Fulton Elementary School



Like many of the schools up for closure, Fulton is attached to its high school, Germantown High- which is also slated for the chopping block.  

The glorious art deco entrance at Fulton reminds me of the Sphinx from the Never-ending Story.  The statue guardians are wise and imposing, poised to ask a riddle.


Fulton Elementary was built in 1935.  Bars from the metal fencing cast their shadow over the stump of a tree.  I don’t think I need to spell out the symbolism in this one.


A historic house is nestled into the Fulton campus, along with several historic churches.  This is the sort of building that tourists flock to Old City to see.  I cannot help but think that these historic landmarks should be major assets to their public schools.


An empty, concrete playground lot with no basketball hoops or jungle gym structures.



Parents wait to pick their kids up from school near an open dumpster which takes up the middle of the backlot walkway space. 


What broke my heart most about Fulton was all the inspirational motivational sayings painted on the base of the building.  Behind a chainlink fence, this slogan reads “learn and achieve.”  The cupola of a church is seen in the immediate background.


“Knowledge is Power!” 

Yes, knowledge is power. 

Perhaps these photographs will share the knowledge of how our schools are being closed? 

By taking away the source of knowledge in this community- is the school district taking away this neighborhood’s power? 

The message smacks of irony, but not as much as some of the other self-empowerment slogans: 


A motivational slogan inspires with the phrase, “don’t let others create your future, create it yourself!”

Yes, Fulton parents- don’t let the School Reform Council create the future for your children- create it yourselves… and how?  Protest the school closings in those few ounces of free time you have.  Go up against a wealthy, well-educated, powerful city government.


Perhaps I just cringe for any self-empowerment slogan- but the contrast of these slogans in an asphalt schoolyard where low-income, black parents wait to pick up their kids from a school that is doomed for closure in a poor neighborhood with a lot of blight and crime- just feels too righteous.  By closing the public school, this community is not even afforded the opportunity to pull itself up by its own bootstraps… if you believe that kind of thing can happen to begin with.

‘dare to dream’

(which assumes that kids are not daring enough… and what if they are?  What of those dreams?)

“respect comes to those who give it.”

(This community is certainly not getting respect…. Are they not giving respect?  Is that the problem?  if this community simply respected the School district, they would be rewarded with a good neighborhood school that stays open?

If you give respect to the School Reform Council- will they give you respect in return?  It seems like the most luck school and community groups have had is in organizing mass ‘in your face, fight like hell’ campaigns…

The S’s in this slogan are reminiscent of dollar signs- something that makes the slogan ring more true.  If you change out ‘respect’ for ‘funding’ – then you get another saying that more accurately captures what is happening on the ground.  ‘Funding comes to those who give it.’  Too true.  How many state and city representatives have received campaign funding from charter and private school enthusiasists?  Wouldn’t that funding sway our public officials to sell off public amenities- like schools- and sanction privatization with little public oversight or influence.  Does this community have any funding to give to sway the political machines that oversee their educational institutions?)

“If you believe, you can achieve.”

(I believe we can achieve with our public schools… but it will take more than belief.  It will take a schload of constant hard work and capital investment.  Where’s the slogan that says that? ‘If you work like crazy all night and day, you are bound to make a small difference.’)


“Be the change you want to see.” I want to see a playground, with grass, a garden and fruit trees.  And a basketball court.  And a cover over the dumpster.  And windows without bars on them.  And a free, high-quality neighborhood public school that stays open.  Where classrooms sizes are about 15 students per teacher, and each classroom is equipped with projector screens, computers, fish tanks, a pet rabbit and lots of natural sunlight.  Where teachers have decent salaries and have all the classroom supplies that they need: construction paper, pencils, teaching assistants.  Where parents volunteer and chaperon their children’s class on field trips to nearby Philadelphia institutions and for projects around the city.  I want a society that values high quality education for all our children, even and especially those in low-income neighborhoods.