6:58 PM / Thursday January 20, 2022

24 Dec 2016

School District of Philadelphia and PHA unveil innovative college preparatory high school to service 504 Students

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December 24, 2016 Category: Local Posted by:

ABOVE PHOTO:  Former Vaux High School building

Nationally acclaimed education innovator Big Picture Learning to serve as contract provider in re-opened Vaux building in a unique partnership led by the PHA

The School District of Philadelphia in partnership with the Philadelphia Housing Authority announced last week a brand new High School that will open in September 2017 in the Sharswood/Blumberg neighborhood.  The School District is contracting with nationally acclaimed education innovator Big Picture Learning to implement this innovative education design.  The new four-year high school will serve up to 504 students who have graduated 8th grade on time and are looking for a proven, internship-based, college preparatory experience.

The Philadelphia Housing Authority is purchasing the Vaux building from the School District for $2 million. The PHA has committed as a key component to this partnership to invest an additional $10-$15 million on renovations. Along with the school district, other partners include Big Picture Schools Philadelphia (BPSP), which will manage the school, and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT), which will represent the teachers at Vaux.  In addition to its investment in the building, PHA will provide an annual subsidy of up to $500 per student.

“High school students often travel across the city to find high quality schools that meet their needs and interests.  As we work toward our goal of great schools close to where children live, the District is proud to provide more educational opportunities in the growing Sharswood neighborhood,” said Dr. William R. Hite, Superintendent of The School District of Philadelphia.  “This unique partnership with Big Picture, the PHA and the PFT is the latest project in our innovation network, where we continue to create successful evidence-based school models, where instruction is more personalized, interest-based, and infused with technology.”

“Creating a high-quality school is another major step in transforming Sharswood-Blumberg into a neighborhood of choice,” said PHA President and CEO Kelvin Jeremiah. “We and our partners are building hundreds of homes, creating a commercial corridor and moving our headquarters to the neighborhood, but this innovative school will provide the glue that binds this community together. I want to thank Philadelphia School Partnership; Lenfest Foundation; Barra Foundation; Centene Foundation and Santander Bank Foundation for their strong support for school planning and for the first year of operation.” 

The Vaux location was identified for a new high school because the Sharswood neighborhood is part of a significant redevelopment project being led by the Philadelphia Housing Authority.  The project expects to increase the number of high school students in the neighborhood and Big Picture High School will serve those students in their neighborhood. 

Big Picture High School will be a District managed neighborhood high school offering automatic admission for students that reside in the Meade and Morris Elementary School attendance zones.  The remaining enrollment will be supplemented by a tiered lottery process with students in the W.D. Kelley attendance zone receiving first priority, and the students residing in the Strawberry Mansion High School attendance zone receiving secondary preference, with any remaining seats filled from across the city.  Big Picture High School will admit 125 students annually beginning in September 2017, with one grade added each year for the following three years.


“We are honored to have the opportunity to provide Big Picture Learning’s student-centered philosophy revolving around offering youth an education that is built on “the three R’s”: relationships, relevance, and rigor to the students and families,” said David Bromley Executive Director, Big Picture Philadelphia.  “This unique partnership with the School District of Philadelphia and The Philadelphia Housing Authority will be a tremendous benefit to the Sharswood/Blumberg neighborhood.

Big Picture will bring our philosophy of smaller classes and close relationships between students and teachers that focuses learning around the student’s interests and passions, and internships that connect students to the world of work outside school guide the structure of the school experience.”

At Big Picture High School students will:

  • Pursue an interest / passion through twice weekly community-based internship experiences.
  • Engage in project and interest-based learning.
  • Learn with an advisory family for 4 years.
  • Develop a personalized learning plan.

The school in the developing Sharswood neighborhood will provide a facility for modern instruction. Big Picture High School will employ an interest-based learning curriculum as well as the training of all teachers in partnership with the PFT.

“Our experience with Penn Alexander proves that partnerships between educators, administrators, parents, businesses and city agencies are the key to building great schools,” said Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan. “The PFT is looking forward to collaborating with Big Picture and the PHA to once again create a school that will help anchor a community, and provide schoolchildren with a great education.”

Social services offered at the school will include a health and dental clinic provided by Project Home; a human services agency by Public Health Management Corporation; student counseling in partnership with Philadelphia Futures; and financial counseling in partnership with ClariFi. The school has received strong support from area foundations for school planning and for the first year of operation.  Committed donors include: Philadelphia School Partnership; Lenfest Foundation; Barra Foundation; Centene Foundation and Santander Bank Foundation.

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