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Educating the city's children with the resources at hand

By James H. Lytle on Jul 22, 2014 12:51 PM

Those of us concerned about public education in Philadelphia have been so caught up with the School District’s financial crisis that we have given little thought to how District and charter schools, and publicly funded schooling for the city’s kids, might be reimagined. Our priority has been filling the gaps, dealing with deficits and not possibilities.

The underlying assumption of advocates, District leadership, and elected officials is that if funding were restored for nurses and counselors, art and music teachers, smaller class sizes, preschool programs, books and supplies, and facilities improvements, then all would be well. And if additional funds were available to provide programs and services beyond the basics, then prosperity would be at hand.

Getting things done at the Workshop School

By Kevin McCorry for NPR and WHYY on Jul 22, 2014 10:38 AM

Imagine a school where classes are organized not by subject but by project ...

A school created not by administrators but by teachers fed up with the status quo ...

A school where kids from a city's toughest neighborhoods are given the opportunity to experiment and the freedom to fail.

In West Philadelphia, that school is a reality. It's called the Workshop School.

The path forward: A Q&A with Larry Jones of Richard Allen Prep Charter

By Bill Hangley Jr. on Jul 22, 2014 09:41 AM

For more than a decade, Larry Jones has been a prominent supporter of Philadelphia’s charter schools, particularly the smaller, community-based variety that proliferated in the wake of the 2001 state takeover.

He has run the 350-student Richard Allen Preparatory Charter School since it opened in 2001; since 2006, he has also served as president of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools.

Jones’ advocacy frequently highlights the distinctions between the interests of small schools like his and those of the larger providers now running networks of schools. We asked him to reflect on the potential impact of the current budget proposals on the kinds of schools he represents and the ways that charter supporters could collaborate with traditional public school advocates to advance their mutual interest in adequate, sustained funding for schools of all kinds. 

Brave new voices ring out for poetry competition in Philly

By Peter Crimmins for NewsWorks on Jul 21, 2014 03:20 PM

About 450 young poets from around the country are in Philadelphia as part of the 17th annual Brave New Voices competition and conference. Fifty teams from as many cities around the country will face off in a tournament of performances in 10 venues around the city.

The Philadelphia team was assembled by Philadelphia Youth Poetry Movement, a year-round poetry workshop and mentoring program that has won the Brave New Voices Grand Slam twice – in 2007 and 2011.

Teacher designs app to help educators meet Pa. evaluation requirements

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Jul 21, 2014 10:39 AM

Katy Morris, an 8th-grade algebra and geometry teacher at Welsh Valley Middle School in Narberth, is out to revolutionize how teachers experience the evaluation process.

This past school year, Pennsylvania adopted a new statewide teacher evaluation system – due in part to an incentive in the federal Race to the Top school accountability competition.

From the archives: 'Small schools' experiment finds new life in SLCs

By thenotebook on Jul 18, 2014 11:32 AM

The Notebook was launched in 1994 as a newspaper committed to ensuring quality and equity in Philadelphia public schools. We are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the first publication this spring. We are featuring an article from our archives each week, shedding light on both the dramatic changes that have taken place in public education and the persistent issues facing Philadelphia's school system.

From the Spring 1999 print edition:


by Ros Purnell and Helen Gym

In the mid- and late 1980s, Philadelphia became a testing ground for the "small schools" movement. The effort was led by the now-defunct Philadelphia Schools Collaborative, a group of educators who advocated smaller environments to break up the enormous, impersonal, and largely dysfunctional comprehensive high schools. The movement's goal was to create smaller autonomous schools with control over budgets, hiring, and curriculum design.

The campaign for "small schools" in Philadelphia eventually sparked radical changes in Chicago and New York City.

The challenge for Superintendent Hite

By Ron Whitehorne on Jul 18, 2014 10:53 AM

Last month, Superintendent William Hite said he would consider opening the schools fully staffed and run them until the money runs out rather than institute a new round of layoffs. The School Reform Commission, in a rare display of independence and political courage, signaled it would support him. 

After the budget debacle in Harrisburg, in which the governor and his supporters failed to raise substantial new revenue, it’s time for Hite, the SRC, and public education advocates to take that step.

Partnerships director Stacy Holland leaving District

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jul 17, 2014 05:14 PM

Several additional top personnel moves at the School District were made public Thursday.

Chief of Strategic Partnerships Stacy Holland is leaving; her last day will be Aug. 31. She will be the new executive director of the Lenfest Foundation.

Before joining the District, Holland had been president and CEO of the Philadelphia Youth Network and, in that capacity, started working with the District on strengthening outside partnerships. She was hired by the District last October.

Her charge had been to use the District's work with outside organizations and government agencies to maximize services to children.

At Independence Mall, students draw from history

By Cathy Quero on Jul 17, 2014 04:15 PM

Tourists passing through Independence Mall today may have caught a glimpse of Thomas Jefferson, as a man dressed in period uniform delivered a speech for a summer initiative called Project Write-Inspire Me!, a writing enrichment program for high school students.  

The organization, which is a part of the Independence National Historical Park and the Philadelphia Writing Project, tries to empower youth to write by drawing inspiration from American history, according to Project Write counselor Bethany Silba.

The path forward: A Q&A with Susan Gobreski

By Bill Hangley Jr. on Jul 17, 2014 11:55 AM

With all the questions swirling around this year’s education budget, virtually everyone agrees on one thing: It won’t solve the Philadelphia School District’s big problems. Union officials, charter advocates, School Reform Commission officials, parent groups, Mayor Nutter, even President Obama’s top education official, agree that under the current status quo, Philadelphia students are not getting the education they deserve.

With that in mind, the Notebook has asked education advocates to weigh in on the bigger question: What’s the long-term path to a truly stable, well-funded, reliable school system? Over the next few weeks, we’ll run a series of Q&As with local leaders and ask for their thoughts on the route to a better place.

Our first interviewee is Susan Gobreski, executive director of Education Voters Pennsylvania, an advocacy group. A 20-year veteran of political activism in Pennsylvania, Gobreski’s goal is to fight for a “thorough and efficient public education” for all students, District and charter alike. 

Top-level departures and changes in District's central office

By David Limm on Jul 16, 2014 03:25 PM

Turnover continues to strike the ranks of Superintendent William Hite's senior staff at a time when the District could use some consistency. 

Two senior-level staffers in the academic office recently left their posts at 440 N. Broad St. The cadre of assistant superintendents has also been hit by departures; five of the eight positions supervising principals and directing the District's regional school networks are in transition. 

On Tuesday, the District released data showing all its 18,561 employees and their salaries, reflecting its recent personnel moves.

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