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Independent. Reader-Supported

Another first prize in Education Writers’ awards




The Notebook and NewsWorks have received another honor from the Education Writers Association: first prize in EWA’s National Awards for Education Reporting for their coverage of Philadelphia school closings in 2013.

This marks the second year in a row that the Notebook/NewsWorks partnership has garnered a first prize in the competition and the fourth straight year that EWA has honored the Notebook. 

The coverage of school closings, which won in the category of a single-topic news or feature for a medium newsroom, was led by NewsWorks reporter Benjamin Herold (now at Education Week). The project team included Notebook editors Dale Mezzacappa and Paul Socolar and Michelle Schmitt of Maneto Mapping and Analysis, with videography by Kimberly Paynter and web graphics by Todd Vachon, both of NewsWorks.

The contest judges wrote, “The work of Benjamin Herold and his colleagues in this series asks – and answers – all the right questions about Philadelphia’s school closures.” The judges noted that the coverage may have played a role in reversing District plans to close some schools.

The Notebook and NewsWorks have maintained a reporting partnership since 2011 to enhance their education coverage of Philadelphia.

Readership survey is here

The Notebook is always looking to improve. This spring, the staff is working with researcher Eva Gold at Pathway Strategies and media consultants Coats2Coats to gain insight about the changing media habits of its audience, what features readers find most useful, and what directions to move in the future. The research will guide a redesign of the Notebook’s website and other changes.

The project includes a readership survey and parent focus groups to learn how readers use the print edition and website, their likes and dislikes. The readership survey is on p. 9 of this edition, and at We urge you to participate.

Gold and research assistant Madelyn Silber have gathered feedback from four focus groups, meeting with parents of special education students convened by special education advocate Cecilia Thompson, and with parents gathered by the Lea Elementary Home and School Association, Friends of Chester A. Arthur, and Action United. More focus groups are planned, including one targeting immigrant parents and one for charter school parents.

Save the date

The Notebook will celebrate 20 years of publishing with its annual Turning the Page for Change event on Tuesday, June 10, from 4:30 to 7 p.m., at the University of the Arts, 320 S. Broad St. 

This year’s event will include a visual display of education memorabilia from the past 20 years, including photographs by Harvey Finkle and cartoons by Eric Joselyn from the Notebook. Attendees will also enjoy student journalism awards, exciting prizes, student musicians, fantastic food, and conversation with many of the city’s most passionate public education advocates.

Admission is $75. The Notebook is seeking individuals to join its Host Committee; hosts donate $300 or more and receive two event admissions. Organizations are invited to sponsor the event. Sponsorships start at $600. To become a host or sponsor – or volunteer for the celebration – contact Tim Cravens at or 215-839-0082 ext. 106.

Editors at AERA

Notebook editor/publisher Paul Socolar and contributing editor Dale Mezzacappa spoke at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) in April. More than 13,000 attendees gathered at the conference, held in Philadelphia. 

Socolar addressed a session called “The Landscape of Education Reform in Philadelphia,” talking about the “portfolio model” and how it has developed in Philadelphia. He was joined on the panel by School District Superintendent William Hite, Philadelphia School Partnership head Mark Gleason, Hiram Rivera of Philadelphia Student Union, Kate Shaw of Research for Action, and Lori Shorr, the city’s chief education officer.

Mezzacappa spoke on a panel titled “Action Space for School Reform,” a discussion of lessons from 1990s Philadelphia school reform efforts. 

Restoring Ideals project

Through a conservation project called Restoring Ideals, led by Temple Contemporary, the Notebook was selected to work with a group of professional conservators to preserve part of its archives. As a result, the Notebook now has its first 29 print issues restored, preserved, and scanned. These editions chronicle the school system between 1994 and 2002, before the Notebook went online. 

In the coming months, these digitized editions will be posted online. In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the first publication, the Notebook will be posting an article from our archives each week, providing a historical perspective on the changes that have taken place in public education and persistent issues facing the District. 


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Wendy Harris

Wendy is the managing editor at the Notebook. She has worked at Black Enterprise magazine as a staff editor and contributing writer, and is the author of two books.