May 2, 2012
There wasn’t much I enjoyed about school as a child. I was a depressed, scaredy kid that spent most of my time in my own head, reading, writing or drawing, but my schools were able to break down my inclination to introversion and provide me with creative outlets.
I was lucky that I went to schools dedicated to providing a thorough education, not just the basics, to all of their students. My favorite memories from Garrettford Elementary and Drexel Hill Middle School school are my art classes, music(though I couldn’t sing a lick) and even gym class.
I played the saxophone and was terrible at it, but I was given the opportunity to find out if I liked it. My elementary school regularly put on concerts. I remember the principal, Mr. McAllister, dressing up as a mad scientist and dancing to the Monster Mash. I played the Hanukkah song on my sax while sporting a beehive…coifed especially for my later debut as a Supreme for our Golden Oldies medley.
The Beehives! The Memories! Thank you Garrettford!
Gym class, including recess, was a chance to run, scream and be ridiculous. They made sure we weren’t cooped up in little boxes all day. Our schools bussed us to the local High School’s indoor swimming pool and taught us to swim.
They stressed creative writing and held yearly Young Author’s contests. Drexel Hill Middle School even developed a program for budding authors and theater kids called The Playwrights, which was perfect for preparing children to participate in a summer theater camp called Summer Stage. I wrote and directed a play all at the age of 14!
Even in high school, when I really went off the weird kid deep end, I looked forward to my art classes. When I couldn’t participate in my senior years advanced art class, my favorite art teacher, Elizabeth Harendza, sought me out and provided me with assignments she was giving her other students. She allowed me to find refuge in her class during my lunch period. I don’t know if I would have graduated without the solace of art class. I don’t know if I would have known to seek comfort in those classes if I hadn’t been exposed to the arts at a young age. I wouldn’t have known to seek it out in high school if my interest in art had not been recognized in elementary school.
This may all go away…with the additional loss of foreign language, technology and the school libraries!
Like many other schools across the country, Upper Darby is facing a budget crisis. There is no one reason this is happening. It is the result of inflation, property values decreasing, students outside of the district attending UD schools, No Child Left Behind and the funding of charter schools.
The result is practically all programs aside from math, science, history and english are being slashed from curriculums beneath the high school level.
The internet is buzzing with articles and movements to stop/fix this. I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t even live there anymore, but the possibility hurts my heart, especially because this isn’t something that’s just happening there. Public schools all over the country are being forced to make some hard decisions.
Here are some links to read up more on the issues, probably all more eloquent and informative than my blog post.
And yes…Tina Fey of 30 Rock graduated from Upper Darby High School. So did that girl from The Blair Witch Project…and more importantly to me, Lloyd Alexander, the fantasy children’s author who wrote the Vesper Holly book series and The Chronicles of Prydain.
And that’s cool and impressive and nice, but I think it’s sad to see articles and comments calling on their memories in an attempt to make people care, or worse, hoping for Tina Fey to somehow come to the rescue with her celebrity status. We should already care.
There are so many other alumni who are doing what they want/need/should be doing now because of the Upper Darby School District’s past dedication to providing a rich and varied eduction. They may not be famous or rich, but they matter. Below is a list of links to UDHS graduates visual arts portfolios. These are the people I remember from high school. I’m sure I’ve forgotten many. I’d be happy to add more as the information comes to me.