Thursday, December 13, 2012

J.S. Jenks spreads the Holiday Spirit in Ocean City

Thanks to Ms. Goldsmith and Mr. Leland for organizing a great trip to Ocean City Intermediate School.

Here is the scene in front of the school before leaving. Apparently it was quite a feat to pack both toys and kids.

Here are some links to stories both locally and in NJ.

Another WOW Jenks event!!!

Red, White & Blue Day

All Philly schools are NOT failing. All charters are NOT successful. The only "good" Philly  schools are NOT the magnets (Masterman etc).

J.S. Jenks is a neighborhood school with the majority of kids from the NorthWest section of Philadelphia. In spite of the drama and ineffectual leadership at 440 over the years, in spite of the reduced funding, in spite of all of these factors WE SUCCEED.

The Red White and Blue day performance by the 1st graders was an amazing performance. How Mr. Kell gets these kids to learn the songs and movements is a mystery.  At one point he conducted them to a silence point in the song .....and they were silent. I cannot get my two kids to be silent at the same time at home!


I constantly have WOW moments regarding Jenks.

1. WOW- all teachers (some with and some without power) were at school the day after Sandy.

2. WOW- a trip has been organized to take some of our JAM students to Ocean City to collaborate musically and bring toys for the kids.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Run for the Arts: 5k Tomorrow at 8:15 AM

 Join a dedicated community group raising money to support a local public neighborhood school!

Jogging for Jenks is the first annual fun run and walk organized by the Friends of J.S. Jenks, an independent fundraising organization of parents, teachers, administrators and community members dedicated to supporting programmatic and infrastructure development at the John Story Jenks Elementary School in Chestnut Hill. Our major fundraising goal this year is to support arts and music programming at the school.

The 5k Fun Run and 1K Walk will be held on Saturday, November 3, starting at the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields on St. Martins Lane at Willow Grove Avenue. Registration for the run will begin at 7:30 a.m. with a start time of 8:15 a.m. Walk registration will begin at 8:30 a.m. with a start time of 9 a.m. The start/finish area will feature a kids’ zone, vendor tables and refreshments.

Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields
8000 St. Martins Lane
Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia

$25 for registration adults/ $5 children
Suggested sponsorship of $100 (free registration with sponsorship of over $200)
All registrations include a T-shirt (while supplies last)
Leashed pets and baby joggers allowed. Please use caution.

Download Registration Form and send in your payment by check.
Online Registration using your credit card.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The New School Year

The start of the school year is exciting with all the possibilities even under the cloud of the constant negative press regarding the Philadelphia School District, the SRC, the funding from the state etc. 
One opportunity that my 4th grader has gotten directly as a result of her attending J.S. Jenks is to attend the Philadelphia String Project at Temple University.  The mission of the String Project, which is nation-wide program, is to train future string teachers (there is a nation-wide shortage of string teachers) and to nurture future string musicians.  Alex had a unique opportunity to try out for the orchestra at Jenks in the 2nd grade which has opened up this world to her (thank you Jenks!)(a special thanks to Mr. Wesner, her strings instructor at Jenks).  The classes for String Project are twice a week with 100 kids (yes much coordination goes on but it works well). They are grouped by year, 1st, 2nd and 3rd and practice within their year groupings.  They also come together as a group to watch a performance of their lead teacher Ms. Parente (her enthusiasm is off the charts) and the interns (the Temple students) so that the kids can learn to be good audiences as well as musicians. So far the experience seems to be positive for all involved! Also I want to mention that this program along with the Community Music Scholars Program is coordinated by Melissa Douglas

Information about the Strings Project:

Article about the Philly Strings Project:

Addendum: I am in no way a tiger mom. My thoughts are that they (kids) should want to do things because of interest, drive or enjoyment not from me pushing them. I try to not over schedule my kids and have failed miserably but the kids enjoy all that they do, we (the parents of our household) are the miserable ones dealing with a crazy schedule.  Specifically in regards to the String Project, the 2 days a week seems like a lot for the kids but so far they are engaged and the 2 hours goes so quickly and seems to be fun for them.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

An article to read

My intentions with this blog was to relay all the positive activities and progress at my neighborhood school John Story Jenks Elementary School in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia.  I now have 2 kids in the school and we have been there 5 years. The experience has been positive, although no situation is perfect the energy and enthusiasm of the faculty, staff, students, administration and parents during these times of education reform has been very..................... educational. 

