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It's not clear schools will open without AVI, Knudsen says

by Benjamin Herold on May 01 2012 Posted in Latest news
Photo: Benjamin Herold

Helen Gym, Rebecca Poyourow, and Sabra Townsend all criticized the District's new "transformation blueprint" at Tuesday's SRC meeting.

by Benjamin Herold
for the Notebook and WHYY/NewsWorks
 

Without the help of City Council, the District won’t be able to open all its schools in September, Chief Recovery Officer Thomas Knudsen told the School Reform Commission on Tuesday night.

At issue is Mayor Nutter’s proposed change to how city property taxes are assessed. The so-called Actual Value Initiative would yield desperately needed revenue for the District, but has met opposition in Council and among some neighborhood groups.

“Were we not to get the $94 million from the AVI initiative, it isn’t clear that we could, in fact, open schools this fall,” Knudsen said. “We would have to make very deliberate choices.”

Listen to reporter Benjamin Herold's radio report for WHYY.  

 

Knudsen’s testimony came at a special School Reform Commission hearing at which the public had its first opportunity to respond to the District’s dire 2012-13 budget projections, as well as a recently announced “transformation blueprint” that would radically overhaul public education in the city through dozens of school closures, further expansion of charter schools, and the breakup of the District into independently run “achievement networks.”

A number of speakers, including parent Rebecca Poyourow, blasted the District’s new transformation plan.

“It is at best foolish and at worst devious for you to choose this moment of fiscal crisis to foist this poorly conceived and primarily ideological reorganization scheme on Philadelphia’s schools,” Poyourow said.

The District is facing a $218 million shortfall next school year – even if Council does pass AVI.

Knudsen would not say how many schools might not open should AVI fail to pass. But he emphasized that school budgets had already been cut to the bone and could not be scaled back any further.

“After careful analysis, we concluded that we simply could not cut more from the current structure without sacrificing the things that make education meaningful,” he told the SRC.

The 2012-13 school year should be viewed as a “transition year,” he said. Although individual school budgets would be kept at current levels, District officials would start laying the foundation for “fundamental change in both the academic and operational elements of our system.”

The overhaul will include the closure of up to 40 school buildings in fall 2013, a move District officials hope will save $33 million in 2013-14. He said the projected savings of $850,000 per closed building are entirely from facilities costs and could be realized even if a closed school's academic program was relocated in another District facility. 

Knudsen said the targeted schools have not yet been identified, but that recommendations are expected to be made public in “late summer or early September.”

SRC Chairman Pedro Ramos acknowledged that it would be difficult to duplicate the level of engagement and responsiveness from the recently completed first round of the District’s facilities master planning process.

“I think the public felt that everybody was heard and we acted fairly” in voting to close eight schools but spare two others, Ramos said. 

Holding hearings for 40 schools is “certainly a bigger challenge at a bigger scale,” he added.

Knudsen also told the SRC that a Request for Proposals from groups interested in managing a pilot “achievement network” of 20-25 schools as part of the District’s decentralization plan could go out in the next few weeks.

Piloting the model is “essential,” said Knudsen, so that any issues can be identified and ironed out before a widespread phasing in of up to eight such networks in 2013-14.

Parent Christine Carlson was one of several speakers who urged the SRC to reconsider the plan, however.

“I just hope your heads don’t fall prey to the corporate-speak that has been brought upon us and infused into this transformational blueprint,” Carlson said.

“Putting the onus of accountability on outside management companies only serves to relieve the District and the city from its responsibility of being held accountable to its public schools.”

Others decried the reorganization plan as a missed opportunity and a repeat of the District’s failed experiment with educational management organizations after the state takeover in 2002.

“I feel like we got a bait and switch,” said parent activist Helen Gym in her testimony. Gym is also a Notebook leadership board member.

“If you had given us $1.4 million, eight weeks of time, and access to your staff, we would darn well have come up with a better plan,” said Gym, referring to the role of the Boston Consulting Group in developing the District’s transformation blueprint.

The commissioners, however, stressed that the plan was still in development. 

