Shenandoah Federal Trials: Mixed verdict

Jason Hayes anunció que ya solicitó su trabajo de nuevo en la policía de Shenandoah tras ser exonerado de los cargos en su contra.

WILKES-BARRE, Penn.—A federal jury found guilty two of the three former policemen charged with hindering the investigation of the 2008 homicide of an undocumented immigrant.

Former chief Matthew Nestor was found guilty of aiding and abetting the obstruction of justice by filing false police reports, and could spend up to 20 years in prison.

The jury also found former Lt. William Moyer of lying to the FBI, crime punishable with up to five years in prison.

Former police officer Jason Hayes was acquitted of all charges against him. Smiling and holding hands with his fiancée, Tammy Piekarsky, Hayes said that he had already applied for his old job at the Shenandoah Police Department.

Judge Richard A. Caputo let go the two men found guilty pending their sentencing on April 29.

This latest verdict brings to an end the series of trials stemming from the beating death of Luis Eduardo Ramírez Zavala on July 12, 2008.

Last October, a federal jury in Scranton, Penn., found Brandon J. Piekarsky and Derrick M. Donchak guilty of committing a hate crime and violating Ramirez’ civil rights. Their sentencing is scheduled for Februray 23.

New York’s El Diario-La Prensa picked up my coverage and you can find the stories in the following links:

Jan. 18—Fuertes testimonios en juicio a tres policías
Jan. 19—Testigo deja mal parados a policías
Jan. 20—‘Los policías dejaron ir a los autores del crimen’
Jan. 21—Revelan registros telefónicos de jefe policial y madre de acusado
Jan. 22—Identifican a agresor de Luis Ramírez
Jan. 25—Policías niegan complot en caso Ramírez
Jan. 26—Policía desafiante en caso Ramírez
Jan. 27—Caso Ramírez en manos del jurado
Jan. 28—Quiere volver a la Policía si lo absuelven
Jan. 29—Veredicto dividido en caso Ramírez

For the entire English coverage, please visit Mojado Citizen or Spot.us.

I don’t want your money, but I will take your help!


I need your help. I am not asking for money, though your generosity is always well-appreciated. In order to help me do my work, I am asking you guys to please take two quick surveys that will give you credits on this site called Spot.us. After you’re done with these surveys, apply the credits towards my project—make sure to click on the green button, otherwise I won’t receive the funds. Your answers will turn into money to help fund my project.

All you got to do is take the next two surveys. One is by AARP and the other by Los Angeles Media.

This is the first survey:
http://spot.us/cca/14-aarp-informing-your-community/757

This is the second survey:
http://spot.us/cca/13-the-news-and-views-from-los-angeles/757

This is what I’m working on:

For almost three years I have been covering the case of Luis Ramírez, an undocumented immigrant beaten to death by four young white men in July 2008 in Shenandoan, Pa. These kids were convicted back in October and their sentencing will take place on Jan. 24. The story has one last chapter.

Starting Jan. 10, three former police officers will stand trial for obstructing justice in the hate crime against Ramírez. I am planning on doing daily updates, recording a Spanish podcast and tweeting live from the courthouse throughout the trial.

Through Spot.Us the public can commission and help journalists do reporting on important and perhaps overlooked topics. Contributions are tax-deductible and donors can also take a survey to support the story of their choice at no cost to them.

Daily blogging and podcast: Mojado Citizen
Tweeting: @NewsGus
Muchas gracias,
Gustavo Martínez!

In the news: Shenandoah Hate Crime, South Philly High Attacks and Temple Nurses’ Strike

The Washington Post, CNN, and Latina Lista have featured my work during the past month. The Post wrote about the Washington Hospital Center nurses’ labor dispute and showed that it was just part of a larger phenomenon occuring across the country.

Philadelphia has been an example of that after Temple Hospital nurses and allied professionals were on strike for 28 days back in April, and The Washington Post mentioned that in their story and linked to my video showing the health professionals walking out from the hospital at 7 a.m. on April 31.

In October I covered the Federal Trial against two Shenandoah, Pa., men charged with a hate crime in relation with the 2007 beating death of Luis Ramirez, an undocumented immigrant. I had the chance to work with Latina Lista and Spot.us to distribute and crowdfund the coverage, respectively.

