Bodine's international program saved by readers

Katsushika Hokusai's "Great Wave" on Bodine High School for International Affairs, which is international again thanks to $100,000 raised by readers after the school severed ties with the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia due to the Philadelphia School District's budget crisis.

PHILADELPHIA Bodine High School for International Affairs is international again.

Hamstrung by the Philadelphia School District's budget crisis, Bodine severed ties with the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, the nonprofit that helped create the magnet school, on March 11.

But after The Inquirer brought the school's plight to light, readers donated $100,000 in the space of two weeks, and the World Affairs Council staffer who had packed up her office and left the school was back. Full-time.

"It's been pretty breathtaking," said Craig Snyder, council president. "We went from zero to almost $100,000 in about a week. It was a tremendous affirmation of people's desire to keep the school the way it is."

At issue was a $70,000 contract that pays the salary of Kristin Hutchinson, who has resumed organizing International Day, planning an after-school honors seminar, mentoring students, and preparing to take 12 students to Costa Rica this month.

Facing a $29 million deficit for this school year and a $440 million gap for next, the district said it just couldn't afford to keep the partnership alive. Staff and students were stunned by the loss.

But once the donations came in - including a $50,000 gift from a private family foundation - Bodine rejoiced.

"We will never forget that in the direst of times, you were there for us," reads a thank-you letter signed by everyone from the principal to noontime aides.

"We were not sure how we could be able to go on as a school for International Affairs without our World Affairs Council liaison here to help," student "Asazina C." wrote in a note to donors. "With her back in the building, Bodine feels like Bodine again."

Shortly after The Inquirer story ran, Snyder said, he received a call from Mayor Nutter "offering every variety of moral support, but not able to offer economic support. Rightly, he was challenging the council and its supporters to do what we could on the private side."

The World Affairs Council staffers even stepped up themselves, with most volunteering to take a pay cut to help the cause.

Snyder hopes he'll soon hit the council's goal of raising $115,000 to ensure the partnership continues through next year. He said he hopes the district will be able to contribute some funds going forward, but "we've learned that we're not in a position to be able to depend on it."

Though the donations mean good news for now, Snyder is mindful of what Bodine has lost. The school of 500 in Northern Liberties, which is one of the city's strongest, has gone from 40 teachers to 23 in the space of a few years.

Its language program has shrunk drastically, and any extracurricular programs that still run do so because teachers volunteer their time.

"We didn't want this to make it seem like somehow this was more important the other cuts the school has had to take - teachers, counselors, all of that," Snyder said. "But at the same time, we do believe that this particular kind of enrichment has a genuine, unique value in the culture of that place, and the output."

Inquirer readers have stepped in to restore various programs and positions lost to budget cuts this school year:

In the fall, an anonymous donor gave $205,000 to reopen libraries at Central High School and Masterman. Over the winter, readers chipped in enough money to allow the district's flagship creative and performing arts high school to put on its musical, and funds to restore Northeast High's space-research program.

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