“I want to think more about what plan we have, what about it is useful, and what about it might be in the way of what it’s aiming to do,” said Commissioner Lorene Cary. “That’s what this time is about.”

Other news from the budget discussion included:

  • Current Promise Academies will continue to operate next year, but with reduced support. Staff would not commit to the further expansion of the District’s internal school turnaround model for 2013 and beyond, but Knudsen said he anticipated that there would likely be additional schools recommended for conversion to Renaissance charters next year.

  •  CAO Penny Nixon said the District hopes to have all teachers assigned to classrooms by June 30 this year and that a new “blended” model of professional development including online courses would be rolled out shortly afterwards.

  • Summer school will be eliminated for all students except those who need it to graduate or are in grant-funded summer school programs.

  • OverNearly 100 “supplementary” counselor positions will be eliminated. Knudsen did not explain what made a counselor supplementary.

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Comments (61)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 05/02/2012 - 07:21.

Just go ahead and put the nail in the coffin already. You don't want public schools in Philadelphia anymore.

Submitted by Christopher Paslay (not verified) on Wed, 05/02/2012 - 19:37.

Instead of cutting badly needed school personnel and resources, Mayor Nutter should crack down on the city’s deadbeats who owe $472 million in delinquent property taxes. Read more about the extent of the problem here: http://chalkandtalk.wordpress.com/2012/05/02/to-mayor-nutter-close-delin...

Submitted by former teacher (not verified) on Wed, 05/02/2012 - 07:29.

Ben,

Didn't Knudsen say that they would spend $3.4 million to support the "turnaround" of the four new Renaissance schools next year?

Thanks,
Lisa Haver

Submitted by Benjamin Herold on Wed, 05/02/2012 - 08:27.

Lisa,

The amount stated by Mr. Knudsen as the cost next year for three pending Renaissance charter conversions, plus whatever happens at Creighton Elementary, was $3.9 million.

Ben

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on Wed, 05/02/2012 - 07:47.

Let's be honest here. The speakers blasted the privatization plan. It costs more money to do it that way, proposes no benefits to children and only allows people who have never taught or led a school district to profit off of our schoolchildren.

The District has yet to list the real costs of essential instructional and support services to children and the cost of non essential contracts which were put out as no bid contracts.

Not one of our appointed leaders spoke of the Governor's legal and ethical duty to fund our schools adequately and equally. No one spoke of the General Assembly's responsibility to fund our schools. No one spoke of the Mayor's legal and ethical duty to fund our schools properly. No one spoke of City Council's responsibility to fund our schools properly.

It is deja vu as 'the people" say. The plan is nothing more than the same malarkey Edison Schools gave us ten years ago. It was a failure and wasted millions of dollars that should have gone to children. Those of us who have actually lived in our school system for the last ten years, have seen the ridiculousness that such plans have imposed upon us and know this is not a plan designed to benefit our children.

There is no evidence that such privatization plans have ever worked anywhere in America or the world. There is evidence, as in New York, that such plans close to double the cost of education. It is not a plan to start more true charter schools or to begin governing charter schools as public schools. It is a plan to turn our schools over to "charter operators." That is not turning schools into true charter schools. It is turning our schools over to private organizations -- so they can profit.

Penny Nixon's plan, while needing to be developed more fully, is at least a start to collaborative leadership.

When are we going to be honest?

Submitted by Benjamin Herold on Wed, 05/02/2012 - 09:28.

Thanks as always for the thoughtful commentary, Rich.

On the issue of contracted services, which Ms. Gym brought up in her testimony, Mr. Knudsen had this to say after the meeting:

"We have looked at all of the contracting that's going on, in some detail. I am comfortable that we've eliminated a lot of the available cost," in part through a freeze on non-personnel spending for three years.

Asked if he felt the District had extracted all the savings it could from reducing expenditures on unbid services, Knudsen responded:

"I think so.  We continue to look at these things critically.  But I don't accept [Ms. Gym's] premise that [$200 million is] the amount.  I would have to go back and look." 

 

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on Wed, 05/02/2012 - 10:15.

