To Dr. William R. Hite Jr.:
I am a 67-year-old grandmother, and I would like to tell you a story about my trek through the School District of Philadelphia.
Let me begin with I lost my one and only child at 24 due to injuries sustained from an auto accident. She left behind a son. So here I am a 54-year-old with a 3-year-old boy to raise, while I am trying to put myself back together over my loss.
He was already in day care and from there he attended James Rhoads School. After second grade, I enrolled him in Samuel Powel School where he moved up from fourth grade to Middle Years Alternative (where he was introduced to football) until eighth grade. Now came the big decision, where to go to high school? I went to the high school fair, talking with educators, students, everybody. Finally, we decided on Edward W. Bok Technical High School, my grandson’s first choice. After an interview, we waited for an acceptance letter. Praise the Lord, he was accepted. On orientation day we met some teachers and were given a tour of all the shops that were available to students, at which time my grandson walked up to the football coach and introduced himself and informed the coach of his football experiences. The coach told him when they began practice and if he showed up, he would suit him up. After Mark walked away, the coach turned to me and said, “That’s what I like; he goes after what he wants.” In Mark’s freshman year, he started out playing junior varsity and after a short while, that and varsity at the same time. He has a coach that is adamant about grades, and Mark’s have improved. I support him in every way I can. Yes, me, an old lady who always has disliked football, has her own custom-made team shirt, is the loudest one in the stands and has become a football grandmom who has not missed one game in three years.
Mark and his education are my priorities. I have great support systems with his teachers, administration and his coach. There has been no problem they have not been able to help me solve. I am watching Mark mature into an impressive, young man. Don’t get me wrong, there is still work to be done, but with the right school and the right personnel helping me, it’s getting done. Bok’s staff cares, and that is hard to find. Now you are telling me I have to start all over again. Being a senior citizen, I don’t adjust to change really easily, and I have worked hard to be very visible at all his schools and nurture a relationship with the staff.
When Mark heard of your decision to close Bok, he was devastated. This was the school of his choice, his first big decision, and now it’s closing with his having one more year to go. Of course, when he is hurting, so am I. My home is open to all of his friends, so I hear what they are thinking, and they are all floundering, confused, indecisive, worried. They are not looking forward to going to Southern nor am I. If you could just talk to some of them, you would know what this means to them.
I realize you have a hard task in front of you, that you walked into a king-sized mess and now you have to fix it, but isn’t there anything we, as parents, can do to keep Bok alive?
Please give this matter further thought, and see if there is something else that can be done.
Engrid R. Bullock
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