At yesterday's announcement of a new Temple University program that will provide four full scholarships to graduates of Philadelphia public high schools, Mayor Nutter said he would ask other colleges and universities to follow Temple's example.
"We have 92 of the finest colleges and universities you can find in any metropolitan area in America right here in Philadelphia and our surrounding suburbs," Nutter said during the ceremony with Temple President Ann Weaver Hart at the school district's headquarters on North Broad Street.
"It will be part of my goal and commitment to reach out . . . to the 91 other presidents to talk about how they would be able to replicate this effort that has been put forward by Temple University," he said.
Noting that the region's colleges and universities vary in size, the mayor said, "if everyone did a proportionate share, I think this is a wonderful opportunity to start talking about . . . 1,000 full, four-year scholarships."
Nutter said providing such scholarships would go a long way toward his goal of increasing the number of college graduates in the city and improving its economic base.
"I think if we're serious about cutting the high school dropout rate in half, we have to double our efforts to make sure that young people understand that there really is a bright future out there for them - that college and university, higher education and learning is attainable," he said.
Hart said Temple's Philadelphia Scholars program will select four graduates from the district's 66 high schools who are high achievers with demonstrated financial need. Beginning with the 2009-10 academic year, four students will be awarded the scholarships each year. Temple has pledged to run the program for 10 years.
Sandra Dungee Glenn, chairwoman of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission, thanked Hart for Temple's new program and called Nutter's plan to expand the scholarships "a friendly challenge for other 91 colleges and universities to meet."
After the scholarship announcement, the commission held its regular meeting, as well as public hearings on proposals to close three schools.
Proposals outlined yesterday call for closing Sulzberger Middle School at 4725 Fairmount St. and Turner Middle School at 5900 Baltimore Ave. in June 2009.
The district also proposes closing in June the former West Catholic High School for Boys building at 4901 Chestnut St. and moving the Parkway West and Middle Years Alternative (MYA) programs from there to other sites.
School officials said enrollment at Sulzberger and Turner had declined as the district shifted to K-8 elementary schools. The neighborhood elementary schools that once sent students to Sulzberger and Turner for middle grades now have those grades.
District officials stressed that students now in seventh grade at both middle schools would remain to complete the eighth grade during the 2008-09 academic year.
The former West Catholic building, already in need of extensive repairs, recently suffered widespread water damage. District officials said it was not financially prudent to continue making repairs.
Plans call for moving the Parkway West high school program to Sulzberger and MYA to the former W.S. Peirce School at 2400 Christian St. in the fall. Peirce, a former middle school, closed last June.
District officials said Sulzberger would have enough space to accommodate both Parkway West and the 130 remaining eighth graders in the 2008-09 academic year.
Cassandra Jones, the district's interim chief academic officer, said that although the district is proposing to close Turner, the building is likely to be remain some sort of school. She said the community is working with the district to create another type of school with a different program for sixth, seventh and eighth graders.
The School Reform Commission is scheduled to vote June 18 on the proposed closings.