Thanks Ben. I was very impressed with Mr. Knudsen's speech and the manner in which he acknowledged the concerns of those who have spoken since the plan was made public.

I hope, that through the scrutiny of the public and the input of the public, we can work toward a plan that provides a great and productive school experience for every child.

As you know, I have a strong belief that democratic, collaborative leadership and governance is the best practice to ensure that the best interests of the students and their community is the guiding principal of our collective endeavor.

That belief is a result of extensive experience in school leadership and governance and ten years of research into the law of school governance along with actual research of the best practices in leadership.

Democracy is not easy but it is the system of governance we send our children to war to protect. Philadelphia is the birthplace of American democracy.

The issues we are debating at this time in our history go to the very heart of our democracy. Our SRC needs to understand that and think deeply about these issues. So do we all.

I thank you and the Notebook team for what you do.

Submitted by Susan DeJarnatt (not verified) on Wed, 05/02/2012 - 10:48.

I was unable to attend the SRC meeting yesterday so I did not hear Knudsen's speech but the text did not allay my concerns. He seems to think that non-profit is the same as public so that this is not "privatization." But it so clearly is. I share the feeling that we have circled around to where we were 10 years ago.

I am also quite concerned that we have no specifics--which schools are slated for closure? What "non-profit" organizations are ready to and capable of running these networks? At least from the reporting so far, few of the organizations suggested by the District are even interested. I sincerely doubt that any of the universities want to get into the business of running networks of schools. I teach at Temple and we are facing our own financial crisis. Temple did run a few schools during the last round of the "diverse provider" model and I don't think that experiment really worked so well.

Knudsen says that we have a financial crisis, driven in part by increased expenses to charters. So we fix that by increasing the number of students in charters? Makes little sense to me. Similarly he advocates this as way to improve educational outcomes which is contradicted by the Stanford CREDO study.

Finally, there is woefully insufficient oversight now of charter operations. I see no mention of how this will be improved. There are very serious questions about how the existing charters are handling their finances, given nearly 20 percent of them have been investigated by the US Attorney's office. What provision is being made for oversight of this vast expansion of public funds going to private--and yes Mr. Knudsen, they are private!--entities?

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Wed, 05/02/2012 - 12:15.

As a thoughtful commenter, would you have alternate solution(s)? There is woefully inadequate oversight right now of the District. One has only to track Title I spending. Is there a solution that doesn't involve change from the outside? I feel that though both may be considered private, "nonprofit" does differ from "for profit". The District right now is a "nonprofit" entity. How about "government" vs "private"? Which has a better track record?

You work for Temple, a very good school. (My husband and neighbor are alumni, and I love the outreach of Temple Music Prep (a nonprofit)). The "for profit" colleges are very different.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on Wed, 05/02/2012 - 14:53.

Yes, I have alternate solutions. I wrote a book that contains numerous examples of how to govern schools effectively and how to lead schools collegially and collaboratively. It cites the relevant research and law on the best practices in school governance and leadership.

It is entitled Whose School Is It? the Democratic Imperative for Our Schools.

Did you know that a Gates sponsored think tank recommended that schools should be LLC's where the stockholders are the teachers? They said teachers would be able to earn as much as $110,000.00 per year under their scenario.

Do you know any schools governed that way in Philadelphia?

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Wed, 05/02/2012 - 15:23.

I think you have the right ideas. Honestly though it would take an outside authority (almost a dictatorship) to make them happen as you propose. I learned the hard way that we don't work with each other collegially (though we should). The Home and School I worked with wanted to know "who I thought I was" when I (the Secretary/their peer) said we should be supporting the teachers more, and should be disclosing their fundraising total/spending to parents who had contributed. I saw the ludicrous childish jostling for power amongst the teachers even. It's ugly, and it's in all of us... even more I suspect in those who are the most suspicious of others.

Which school was it that proposed that teachers run it? Won't ever work because the power play is bound to sabotage any collegiality.

Why such suspicion of nonprofits? I find the proposal viable in that they would be outsiders, and politically that is a check/balance. If the major decision making is given to the schools and the nonprofit only acts as coordinator, auditor even, then it would work. The ultimate check would remain with the caregivers who could "vote with their feet".

