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Shaw JHS

August 6, 2014

As noted in earlier posts, my niece, who is a follower of this blog, is about to begin her second go-round as a high school math teacher. Since I will be unable to maintain my blog for a couple of weeks, I thought I would share some stories from my first go-around as a junior high math teacher in Philadelphia. Here’s a description of Shaw Junior High in September 1970:

Shaw Junior High School was built in the 1930s and had the “cathedral of learning” architecture of that era. Surrounded by a concrete playground and metal fence it never had a “park-like” environment.

Philly Pix_0012

Shaw’s immediate neighborhood was Jewish, then Italian and Irish… but it never really filled the school to its capacity in the early years of its existence. When other schools in West Philadelphia began to split at the seams Shaw’s attendance boundaries expanded. In the early 1960s the demographics of Shaw’s neighborhood changed quickly as elderly white families moved out or died they were steadily replaced with young black families, many of whom were seeking a better environment than they had in North Philadelphia. By 1970 Shaw drew from a diverse and widespread area and it, too, was bursting at the seams. Because it lacked a “neighborhood”, and because there was no place to put the students, the 3100 students in Shaw’s attendance zone were assigned to split shifts while a new school was built elsewhere in West Philadelphia.

Veteran teachers at Shaw Junior High School who believed their school was always pushed around by the district saw this decision to go on split shifts as further evidence. Shaw Junior High always had been a stepsister in the eyes of 21st and Parkway (the address of Philadelphia’s headquarters). That was the prevailing attitude in the faculty room when school was supposed to open in 1970… but school didn’t open as scheduled because of a teacher’s strike.



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