More Culture:

March 07, 2017

Kenney wowed by South Philly High's new 'community school' reality

The mayor toured the facility for the first time Tuesday since it became the new 'community school,' a designation funded by the soda tax

Schools Community
Carroll - Mayor Kenney - Sugary Beverage Tax Event  Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Mayor Jim Kenney smiles with a can of soda during a tour of South Philadelphia High School. When asked about the pose, he responded, 'I want you to buy soda.'

“This is the way public schools should be,” said a proud Mayor Jim Kenney, after touring South Philadelphia High School Tuesday, one of the nine new designated community schools being funded by the soda tax.

Among the more unique offerings being featured by SPHS is the new “Clothing Closet,” which is essentially a clothes bank stocked with new and gently used items given to and from students at no cost.

Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Mayor Jim Kenney samples food made by students at the 'Southern Rams Cafe' during a tour of South Philadelphia High School, Tuesday, March 7, 2017.

Janelle Harper, community school coordinator, gave the mayor and 1st District Councilman Mark Squilla a tour of what new amenities are now available to students, families, and neighbors in and around the school.

Harper said the “Clothing Closet” offers students a relatively real shopping experience, without the monetary transaction, but most still maintain the appreciation of the exchange.

“We have men’s stuff, women’s stuff, clothes, hats, gloves and these socks donated by CityLife Church,” she said.

“So, take a sock, give a sock – everything is free in the room. It’s free to parents or community members, or students that actually go to South Philly High.”

Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

An unused classroom was recently transformed into 'Southern's Community Closet' a clothing bank where students are allowed to shop at no cost. This was one of a few new initiatives led by Janelle Harper, a community school coordinator at South Philadelphia High School.

The new “Clothing Closet” is just one of the many initiatives and programs that the community school coordinators have been able to incorporate at the community schools since the beverage tax was implemented last year. Over the next four years, the city plans to invest as much as $40 million from soda tax revenues to transform regular public schools into community schools.

While the mayor fights court battles with Big Soda, he insists that the students are the ones suffering from the delays from ongoing litigation.

Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

South Philadelphia High School Principal, Kimlime Chek-Taylor, shows Mayor Jim Kenney the teaching kitchen during a tour on Tuesday, March 7, 2017.

“These are the people the soda companies market to and peddle their sugar water to, and these are the kids they are holding up by continuing to litigate this thing after they lost in the first round and [the bill] was passed by Council 13-4,” said Kenney.

He argued the recent announcement of 80 to 100 layoffs by Pepsi was merely a showing of “lack of respect” for Pepsi's employees and the city’s students at large.

RELATED: Philly, suburban high schools dominate list of best SAT scores in Pennsylvania | Kenney: GOP health care plan will be more expensive, cost many their insurance | Conservative sheriff: Former Philly Police Commissioner Ramsey 'was a disaster' | Philly's $500M effort to improve parks, libraries on hold until soda tax litigation resolved

“PepsiCo, for example, is a $35 billion-dollar company that posted $6 billion in profits last year. Their CEO makes $25 million in her base salary. She spent $11 million fighting the soda tax on television and hundreds of thousands of dollars a month on lobbyists and lawyers. If they want to take that out on the people who work at a bottling plant, it doesn’t show much respect for their own employees, frankly, and it doesn’t show any respect for these kids who are trying to make their way in the world.”

Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

South Philadelphia High School senior, Griselda Delossantos makes crepes in the teaching kitchen at the 'Southern Rams Cafe' during a tour set up for Mayor Jim Kenney. Delossantos hopes to pursue a career in culinary arts after graduating from high school.

Kenney went on later in the day to tour the remainder of the community schools and encouraged neighbors who live around them to volunteer their time in and around the schools whenever they could.