At its September meetings, the School Reform Commission:
- Heard a presentation by Deputy Superintendent Leroy Nunery and new Chief of School Safety Myron Patterson about the District’s new safe schools campaign. Dubbed Project Safe Schools, the initiative will target 46 schools called the “Focus 46” schools. These include the 20 schools on the state’s Persistently Dangerous Schools (PDS) list and another 26 that were on the PDS list in the past or are trending that way.
The program aims to reduce truancy and bullying, improve on how incidents are reported, and reduce the number of persistently dangerous schools to zero in two years. The District plans to dispatch school police commanders regionally to the Focus 46 schools, install additional surveillance cameras at the schools, expand its bullying and violence hotline to 24 hours, and implement CompStat, an importing system used by the Philadelphia Police Department to map crime and identify problems areas.
- Heard the final report of the Task Force on Racial and Cultural Harmony. The 50-member group was formed by the District following last December’s attacks on a Asian students at South Philadelphia High to address racial conflict in the District. The task force visited 14 elementary/K-8 schools, three middle schools, and seven high schools.
Recommendations from the report include:
- promoting anti-bullying and conflict resolution training and resources for staff and students;
- hiring a diverse staff at all levels;
- providing more professional development in the areas of diversity and racial/cultural harmony;
- providing more consistent discipline; and
- implementing a year-round orientation program for incoming students and families.
The task force gave the District 90 days to draw up an implementation plan based on its recommendations.
- Heard a presentation by Chief Business Officer Michael Masch about how the $10 billion federal education jobs bill will help the District balance its budget. The bill, which was adopted in August, will bring $98 million to Philadelphia, half of which Masch said the District will use to balance the budget for the current school year, with the other half to be used next year. “The budget for this year maintains all of the reform initiatives in Phase I of Imagine 2014 and some significant additional initiatives this year including the newcomer learning centers, summer program this past summer, Peer Assistance and Review, and other critical initiatives,” he said
- Heard a final update about Phase I of Imagine 2014. Deputy for Strategic Planning and Implementation Jennie Wu discussed the progress made on its strategic plan, including:
- reducing class size and the student-to-counselor ratios in the middle and high school grades,
- adding teacher supports such as the Office of Teacher Affairs and new teacher coaches,
- adding in-school suspension programs at 52 schools,
- providing supports for multilingual families such as the Newcomer Welcome Centers at South Philadelphia, Edison, and Arts Academy at Rush High Schools, and
- the opening of the District’s Renaissance Schools and Promise Academies.
- Voted to approve a contract for up to $1.4 million with URS Corporation to serve as the Facilities Master Plan Program manager for the next year. The facilities master plan is a plan for ensuring that the District’s facilities are effectively and efficiently used and are maintained to maximize teaching and learning. It includes looking at downsizing in areas where District facilities have excess capacity.
- Approved a $2,061,217 million grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Education Concurrent Dual Enrollment initiative to facilitate contracts with several area colleges to provide high school students with postsecondary level courses in which they can receive high school and college credits. The designated colleges are: Chestnut Hill College, Cheyney University, Community College of Philadelphia, Eastern University, Holy Family University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, LaSalle University, Lincoln University, Manor College, St. Joseph’s University, Temple University, and University of the Sciences. The program’s goal is to provide this opportunity to over 1,700 high school students.
- Approved a five-year, $61,671,691 contract with GCA for janitorial and custodial services at the comprehensive high schools. The District continues to contract out its cleaning of high schools but its unionized workforce at these schools continues to be covered by the same collective bargaining agreement
- Approved a $270,000 contract with the trustees of the University of Pennsylvania to recruit and provide college tutors for the GEAR UP cohort AVID classrooms in 28 K-8 schools and seven high schools.
- Approved a $1.6 million contract to expand its partnership with Achieve 3000 to provide TeenBiz3000, a research-based differentiated instruction and literacy program in Empowerment Schools. The program is currently used by nearly 3,500 District students in 11 high schools and through the expansion will be provided in a total of 31 schools. The expansion will also include on-site professional development to teachers and training in data interpretation and data-driven decision-making.
- Approved a $48,513 contract with Community College of Philadelphia to provide English as Second Language (ESL) classes to the parents of the Parent University. Also voted to approve a $40,000 contract with Pacific Interpreters, Inc., a translation and interpretation company, to provide language support to non-English speaking students and parents.
- Heard testimony from several parents in support of approval of the Title I District-wide Parent Engagement Policy. This policy, aligned with Title I of No Child Left Behind, recognizes the importance of parent/caregiver participation in schools for improving student achievement. Jay Cohen, a parent of students at Masterman High School, lauded the policy saying that it has enabled parents “to begin talking to each other and share information. Parents are really beginning to be empowered.”
- Approved an $800,000 contract with Phase 4 Learning Center, Inc. to provide an alternative education program for 80 high school students who are either second- or third-time repeating 9th graders and/or over-age, under-credited students.
- Approved a $360,000 contract with SchoolWorks to perform a series of quality school audits as part of the charter renewal process and Renaissance Schools selection process to assess a school’s academic program, operational systems, and student achievement.