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Wed, 05/02/2012 - 15:30.

Oh also forgot to say, maybe you should develop a cost analysis for your ideas.

Wonder if the Gates think tank can make parents stock holders too?

Teachers have a lot in common with artists, and artists are happy if they "bring a little heaven into existence"... money as an objective in itself only seems to get in the way.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on Wed, 05/02/2012 - 15:57.

That's easy Ms. Cheng!

How about if we create a school with a board of trustees! The teachers elect four trustees and the parents elect four trustees.

And the members of the Notebook elect 1!

That could be done under the "Independent School Model" which is already in the School Code as an option the SRC can choose to implement?

I submit the "Notebook think tank" is far superior to any "Gates think tank."

It is cost free!

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Wed, 05/02/2012 - 18:53.

Would this not be what a charter is, without the advantages a charter enjoys (being its own LEA)? The SRC is an appointed board of trustees is it not? What happens if the District's superintendent disagrees with this Independent School's board of trustees? What if they can't reach a consensus?

More problematically, who would be interested and eligible to run for election to this board? I found that the stipulation that a parent have a child that attended the school in order to be a member of the Home and School board had the negative effect that sometimes parents who wanted to influence things in favor of their own children ran or nominated themselves. Those that would've done a better job were often too busy or not interested in being "in the limelight". Election turnout/returns were poor and not representative. The election got mired in issues of popularity and class prejudice.

I believe the rfp will be out soon to the nonprofit sector, and we can then see who might be interested and compare the cost to what now are the Regional offices. We can see who sits on the board(s) of these. If say, one of these organizations is not managing a network well, the telltale signs of teacher turnover and low achievement would surely appear.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on Thu, 05/03/2012 - 07:22.

In 99% of our school districts in Pennsylvania the "residents" of the LEA elect their school boards. The vast majority of those districts are highly functional, cost effective and resolve their issues without wasting millions on needless litigation.

The result is that just about every student has their individual needs met. Those districts also have higher collective achievement levels in math and reading. They have lower drop out rates and higher college success rates. Their schools are governed and led as communities.

Urban schools governed bureaucratically with few indicia of democracy are the lowest performing districts in the country. Achievement is higher in democratically governed school districts.

Looking at governance structures of schools and school districts, collective achievement is directly correlational to the level of democracy in the governance of a school district.

Our best schools are the ones which function as good school communities. Sheppherd and Stanton are prime examples.

Do I need to go into the positives and negatives of collaborative leadership vs. autocratic leadership? Look at what Vallas and Ackerman did to us. The proof is in the pudding....

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Thu, 05/03/2012 - 08:55.

I would agree that a strong school community is key to achievement. Let's go back to the "Independent School" model, which would have it's own board of trustees (volunteers who would shape the vision, approve the budget/spending, hire/fire the staff including the principal). What would constitute the "catchment" area of this school, from which these volunteers on the board would come from? What hypothetical "vision" might this board work for? This model is in fact the charter model, but kept within the jurisdiction of the District which then adds an additional layer of governance. Having this additional layer would make the board almost what the School Advisory Councils are, "feel good" but in the end irrelevant.

Schools like Stanton, Sheppard, Cook Wissahickon prove that school community can be developed with the governance structure that we now have. I believe the intent of the "achievement networks" is to allow this talent that exists/has proven itself in leadership to continue, and grow to a larger community/communities without being hampered by the callous and unresponsive bureaucracy now in place. Of course, good intentions still need well thought out political structures in order to succeed. The use of nonprofits is untested, but may work. At least if they had to be dropped, it would be easy to go back to the former, costly dysfunctional methods.

Submitted by Helen Gym on Mon, 05/07/2012 - 09:21.

I'm disappointed I missed this comment until now. I find it almost impossible that Mr. Knudsen can say he has put in a complete freeze on non-personnel spending for three years. If you look at the last few SRC resolutions, Ceil Cannon received a consulting contract with the District, Frontline solutions received a contract for Renaissance schools process, and Foundations Inc. is a consultant to West Philly High on special ed. There are other contracts being passed, including $37.5M in unspecified services to schools - albeit not quite at the rate of the previous (and profligate) SRC.

