William Penn HS sale to proceed

The sale of William Penn High School to Temple University will proceed. (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer)

The sale of William Penn High School to Temple University, blocked temporarily by a community group's legal action, will now go through, officials said Friday.

Inez Henderson-Purnell, president of the WIlliam Penn Development Coalition, said the group withdrew action against the transfer of the deed for William Penn, the sprawling school complex on North Broad Street. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court had denied the group's request for injunctive relief.

"We fought the good fight," Henderson-Purnell said in a statement.

Temple plans a complex with sports fields and a job-training center for the site, which is adjacent to its main campus.

Neighbors had expressed concern about Temple's plans, and about the loss of another school in North Philadelphia. When William Penn closed in 2009, then-Superintendent Arlene Ackerman vowed the closure was temporary, that the school would re-open, perhaps as a vocational school for state-of-the-art jobs. The community clung to that promise.

But the district's financial fortunes soured, and the $15 million purchase price became crucial to the district's bleak budget.

Some neighborhood leaders said they believed that the school's sale was sped up for political reasons, a charge district and city officials denied.

Henderson-Purnell said the fight to save William Penn was more important than just preserving one school.

"William Penn has become a metaphor in the struggle to ensure our children have access to high quality traditional public schools," she said.

Priscilla Woods, treasurer of the community group, said that the William Penn saga "is a cautionary tale about what happens when a school is deprived of resources."

William Penn was once a district showplace. Over the years, the building fell into disrepair and students fled.

"We see," Woods said, "how this is happening districtwide."