Finally, in an not so direct way, CNN ran a story on the violence at South Philadelphia High School. In December 2009, 32 Asian students were the target of attacks from a mob of primarily black students. The students organized and boycotted the school in an attempt to bring authorities to dialogue table to find a solution to the history of racial violence against Asian students at Philadelphia schools.

After almost a year, CNN ran a story detailing what happened back then and how these kids are coping with the aftermath of a problem that still goes without being addressed. Since then, I have noticed an increase in the traffic to my videos on the testimonymany of the victims gave at an SRC meeting in March.


Key day for DREAM Act goes awry

Published in The Notebook

Courtesy of DREAMActivist.org


Updated at 4:20 p.m

Both the DREAM Act and the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” in the military will have to wait for their respective turns in the Senate after midterm elections. This is due to the Republican-led blockade that did not allow the defense bill to even be debated on Tuesday.

Following the vote, Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) said that this move was preventing thousands of willing immigrants to sacrifice their lives for this country by joining the military.

“Where is the justice in this decision? At least have the courage to let us bring this matter to the floor, and stand up and vote ‘No.’ But to hide behind this procedural ruse – this unanimous consent request – is totally unfair,” he said.

Under the most current version of the bill, beneficiaries would be required to graduate from a two-year community college or complete at least two years towards a 4-year degree, or serve two years in the U.S. military.

Local DREAMActivist María Marroquín said that this was a wake-up call for their movement.

“This hasn’t killed the DREAM Act,” she said. “We know there are Republican senators who support it and that means we have to present it as a stand-alone bill.”

Marroquín was part of a delegation of DREAMers that made its way to Washington D.C. to lobby in support of the act. They were also present during the Senate session.

“As the Senators were casting their votes we were hopeful but in the end we were sad of the outcome,” she said. “This only means we have to keep on working hard. And those who haven’t called their senators should do it because the life of thousands of students depend on every single phone call.”

Updated at 3:37 p.m.

After learning how Senate Republicans blocked further debate and voting on the defense bill that includes the DREAM Act and the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” in the military, David Bennion, staff attorney at Nationalities Service Center, said the fight is not over.

“This should not be the end of the road for the DREAM Act. Senate Democrats should bring it forward as a standalone bill to give GOP Senators like Senator [Robert] Bennett from Utah a chance to vote for it as they’ve promised they would,” he said.

Updated at 3:01 p.m.

The votes are finally in: 56 in favor to 43 against. Democrats needed 60 votes, with at least 1 Republican, for the bill to move forward. Floor is open for reconsideration. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) is speaking in favor of the DREAM Act.

Updated at 2:45 p.m.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a conference call that passage of the DREAM Act was “the right thing to do”.

“Earlier today, I sent a letter stating my full support for the DREAM Act,” he said. “Is not only the right thing to do for students, it also the right thing for our country. There’s no reason it shouldn’t pass now. The DREAM Act means more young people will contribute in the development and help this country.”

Right now, Senators are voting on whether to move forward with the National Defense Authorization Act and start debating the two amendments: the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and an immigration measure, the DREAM Act.

Updated at 2:38 p.m.

Senators are reconvening after their weekly meetings. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) is speaking in support of the DREAM Act.

Updated at 1:10 p.m.

As the Senators left the floor for their weekly meetings, it is still uncertain if Democrats have the 60 votes necessary to overcome a Republican filibuster and move forward the National Defense Authorization Act.

This procedural vote would allow for two amendments to be debated: the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and an immigration measure, the DREAM Act.

This morning on C-Span, The Hill reporter Roxana Tiron explained what the bill faces in today’s vote.

With the vote looming, Americans for Legal Immigration PAC issued a press release saying they will help defeat the act by tracking down what politicians support it.

“We are directing our activists against amnesty to contact every US Senate campaign in America today to determine which candidates oppose or support Obama and Reid’s Dream Act Amnesty amendment,” said ALIPAC President William Gheen. “We intend to track which Senate candidates support or oppose this Amnesty attempt and remind them all that voters will defeat any candidate unwise enough to support this Amnesty ambush!”

On the other hand, labor organization Jobs With Justice joined forces with those supporting the bill and urged people to call Senators and tell them to vote in favor of both amendments.

The vote is scheduled for today at 2:15 p.m. and will be broadcast live on C-SPAN2.

On Sunday, support for the bill came from a somewhat unexpected corner. And that’s because former Secretary of State Colin Powell came out publicly in support of the proposal in an appearance on NBC’s Meet The Press.

