Barbara Dowdall's School Board Testimony

Barbara Dowdall's School Board Testimony

June 1st, 2023

At the 50th anniversary March on Wednesday, August 28, 2013, in Washington DC, I brought copies of Asa Philip Randolph’s biography (the labor and civil rights leader who first conceived of and promised such a march in 1941) with notation that the high school in Philadelphia named for him has no library.*

My sign for the day (unfortunately not written in waterproof marker) read:

Philadelphia Mississippi 1963: Black children not allowed in libraries Philadelphia Pennsylvania 2013: No school libraries (for most of our children)

Barbara McDowell Dowdall English/Academic Department Head (Ret.) A. Philip Randolph Career Technical High School

*Barbara Dowdall Comment on (Diane Ravitch article on Geoffrey Canada’s Charter School in Harlem)

It has been most encouraging in recent days to hear of Dr. Watlington’s reliance on the wisdom of our first woman, first African American Superintendent Dr. Constance Clayton, Philadelphia High School for Girls Distinguished Daughter, for guidance in the process of developing the school district five year strategic plan. As a teacher in those years, I have a clear memory of our motto, printed on every SDP envelope:

“Every School a Good School.” What better (and precise!) expression of the essential need for the goal of equity? Dr. Clayton’s substantive guardrail: insisting on a uniform curriculum across the district, with both calendar and content consistency, was long overdue. Those days were not without budget challenges--from the need for acquisition of sufficient copies of novels to the need for equitable kindergarten opportunities and some in fact were not always successfully addressed.

Nevertheless, I have not the least doubt that Dr. Clayton would today, should she be passing by her alma mater’s library, center space in the 2nd floor hall, as my classmates did on the occasion of our 50th reunion in 2014, express dismay at the handwritten sign on the door: Closed.

If we all listen to Dr. Clayton, and if the board and Dr. Watlington actively listen to the educators working in our city public schools right now, you will assuredly gain guidance on what resources like libraries with librarians are essential (not pet projects of individuals) and which reading, math, science, social studies, music, art, and physical education materials would be most beneficial and in all likelihood provide substantial cost savings in the bargain.