Charter School drinking fountains have high lead levels, unbeknownst to parents

frederickdouglassmastery
image courtesy Google Street View

Children in a Philadelphia charter school have been consuming water from drinking fountains with astronomically high levels of lead, possibly for years, and parents are only now becoming aware of the issue.

Frederick Douglass Mastery Charter School, which serves approximately 750 students in grades K-8, (of whom nearly 100% are black and fall below the poverty level) has had issues with its water for over 15 years, but nothing has been done aside from occasionally taking the affected fountains out of rotation for a while. Parents were finally notified of the issue recently, and they are understandably upset.

The most recent tests on drinking fountains at the school, conducted by the district in compliance with a new city ordinance, showed water concentration levels of lead that reached upwards of 3500 ppb (parts per billion); the accepted maximum is around 10 ppb, although most medical professionals will agree that there is no amount of lead that should be acceptable in drinking water. All this while teachers report that there have been, for an untold number of years, special coolers with water designated for the teachers, because on some level it was understood that the fountains did not deliver water that was acceptable to drink.

Consuming high levels of lead, especially in children, has been attributed to lower IQ scores, increased incidence of ADHD, and other developmental and behavioral problems. The FDA sets the standard for lead concentration of drinking water at 5 ppb, while the EPA remains more conservative at 15 ppb.

Frederick Douglass Mastery Charter School is among 18 schools in the Philadelphia area operated by Mastery Charter School. The building itself was built in 1938, and until 2010 was under control by the School District of Philadelphia. As early as 2000, however, drinking water tests at the school have shown lead levels higher than what is deemed acceptable, and have consistently been swept under the rug.

The district admits that the maintenance backlog is so extensive that fixing the problem just isn’t possible, citing other issues in crumbling Philadelphia schools such as HVAC malfunctions, asbestos, and chipping paint.

On Frederick Douglass’s home page a quote from a parent features prominently:

“I just love the communication between
the parents and the teachers and the school.”

-Yonita Martin, Mastery Parent

One has to wonder if this parent is now eating their words, after realizing the school has been keeping parents in the dark about their children’s health and safety for years.

Test scores, perhaps unsurprisingly, rank low compared to state averages, with just 22% demonstrating language arts proficiency (compared with Pennsylvania’s 63%) and 7% demonstrating math proficiency (compared with Pennsylvania’s 46%).

Philly school knew about toxic lead in drinking water but kept parents in the dark

Frederick Douglass Elementary – Mastery Schools

Frederick Douglass Mastery Charter School – Public School Review

Lead Toxicity – What Are U.S. Standards for Lead Levels? – CDC.gov

Racially charged altercation in middle school parking lot, teacher placed on leave

A minor car accident in one Pennsylvania middle school parking lot Thursday morning turned ugly when a teacher decided to make it about race, verbally attacking a parent of one of the students at the school.

In the video posted by the parent on Facebook, the white female teacher, Renee Greeley, who is blurred and unnamed, can be heard shouting, “You’re probably on welfare” and “That’s right, because you’re black, always looking to milk the system.” at an incredulous and understandably defensive African American man, Rasheed Needley, who refuses to stoop to her level. As she waddles to and from her apparently-damaged truck, she takes the opportunity to call him the n-word at least twice, and then pretend to come at him, as if she were going to make the altercation physical.

She has since been placed on “administrative leave” (which in most cases is paid), and the district apologized and assured the public that this teacher’s racist behavior is no way indicative of the school or district. The parent was grateful to the school district for the way it handled the incident, but one has to wonder how many children were on the receiving end of this teacher’s comments prior to her suspension.

The Superintendent of Schools for Upper Darby School District, in which Drexel Hill middle school resides, issued this statement Thursday evening:

Good Evening Upper Darby School District Community:

This is the Superintendent of Schools, Daniel P. McGarry. Tonight, I am calling to address the deeply troubling news and video that is circulating on social media.

Upper Darby School District has investigated an incident in which a teacher in one of our middle schools made racially charged remarks to a parent of a student who attends the school. The Principal of Drexel Hill Middle School contacted central office when he was made aware of the exchange. I met with the parent to review and discuss the incident. The parent reported that during morning drop off on Oct. 10, 2019, he and a teacher were involved in a car accident in the parking lot of Drexel Hill Middle School and that the teacher proceeded to make several racial and other derogatory remarks to him. The video of this incident has been posted to Facebook.

We took this report very seriously. As a result of the investigation, the teacher has been placed on administrative leave pending further investigation. We intend to vigorously address this issue.

