For more than three decades, the Franklin Learning Center (FLC) has been an award-winning school of innovation, high educational standards and a cultural hub with diverse students and staff.
Dr. Charles Staniskis and Frank Guido founded the high school in 1973. Guido was the original principal of FLC, but now Staniskis holds that position.
Spending a brief period at Philadelphia Girls High School as an assistant principal from 1990 until 1992, Staniskis has spent most of his career at FLC. In the spring of 2011, Staniskis was presented the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Distinguished Principal Award. Yet, he said his most memorable experience was when the school was recognized twice on the national stage.
The United States Department of Education recognized FLC as a Blue Ribbon School in 1992 and 2010.
“Many people don’t know about the secret we have here. It’s really a great school. There isn’t any violence. The cultural atmosphere is really great: Black, white, Asian, African, [and] and Albanian. They all get together and have a great time learning and supporting each other,” Staniskis said.
In her 10th year of teaching art in FLC, Christina Whitt said the diversity of students adds an element of educational value.
“The diversity in the room is really great. There are a lot of kids from different parts of the city, from ethnic backgrounds. It really gives them a snapshot of the world. They actually know more about each other since they’re outside of their neighborhood. Kids really know a lot from each other,” Whitt said.
Along with its local and national recognition and diverse population, the school’s grading system is unlike others in the Philadelphia School District. There are no grades. Instead, the school operates on a credit-based system. Students receive credit for units completed in class. When they have completed the required credits for that class, they can move on to the next class. Each credit earned represents a student’s competency of at least 80 percent (B) proficiency in that class. Students can receive 90 percent (A) or (*), which indicates that 90 percent or better was earned.
Within FLC, there are four smaller schools known as “mini schools” that focus on specific areas of education.
In the health science mini-school, course work prepares students with an interest in health occupations. Through medical terminology, Advance Placement courses, showings and internship programs, students receive college preparatory and work experience.
“We try to get all the students through the Nurses’ Assistant Training Program. So they leave the school with a certificate for a nurses’ assistant so that going onto college, they have another skill that they can fall back on for weekends or summers to make a decent dollar not just minimum wage,” Staniskis said.
Health science major students are also involved in extracurricular activities including Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA), The Red Cross Club, Science Fair Club and other leadership and summer workshops.
Eleventh-grader, Briana Stephens, is a member of The Red Cross Club and explained how her interest in health science developed.
“I want to be an obstetrician and gynecologist. When I was growing up, my mom used to watch the special delivery channel and I got interested in it and besides my mom had high risk pregnancies,” Stephens said.
Currently, there is construction going on in the school for renovations and add-on improvements for the future “health science suite.” FLC’s health science suite will support a mock hospital with six beds, doctor’s office and lecture area for students. According to Staniskis, construction should be completed by the end of this academic year.
Along with this project, there will be a new gymnasium floor with glass basketball backboards, an updated chemistry lab and a conference room equipped with white boards and wireless phones.
Students in the business technology mini-school are engaged in entrepreneurship, Advanced Placement computer science, Future Business Learning of America and internship opportunities. Additionally, students have the opportunity to obtain Industry-Recognized Certification as a Microsoft Office Specialist or in the International Computer Driving License Program.
For students who have an interest in the arts, dance, drama or music subject areas are apart of the Performing Arts mini-school. Throughout the year, there are dance recitals, musicals and art exhibits.
Senior, Andrew V. Cruz, played one of the leading roles as Radames in the school’s musical “Aida.” Last year, Cruz played the role of Aladdin in the school’s production of “Aladdin.” Despite his extensive experience, this actor has an interest in studying medicine and becoming a physical therapist.
“We have really good academics. That’s what attracted me to the school. I wanted to do acting, but I also wanted options just in case if I didn’t want to choose acting as a career option. I’m going to go to college for physical therapy. I wouldn’t have made that choice if I didn’t have the strong academic background from FLC,” Cruz said.
Not all students may know exactly which subject area fits them best. Here at FLC, there is a mini school called Humanities that allows students to explore various subject areas. However, this school focuses on SAT preparation, Mock Trials and problem solving activities.
Benabdellah Moueddene, also known as “Senor Ben”, teaches Spanish and French. Moueddene, originally from Algeria and a native French and Arabic speaker, has taught in the Philadelphia School District for 17 years. However this is his first year teaching at FLC. In Moueddene’s class, textbooks are not seen, but rather laptops, interactive websites and Rosetta Stone.
“We use technology all the time. [The students] are savvy also in technology. Sometimes they teach me something. It helps them focus and accomplish more than, you know, the traditional textbook,” Moueddene said.