Mr. Knudsen instead gave a flippant response to a serious issue raised multiple times by Notebook reporting, by the Mayor's own Memorandum of Understanding, and by the public. If Mr. Knudsen is so confident he has cleaned up contracting in the district, he should put forward these decisions to public scrutiny.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 05/03/2012 - 05:47.

Penny Nixon's plan is only for 2012 - 2013 until the achievement networks take over.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 05/03/2012 - 08:10.

If Nixon's plan is only for one year, it means more upheaval. We have had different "plans" in empower schools every year since 2008-9. While I appreciate that they are reflecting on what is happening and making adjustments, changing course/materials/directives every year is more than disruptive. It makes it very difficult to support student learning and track progress. Yet, we are held accountable for the yearly "plans."

Submitted by Ms. Chips (not verified) on Wed, 05/02/2012 - 11:03.

Good work, Tom. When you were hired, the gap was $63 million.

If we are really squeezing, how about your $150,000 teat?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 05/02/2012 - 11:37.

Why aren't the counselors verbalizing concern for the proposed counselor cuts?

Submitted by J.J. McHabe (not verified) on Wed, 05/02/2012 - 12:10.

Trying to determine what supplementary counselors are.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 05/02/2012 - 16:34.

It's either anyone who isn't the sole counselor at a school, or anyone whose position was created with the stimulus funds that were grossly misspent by Ackerman et al.

Submitted by Arnold (not verified) on Wed, 05/02/2012 - 21:34.

If you have a school of 500 kids, you can have 1 counselor for all of them.

Submitted by Mayday (not verified) on Wed, 05/02/2012 - 19:10.

We ARE voicing concern. The counselor's steering committee, as well as many individual counselors, have expressed those concerns repeatedly and forcefully. No one is listening except front-line school staff, who have no power, and (some) principals who understand how valuable we are to a successful school team.

"Supplementary" counselors are those who are middle-years counselors in K-8 schools and who were funded by stimulus money. However, there are not 100 such positions -- it's presently more like 60. This school year, such counselors, formerly full-time at one K-8 school, were forced to accept half-time slots at two schools as their positions were 'downsized' -- so this actually accounts for only about 30 counselors. I suspect the remainder of Knudsen's "100" will come from high-density elementary schools, primarily in the northeast, where K-5 and K-6 schools with 900-1000 students (or more) have historically had two full time counselors.

Counselors routinely work over and above the contract. I don't know one counselor in my Region/AD who takes a lunch or a prep, although we are, contractually, teachers. Most of us gulp our lunches down when we get a spare 10 minutes between calls and referrals from teachers, pages to the office, parent walk-ins, interagency meetings, mediating between students, and putting out fires with behaviorally escalated students. Most of us try to do what we were trained for - individual and group counseling - but often that important work is lost in the craziness of a typical day. Let's not even talk about the mountains of paperwork which all of us do in front of our TV sets at night, laptops at the ready - CSAP, Social Security Disability questionnaires, behavioral assessments, behavior plans....shall I go on? And that's in schools where our caseloads are 400-500 kids. I can't imagine what it will be like when we are asked to be sole counselors for schools with a thousand students. Try making a tough job impossible!

Knudsen has no idea what counselors do. . Neither does Ms. High-and-Mighty Naomi Housman, an MBA with NO counseling background who became the Executive Director of Counseling and Promotion and successfully pushed out Wilfredo Ortiz (who was at least a former counselor himself and advocated by, among other things, removing us from covering preps.) To Knudsen, Housman, and the SRC, counselors are peripheral and expendable. Housman's "direction" of counselors consists solely of threatening us with pointless data requirements, like the meaningless ILPs (individual learning plans) she mandated for district students. She has never, ever, set foot in a Philadelphia school.

