Mr. Hackney's School                                                                                              2011

A series on South Philadelphia High's new principal Otis Hackney, who was tasked with providing healing solutions to the racial violence. The school was where 30 Asian students were attacked by their fellow classmates in 2009. The attacks rocked the city, with reverberations around the country sparking a state investigation, a federal probe and a series of city hearings on school violence.
 
Hackney was given unprecedented access to teachers, students, and school police. He - and the team of teachers and supervisors he assembled -  provided a calming presence to racial tensions that had developed in the school's culture. The photo essay illustrates how difficult it is to run a school where neighborhood violence seems to spill into classrooms every day.
 
These images and others in the series formed part of a team coverage that won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

 

Exterior of South Philadelphia High School.

The word welcome is printed in several languages Reflecting the diversity of the school's population..

Students exit South Philadelphia High School. The word "welcome" greets students each morning.

South Philadelphia High School principal Otis hacknet shakes hands with senior Juniquea Byrd after approving her senior project. Overhead hands a portrait of Marian Anderson who graduated from South Philadelphia High School for Girls in 1921.

While on one of his walks around the school between classes South Philadelphia High School Principal Otis Hackney calls out a student in the hall for wearing a baseball cap.

While on one of his walks around the school between classes South Philadelphia High School Principal Otis Hackney takes a students baseball cap for wearing it in the school. He has institued a strct policy for proper dress and no electronic devices.

South Philadelphia High School Principal Otis Hackney tells a student to pull up his pants because he is in violation of the school dress code that bans baggy pants.

A school distrct police officer watches as Hackney questions a student for being in the restroom without a hall pass between classes.

Hackney encourages students to get involved in activities such as table tennis and a hip hop club after lunch.

While on one of his frequent rounds through the school South Philadelphia High School Hackney peeks under the blinds to check on a class.

South Philadelphia High School ROTC 1st Lt. John Russino poses. He is part of one of the largest ROTC programs in Philadelphia that Hackney has fostered because it doesn't cost the school any money and promotes positive values,

Assistant principal Cheryl Yancey-Hick listens as Hackney talks with her outside the administration team room.

Hackney tears up after watching a play at the Wilma Theater that his students produced and directed about the school.

Hackney stands with Asian student during an anti violence rally outside the school.

Juan Acevedo, a math teacher at South Philadelphia High School teaches in his ESL class, The school is one of the most diverse schools in the Philadelphia district with many non english speaking students.

The school

Juan Acevedo encourages one of his ESL students to use english to describe an algegra problem.

Juan Acevedo jokes with his ESL students after they did well on a text.

The graduating 2011 class of South Philadelphia High School.