In a spirited event at the Henry C. Lea Elementary School, officials from Lea, the University of Pennsylvania, Penn Graduate School of Education, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, and the School District of Philadelphia celebrated the formalization of Penn’s deepened commitment to supporting the West Philadelphia K-8 school.
The $4.1 million agreement—announced in late January—expands on Penn’s partnership with Lea School, which dates back more than a half-century. It will provide broad support for the school’s key initiatives over the next five years.
“We’re here to celebrate our partnership with Penn and the work we will do together with the students and families of West Philadelphia,” said Lea School principal Aaron Gerwer to an auditorium filled with enthusiastic Lea School students and staff. “This is a special opportunity for our school, our community, and the University to collaborate around a vision for student-centered and community-connected learning that we hope can serve as a model for other schools, communities, and institutions of higher learning.”
In recent years, the Penn’s Office of the President and Penn GSE have provided approximately $300,000 of annual support to Lea, which has gone toward professional development for teachers, support for families, and resources for students. Early this year, School District of Philadelphia Superintendent William R. Hite, Jr., was authorized by the Philadelphia School Board to negotiate a memorandum of agreement building upon that commitment.
For Penn GSE Dean Pam Grossman, the event took on special meaning as a perfect example of what brought her to Penn.
“I came here seven years ago in large part because of the chance to lead a school of education that had a long history of working so closely and deeply with Philadelphia public schools,” said Grossman. “I’m excited to work together with all of you—to see all of the things the students, families, and members of the Lea community are able to accomplish.”
Grossman introduced Penn’s Interim President Wendell Pritchett, who himself felt a deep connection to Lea School, as his parents, both schoolteachers in Philadelphia, met at West Philadelphia High School, mere steps from Lea.
“I know firsthand the great things Philadelphia schoolteachers do for their students every day,” said Pritchett.
“I’m going to quote the University of Pennsylvania’s founder, Ben Franklin,” Pritchett added. “He said, ‘Investment in knowledge pays the best interest.’ The best way to spend our time, money, and effort is helping students learn. That’s why we’re all here today. The agreement we’re celebrating is going to help all of us realize our vision for accelerating progress underway at Lea.”
Read more at Penn GSE News.