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Banners Gracing the Entrance to Harding Middle School Tell Part of the Story!

You get a feeling that good things are happening at Harding Middle School! We went to visit on Friday, 2/24, the day that three banners, now hanging at the main entrance of the school on Torresdale Avenue, were dedicated. ArtsRising is an effort to make quality arts education available for all of our children in the city. When you visit their website, you will see their partners and sponsors. These wonderful programs need funding and our support. Schools can apply to be an “Artzone Hub” and there are site visits, surveys and consideration of other criteria before you are selected. If you would like your school to get involved, you can find out how here. Seven artzones or communities have been identified in the city thus far and Harding Middle School is our “hub” here in Frankford. You can read a profile about Harding here on the ArtsRising website .

These banners are a sight to behold but just as important is what they represent. Principal Michael J. Calderone explained that the banners depict the Arts, Academics and Athletics at Harding. It is by design that the Academics banner hangs in the middle because Academics is at the center, the heart, of all that Hardings’ staff and students are achieving. For the last three years, students have improved their proficiency levels as measured by the state’s PSSA tests. In the spirit of the moment, I am getting ahead of myself here. When you enter Harding Middle School, you are struck by the grandness of the lobby, even after 85 years. This school was built to showcase design and achitecture at the height of our Roaring 20’s! We were immediately greeted warmly by three students, Raina, Johnathan and Joe, who after reminding us that we needed to sign in, would be our escorts to the Independent Media Center. The IMC, which houses the library and a wall of Apple iMAC computers for sutdent use, had a classroom of students waiting expectantly. Due to the weather, the dedication ceremony could not be held outside.

Ambrose Liu, ArtsZone Coordinator, welcomed everyone. The Director of ArtsRising, Varissa Mickens, explained that while 45 students directly participated in the banners we see, they are meant to represent the dreams of all of the students and the community’s dreams for them. In a very visual and vibrant way, these banners express the dreams that Harding Middle School administration, teachers, parents and students are working to bring to life. These dreams go beyond the school walls to the larger Frankford community and beyond as well. Ms. Mickens congratulated the students telling them that they should be proud of their efforts and she thanked Principal Calderone for his belief in the power of arts education and his support of the program.

Mr. Liu explained that the teaching artist, Betsy Casanas, co-founder of Semilla Arts Initiative, partnered with Harding teachers  John Papiano, Technology Teacher, and Jon Tietz, Visual Arts Teacher, and students to design and create these banners. Semilla, meaning “seed”, is how Ms. Casanas describes the way that art “plants” in students a feeling of empowerment, where as young as they might be, they are able to use their “strong and powerful voices today” to impact their communities. Ms. Casanas went on to say that this was just a beginning in future projects with the students that would integrate with their curriculum. Stained Glass depicting events in History and learning about light in Science. If you teach students “how” to do something, they will continue to use this creative power in their lives.

Speaking of student voices, several students from the Def Poets Club shared their works with us. You can see it here for yourself.

State Representative Tony Payton  and Jason Dawkins, a representative from City Councilwoman’s Maria Sanchez-Quinones’ office were in attendance as well. Kimberly Washington, Coordinator of Northeast EPIC Stakeholders, spoke about growing up in the immediate area and that the Northeast EPIC Stakeholders are working to improve the quality of life in Frankford and Northeast Philadelphia. What impressed me, also, is the collaborative effort that went into this initiative. It does take all of us to work together for the good of our young people and the future of our communities! To experience this uplifting moment, you can watch it here. To all who participated and supported this project, you have both our congratulations and thanks!






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Northwood Civic Meeting 2/21/2012

Ian Litwin - Community Planner

Frankford in 2035 was on the agenda at the Northwood Civic meeting on Tuesday with a presentation made by Ian Litwin, a community planner with the Philadelphia City Planning Commission.  Litwin explained that the lower northeast planning district will now be the focus of the planning process for Philadelphia2035.  That process will begin with a meeting at Friends Hospital on April 3rd at 6PM.  Subsequent meetings will result in a draft plan for the district in the Fall.

During each district plan, a Steering Committee will help guide the plan, facilitate information flow and review outreach efforts.  Chaired by Philadelphia City Planning Commission’s Project Manager, a Steering Committee is comprised of leaders of neighborhood groups, business groups, and institutions such as colleges or hospitals.  Steering Committees will meet on a monthly basis during a district plan.

Three public meetings in total will take place during each district plan.  Public meetings are designed to be available to all citizens in a district.  Advertised through community organizations, flyers, direct mailings and internet postings, the public meetings will update residents on the progress of the plan and seek public input.

The opportunity to have a voice in a plan that will ultimately shape the neighborhood of the future does not often come along.

In other news from the meeting, Joe Krause gave a brief treasurer’s report and announced that Renee Hudson will be acting Treasurer until at least next month.  Some records need to be sorted out and then a report for the last two years can be made public.

Joe Krause Presdent of Northwood Civic

Committees are still being formed and volunteers are needed.  Come to the civic meeting to get involved.

The illegal parking problem on Bridge Street discussed at the last meeting seems to have been resolved but members should continue to keep an eye on the situation.

Joe has made contact with the Frankford Civic to offer to work together toward common goals.

Joe Menkevich was recognized to talk about the Burk Deed restriction and offered copies of the relevant documents.  They are linked on our history page where you can download the pdf files for viewing.

