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A new vision for the School District

By Dale Mezzacappa on Apr 23, 2012 12:21 AM

The Philadelphia School District has announced a press conference for Tuesday to release a “transformation plan" and five-year financial plan, and the Notebook has obtained a copy of the reorganization proposal prepared by Chief Academic Officer Penny Nixon.

The CAO's 40-page proposal for academic reorganization would eliminate the current academic divisions and replace them with 12 “principal learning teams” that would bring school leaders together monthly. The academic departments in the central office would be reorganized to offer a “menu of supports and services” for schools to draw upon in areas like talent development, curriculum, student and family services, student placement, and school climate. The goal would be to provide "timely assistance to principals and schools."

Nixon's proposal also spells out an approach to granting more school autonomy, as well as supports and intervention that would apply to schools, all depending on their academic performance.

The document, the culmination of the work of seven "academic design subcommittees" that met for weeks this winter, also includes a plan for aligning Philadelphia’s curriculum to both the Common Core standards and a set of new grade-specific “college and career-ready indicators.”

Nixon sent this document to all principals Sunday afternoon and said she looked forward to discussing it with them in the coming weeks.

It is not clear how the document fits in with other reorganization plans being drawn up by the Boston Consulting Group, which was hired by the District with funding from the William Penn Foundation to rethink the District’s operations, find new efficiencies, and focus on directing scarce dollars to students’ academic needs, as opposed to administrative costs.  

There is no reference to the Boston Consulting Group in the document, which also does not address the District's business operations. The members of the seven subcommittees are listed in the document, but no BCG consultants are listed.

Check back for further updates.

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Comments (27)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 23, 2012 6:53 am

None of the alternative schools are in the Principal Learning Teams. Guess it isn't important for the district to share resources with them.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 23, 2012 5:37 pm

That is very interesting. Where do they fit into all of this?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 23, 2012 7:26 pm

Same place as always-- completely forgotten, a necessary evil to avoid lawsuits. Working in AD-4, it is clear that it isn't really part of the district. You should see the battle fought by principals and the other AD supts to never take back a single student they've expelled.

It should make everyone in the district nauseous.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 23, 2012 6:43 am

Since there is almost no one in curriculum, and those who are there don't know much and are left overs from Vallas (e.g. LaTonya Miller, Ceil Cannon, Ed Williams, Nancy Bratton, etc.) and Ackerman (Nixon, Driver), can we really hope for anything different? Why not listen to teachers - not administrators who haven't taught in YEARS / DECADES (or hardly at all like Miller, Driver, etc.) - and let us work this summer to develop courses / assessments for OUR students?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 29, 2012 10:52 am

Good question! Good points!

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on April 23, 2012 7:08 am

We need these discussions to be very public, very collegial, very inclusive, very transparent, very open and very honest. We need a sea change in how our schools are governed and led.

Are we giving principals autonomy, or are we giving "school communities" autonomy?

Are our schools going to be 'true professional learning communities" led and governed collegially and collaboratively, or are they going to be dictatorships as many of our schools now are?

Are we going back to the feudalism of the past or are we going to move into the 21st century?

Is the SRC going to lead us backwards or forwards? Are they going to be deep thinkers and innovators?

Submitted by anonymous. (not verified) on April 23, 2012 11:33 am

Don't hold your breath.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 23, 2012 8:24 am

We haven't heard anything about BCG's plans in Philadelphia yet. But I did find some planning that they did for Memphis and a neighboring county this winter and spring. It looks to me like their focus is much more clearly on how more schools can become charters than Penny Nixon's proposal. I'm wondering how that will play out here.

http://stand.org/sites/default/files/Tennessee/2012-03-01TPCAdminOrgFAQs...

Submitted by A Touch of Sense (not verified) on April 23, 2012 9:25 am

It will play out by us discovering that BCG is all about privatization of public schools.