I think I can speak for almost all counselors when I say we are beyond disgusted. I love my job. I love the children of Philadelphia, some of whom lead unimaginably difficult lives and need the support of an active listener and advocate. Counselors are highly trained: our Master's Degrees are 60 credits, so we are "Masters Plus 30", and a large portion of our expertise is in clinical skills that are devalued and made peripheral.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 05/03/2012 - 05:50.

Naomi Housman is no counselor at heart and knows nothing about Response to Intervention. She is known to bully and counselors are tired of it. She should not be the Executive Director of counseling.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 05/03/2012 - 09:17.

Well said!

Submitted by EILEEN DIFRANCO (not verified) on Thu, 05/03/2012 - 10:57.

Please extend an invitation to the counselors to attend "Occupy 440" every Wed. at 4pm outside of the SD building.

Submitted by RogueTeacher (not verified) on Wed, 05/02/2012 - 12:57.

I'm curious why more is not being done to legally investigate the financial problems and those who were/are responsible for it. It seems to me to be a criminal matter. Parents should be in an outrage. They need to be educated in order to get them out in large numbers.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 05/02/2012 - 19:31.

What do you mean? It's clear what the financial problems are. Look at the budget. You see what the costs are and you see what the revenue is. There's no missing money. There's just a set amount of revenue and set costs in terms of salary, health care, pension funding, etc.

There's a reason this is happening in Philadelphia. Not because of missing money but because we're a poor city in a state that doesn't value equitable education. Oh, and that 10% of our budget is debt service. That doesn't help.

Submitted by RogueTeacher (not verified) on Thu, 05/03/2012 - 19:27.

I wasn't referring to missing money, but the mishandling of the money.

Submitted by Down the Hall (not verified) on Thu, 05/03/2012 - 19:59.

Talk about mishandling money......Think about this, last year, a brand new survielence system was install in a very big school building, that was slated to close in August of that same year!!!! Those who are responsible for mishandling the money should be prosecuted for fraud, embezzlement, etc. IT's Disgusting!!!!!!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 05/02/2012 - 17:14.

I agree, those that mismanaged the funds should be prosecuted!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 05/02/2012 - 18:34.

Mr. Knudson cries wolf a year after his predecessor did the same regarding full-day Kindergarten. Please, Philadelphia, don't be a stupid as they think you are.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 05/02/2012 - 19:40.

This is to Rich:

As far as I know there are no such schools in Philadelphia that are governed collaboratively, but I do know of one such school in the Boston School District. It was developed as a Pilot School and grew out of the Boston Teacher's Union. The school functions without a principal or a vice principal. The only type of "official" leadership is from 2 co-teacher leaders. These are NOT administrative personnel; they are teachers. They take care of all personnel matters and hiring. They establish staff development, develop programming within the school, and have been given the autonomy to select, develop, or purchase curriculum. Teacher observations are conducted by a team of teachers that include the 2 teacher leaders. This committee of teachers, upon the recognition of a struggling teacher or, the strategies associated by a successful teacher initiates action. Within this framework, the school's success stems from the necessity that all teachers "buy in" to what works. However, the teachers are not "stockholders" according to the true sense of the word. The school is still funded by the Boston School District. What has been proven here, after 3 years in successful operation, is that the old, traditional model of principal and vice principal is no longer necessary.

I've often thought that such an experiment would be great for the Philadelphia School District although I don't know of any. Instead, Philadelphia is on a fast track to rid themselves and the city of education. That and turn the entire system over to Charters, a system as yet to be proven whether it works or not. We're forced into accepting this system based on someone's "belief" that as long as we say it works, it works.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on Wed, 05/02/2012 - 20:05.

Thank You! Do you think they might allow me to visit that school? Sounds like a Great school.

I met a fellow from Boston at the Save Our Schools Conference in Washington this past summer. He is the creator of the documentary "The Inconvenient Truth About Waiting for Superman." The guy was an awesomely dedicated teacher. I was honored to have met the man.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on Wed, 05/02/2012 - 20:08.

Thank You! Do you think they might allow me to visit that school? Sounds like a Great school.