“America is going to be a minority nation in one more generation. Our minorities are not getting educated well enough now. Fifty percent of our minority kids are not finishing high school. We’ve got to invest in education. We should use the DREAM Act as one way to do it,” Powell said.

Today, ColorLines tells us that Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa held a press conference to announce his support for the DREAM Act.

Passage of the Dream Act would provide “a great return on money we’ve already invested, and it encourages economic growth,” Villaraigosa said.

Last week Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) announced that he would attach the bill as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act.

DREAM Act could be voted on next week

Published in The Notebook

Courtesy of DREAMActivist.org

Organizers in support of the DREAM Act are calling senators to help get the 60 votes needed to pass the much-anticipated federal bill. After reaching the 10,000 phone-call mark on Thursday, activists now hope to make 5,000 more before the vote.

Just this week Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) announced that he would attach the bill as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. Another rider on the bill would begin a gradual repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy within the military.

At the press conference, Reid said:

I think it’s really important that we move forward in this legislation, I tried to work on — I know we can’t do comprehensive immigration reform — I’ve tried to. I’ve tried so very very hard. I tried different iterations of this, but those Republicans we had in the last Congress have left us.

The DREAM Act is really important. […] That’s what the DREAM Act is all about: kids who grew up as Americans should be able to get their green cards after they go to college or serve in the military. So these are the two amendments [“don’t ask don’t tell” and DREAM Act] that I’ve told Senator McConnell that I think are essential to the defense authorization bill. I hope they let us move to it.

A message on DREAMActivist.org provides the phone numbers and names of the senators the group identified as important to contact.

A vote is expected next Tuesday. Senator John McCain, who previously cosponsored DREAM Act legislation, said he would block the bill. President Obama has pledged his support for the DREAM Act. Obama noted that several Republicans who previously supported the DREAM Act have “backed away from that vote.” Republicans argue that including the DREAM Act on a defense appropriations bill needlessly politicizes it. As midterm elections near, activists may have the leverage needed to pass a bill that has previously stalled in Congress.

Undocumented and unafraid: Pushing for the DREAM Act

Published in The Notebook

Risking deportation, immigrant student activists are escalating their pressure on legislators to approve the DREAM Act.

Courtesy of DREAMActivist.org

Last Tuesday, 21 of them were arrested in Washington D.C. after staging a couple of sit-ins during the weeklong series of actions around their “The DREAM Is Coming” campaign.

“We did this because we have lobbied, sent letters and emails, made phone calls, and met with people in Congress. But we feel the Congress is not listening to us,” said María Marroquín, a student organizer with the campaign.

Similar actions have taken place in Arizona. In late May, three immigrant students were among those arrested after staging a sit-in at Senator John McCain’s office in Phoenix.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents did not have contact with the arrested students in either instance, but the activists know what could happen to them.

“All of the students were aware (of risk of deportation) and ready to stand up not only for themselves but for all the students,” Marroquín said. “They are aware of what can happen.”

Through a spokesperson, Senator Richard Durbin, one of the co-sponsors of the bipartisan bill, disapproved of these latest demonstrations.

“Today’s demonstrations by some DREAM Act supporters … crossed the line from passionate advocacy to inappropriate behavior. The tide of public opinion has long been on the side of the DREAM Act – it has broad bipartisan support in Congress and poll after poll shows that people of all political persuasion believe in its goals. Sen. Durbin believes that we will win this fight on the merits, not through public demonstrations or publicity stunts.”

But what is unfortunate, Marroquín said, is that students have to face deportation in order for Congress to pay attention.

“We believe it is inappropriate that they have taken 10 years to pass this bill and in the meantime they keep deporting students,” she said. “But if this is what it takes, we’ll risk even if it means deportation.”

The DREAM Act is a bipartisan legislation that would give qualifying undocumented youth a six-year-long conditional path to citizenship that requires completion of a college degree or two years of military service.

We featured Maríaback in November 2009, when she told the Notebook why this fight is personal for her.

A Piece of Ciudad Juarez in Philly

Published in Philadelphia Weekly

Despite having two bodyguards for the last two years, Marisela Ortiz does not feel safe.

“I will never see having bodyguards as something normal,” says Ortiz, who got the protection because of the decade-long fighting in Cuidad Juarez, an increasingly dangerous Mexican city. “But me and my family have been the target of death threats, insults, repression because there are people who don’t want the truth to be uncovered.”