We will find out they they have little expertise and experience in education and know very little about teaching and learning and making schools effective and efficient entities. Check them out and you will find few if any of their employees have ever actually taught or worked in an urban public school.

In the end, they will prove to be just another bunch of consultants who hold themselves out as experts who are really not experts at all but just another bunch of know-littles.

It will play out by just being another waste of our money that should be used for children. Caveat emptor my friends.

Submitted by anonymous. (not verified) on April 23, 2012 11:27 am

I totally agree........and so do all clear thinking persons. It's just a political pay off of some sort. Can you say, Edison Schools??

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 23, 2012 8:51 am

Since we don't have any information about what BCG is recommending in Philly, I scoured the internet and found a proposal they gave Memphis this spring. It doesn't look too much like Penny Nixon's document, so I think we need to keep our eyes open for what happens with them too.

http://stand.org/sites/default/files/Tennessee/2012-03-01TPCAdminOrgFAQs...

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on April 23, 2012 9:13 am

Does this mean that we're going away with Empowerment/Vanguard and the other designations of Imagine 2014?

Also interesting is that only one current principal is on the Reorganization team.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 23, 2012 9:39 am

Why is CASA President on a committee, but not PFT President. Wake up people!!!!!!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 23, 2012 10:39 am

This is all very void of teachers - what else is new...

Submitted by A Touch of Sense (not verified) on April 23, 2012 10:54 am

It is like a hospital administration figuring out how to better serve cancer patients without including doctors in the decision-making process.

Submitted by Brian Cohen (not verified) on April 23, 2012 11:48 am

One of the other unfortunate pieces here is the announcement (via email) from Thomas Knudsen that there are meetings today and tomorrow in the afternoon for feedback. Short notice is not good enough.

He did mention that there will be other times to provide feedback so I recommend keeping a lookout and attending those meetings. I certainly plan to.

Submitted by anonymous. (not verified) on April 23, 2012 11:32 am

It was by design--to piss off teachers---believe me, I know.

Submitted by LS Teach (not verified) on April 23, 2012 11:15 am

How do you know?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 23, 2012 11:56 am

Penny Nixon and the SRC must go! Another blow for integrity, collaboration, and students with disabilities.

BTW, no one of the wonderful, powerful people I know where invited to this private club of "academic design subcommittees". It's a very slated agenda. Arlene lives on!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 23, 2012 1:47 pm

The reorganization proposal PDF won't open when I click on it. Anyone else?

Submitted by Erika Owens on April 23, 2012 3:17 pm

Hi, I just tried the link and it worked for me. Could you try this one?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 23, 2012 5:16 pm

No, that one didn't work either. It opens a new window in Firefox, but it's a blank page. Thank you for trying.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 23, 2012 5:28 pm

Okay, it works in Safari. Thanks again.

Submitted by toshifuni (not verified) on April 23, 2012 3:35 pm

So how does this fit with Imagine 2014- a SRC panel published document from 2009?

Submitted by anonymous. (not verified) on April 23, 2012 4:39 pm

As soon as Penny Nixon's name is mentioned, all credibility is GONE. It's a shame but true and we all know it. Can you say, Linda Wayman, Kathy Donahue, Latonya Miller, Ed Williams?????? Just a farce !!

Submitted by anonymous. (not verified) on April 23, 2012 4:18 pm

As soon as Penny Nixon's name is mentioned, all credibility is GONE. It's a shame but true and we all know it. Can you say, Linda Wayman, Kathy Donahue, Latonya Miller, Ed Williams?????? Just a farce !!

Submitted by Mary Beth Hertz (not verified) on April 24, 2012 7:33 am

What worries me most is the suggestion that the Boston group's work has no mention in the current proposals. Too many cooks in the kitchen with no cross-communication is a recipe for disaster. Right now we have the re-org proposal by SDP, a Great Schools Compact and the Boston Consulting Group. If they aren't working together seamlessly, then this will be another story of damage control.

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