I met a fellow from Boston at the Save Our Schools Conference in Washington this past summer. He is the creator of the documentary "The Inconvenient Truth About Waiting for Superman." The guy was an awesomely dedicated teacher. I was honored to have met the man.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 05/02/2012 - 20:58.

one of the teacher leaders is a personal friend of mine. I will be in touch with her, pass your name along. If she agrees, I will then make the connection .. However, you can go to the web page, "The Boston Teacher's Union School" in Boston

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on Thu, 05/03/2012 - 07:26.

Thanks. My e-mail is rich@democracyineducation.com.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Fri, 05/04/2012 - 07:30.

I'm wondering if the school's success is due to the individuals running this school or the structure? We have successful schools right now in the PSD, which owe their success to the individuals running them. Also, is the success markedly better in this school?

Rich, why don't you suggest that an elected body/bodies also be considered to adminster the "achievement networks"? If these are supposedly "revenue neutral", then they can be volunteer as well? Honestly I think volunteer is problematic as well as elections if there's not enough involvement, but given enough involvement, this might work.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 05/03/2012 - 19:33.

Creighton is trying to do just this! Their proposal is to have a council led( consisting of teacher-leads, Home and School Representatives, and community members) school. It would govern itself but still be a public school. There are teacher-led and council-led school all across the United States and their data proves success. It is time the district put the schools in the hands of the people who know best - the teachers!

Submitted by Ben (not verified) on Wed, 05/02/2012 - 20:29.

People----Please stop giving the SRC and this talking head, Knudsen, credibility and the proverbial benefit of the doubt. Their interest is in making money off the backs of the kids. They care not about education, morality or the children's best interests. It's like the cigarette manufactures telling us cigarettes won't hurt us. Maybe, that's a poor analogy but the sooner we see this for what it is, the sooner we will get angry and try to stop it.

Submitted by Mark (not verified) on Wed, 05/02/2012 - 20:42.

Deja vu. Last year at this time and for the ensuing months everyone was in a tizzy. These people are just about SCARING us. Take a breath, stick together, be positive. Not trite at all - just don't let that fearful energy take over.

Submitted by Arnold (not verified) on Wed, 05/02/2012 - 21:32.

WRONG---Stay together but not sit around ignoring them. They are dead serious and we need to be too as in proactively involved and engaged in a battle for the soul of education in the inner cities. In short, FUND the real schools fairly for a change and stop selling our kids to the highest or most connected bidder under the nonsensical, immoral guise of helping them.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 05/02/2012 - 21:26.

Look, they still have money for walkthrough teams. I don't want to hear this BS.

Submitted by Mary L. (not verified) on Wed, 05/02/2012 - 22:36.

I am a concerned parent who is fed up of this attack on Public Schools & Unions. I never thought I would see the day when Public education would not be an option to an American and Immigrant child. We are really going backwards! Every country in the civilized Western world provides public education for their children. Why are our elected officials doing this to us?? Why is the PFT being silent about this??? Why won't the District file lawsuits against the Governor who keeps defunding our publics schools. Where is the active leadership??

Submitted by Arnold (not verified) on Thu, 05/03/2012 - 07:34.

Corbett IS the devil, make no mistake about it. WE ALL better pray that Walker, another agent of pure evil, loses in Wisconsin or we're dead meat. Big money is pushing to end the Middle Class, Unions and the hopes of the poor. They're unamerican pure and simple.
I can't believe ANY WOMAN would vote for Walker after he passed the anti woman law. What's wrong with them??

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 05/03/2012 - 01:10.

Hats off to photographer who captured two of Philadelphias great "Warrior Princesses", Helen Gym and Sabra Townsend. One may not always agree with them, but you know where they stand and sense that their heart is in the right place.

A strong suggestion to the two advocates: Take Lorene Carey out to lunch. Between the 3 of you, the divide can and will be bridged. Try it, it will be fun.

Submitted by Mary L. (not verified) on Thu, 05/03/2012 - 08:47.

Hey Arnold! You are correct! Why isn't there an initiative to recall Corbett? We Pennsylvanians need to be like the people of Michigan!

Submitted by Eileen Duffey (not verified) on Thu, 05/03/2012 - 12:17.

