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Two former principals charged in state cheating investigation

By David Limm on Sep 25, 2014 03:09 PM

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane has filed criminal charges against two more former Philadelphia principals.

Barbara McCreery, 61, former principal of Communications Technology High School, and Arthur "Larry" Melton, 70, former principal of Bok Technical High School, were arrested Thursday as part of the state's ongoing investigation into adult cheating on standardized tests.

They were taken into custody and charged with crimes of "tampering with public records or information, forgery, and tampering with records or identification," according the attorney general's office.       

PSSA scores stay flat; Hite encouraged by results

By Dale Mezzacappa on Sep 24, 2014 06:09 PM

Less than half of Philadelphia students in District schools read and do math proficiently, but the rates stayed essentially flat this year despite severe funding cutbacks.

Superintendent William Hite called the results good news.

Judge denies Palmer charter's request for more funds; school's future uncertain

By Dale Mezzacappa on Sep 24, 2014 04:23 PM

A Common Pleas Court judge refused Wednesday to order the Philadelphia School District to immediately pay Walter D. Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter School nearly $1.4 million in disputed funds, endangering the school's ability to stay open.

Corbett signature makes Philly cigarette tax official

By Mary Wilson for New​sWorks on Sep 24, 2014 04:20 PM

Gov. Corbett has signed a long-awaited measure to let Philadelphia levy a tax on cigarettes, beginning next month, to raise money for its schools.

Supporters heralded the bipartisan effort of Pennsylvania lawmakers to allow the city to levy a $2-per-pack tax on cigarettes. The tax, along with a city sales tax increase and borrowing, helped the School District bridge an $81 million deficit.

Three Philly schools honored for commitment to health

By Payne Schroeder on Sep 24, 2014 02:16 PM

Three Philadelphia schools were recently recognized by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation for transforming their facilities into healthier environments.

Wister Elementary, F.S. Edmonds Elementary, and Baldi Middle School received the National Healthy Schools Award at its Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 13. 

City Council panel approves borrowing $30 million for Philly schools

By Tom MacDonald for NewsWorks on Sep 24, 2014 10:01 AM

The city of Philadelphia intends to borrow $30 million more to keep the schools afloat while the District  awaits proceeds from the cigarette tax that was finalized Tuesday by the Pennsylvania Senate.

The city borrowed $27 million to help the District meet expenses for the fiscal year that ended in June. It agreed then to borrow $30 million more in September.

In victory for Philly schools, lawmakers reach consensus on cigarette tax

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Sep 23, 2014 07:14 PM

Philadelphia schools received a tremendous victory in Harrisburg on Tuesday as Senate lawmakers passed a long-sought $2-per-pack cigarette tax that District leaders expect to generate $49 million in revenue this school year for the city district.

In a 39-11 vote, senators adopted the language approved by the House of Representatives on Monday. This was key, as the two chambers disagreed for much of the summer over other elements unrelated to the cigarette tax that were tucked into the omnibus legislation.

What to do if your school closes a month into the year: The case of Walter Palmer charter

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Sep 23, 2014 06:51 PM

The scuffle between the Philadelphia School District and Walter Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter School may soon create more than 1,000 educational refugees — students in search of desks.

The charter's founder, Walter Palmer, says the school doesn't have enough funding to keep its doors open all year. In a telephone conversation Tuesday, Palmer would not provide a specific date by which the school would need to close, but earlier reports suggested Oct. 1.

$2-per-pack cigarette tax for schools is finally approved

By the Notebook on Sep 23, 2014 05:44 PM

The Pennsylvania Senate this afternoon approved, 39-11, a long-debated $2-per-pack cigarette tax for Philadelphia to help close the School District's budget gap. Gov. Corbett promptly announced that he would sign the bill. Signing will take place at 11:30 Wednesday morning. (Read the legislation.)

Superintendent William Hite said in a tweet that between the cigarette tax and the earlier approval of a 1 percent sales tax surcharge for schools, the District will net more than $170 million "in recurring and predictable revenue instead of one-time funding."

If it is implemented in October, the cigarette tax is expected to generate $49 million this year for the schools and as much as $80 million annually in future years. The sales tax surcharge provides the District a fixed amount of $120 million annually. The cigarette tax provision expires in 2019, however. Both taxes are on Philadelphia residents only, but they required state approval.

Hite sees some progress in resource-starved system

By Dale Mezzacappa on Sep 23, 2014 12:21 PM

This article will appear in the Notebook's print issue focusing on school funding in Pennsylvania, due out Sept. 26. 

 

Students in Philadelphia returned on Sept. 8 to understaffed schools and often oversized classes, with teacher labor negotiations at a stalemate and Harrisburg still dithering over a cigarette tax to provide the District with needed funds.

Still, said Superintendent William Hite, things aren’t as bad as last year, when some schools opened with teaching staffs at bare minimum and counselors and assistant principals scarce.

In the opening weeks, Hite tried to put an optimistic face on what is shaping up as another year of uncertainty for the District.

Community group scrambles to file charter school application

By Aaron Moselle for NewsWorks on Sep 23, 2014 10:29 AM

A grassroots group in Northwest Philadelphia wants to transform Germantown High School into an independent charter school serving neighborhood students.

During a packed Monday night community meeting, Germantown High School Coalition members voted to submit a charter school application to the Philadelphia School District by the Nov. 15 deadline.

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