I have been following on twitter local reporters on education (Kristen Graham, Inquirer), local parent groups (Helen Gym, Parents United) and national leaders (Diane Ravitch). At times the conversation depresses me, it has become polarized, many times being simplified into a problem that could be solved with one simple solution since it has one simple cause: unions, bad teachers, underfunding depending on your "side" of the issue.

So I enjoyed reading an article in Mother Jones by Kristina Rizga  

Education of our children, ALL our children, is complex and changes constantly as new ideas are tried and theories evolve. But we all seem to want evidence that our school is "the best" and test scores seem to be the variable "du joir" at this point. But I find in many other arenas in life many people don't value "the evidence" so as always we are human and very nuanced and not very consistent and it would do us all well to read the article and sit back and think. Then go support your local school!

Kristen Graham


Education reporter, Pulitzer Prize winner covering Philadelphia schools for the Inquirer & Obsessed w/the Phillies. Tips?

Helen Gym


Parents United is an independent all-volunteer collective of public schools parents making sure the District's budget puts kids and classrooms FIRST.

Diane Ravitch


I write about education. I blog at Bridging Differences at Education Week.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Target supports Schools

Support J.S. Jenks via Target on Facebook.  If you haven't voted yet, time is running out. 

Please go to Facebook and search "Give With Target." 

You'll have to enter Jenks for the school and 19118 for our zip code.  We only have 200 votes.  For every 25 votes we get a $25 gift card!  Target will continue to donate to schools up to $2.5 million.  They are already donating $2.4. 

You can vote once a week.

Local Parent's Comment to a NY Times Op Ed

Rebecca Poyourow's letter is all over Twitter so I wanted to keep it circulating. Rebecca is an extraordinary parent activist and we are lucky to have her passion in Philly.

The Op Ed is linked here

Monday, June 4, 2012

Hear the Music at a Philly Public School

With all the changes occurring in the district combined with the negative press, I bring you a positive story!   

A group of parents, teachers, administration and community members are coming together to form The Friends of J.S. Jenks (FOJSJ) an independent fundraising organization for our school (John Story Jenks Elementary School in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia).  

Even though organizing a new group is time consuming and slow and at times frustrating; these types of actions and energy are needed.  We invite all supporters of Public Education to join us at our kick-off fundraiser.  

Let There Be Music!

Saturday, June 9, 2012
Time: 4pm – 7pm
Location: The Church of Saint Martin-in-the-Field, Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia
Suggested donation at entry is $20 per person / $30 for two / $40 per family  


Friends of J.S. Jenks
The mission of our organization is to (1) enhance the educational and enrichment opportunities for students at J.S. Jenks by bringing together the financial and creative resources of educators, parents, students, alumni, and the greater community, (2) insure long-range financial flexibility for J.S. Jenks, allowing the school to develop innovative programs, student support systems, and infrastructure, and (3) forge new partnerships between the school and the cultural, business, and academic institutions in Chestnut Hill, and contribute to the vibrancy of our neighborhood.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

We can support strong community schools

Add caption
I intended to stay positive in this blog and chronicle my daughter’s and now son’s journey through our local neighborhood Philadelphia public school. We have had a great four years thus far but I would be lying if I claimed that the entire road has been bliss and there was no drama or that this time of year when the “doom and gloom” and “fear mongering” outlooks for the district begin that it doesn’t physically and emotionally fatigue me (remember last year’s threat of ½ day Kindergarten). In addition I am professor in higher education where we also face constant budget cuts, top down restructuring and a professoriate that is increasingly undervalued and dismissed.

BUT I do try to stay positive remembering we are in a major city with resources and educated leaders.  So as all the stories come out regarding the latest restructuring of the district I try to make sense of it.

  1.   I have been thrilled with all the teachers that we have had a J.S. Jenks.  I cannot wrap my head around the notion that the “failing schools “ are all their fault.  “It takes a village.”
  2.  I am relatively new to Philadelphia but one fact seems to come up over and over in some of the recent articles; the city’s schools have been UNDER funded for quite some time. Why don’t we have the political will to educate our children and fund the schools well?  Our school has done amazing things on a skeleton budget and I hope to see what is possible when there are no budget fears. So why don’t we (the city, mayor and city council) pressure Harrisburg or figure out some way to fund the system?
  3.  I am frustrated when dealing with the district. I was frustrated with all the money needed to “buy out” Dr. Ackerman.  I am frustrated with all the money spent on consultants, testing and test preparation and who knows what else
  4. The latest restructuring does not seem to be a huge money saving venture so what is the motivation……..

BUT with all these factors I believe that neighborhood schools are necessary.  Having kids commute to all ends of the city for “choice” seems unreasonable.  