Can't recall the governor in Pennsylvania. Only option is a vote of no confidence.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 05/04/2012 - 11:38.

How do we get a vote of no confidence started???
I have ZERO confidence in Corbett.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 05/03/2012 - 12:11.

RECALL CORBETT NOW BEFORE IT IS TO LATE !

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 05/03/2012 - 17:11.

Only 19 states allow recall of a governor. Pennsylvania is not one of them.

I wish that PA would get a serious case of buyer's remorse, but we all know that Philadelphia and the rest of this state exist in two different universes, and it is more likely that the other half is all tea-partied up and excited about destroying Philly piece by piece.

Submitted by Eileen Duffey (not verified) on Thu, 05/03/2012 - 20:28.

I understand where you are coming from here, but I think we need to consider another possibility. The powers that be LOVE the divisiveness that results in accentuating the urban/ non-urban divide, and Corbett is essentially capitalizing on this politically. That's why I am in agreement with Media Mobilizing Projects new initiative- Put People First PA. Check out their website below and see the many ways Corbett's budget is decimating Pennsylvanians in both urban and non urban areas. If we can bridge this divide, perhaps we can collectively elect better public servants for all Pennsylvanians.
http://mediamobilizing.org/

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 05/03/2012 - 12:15.

RECALL CORBETT NOW BEFORE IT IS TO LATE !

Submitted by Phantom Poster (not verified) on Fri, 05/04/2012 - 22:49.

It already IS too late.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Fri, 05/04/2012 - 07:01.

I think we need more solutions from people. Why not demand a "veto or approval" right for caregivers and teachers when the "achievement network" administrators are being chosen, for instance? How about a "spending cap" on what they can be paid? How about a database of complaints against these administrators and all schools that must be accessible to the public: one which allows both sides (complainant and complainee) to place input in, and for which users are screened for legitimacy (registered school family or school staff) while guaranteeing anonymity (protection from reprisal or discrimination)?

I hear a lot of legitimate concerns, and many fear driven objections, but not many alternate viable solutions.

Submitted by Eileen Duffey (not verified) on Fri, 05/04/2012 - 19:37.

What a tangled web we weave...
It will be very interesting how this "privatization" move unfolds.
If we lose in the big picture, and this thing goes forward, I am gearing up for continued and unrelenting pressure to insist on the optimal outcomes for ALL students. Do any of those in powerful positions think they are going to get away with subtle and not so subtle agendas they are pursuing without a fight?
PS- I like some of Ms. Cheng's suggestions. I can picture some folks squirming already!

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Fri, 05/04/2012 - 22:30.

Yes we will need to keep fighting. The right action is a lawsuit against the State (Philly may have to follow in Chester Upland's footsteps to get emergency funds to keep running), but that will take time; and after all, the lost grant money would not sustain the old way of operating for long.

It is not right to tear a solution to pieces without proposing a different one. I believe the proposed closure of so many schools is just a desperate "paper" line item to spur lending and get money flowing and buy time (which of course can't be disclosed if it is to work). The "achievement networks" BCG has proposed is just a way to get rid of middle management, but it can also be a door through which we may be able to get a much needed third party accountability check. Any working solution must have checks and balances.

It is not unreasonable to ask that a committee that we elect (thanks Rich Migliore) to represent us as parents, teachers, and staff have the right to screen and approve/disapprove any candidates that submit proposals to adminster these "achievement networks". We can go even further and submit a proposal for a group that we form to serve as an adminstrator of one of these networks.

The "cap" on compensation to an adminstrator should be in writing as part of acknowledging the financial straits the District is in.

The forming of a much needed "feedback" database is what is also missing in the current SPI. Pennsylvania just got Federal grant money to develop a better system of evaluating teachers. Why not use some of this to create this database not only to evaluate the administrators but also as a pilot to see if it can contribute to a better picture of both the school community and the teachers?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 05/04/2012 - 20:38.

The SRC should be in Harrisburg right now along with the PFT.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 05/07/2012 - 16:37.

let Knudsen make 40,000 a year, and then see what he says about cuts in benefits and wages! disgusted

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