Along with many education colleagues, both active and retired, I offer kudos to the students and staff of Girard Academic Music Program for receiving the National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence award from the U.S. Department of Education for their high achievement (“GAMP recognized for academic excellence,” Sept. 29).
Along with Penn Alexander School in West Philadelphia, they are among seven Philly-area schools to be awarded this prestigious honor at a time when all education has suffered setbacks due to the pandemic. Such an accomplishment attests to the hard work of students, teachers and leaders during an historically stressful time.
While acknowledging this exceptional honor, we must also remember that these schools retain certain advantages that are not available to all schools. GAMP, for example, is known as a magnet school. That means it selects its students based on standardized tests, grades, attendance and good behavior, as well as auditions. As Zimmaro reports, it is a college preparatory school and thus restricts those who can access the high-quality education that is provided.
Schools like GAMP not only attract talented students but also help increase the value of property in their catchments. So real estate value is part of the whole success story.
Zimmaro mentions the last South Philly school to be a Blue Ribbon winner – William M. Meredith Elementary School in Queen Village. That was my last teaching assignment over 20 years ago, and I remember well how the students competed for seats at GAMP. Music was a prized subject then. as it should be always.
While we must, of course, honor the hard work of students and staff at these extraordinary schools, we must always strive to even the playing field. Students should not have to reside in high-priced neighborhoods or pass strict admissions requirements to receive proper funding for quality materials, programs and assistance.
So while we congratulate the deserving winners of this great honor, we must keep promoting proper school funding and support for all students.
– Gloria C. Endres