The state may have pulled the plug on the school district's safety watchdog, but district officials and union leaders agreed that his work hasn't been in vain.
Friday marked the end of a contentious relationship between the state and the safe-schools advocate, created in 2000 by the legislature to provide reports on school violence and to issue recommendations.
Jack Stollsteimer, who was at the helm of the office for three years, said that he hopes that programs set in place to reduce school violence won't also get the boot, noting that alternative-education programs for disruptive students also may be on the chopping block.
"The Pa. Department of Education is not interested in the issues of school safety," he said. "Nobody will be examining data on school violence in Philadelphia or any school district in Pennsylvania."
The state blamed a budgetary shortage for the closing of the office, which ran on a $387,000 budget with a staff of just a few.
Despite tight strings, Stollsteimer made a difference, said schools Superintendent Arlene Ackerman.
"Jack did good work," she said. "He cared about this district. We were in sync with some of the things he wanted to do as far as discipline."
Ackerman noted that the same philosophies shared by Stollsteimer - zero-tolerance for violence and weapons - will continue to be a part of the district's culture. Meanwhile, he credited Ackerman for reinstating expulsions.
Among his accomplishments: a gun-tracing program with weapons recovered from juveniles enrolled in public schools, he said.
Each year, about 10 to 15 guns are entered into a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives database where they are traced for possible matches, he said.
But for all the good work he's performed, his forced departure was what he called "heartless."
The office was closed abruptly and the locks changed on Friday. Stollsteimer and his staff were given no notice.
"We were being effective and we're being penalized for it," he said. "We're being locked out of our office."
Supporters, like Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan, said that the effects of violence are far reaching.
"The District says violent incidents are down, but what does that mean?" Jordan asked. "It would be nice if the district didn't need a schools advocate, but unfortunately we do.
"Even with a schools advocate, [safety] is a big issue. Children can't learn if they don't feel safe. They'll cut classes, cut school."
Not everyone, however, views the closing of the office as significant.
"I don't think reporting [violence] is important," said Shelly Yanoff, executive director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth, of the safe-schools' primary purpose. "Creating programming is more important."
Stollsteimer - noting a 15 percent decrease in violent incidents in schools during his tenure - said that he hopes he can stick around, after three years of seeing to it that students are not left defenseless