In Whitt’s art appreciation class, an introduction class for ninth-graders, students infuse ancient Egyptian culture in their artwork. From the school’s production of “Aida,” students had the option of creating a parody using Egyptian art as inspiration with modern elements, a self-portrait of putting themselves in Egypt or doing a reproduction of an Egyptian art piece. Other classes made art that was used for the play.
Students learn drawling in perspective, portrait drawling, digital imaging, animation using iMovie and mural painting in other art classes.
From its history, national recognition, diversity, academic standards and options, students and staff praise the ability to learn and work in the educational environment created at FLC.
This is it, senior year, and the final chapter of high school. College applications are mailed out, and students wait to hear back from their dream schools. Some spend time at internships, as others prepare for avenues in collegiate sports.
According to the 2011 School District of Philadelphia’s Office of Accountability Annual School Report, 100 percent of students at Franklin Learning Center graduated on time during the 2010–2011 academic school year. This year, four students reflect on their experiences of academic accomplishments, athletic achievements, participation in extracurricular activities and discuss practical social skills learned during their time at FLC.
After flying over 5,000 miles from Syria to Philadelphia more than four years ago, Tarek Kerbag has made several accomplishments in his high school career.
Kerbag is class president and a dual athlete playing for the boy’s soccer and volleyball teams. He has received First Team and All-Star in soccer this year. He made All-Public, a first for FLC, and All-Star recognition in volleyball last year. Kerbag said the school’s grading system motivated him throughout high school.
“When I heard about the credit system, that’s why I chose this school. Honestly, I did so much progress that I never thought I would do since I came from a different country. In the four and a half years, I never thought I would be on the top of the [class],” Kerbag said.
“Since this school has a credit system, it forces you to go up to that 80 percent at least, nothing below that. That’s how it helped me. In one year, you could finish one class and move to the next. I didn’t have to wait for the rest of the class. This is something special about this school.”
Kerbag has applied to 10 colleges and so far has heard back from Ducane, Tiffin and Louisville University. He said he wants to play both sports in college.
Communication and technology major, Ja’nese L. Felder said she chose to attend FLC for her major, the credit system and extra curricular activities.
There are over 15 clubs students are active in, such as, Science Fair Club, Poetry Club and Stage Crew. There are over ten sports teams including Co-ed Dance, Badminton, Bowling, Golf and Tennis. Co-ed Cross Country, Cheerleading, Boy’s Varsity Basketball, Girl’s Softball, Boy’s Varsity Baseball and Co-ed Track and Field all received high honors in their divisions.
“My most memorable experience I would say was coming to the school, because I don’t think I would be the person I am today or have met the people I know now,” Felder said.
Felder has been accepted to East Stroudsburg, Holy Family, Arcadia and LaSalle University.
Sheila Pica majors in business technology and is from Puerto Rico. Pica said the school’s diversity sparked her interests.
“I like to learn about people’s backgrounds and where they come from. Their whole journey to how they became who they are today. I see at FLC you can find that. You can learn from other people’s background and they can learn from you. You can relate to them in many different ways,” Pica said.
While attending FLC, she has interned at Glasko Smith Kline as an assistant secretary for two years helping with various technology projects. Pica said the opportunity she had at her internship helped her develop skills.
“My internship has really been a huge influence in my life and has helped me [become] the person I am today,” Pica said.
As a student class representative, Pica encourages the younger students to make an active effort to meet people during high school.
“I just kind of tell freshman to get involved, to have networking skills, have connections, go out there, don’t be shy, talk to people, meet people, get to know them. So that when it comes to colleges, to a job, you have connections and use them as your reference,” Pica said.
As the first FLC representative of the 2011 Nike SPARQ Combine, which was highlighted by ESPN High School Football, Borbor Kesselly is a top football prospect in the Class of 2012 and 2013. Additionally, Kesselly is the first to make All-Public for football at FLC.
“When they first developed a football team — that was my favorite moment. When I came here freshman year, the school was perfect for me. Everything was perfect, but they didn’t have a football team. I told Ms. Sullivan about it, and she really started to get the team and that was good,” Kesselly said.
Kesselly is said he wants to play at Temple University and major in architecture. He accredits his success to the school’s principal, Dr. Charles C. Staniskis.
“I come in here and talk to Doc everyday. We’re really cool. We really talk about things, and he really motivates me,” Kesselly said.
As these students embark on their journeys into college, Kerbag, Felder, Pica and Kesselly agree that FLC has prepared them academically, athletically and socially.