To: The Members of the Wissahickon School Board
The administration of our school district has a goal of closing Mattison Avenue Elementary School. In June they explained to us that is was only a recommendation and the full rationale for closing the school would be explained. We are still waiting.
The original presentation in June cited three reasons to close Mattison; declining enrollment across the district, inefficiencies in transporting elementary school students, and the transition from 3rd to 4th grade for the Mattison students.
Interestingly, all three points were quickly found to be non-issues or unsubstantiated. The enrollment projections have so far proved to be incorrect, especially in the case of Ambler Borough, and the transportation issue is laughable when almost all Mattison’s students walk to school. It has been shown repeatedly over the last seven months that any issues regarding transition have been caused by Shady Grove’s administration, not the transition itself.
Fast forward to October and now all of a sudden the district cites that the ONLY reason Mattison is being closed is due to “poor” test scores (never mentioned in the original recommendation). Again, this has been proven as unsubstantiated. Mattison has achieved AYP every year and while the percentages of 3rd grade students achieving Advanced & Proficient on the PSSAs are slightly lower than when compared to Shady Grove, that difference is easily explained when one compares the socio-economic make-ups of both schools. Shady Grove had only 16% of its 3rd grade population last year classified as “economically disadvantaged” compared to 51% of Mattison’s 3rd grade population.
The administration was kind enough to share 3rd grade PSSA data after the October 8th meeting but they neglected to include the percentage of economically disadvantaged students. Using the population data from the Pennsylvania Department of Education website, the information for the 3rd grade students from across the district in 2012 is shown below:
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The data clearly shows that the overwhelmingly high percentage of economically disadvantaged students are thriving at Mattison. However, it should be noted that the overall PSSA results are affected by the significantly higher percentage of economically disadvantaged students.
During the October hearings the administration repeatedly tried to point out all the things that the students of Mattison were missing out on attending a small K-3 school, again all of these points were found either invalid or ludicrous. In fact, the students of Mattison thrive BECAUSE of their small school and central location to a variety of resources that they can walk to. They don’t need 22 acres of fields around them since they can walk to three different borough parks that are within blocks of the school. Students can walk to the library, fire station, police station, playhouse, movie theater, drug store, and soon a grocery store. Additionally, the Wissahickon Valley Watershed is also within walking distance for outdoor education opportunities in addition to the borough parks.
Unless Mattison will be closed to save less than 1% of the district’s budget, which we have been repeatedly assured that the school is NOT being closed to save money, then there are no other reasons to close this school. The simple fact that the administration keeps changing the reason for closing the school undermines our confidence that the actual reason has even been disclosed.
The administration says that they want to move the Mattison students to increase test scores but they have yet to show anyone how taking the same students and moving them to another location with the same teachers, curriculum, and socio-economic challenges is going to increase scores? In fact, by moving these students the administration would be removing their local support system, the small school family that knows and supports their learning so that they excel, and separate their parents & guardians from their children’s school where they can no longer remain involved due to distance and transportation challenges.
If the district was serious about increasing test scores they wouldn’t have removed staff from Mattison (which they have now identified as needing to have higher scores). Instead they would have added additional staff. They would have looked for ways to better communicate with the parents and students that don’t speak English as their primary language. They would have looked for ways to connect to the students and families even more than the herculean efforts that the current Mattison staff and H&S already have made (and the district has claimed as their own) in meeting the needs of the Mattison students.
Please consider all that I have written, all that I have said at previous board meetings and hearings, and all that the HUNDREDS of other parents and students have said over the last seven months. As Representative Todd Stephens stated at the October 8th hearing, if 100% of your constituents tell you that they don’t want you to vote to close the school, it is your job to listen to them.
District Parent, Community Member, & Taxpaper