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District reaches deal with aides and cafeteria workers

By Dale Mezzacappa on May 18, 2015 05:43 PM

The School District has reached a deal with the union that represents more than 1,600 noontime aides and cafeteria workers, who have traded some seniority prerogatives and District payments into a benefit fund for higher wages.

The members of UNITE HERE! Local 634 on Saturday ratified a contract that runs through September 2017 and will gradually bring all members up to the 21st Century Living Wage set by the city, estimated to be $12.67 an hour by 2017. Most employees, who are part-time, now earn $10.88 an hour and have average annual salaries of $8,000. 

Philadelphia's graduation and college-going rates, school by school

By the Notebook on May 18, 2015 01:36 PM

The on-time school-level graduation rates shown in the chart below are from the 2013-14 School Progress Reports (SPR) published by the School District of Philadelphia. Rates shown are the percentage of students in the first-time 9th-grade cohort of 2010 who graduate within four years (excluding those who transfer out of the District).

These rates are based on the District’s new methodology, which attributes students to the last school they attended. This year’s School Progress Reports include three-quarters of all eligible charter schools; 62 of the 84 eligible Philadelphia charter schools that were in operation in the 2013-2014 school year participated.

'Fully fund my education because ...'

By NewsWorks Staff on May 15, 2015 01:19 PM
Winning high school video, by Xue Yao Zou, 10th grade, Central High School.

The Philadelphians most affected by the city's school funding crisis are without a doubt the nearly 200,000 District and charter school students. We talk about the students all the time, but how often do we talk to the students?

Former District CEO continues to champion education

By Camden Copeland on May 15, 2015 11:56 AM
Phil Goldsmith (Photo: Camden Copeland)

Phil Goldsmith has worn many hats in Philadelphia. He has worked in law, journalism, banking, and government. But it was Goldsmith’s position as interim CEO of the School District from 2000 to 2001 that started his relationship with the Notebook.

“I remember [Notebook editor] Paul Socolar coming to interview me. They did some short pieces on me, and that’s how I really got to see the Notebook,” Goldsmith said.

His leadership of the District took place during challenging times. He tried to counter privatization of the District, fighting Harrisburg on the plan to have Edison Schools Inc. take over schools. The District was in financial crisis, and he and others negotiated with state legislators to receive more school funding in exchange for giving the state more control and creating the School Reform Commission. Tragedy also struck under his watch when a kindergartner died as the result of a collapsed lunch table.

A who's who in the race for Philly City Council

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on May 15, 2015 10:38 AM

As disagreements in recent years between Philadelphia's mayor and City Council have shown, Council's 17 members can collectively wield a lot of power.

(Exhibit 1 from this year: The foiled sale of Philadelphia Gas Works, a situation in which Council refused to even hold a hearing on Mayor Nutter's plan to sell the utility to a private company.)

Smaller high schools give graduation rates a boost

By Connie Langland on May 14, 2015 01:38 PM

At Kensington Creative & Performing Arts High School, junior Gina Rodriguez said, she has found a place where she can be creative, express herself, and confide in teachers when she feels overwhelmed.

The principal, Lisette Agosto-Cintron, said the school is so small that everybody knows everybody.

What's the point of testing when Pa. schools are so unequal?

By Jan Gillespie-Walton on May 14, 2015 12:15 PM

The PSSA booklets have been batched and packed. The No. 2 pencils are back in their boxes. The sheets of paper covering every inch of bulletin board have been removed. Everyone is breathing a little better now that schools are no longer paying homage to The Test.

Watching the annual ritual, I was struck by mind-boggling incredulity. Many schools even held extraordinary rallies designed to spur Test Warriors on to success. How could anyone believe that bravado, cheers, and songs about overcoming adversity would somehow make up for years of meager funding, skeletal staffing, and few instructional materials?

Hold harmless: Funding protection or red herring?

By Chris Satullo for NewsWorks on May 14, 2015 09:51 AM

What does "hold harmless" mean?

It's a policy underlying the distribution of state education aid in Pennsylvania. "Hold harmless" provides that no district will get less money in the new funding year than it got in the previous year.

What's the effect?

It means school districts that lose enrollment do not lose state aid as a result. Do the basic arithmetic and you realize that this results in such districts getting more aid per student than before.

School becomes safe harbor after Philly train derailment

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on May 13, 2015 08:14 PM

Webster Elementary school in Kensington is used to serving those with profound needs. Ninety-seven percent of the children live in poverty. Blighted homes dot the streets surrounding the school. Drug dealers hover in the shadows of the nearby El train.

Tuesday night, though, the school opened its doors to a very different set of struggles, becoming the first refuge for those involved in the Amtrak train derailment that's claimed at least eight lives.

District seeking to outsource school health services; could include nurses

By Dale Mezzacappa on May 13, 2015 04:16 PM


The School District is inviting outside proposals with "bold and innovative ideas" for student health and medical services, a move that could result in the reduction of unionized school nurses, whose ranks have been decimated over the last several years due to budget cuts. 

Superintendent William Hite and Chief of Student Support Services Karyn Lynch said at a press briefing that the goal of the 51-page request for proposals, issued Wednesday, is to provide more school-based health services for students while not increasing cost.

Nutter is ‘pleased,’ but not satisfied, with grad-rate gains

By Dan Hardy on May 13, 2015 01:59 PM

Nearing the end of his second term, Mayor Nutter can chalk up among his achievements a 13-point increase in the percentage of Philadelphia high school students getting a diploma. Raising the high school graduation rate to 80 percent by 2015 was one of his main goals when he took office in 2008.

'Achievement school district' bill is an unfunded mandate, says Hite

By David Limm and Dale Mezzacappa on May 13, 2015 01:12 PM


Superintendent William Hite sought Wednesday to dissuade legislators from passing a bill that would create an "achievement school district" to turn around the state's struggling schools.

Testifying in front of the Senate's education committee, Hite called the draft of the bill, sponsored by Sen. Lloyd Smucker, a blow to Philadelphia.

"Senate Bill 6 would create an unfunded turnaround mandate, resulting in the stripping out of supports and programs from schools left under local district control," he said.

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