I do think dismantling the arbitrary catchment boundaries and building neighborhood-community schools seems to be a far better idea.  Giving communities’ autonomy to build their school with teachers, administrators, parents and communities partners working together seems to be the ideal model.  The district should provide support to areas that need the help but learn from communities who make it work.

Our school community is trying to build the ideal.  A newly formed group, Friends of J.S. Jenks, has a 3 fold mission. 

  1.  To enhance the educational and enrichment opportunities for students at J.S. Jenks by bringing together the financial and creative resources of educators, parents, students, alumni, and the greater community.
  2.  To insure long-range financial flexibility for J.S. Jenks, allowing the school to develop innovative programs, student support systems, and infrastructure.
  3.  To forge new partnerships between the school and the cultural, business, and academic institutions in Chestnut Hill, and contribute to the vibrancy of our neighborhood.
Since we cannot seem to get politicians to fund our kids’ education  we are taking matters into our own hands. Private funding is not an ideal or equitable way to fund public education but community partnerships and collaborations are necessary and who better to form those relationships than the school community.

I look forward to the enhancement of a strong northwest Philadelphia community public school (J.S. Jenks).  The added benefit is that my kids see parents rally around their school and not run to the next better (seemingly) option. 

Come support our inaugural fundraiser to benefit the school’s music and arts program, on Saturday, June 9, 2012 from 4pm – 7pm at The Church of Saint Martin-in-the-Field, 8000 Saint Martin’s Lane, Philadelphia, PA 19118. Enjoy hors d’oevres and refreshments amidst live music from area musicians; including a performance by J.S. Jenks music students. A silent auction of goods and services from an array of local businesses, as well as raffle prizes, will be available throughout the event.  All proceeds will help support the music and arts programs at J.S. Jenks School, and all donated items will be tax-deductible.

Please visit, and/or

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Best Night of the Year

An evening of art and music beginning with the Orchestra, including all Chorus groups and the Band.  All groups captivated the audience. A few favorites were the performance of "Happy Blues" by the Orchestra, "La Bamba" by the 4th-5th Grade Chorus, "Rolling in the Deep" by the Select Chorus, "You Are My Sunshine" by the Wee Sing Chorus (Kindergartners), "Take Five" by the All-School Band and "Soap and Water" by the 1st-3rd Grade Chorus.

Over 200 students (40%) of the school population are involved with these programs. These experiences are above the music classes offered to all students.  What an opportunity for these students.

The evening was a result of the dedicated and hard work of the music teachers, Mr. Kell and Mr. Leland, the Strings instructor, Mr. Wesner, and the director of the All School Band, Mr. Franchetti and Art Teacher, Cristin Harrington.  Special thanks to Mr. Fitzsimmons, Ms. Stein, Ms. Moore, Ms. Tish, Ms. Frost and special thanks to Principal, Ms. Lynskey.

Check out the NEW:

Monday, March 12, 2012

Daylight Savings and my Daughters First PSSA

As I listened to WHYY this morning, I heard the phrase the "lethargy of daylight savings".

My daughter is nervous about her first PSSA exam cycle and we have been riding the anxiety wave for days. Aside from the kids hearing on the news about the cheating allegations or that test scores are used for teacher assessment, they now will not have their teacher in the testing room.  In addition, my daughter also worries about too many "erasure marks".  And finally, the "powers that be" scheduled these exams to begin the day after the clocks "spring forward".  I am tired and groggy, I can only imagine how the kids are feeling as parents all over the city are dragging them out of bed, trying to feed them and get them to school on time.

I implore the district or Harrisburg or whomever schedules these "high impact" exams to wear the hat of a third grader during the process.

I am sure my daughter will feel better after today, I believe the anticipation and "build up" is much worse than the exam. But to all of the adults trying to improve the district...can we think about the kids as well.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Positive Vibes

A few weeks ago was report card conferences with my children's teachers. What a fun afternoon it was.  The school holds a book fair during that week. The halls were filled with art and Black History Month reports (I even saw an article about my colleague at Temple (Kinesiology).  I left the school with a great feeling.

These are the days that make me feel good about our school choice. While the drama of the district and education in general nationwide swirls around us, I am convinced that my children are getting a great education and more importantly learning to be adaptable all while seeing their parents and others become involved in their local school.

The Kindergarten classes studied China and this was the result of their artwork.

Aside from my positive vibes about the school we have received some objective kudos as well.

