MARCH 26, 2023

Happy spring, Mastermanners! This week marked the first day of spring and the peak blooms of the gorgeous magnolia trees on the patio.

It also brought the end of the third marking period, meaning that the school year is in its HOME STRETCH!

To round out Women's History Month, take a moment to appreciate the namesake of our school, Julia Reynolds Masterman, whose portrait hangs in the hall near the main office—and who helped establish Philadelphia’s Home and School Council, the institutional ancestor of the HSA.

Did you know that until Masterman moved into our present building in 1958, it was the home of Girls’ High? The image at right shows the 1932 ground-breaking for the building. These halls hold a great history of women’s education and achievement!

Parent-Teacher Conferences This Week

As usual, the school will post sign-up sheets for conference slots on the school home page. They were not yet posted when this newsletter went out Sunday evening; keep an eye out for them to appear! Conferences will take place this Wednesday through Friday in the after-school hours, typically with both Zoom and in-person options for meetings.

Update: Bell Schedule and Curriculum Changes

Representatives of the HSA Board met on the morning of March 22 with Associate Superintendent Tomás Hanna, Assistant Superintendent Ted Domers, Dr. Payne, Ms. Lennon, and Ms. Harrison. We clearly and strongly expressed the concerns about next year’s schedule and curriculum that we have heard from members of the school community. We discussed the fact that according to our community survey, 87 percent of parents do not support the changes and 250+ of you submitted written comments within 36 hours of our survey. (At the time of this newsletter, that number has reached almost 350.) Your written comments were sent in their entirety to the district team, who read them and acknowledged our request to pause.

A pause was not agreed to; we were told that the changes are happening. However, school and district leaders did make a commitment to review areas that could be considered for adjustment in the short-term and in the long-term. We were encouraged to hear that the administration is open to considering modifications either initiated by them or in further conversation with members of our community.

While it is disappointing that we were unable to agree on a pause to these foundational changes, we did walk away with a clearer understanding of the issues that led the administration to make them. We discussed the fact that parents perceive these changes as part of a process of cuts to school programming that started with the lottery selection process and before, with the elimination of the advanced math track in middle school. District officials indicated that they do not intend to diminish the curriculum and pace of learning at Masterman. Overall, all parties indicated a strong desire to maintain Masterman’s tradition of excellence and Mr. Hanna further conveyed that there is no intent by the district to systematically dismantle the school. Rather, a variety of competing priorities, bureaucratic strictures, and building constraints have guided the administration’s decision-making since they began this planning in the fall. Everyone agrees it should have been discussed earlier and, moving forward, SAC, too, will be engaged to gather and process input from all stakeholders: students, teachers, parents, and administration. District officials took accountability for Masterman’s success.

Follow-up from the meeting includes:

  • School and district leaders are debriefing after our meeting to review planning and determine what adjustments might be made.
  • Beginning in May, the school administration will host multiple small-group meetings with a cross-section of stakeholders, to provide more clarity about the changes and what lies ahead. All parties agreed this would be a desirable way for the administration to communicate more widely the details and reasoning that they shared with HSA leaders in this meeting.
  • Next year, once the changes have been implemented, HSA will support the administration in creating surveys and fostering conversations to provide voice and agency for students, families, and staff—with a commitment on the part of the administration to consider adjustments based on that feedback.
  • Associate Superintendent Hanna shared the results of the March 22 meeting with the Superintendent and Deputy Superintendent immediately following the meeting.


The HSA will continue discussions with administration around modifications to the plan to enable more learning and special subjects (art, music, and gym) for MS. Further, we will continue discussions with the district and administration around issues including welcoming and orienting new families and students, changes to the lottery selection process (for which a meeting with the Deputy Chief Karyn Lynch has been scheduled), consideration of a pathway from middle school through high school, stemming the decline in middle school applications and attrition in all grades, and rebuilding community morale and mutual trust. We appreciate the energy and collaborative spirit that Mr. Hanna brought to this meeting and look forward to seeing positive results for the whole community.

Statement on Press Coverage

When the HSA Board published its report on February 8, 2023, we understood that, by making it publicly available on our website in our great country with a free press, anybody could say anything they wanted about it. We took this risk because we were confident in our report and believed that public discussion of the report would result in positive change. Last Friday, we saw the first major validation of this when Dr. Watlington and Board President Streater, in front of the cameras, announced that the District would place dozens of children that remained unplaced in the lottery selection process in open seats in magnet schools, as recommended in our report. It’s evident that the press scrutiny launched by our report has begun to make an impact in improving outcomes for students and schools across the city. We appreciate the parents who told their stories to the press, putting themselves on the line to achieve this vital goal. Thank you!

At the same time, we understand that people sometimes mischaracterize our report to fit their particular goals. If anyone has any doubt about the position of the Masterman HSA, it is well summarized in the report, which remains available for all to see. Specifically, we reiterate that we believe in the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion as well as merit. We do not see these things as incompatible. On the contrary, we see it as imperative that excellence and equity must be equally prioritized and attained for the success of our school. 

To be clear, every student who enters our school community has met the criteria as established by the school and district and is deserving of our continued support to advocate for the necessary resources to ensure their success. The HSA maintains an unwavering commitment to this work. 