Since 2001, Ortiz, 50, has been leading Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa (Bring Our Daughters Back Home), an organization that helps the families of the many women who have disappeared or who have been killed in that city just across from El Paso, Texas.

About 800 women and students from working-class neighborhoods in Cuidad Juarez have been kidnapped, tortured, raped and killed since 1993. It’s part of an ongoing wave of violence resulting from drug wars, says Diana Washington Valdez, a reporter for El Paso Times who has been investigating the killings since 1999.

“Well, we see the results of the so-called investigations and that’s coming up with scape goats, chivos expiatorios, misidentifying victims,” she says. “Cases keep getting old and the statue of limitation is expiring, so cases that happened in 1993, ‘94, they have expired now. They’re getting away with murder no matter who committed the crimes.”

She also points to the widespread corruption that has allowed these killings to continue, despite local and international pressure to intervene.

But a series of events in Philadelphia this weekend will help keep the memory of these women alive.

Ni Una Más (Not One More), a Drexel University collaboration, seeks to raise awareness about gender violence and, in particular, crimes against women in Juarez, says Abbie Dean, a co-curator of one of the event’s exhibits.

The event will kick off with ARTMARCH, a mass demonstration/performance-art piece that will include more than 700 young women from Drexel University dressed in the iconic pink that can be seen on the victims’ memorial crosses in Juarez.

The event is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. Saturday at the 33rd Street Armory. The group will march toward the university and end with a rally outside Leonard Pearlstein Gallery, 3401 Filbert St.

At the gallery, an exhibit will gather 70 works by 20 international artists. One of the highlights is the work of Frank Bender, a Philadelphian whose art has taken him from being featured in “America’s Most Wanted” to a hotel a room in Ciudad Juárez, where he tried to reconstruct the faces of six women.

“I stayed there for a month and in that month my wife received a threatening email,” Bender said. “We had to move out the hotel room in the middle of the night.”

For him, that was the beginning of an ordeal that led him to believe that Mexican authorities had no will to solve these murders.

“How could these bodies lay there all these time and nobody found them until they’re decomposed,” he said. “How come the evidence locker in Juárez is open for anybody to take whatever they want? This is incompetence by design. They don’t really want to solve these cases.”

Washington Valdez’s work on both sides of the border has resulted in The Killing Fields: Harvest of Women, a book that reveals high-level corruption, specifically the deal between the drug cartel and Mexican officials that allowed for such widespread violence.

“The murders committed by some of the suspects stopped [after the book came out]. Because there was too much scrutiny put on the whole situation,” she said. “But the organized crime in general, because that network still exists, is still protecting the killers of women and children.”

For more information, visit www.drexel.edu/juarez/.

What went wrong in handling of South Philadelphia violence

Published in The Notebook

Former South Philadelphia High School student Hao Luu is now attending a private school his family can scarcely afford, is repeating 9th grade, and is not receiving any formal Englishas- a-second-language instruction.

Beaten after school on December 2, the day before an explosion of violence against Asian immigrant students, Luu, a 17-year-old student from Vietnam, ended up spending months fighting disciplinary charges and then countering accusations that he is a gang member.

The School District said it has now mailed him a letter for his file that clears him of any gang involvements. But he, his grandmother, and the School Reform Commission (SRC) are still awaiting a formal explanation of why he was suspended in the first place, transferred to a disciplinary school, and then prevented from returning to South Philadelphia, even after the charges against him were dismissed.

The series of mass assaults at South Philadelphia on December 3 injured 30 students and sent 13 to area hospitals, prompting an eight-day boycott of the school by dozens of Asian students.

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund filed a federal civil rights complaint with the Department of Justice, charging the District and school with “deliberate indifference” to a history of harassment of Asian students.

Responses to the violence

Since the violence, the District has implemented new security measures at the school, hired a diversity consultant for staff training, and organized crosscultural activities and groups.

But 18 speakers at a March 17 SRC meeting, including Hao Luu’s grandmother and nine Asian students, criticized the District for its handling of the aftermath. The testimony pointed to a failure to communicate with families, an inadequate investigation of the violence, and a lack of action against school staff who responded inappropriately.

Speakers also said that the District had failed to acknowledge a pattern of violence against Asian students, reacting instead by accusing Hao Luu and others of being gang members and implying that they were somehow responsible.

