution 180 days prior to the end of the school year, which shall be effective by the end of that school year. While it is too late to dissolve the SRC before September, it can be dissolved during the next school year. To that end, I am saying to members of the SRC, if you are not prepared to comply with the PA Public School Code, the PA Independent Regulatory Review Commission, the PA Department of Education and the Governors’ Budget Office, then you need to dissolve the SRC. Our children’s education should not be sold on the auction block for selfish interests to developers and those who don’t respect or care about the needs of the community. This sale was hostile, illegal, arrogant and disrespectful. This transaction must be reversed. Pennsylvania State Representative W. Curtis Thomas represents the 181st Legislative District that includes William Penn High School and Temple University. -30-