By Ben Schindler
When my wife, Becky, and I moved onto the 900 Block of South 6th Street just over eight years ago, our neighbors greeted us with open arms, warm smiles, and a more-than-sufficient helping of homemade treats. We felt like we had moved into a true neighborhood with everyone adding to and caring for the block and the area. All making us feel at home.
Yet, as we moved in, we were certain that we would only be in our home for 6-8 years, depending on when we had a child and when that child would be 5 years old. We simply did not see any way that our catchment public school, Nebinger, could work for us. We, the beneficiaries of private school educations, from Kindergarten through college, could never send our precious-yet-theoretical offspring to a place that conventional wisdom told us was not good enough.
Eight years have passed, and we have two actual children, who are indeed quite precious (to us).
But then something amazing happened that changed our perception of Nebinger: We walked through the door!
We are staying; in our house, in our neighborhood, in our catchment. Our children will be the beneficiaries of Nebinger educations, and will thrive in their own neighborhood, with nearby classmates and friends.
Across the city, a secret is on the verge of getting out. The secret is this: There are great neighborhood schools in the city beyond Meredith, McCall, Greenfield, and Penn-Alexander. Even better for those of us who make Queen Village (or Bella Vista) our home, is that Nebinger is one of them. The old conventional wisdom is crumbling because schools like Nebinger, with the support of the neighbors in southern portions of Queen Village and Bella Vista, thrive despite the funding drought.
From reading the news about the school district, state funding, and budget cuts, we know there are real challenges. We also know, from experience, that it is easy to stand outside of a neighborhood public school and imagine all of the things going wrong inside. The news about the school district is often negative and hard to see past. However, as many in Queen Village know, great things can happen at a neighborhood school when the community and families become engaged.
Nebinger has an extraordinary principal, talented and committed staff, and a rapidly growing community of engaged community members, school parents, and future school parents. Families like mine, who in prior years would have moved away or tried to cobble together the money for private school, now are choosing Nebinger.
Families are connecting with each other before their children reach kindergarten age. Shot Tower Coffee and Royal Tavern hosted events for future Nebinger families over the past months. Based on turnout at these gatherings and the growing buzz around Nebinger, in a few years, parents will be lining up on the first day of kindergarten registration, worried about securing a place for their child.
Principal Brown, with the support of the Friends of Nebinger and the vibrant Home and School Association, has worked tirelessly to bring back programs that were cut due to the state budget. Nebinger students now benefit from art, music, theatre, physical education, after school programs, a stunning computer lab, and starting this fall, Spanish.
Conventional wisdom brings a tired refrain: how could you send your kid to a Philadelphia Public School? For years, the northern half of Queen Village has defied this conventional wisdom. I am thrilled to tell you the southern half of the Queen Village is bucking this conventional wisdom as well. With the right leadership, tremendous students, and an engaged community, Nebinger proves that one neighborhood can have two great schools.
But why believe me?
Walk through the door, go inside, meet Principal Brown and her staff, and see Nebinger for yourself. You may find that Nebinger is right for you and your family.
This article was originally published in the September 2015 Back to School issue of QVNA’s Magazine.