One person attending was recognized and raised the issue of the poor condition of Greenwood Cemetery.  Significant improvements were made to the cemetery over the last two years but in the back over along the Castor Avenue side, it is still overgrown and people are going in there at night.  This is a link to a slide show we did in the fall that shows some of those conditions at that time.

Another resident complained about the new Northwood Academy Charter School building on Castor Avenue.  He said it looks much larger than was originally planned and looms over the neighborhood.  There are traffic concerns too in that there is no safe place for students to be picked up and discharged from the buses.  Joe Menkevich noted the presence of a vacant lot at 4601-19 Adams Avenue that might be utilized for a bus loading area.  State Rep. Tony Payton offered to pass along this information to Northwood Academy.  Joe Krause said he had a meeting scheduled with them and would bring the issue up at that time also.

Attending the meeting were our two State Representatives, John Taylor and Tony Payton.  They both spoke briefly about what is going on at the capitol and the problems of being in the legislature in this period of financial crisis.

The next meeting of the Northwood Civic Association will be on March 20th at 7PM at St. James Lutheran Church at Pratt Street and Castor Avenue.



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Payton Looks to Debate Challenger

If you have lived in Frankford for a long time, you may remember the years when we never noticed that we had a state representative.  I always have to look up his name to remember what it was.  That changed in 2006 when Tony Payton tossed his hat into the ring.

This year a challenger, Tracie Clay, is opposing him in the upcoming Democratic primary on April 24th.  Tony has proposed a debate.

Dear Mr.  Clay:

After waiting 2 weeks for a reply, I am resending this letter to you.

Welcome to the race to become the Pennsylvania State Representative for the 179th District. One of the cornerstones of our society is one’s ability to choose who represents them throughout the various levels of government. As we move forward, it is crucial that we make decisions based on the best interest for the district to ensure the people of the 179th have as much information as possible to base their decision.

As you know, the serious issues facing the communities within the district demand comprehensive and result-based plans for change. This election should focus on these issues and our plans to address them. Let us not view this process as a formality but a call to action and a means to unite the district in our efforts to empower and enrich the men, women and children within this district and across the State of Pennsylvania.

This election will be about who can provide sound leadership that produces growth and advancement in times of hardship. In our pursuit of this position, we should come together to discuss and contrast our ideas and put them to any test the electors deem necessary. I invite you to 7, 90 minute debates to do just that. We should respect that the 179th district deserves honest and fair candidates who are willing to defend challenges to their ideas.  If accepted, we will negotiate further details (i.e. location(s), topics, rules, etc.).  

 Again, welcome to the race. I look forward to presenting my ideas and solutions for the issues facing the 179th Legislative District.


 Tony Payton Jr.


“Work and education are the levers to uplift a people. If we do not lift them up, they will bring us down.” – W.E.B. Dubois


CC: Philadelphia Tribune, Philadelphia Daily News , Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia City Paper , Philadelphia Weekly, Northeast Times, Metro Philadelphia, 900 AM WURD, KYW News radio 1060, Frankford Gazette

This could get interesting.

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Brightside Academy Hosts “Meet Your Legislators” Event for Parents and Students!

Our local Brightside Academy, located at 1627-29 Meadow Street, hosted a “Meet Your Legislators” event on Friday, 1/13/12, to bring our local legislators, parents and students together. Part of the program included a photo display of students’ concerns about our community. The students had been given disposable cameras to capture and record what they would like to change about Frankford. Students also prepared questions to present to the legislators. As I looked at the photo display, there were pictures of littered streets and abandoned buildings. We, too, share these young citizens’ concerns. Parents gathered in the meeting room of Brightside Academy, munching on provided snacks, to await the arrival of the legislators.

This was our first visit to Brightside Academy and we were warmly greeted and impressed with the brightly painted and decorated classrooms. This Brightside Academy is one of 30 academies in the city according to Davida Garr, Community Affairs Specialist. Brightside Academy is a part of many of our city neighborhoods and are reaching out to connect with their families and support the local communities. Early education and care are provided for children aged 6 weeks – 12 years. Academies are open year-round from 6 AM until 6 PM (may vary slightly by location). Juana Ramos, Area Business Director, explained that Brightside Academy opened in 1999 at this location. The name “Academy” is very important to staff as they provide an educational environment, work to enhance their own qualifications through staff development and work to reach higher levels in the Keystone Stars program. Keystone Stars is a PA Early Learning initiative that gives accreditation to day-care centers based on the highest performance level they achieve – Star 1 through Star 4.

I had a chance to speak with parents who are unanimously very pleased with this facility. They feel staff are pleasant, there is a family atmosphere and they recommended them highly. One mother has had three children in Brightside Academy and the oldest is now 11. We visited a class where a student was celebrating an 8th birthday and cupcakes had been shared!

State Representative Tony Payton arrived, as did City Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez. Unfortunately, State Senator Christine Tartaglione had a previous commitment. Students welcomed them and introduced themselves asking questions about litter, jobs and money for education. These future voters did themselves well!

The Northeast EARN Center (located on Frankford Avenue) had representatives and a table of information at the event. This agency provides support for those transitioning from welfare to work in northeast Philadelphia. You must be referred to them by your caseworker if you are receiving assistance from the Department of Public Welfare. If you have any questions or think you might be eligible, talk to your caseworker.

For more information, visit their website at Brightside Academy or call 215.289.0641 or 877.868.2273. Kudos to all those involved in this event! Our Frankford community is the better for them!