The tearful testimony of his grandmother, Suong Nguyen, and Hao Luu’s story made front-page news, becoming the latest illustration of the District’s puzzling and as yet unexplained handling of the incident.

“Review Hao’s case and clear him from wrongful accusations,” said Nguyen.
A distressed Commissioner Johnny Irizarry pushed the issue with SRC Chair Robert Archie.

“Mr. Archie, I would just like to request that the staff provide us an explanation for this,” Irizarry said.

“Rest assured, they will,” Archie replied.

District spokesman Fernando Gallard said the District was preparing a response on the handling of the case and would not comment until the SRC sees it.

Counting Luu’s case, five of the 19 suspensions meted out after the December attacks on Asian students were overturned, Gallard said.

The District did not offer the Notebook a breakdown of how many of the suspended South Philadelphia students were African American or Asian, though previously they had told the press that eight Asians were among those suspended. Nor did the District release the ethnicity of the students whose
suspensions were overturned.

Luu and his grandmother said they went public to try to clear his record and reputation.

“The school is accusing me of something that I’m not guilty of,” Luu told the Notebook through an interpreter in February. “They are messing up my record.

They have gone too far, and that’s why I continue making this an issue.”

While not mentioned by name, Luu was a central figure in the official School District report on the South Philadelphia violence – an investigation conducted by a retired federal judge, James Giles, at the request of Superintendent Arlene Ackerman.

The Giles report describes an incident involving a Vietnamese student and a group of African American students in a stairwell at South Philadelphia High School on December 2. The report said this confrontation led to a conflict after school that day – what the judge called the “Walgreen’s incident.”

The judge’s report offered four conflicting versions of what happened outside that Walgreen’s store on December 2 while not resolving contradictory reports about who attacked whom and whether a “crippled/disabled African American student” cited in these accounts was a victim or an attacker.

The report recommended that the school and the District interview witnesses about what really happened.

Giles pointed to rumors about the Walgreen’s incident as triggering the attacks on Asian students December 3.

Ackerman, in her first public statement about the violence, referenced one hearsay version of the incident, saying the conflict at the school “began as an unwarranted off-campus attack on a disabled African American student.”

Hao Luu’s story

Hao Luu said after an incident in the stairwell in the afternoon, he and four friends were followed after school that day and attacked twice by a group of 10 or more students.

“I got beat down and fell in the Walgreen’s driveway,” he said.

His grandmother went to school the next day to file a report. Luu stayed home on December 3 due to his injuries, and then participated in the eightday Asian student boycott.

Luu first heard he had been suspended when he returned to school after the boycott. He then received a transfer to a disciplinary school and missed weeks of school while challenging the charges.

Advocates said Luu’s paperwork showed numerous due process errors, including untranslated notices and repeated failure to contact the family in a timely manner.

With the help of Cecilia Chen, an attorney from the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Luu prevailed in a disciplinary hearing on January 29.

The hearing officer overturned the transfer and reenrolled Luu at South Philadelphia.

But when he tried to return, he was again denied entry and presented with yet another transfer signed by Principal LaGreta Brown and approved by a regional superintendent.

In a follow-up conversation in early February, Chen was told by a District lawyer that the school couldn’t guarantee Luu’s safety because he was involved with a gang.

Soon after, having missed so much school, Luu enrolled in the private school.
In a subsequent meeting with school officials, Luu was accused of being involved in a fight at the school a year before, Chen said. But he had been living in Virginia at the time. He had only been attending South Philly High for three months when he was attacked, and he had no disciplinary record at either school.

Luu said he regrets not being able to stay at South Philadelphia “because they have a good ESL program.”

“The family has gone through so much,” attorney Chen noted. “And they’re still distressed after how the school dealt with their responsibility.”

Video: Temple Hospital Nurses Biggest Rally

When the nurses and allied professionals strike at Temple University Hospital entered its fourth week, the union held its biggest rally despite the rain. Here are some images of what went on back then. Philadelphia Weekly , Templewatch.org and Media Mobilizing Project‘s Labor Blog picked up this video for their publications and monitoring of what was going on during the strike.

At Potter-Thomas, change the only constant

Published in The Notebook

For the past eight years at Potter-Thomas Elementary School, the only constant has been change.

As a low-performing school, it was turned over toEdison Schools in 2002. But because it made little improvement, it was taken away from Edison in 2008.