Upper Darby School District does not condone or tolerate inappropriate conduct or speech associated with hate, racism, discrimination or intolerance of any kind. The deeply troubling comments and actions of this teacher are not indicative of the hundreds of outstanding teachers working in our schools each and every day. We are a District of over 12,500 students and a community of over 82,000 residents from over 60 countries, with over 70 different home languages. We are a community of many cultures and backgrounds, and we value our diversity. It strengthens us. Through the work we are doing around our Deep Equity Initiative, we will continue to challenge assumptions about the potential of the families whose children we serve and continue to increase access, opportunity, inclusion and support for all of our students.

The behavior, language, and treatment of one of our parents are not in keeping with our expectations of our teachers and staff. The comments and actions made by this teacher do not align with our core beliefs of Opportunity, Unity, and Excellence.

We will be working with our District’s Deep Equity Team to develop ways to reflect on this incident with staff across the District.

The original video, posted by the parent, is below:

Drexel Hill Middle School in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, serves 1,254 students in grades 6-8. It is well below the state average in math proficiency, and closer to average for reading and science. Fifty-eight percent of the student population is white, 30% is black. Forty-nine percent of the students are from low-income households.

Drexel Hill Middle School teacher on administrative leave after racially-charged altercation with parent

Upper Darby School District – Drexel Hill Middle School

Drexel Hill Middle School – GreatSchools

Kindergarten student discovered by teacher with bag of cocaine in her mouth

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image courtesy Google Maps

A 6-year-old in Philadelphia came dangerously close to a drug overdose, today, when she was found by her kindergarten teacher with a bag of cocaine in her mouth. The little girl believed it to be candy. The teacher, undoubtedly having seen something like it before, suspected it was drugs, and alerted the authorities. The child claimed to have gotten it from the backpack a classmate, who denied it. Both children were sent to the nurse, and then sent home (to refill their stash?), and the remaining 20-plus students were searched. No other drugs were found. The school’s essentially calling it “case closed,” because you know, kids will be kids. What 6-year-old hasn’t had a bag of cocaine in their mouth at some point, after all?

Hardy Williams Elementary is a charter school serving grades K-6. On their website, they state: “Hardy Williams is a special place where your child will experience the joy of learning in a safe, positive environment. We focus on 5 core values: respect, responsibility, hard work, teamwork and kindness.” These values were well represented, today:

  1. Respect was shown to the teacher, as the child spit out the “candy” right away, and did not wind up ingesting any.
  2. Responsibility, because hey, the teacher may not have seen where the child actually acquired said bag of “candy,” but at least she got over there in time, right? I smell a Teacher of the Year award.
  3. Hard work, because it’s no easy task being a 6-year-old dealer. Most kindergartners can’t even hold their pencil properly, and these kids are rolling blunts.
  4. Teamwork, because you’ve got to learn early not to rat out your supplier. No one likes a fink.
  5. Kindness, because kindergarten is all about learning how to share, and taking turns. I wonder who’ll get the bag of candy next time?

A “typical day” is outlined on Hardy Williams’s website, including “dressing in full uniform excited to start their day,” and “2-3 hours of reading where they work in small groups. I’d like to propose a few changes to said schedule:

  • Students come to school dressed in full uniform (complete with extra pockets, for cash, supply, and paraphernalia) excited to find new customers – if only Harvey Williams would add a preschool.
  • The day starts with free breakfast, and a bong.
  • Students are greeted by their stoned teacher and head to their classroom for morning report on how much they’ve sold, and which customers just aren’t paying up.
  • We value reading.  Students have at least 2-3 hours of reading IOUs from customers and supply updates from the cartels.
  • Students have classes in math (bookkeeping – real world connections! and of course measuring and scaling dime bags), social studies (geography – whose corner is whose, and the like), and science (how else are you going to know how to make the “good” meth?).
  • Students head back to the cafeteria to enjoy free lunch (but that’s the only thing that’s free, here – pay up, Timmy, or you won’t be getting your fix this afternoon).
  • Afterwards, students enjoy free play or structured recess (whose thumbs should we break first?).
  • Students engage in art (all those really cool bongs), physical education (running after the squealers), music (when you’re high, everything sounds like music, man) or foreign language (how else are you going to know how to communicate with the cartels down in Mexico?). We are proud to educate the whole child at Mastery (including the part headed straight to prison).
  • Once the school day is over, students may stay to partake in supervised drug use, because we’re nothing if not responsible.

Rest assured: Hardy Williams Elementary School is within 5 miles of no less than a dozen police stations. I, for one, think all that law enforcement is definitely helping stem the tide of the drug crisis in our nation’s schools.

Kindergartner finds bag of cocaine in classmate’s backpack, puts in mouth, police say