Philadelphia Schools Safety Director Looks into Improper Access to School Parking Lots

Staffers allegedly selling parking permits to persons not associated with school

The Philadelphia School District is investigating whether staffers at University City High School have been improperly selling parking permits to people who don't work for the school or other district facilities in the area.

Currently, both Dexter Green, the district's chief safety executive in charge of school police, and John F. Downs, the district's inspector general, have been asked to look at the allegations, schools spokesman Fernando A. Gallard said yesterday.

School employees allegedly are charging $50 a month for parking to people who work nearby, creating a source of frustration for University High teachers.

Teachers told the Daily News they are tired of coming to work each day and scrambling to find parking while prime spaces on school grounds are occupied by people who work for the University of Pennsylvania, the Science Center or other nearby institutions.

Teachers say they must park farther away, are sometimes late getting to work, and feel unsafe if they have after-school activities as it gets darker earlier in the day.

"I know so many people who have gotten tickets on their cars, and they have an ID card on their cars," said one teacher.

Teachers did not want their names used. They said some teachers have suffered reprisals for speaking out.

The frustration has led some teachers to conduct their own surveillance of cars parked around the school at 36th and Filbert streets.

They said they observed drivers leaving cars that had authentic yellow "UCHS" permits hanging in the windshield. These people walked away from the school toward Market Street and other locations.

The Daily News observed the area outside the school for several days before and after Thanksgiving and saw people returning to their cars (with UCHS permits) from the Market Street direction at 4:40 p.m. and again at 5:10 p.m..

These workers walked up the south side of Filbert Street - the opposite side of the street from the school - then crossed Filbert to walk into a huge sidewalk area used for parking. The cars they entered had yellow "UCHS" parking permits on them identical to those issued to staffers.

On another day, just before 9 a.m., a woman crossed Filbert from the school to walk toward Market Street.

She said, "I don't park at the school, but people in my office do. They go inside and talk to this woman. I don't know if she's the principal or not, but they say she's very temperamental." The woman said she worked at Penn Fertility.

After questions from the Daily News, School District Chief Operations Officer Fred Farlino called in Green to look into the matter.

Farlino said the practice of selling parking permits to people who do not work for the school district is a violation of district policy. Anyone found selling permits would be subject to disciplinary actions, Farlino said.

University City Principal M. Sandra Dean, named to the job in August 2003, denies that the permits are still being sold. She acknowledged that there had been a practice of selling permits to a number of people in nearby offices to raise money for the William Ross Scholarship Fund dating back to 1995.

"When I came on board as administrator, I found out that this was the practice, and I immediately said, 'We can't do this,' and this was stopped," Dean said yesterday.

She said she told "everyone involved that this was not a practice that was to continue here."

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