We will continue to work with the School District of Philadelphia to find a better way to balance these goals than the present lottery selection process, which has adversely impacted members of our school community and many others throughout our district. 

Mitchell Orenstein, HSA President


March 29–31: Parent-Teacher Conferences

April 24: PSSA Testing Begins


April 11 | 7:30 pm | Zoom

May 9 | 7:30 pm | Zoom


Weds–Friday, March 29–31: Half days

April 3–7: No school (Spring Break)

April 14: Half day

April 21: No school

May 5: Half day

You can find the full SDP calendar here. Note that the 2023–2024 and 2024–2025 calendars have now been announced.

Run for the Masterman SAC!

In addition to HSA elections coming up, elections to serve on Masterman’s School Advisory Council (SAC) will also be held soon. Our school needs another cohort of dedicated, thoughtful community members to join this important team! The deadline to apply to serve is April 19—more information here.


The spring sale is over but you can always refresh your Masterman gear and support the HSA. Check out some new styles here!

Shout out to parents Jill Scott and Tracy Joslyn, who have taken on the task of running logo sales! Reach them at logo@mastermanhsa if you have any questions.


Spirit Week!

High School Spirit Week kicked off on Friday with a lip sync contest that rocked the house—and will continue this week with a HS-wide game of Blammo, a wall art competition, pie eating, cup stacking, basketball, and more. Support your students in wearing their team colors (blue or white) every day this week to rack up points.

Successful Sixth Grade Social

It was sweet seeing many sixth graders, guardians, and teachers out on Friday afternoon for the sixth grade social! A great time was had by all with games, raffles, dancing, and snacks. Huge thanks to Ms. Geiger and Ms. Burge for their support, to the HSA Outreach/Liaison team Cari Akula, Jennafer Howard, Aubrey White, and Sam Vitiello, who conceived and executed the event, and to all the chaperones who came out to help.

Don’t worry if you missed it. Plans for more social events are in the works!

Athletics Update

Spring sports have started. Congrats to all our Masterman sports teams who started off the spring season with WINS: Girls Lacrosse, Boys Lacrosse, Baseball, and Boys Tennis. 

Goooooo Blue Dragons!

Below are links to the various sport schedules:

Co-ed Track & Field

Boys Volleyball

Boys Tennis



Girls Badminton

Boys Lacrosse (co-op team coached by Masterman faculty)

Girls Lacrosse (co-op team coached by SLA faculty)

Reminder: NHS Tutoring Always Available!

Students in all grades can drop in as needed for help from Masterman HS student members of the National Honor Society during these hours:

Mondays, 7:30am – 8:15am in Room 214 (for everyone)

Tuesdays, 8th Period in Room 406 (for HS students)

Wednesdays, 8th Period in Room 305 (for 5th- and 6th-grade students)

Thursdays, 8th Period in Room 406 (for 7th- and 8th-grade students)

(Note the change to room 406 on Tuesdays and Thursdays.)

This is a free resource for everyone! If you have any questions please contact the HS Dean, Mr. Gilken, at


Mental Health Corner

Free Webinar:

How Social Media Affects Your Child, and What You Can Do to Help

Tuesday, March 28, 2023, 5:30 PM

Many parents worry about the impact of social media on their children. And with increasingly alarming statistics about teenagers’ mental health so often in the news, it makes sense to ask what we can do to support them and keep them safe. There’s a lot we still don’t know about how exactly social media affects kids, but we do know that parental guidance and open communication can make a big difference in helping them navigate its risks.

The session is hosted by Fort Health, a mental telehealth provider for ages 4–19, in partnership with the Child Mind Institute, the leading nonprofit in children’s mental health. The webinar features four leading mental health experts who will share the latest research on social media’s impact on mental health. The webinar will also include practical strategies to help you set healthy boundaries around social media, maintain a strong bond with your child, and foster their resilience and self-esteem. Masterman counselor Ms. Marcus shared this information for our community.

Summer Opportunity for Rising 8th–10th Graders

Be a part of this unique, week-long camp designed for aspiring scientists like you! The Sci-Q Project will be held from June 25 to July 1, 2023 at the Pocono Environmental Education Center (PEEC) located in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.

Students will interact with local college professors, hand-picked for their fun, approachable nature, as they showcase their research in a variety of fascinating fields. They'll also share their personal stories about the challenges and rewards of becoming scientists. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that will give you a definite edge in this exciting career path. The program is limited to just 20 talented students who will be entering grades 8-10 in the fall of 2023. 

The 2023 Sci-Q Project is funded by grants and donations. Each student who is accepted is asked to pay only a nominal fee ($75.00) to participate in the program, while the balance of the tuition, room, and board will be covered. 


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Donations fund the many programs and initiatives of the HSA that support our school, teachers, families, and students. Whether you are able to give $5 or $500, your gift is meaningful, and signals your commitment to our community.


Want to give direct support to specific teachers or your child’s classroom? Masterman teachers have updated their Amazon Wish Lists with the items they need to supplement the HSA’s Teacher Grant program.


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And don't forget to become a member of the HSA today!


We need each other.

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