by Brendan Sample

Community feedback from the recent Harry Potter Festival and further discussion of issues surrounding the Jenks Academy ramp were the main topics of discussion during last week’s Chestnut Hill Community Association board meeting.

Though there were some suggestions on how certain aspects could be improved in the future, the general consensus from both the board and the community at large was that the festival was a notable success.

Some of the specific elements that were praised included the lack of serious congestion, cleanliness, ease of getting to stores around the main area and friendliness of police officers. Both residents and non-residents of Chestnut Hill who attended the festival this year and last were struck by the improvements made this year to ensure a smoother overall experience than in 2016.

Some of the suggested improvements included having event staff members more familiar with the neighborhood and helping to make people off of Germantown Avenue more aware of the event. In response to the presence of protesters from the Key of David Christian Center the night before the festival officially began, there were also suggestions of looking into implementing measures that could prevent similar protests in the future.

Whatever happens with the festival in upcoming years, it will happen under different Chestnut Hill Business District leadership. The board formally introduced Phil Dawson as the new CHBD executive director, taking over for Martha Sharkey, who announced in June that she would be stepping down by the end of the year.

A Mt. Airy resident, Dawson has spent the past five years at Esperanza, a nonprofit faith-based organization that serves Hispanic communities throughout Philadelphia, most recently as executive director of housing and economic development.

Though the festival was certainly a popular topic of conversation, the board also took time to hear from Ardleigh Street neighbors and their continued concerns about the use of the Jenks ramp. Starting from their discussion at the Land Use Planning and Zoning Committee meeting last month, the neighbors formally presented their arguments against the way the ramp is currently being used to the board. They particularly emphasized their opposition to parents using the ramp to drop off and pick up their children, as they argued that it creates safety issues on the street.

One action they had taken in the week before the CHCA meeting was working with several board members to write and send a formal letter to 8th District City Councilwoman Cindy Bass. At the time of the meeting, Bass’ office had not yet responded to the letter. Board members agreed that they would attempt to follow up with Bass if no response had been received after at least a full week.

Another potential fix that was discussed involved establishing some sort of police presence that could enforce the ramp restrictions at random dates and times. Because the ramp has only been officially approved for deliveries, cars using it for other purposes could end up being ticketed, but only with some sort of police presence at the school. The CHCA also agreed that it would reach out to the Philadelphia Police Department to see what, if anything, could be done.

One safety measure currently in the works at Jenks is an American Automobile Association (AAA) School Safety Patrol for Ardleigh Street. Eva Dorcus, president of the Jenks Home and School Association, confirmed that the program is being developed for Jenks and that the school is hoping to have it implemented by the winter. Dorcus welcomed any participation on this measure or any other potential fixes from the community, as she has already been working with one Ardleigh neighbor, Chris Mattingly, directly on this patrol.

“Everybody has great ideas, but unless you’re willing to execute them yourself, those ideas don’t mean anything,” Dorcus said. “I want what’s best for the community as a whole … It’s a tough issue and nothing will ever be perfect, but I will make sure that the school does what they can to improve the situation.”

In other news, the board also received a report on the Black and White Gala from Marilyn Paucker, vice president of the Social Division. While the financial numbers are still being put together, Paucker confirmed that more than 300 guests attended the gala, which was more than twice the amount of people from last year. The hundreds of guests in attendance, combined with the countless amount of art supplies donated to Jenks, was enough for Paucker to declare the gala a resounding success.

Brendan Sample can be reached at