During and after Edison’s tenure, Potter-Thomas has had a total of six principals. This year, parents finally got one they liked and who seemed to be making a difference. Since Dywonne Davis-Harris came in September, there has been a palpable change in school climate and a renewed focus on academics.

“With this new principal, we have seen an improvement overall, even in the behavior of the students,” said Guadalupe Tovar, who has three children at the school.

But now, as a designated Renaissance School, Potter-Thomas is facing yet another upheaval, just as parents thought they had found some stability. The school is in line to be matched with one of five possible outside providers – all of which would convert the school into a charter.

Parents – the school is 95 percent low-income and 78 percent Latino – are worried about what becoming a charter will mean.

“Now there’s resources for parents and kids,” said Elizabeth Álvarez, whose granddaughter is a student. “There was nothing before and now they want to take it away from us.”

Álvarez and several other parents want to keep the principal, and as a result spoke before the School Reform Commission asking to become a Promise Academy – or undergo turnaround under the supervision of Superintendent Arlene Ackerman. That way, the school can stay within the District and have a better chance of retaining Davis-Harris at the helm.

“We the parents are very fond of the way our administration leadership team and us have brought the school and made all the changes to put Potter-Thomas to where it is today,” said Midgalia López in testimony before the SRC, as a group of Potter-Thomas parents stood by. The day before, they had held a protest at the school  against becoming a charter.

López is a noontime aide at the school and grandparent of a 3rd grader. “We need a chance,” she said. “And that chance is a Promise Academy.”

Ackerman was responsive to their concerns. She said she would make an exception for Potter-Thomas among the nine schools now undergoing the matching process, giving the school the option of rejecting all potential partners and becoming a Promise Academy instead.

The community will have its meeting with the potential providers on May 6, and the School Advisory Council, which is made up of parents and several representatives of local organizations, has until May 11 to decide.

If, after that meeting, “the community is still not satisfied,” said Benjamin Rayer, who is running the Renaissance process for the District, “becoming a Promise Academy might be an option.”

All this uncertainty, however, is just creating more anxiety among parents and grandparents who are used to being buffeted about by institutions and government in one of the poorest areas of the city.

Rumors are flying

“Some say there’ll be free uniforms, others just talk about how good everything is going to be, but we don’t know what’s going to happen,” Tovar said.

At the school, which is 78 percent Latino and 20 percent African-American, 25 percent of the students are English language learners, 15 percent are in special education, and the churn of students is constant. In 2007-08, nearly 100 students in the 475-student school withdrew during the year, and another 70 enrolled. The following year, those numbers declined, but were still high.

Despite those factors, of the 14 Renaissance-eligible schools reviewed by a team of evaluators earlier this year, Potter-Thomas received one of the most positive reports. Some of the schools were cited for total breakdown of leadership, lack of instruction, and out-of-control climate.

But at Potter-Thomas, the reviewers said, “leadership has worked to create a unified voice that is focused on high expectations for student achievement,” “there are clear goals and improvement strategies,” and “school administrators serve as an instructional leadership team.” Teachers have common planning time and more opportunities for professional development.

At the same time, it noted, good instructional practices “have yet to be established school-wide.” Scores on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests (PSSA) remain woefully low, especially in the upper grades.

Davis-Harris agreed that the most improvement to date has been made in school climate and student behavior, which she attributed to help from parents, teachers and the District. “I knew it was going to be a good challenge when I first came here,” she said.

Whatever happens, she said, her work to improve the students academic achievement is an ongoing task.

“We’re using multiple approaches to do it,” she said. “We have instruction specialists providing our teachers with teaching techniques every week. We create an environment where we can give each other feedback. We all have in mind that this is to benefit our children.”

As part of the process in deciding the school’s future, SAC members and anyone else who is interested will have the chance to visit other schools operated by the potential tunaround teams, which include two Latino-focused organizations,ASPIRA and Congreso de Latinos Unidos. Both run charter schools. They are the only providers who have expressed particular interest in working with Potter-Thomas.

Nicholas Torres, president of Congreso, said that the parents don’t have animosity towards these groups, but have a fear of the unknown. “It seems parents are reacting to a lot of rumors, and it seems there’s no official providing actual information,” he said. “That’s why it is important for parents to show up to the meetings that will be held there.”

For Tovar, however, the issue is simple. “What we want is to have stability for our children” she said, “because they keep changing things around here even if they work.”