1. Jenks has recently qualified as a Vanguard school, one of the leading schools in the district,based on academic performance, safety, staff and student attendance.  As this program was started under former Superintendent, Arlene Ackerman, we do not get anything but kudos for reaching this level of achievement.  However, it is still wonderful with only about 26 schools in the entire district qualifying for this distinction.  

2. We scored a 1 on the School Performance Index for 2011.

School Performance Index 2011
Elementary and Middle Schools
February 2012
ID Name Type Config 2011 SPI
627 Jenks, J.S. SDP ES/MS 1

Other Northwest Schools:

625 Henry SDP ES/MS 2
646 Hill‐Freedman SDP ES/MS 1
626 Houston SDP ES/MS 1
622 Emlen SDP ES/MS 2
641 Cook‐Wissahickon SDP ES/MS 1
638 Shawmont SDP ES/MS 3

3. Annual Report 2010

87.0% Proficiency in Math (up from 80.7% in 2009)
76.8% Proficiency in Math (up from 71.2% in 2009)
95.8% student attendance rate

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Help Jenks Complete Its Recyclebank Goals!

Help Jenks Complete Its Recyclebank Goals!

J.S. Jenks Elementary School in Chestnut Hill is one of a handful of Philadelphia schools that were awarded grants from Recyclebank late last year to improve its recycling program. 

Not only does the school want to streamline recycling indoors, but outdoors in the playground, too. If you've taken your children to the playground, you probably have noticed how many recycleables end up in the waste containers.  Sturdy outdoor recycling containers are not cheap and Jenks aims to use the grant to purchase them. 

Under the leadership of Amy Watson, school counselor, an eco club was formed and the club has been working hard to improve the recycling, including making arrangements with the Streets Dept so our collected materials are picked up, as well as educate the students and parents. 

To make this work, Jenks needs your Recyclebank points! 

The deadline is March 15th.

To learn more about our progress, please visit and scroll down to Jenks. To donate points, please click on the Jenks link and there will be a link to log in to Recyclebank to donate points. Every 250 points from you will net us $1 from Recyclebank for our project. Recyclebank will match the points so we potentially could get double our project budget! 

For more information, please contact Amy Watson at 215-248-6604. Thank you for helping to make Jenks a vital part of greening Chestnut Hill!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Show Love for your Teachers (and disgust for the budget)

I am almost at my limit. Frustrated and still trying to figure out WHY we (the big we) cannot figure out how to educate our kids or maybe we just do not know how to FUND our kids education! But I do know it can't ALL be the fault of the teachers...really!  So as Valentine's Day approaches, show your love of education and specifically your kids teachers!

The teachers at J.S. Jenks in Chestnut Hill deserve a standing ovation for continuing to provide a quality education while all the drama of the district, the state swirls around them.

Thank you Ms. are the BEST
Thank you Ms. Amir and Ms. Williams....Alex looks forward to school each day!

Sign the petition (just takes a click!).

Read the opinion of a teacher.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

More Budget Problems and No Accountability

We have had a great 4 years in a Philadelphia Public School; my children are thriving and learning valuable life lessons. 4 years straight of excellent teachers (I wish the discourse would change from blaming the teachers for “all bad” in the world.)

However, the recent SRC meeting has made me panic a bit, not for my school or my children’s future but for OUR childrens’ collective futures and the future of public education. I am struck with how apparently smart and wealthy we are as a society and we cannot figure out how to educate our children. Yet in years past we were able to educate them very well…hmmm.

I am also skeptical of the consistent view that one person can solve all our problems; we need to wake up and realize it will take some collective work and cooperation to get out of this mess. Public input would be nice.

I do have questions for the SRC. Does the new Chief Recovery Officer have any experience in education? Any experience in organizations that have a large volunteer workforce (parents, care givers and community)? Any experience with connecting with community organizations?

Also I do not have a background in finance but it seems counter intuitive that we are hiring a combination position superintendent and chief financial officer, yet we are maintaining the people currently in those jobs. If they cannot do the job they need to be let go their combined incomes (even with a cut) are most likely 8-10 times what our school had to give back this year. 

Finally, after looking at the budget line items to be cut, they are focused on things that benefit children with no discussion of some items that were problematic during the last “administration”.  These include no bid contracts, the excessive testing we pay for and any other consultants that we pay for. Pay the teachers who are directly interacting with my children. 

As always Helen Gym gives an excellent overview on the current situation. So let’s get informed and act on behalf of all our children.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Friends of Jenks

The development of the Friends of Jenks has been a great journey involving parents, staff and potential parents.  A positive effort in a time of difficulty.