What’s done behind closed doors can be undone with transparency – and a lawsuit. The William Penn Development Coalition (WPDC) has filed a lawsuit to block the School District of Philadelphia from selling William Penn High School to Temple University.
In a blatant land grab, Temple agreed to pay $15 million for a property with a market value of more than $32 million.
WPDC is a nonprofit organization whose members include Yorktown homeowners and residents, William Penn alumni, North Central Philadelphia community stakeholders and supporters of quality public education.
In 2009, William Penn was temporarily closed. Then-School Superintendent Arlene Ackerman promised the community the school would be refurbished and reopened in 2014.
Instead, the School Reform Commission put the school up for sale. The School District has not engaged the community regarding community needs and priorities. Nor has it communicated market and property realities.
The Public School Code requires the School District to hold a public hearing on the question of the permanent closing of a public school building at least three months prior to the decision of the SRC to permanently close a school.
That didn’t happen. In a single resolution on June 19, 2014, the SRC voted to suspend the public hearing provision, permanently close William Penn and approve the sale of William Penn to Temple.
WPDC member Tyrone Reed said:
We do not want anyone to think that Yorktown is for sale. We are out to let everyone know that we are not going to stand idly by and let Temple University, or anyone else, come into our community and dictate what they want to do.
Temple and the elected officials who remain silent in the face of community opposition should have seen this coming. North Central Philadelphia has always been the launching pad for movements of resistance by black Philadelphians. So it’s not surprising the strongest opposition to the rapid displacement of indigenous people is coming out of North Central Philly.
Yorktown residents are highly organized. After all, they are fighting to protect their home values and their community’s peace and quiet. They have fought Temple before. And won.
Temple has refused to meet with Yorktown homeowners and residents who live less than 200 feet from the property. Yorktown residents will not be bamboozled and allow Temple to determine who speaks for the community.
This lawsuit is Temple made.