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The case for an elected school board

By Ron Whitehorne on Mar 30, 2011 05:14 PM

This is the second in a three-part series about governance of the Philadelphia schools.

Today, Philadelphia's schools are governed by a state commission with a majority selected by the governor in Harrisburg. Ten years ago we had a school board appointed by the mayor and nominated by a panel of civic notables, who were selected by the mayor based on criteria enumerated in the city’s charter. In both cases, Philadelphia's citizens did not select the people responsible for the city's public school system.

District outlines plan to close $629 million gap

By Dale Mezzacappa on Mar 30, 2011 12:48 PM

UPDATE: The School Reform Commission adopted a $2.7 billion lump sum budget Wednesday that closes a $629 million revenue gap that officials called "unprecedented" in its scope and potential impact. 

The plan includes $281 million in cuts to schools, $220 million through centrally allocated services, and $61 million -- or 13 percent -- in school budgets. These cuts will likely result in increased class size, fewer specialty teachers, fewer nurses, fewer counselors, and fewer teachers for special education students and English language learners. The average school budget will be cut more than $1 million.

Principals will get their individual school budget on Friday.

The plan counts a number of tenuous revenue assumptions, including $75 million in wage and benefits concessions from unions and reducing reimbursements to charter schools by $57 million, even though that requires a change in state law. It also includes $11 million in savings by transferring some costs to the city.

Notes from the news, Mar. 30

By Anonymous on Mar 30, 2011 09:44 AM

notes from the news imageViolence Targets Teachers, Staff The Inquirer
The fourth installment in the "Assault on Learning" series looks at violence against teachers. In the past five years more than 4,000 teachers were assaulted.

See also: Students' exodus is the verdict on violence The Inquirer (opinion)
Ronnie Polaneczky: Why we need a Safe School Advocate. Fast. Daily News
Guest Blog: Preventing Violence: What Can Schools Do? A Broad View blog

Education chief defends Corbett cuts The Inquirer
Ron Tomalis said the budget reflects the administration's commitment to the "core mission" of public education. Tomalis testified for six hours answering questions from skeptical Republican and Democratic legislators.

See also: Bethlehem Considers Heavy Teacher Layoffs NBC Philadelphia

Teamwork raises Carroll High scores and morale Philadelphia Tribune
This week's Learning Key looks at the test prep and other programs at Carroll High, the all-city music fest at the Kimmel Center, and a Q+A with the District's student of the month.

See also: Excellence on display at all-city music fest Philadelphia Tribune
Student of the Month sets ambitious goals
Philadelphia Tribune

UPenn Writers House reaches out to Philly students The Notebook blog
The Kelly Writers House recently launched an online literary journal, The Blacktop, which features work from students in Philly schools.

The question the voucher man could not answer Young Philly Politics
Teacher Keith Newman got an angry response from State Sen. Anthony Williams when he questioned that the voucher program would only help a small number of kids.

Enlightened Self-Interest (or Send Mr. Chase to Harvard) Practical Theory blog
SLA English teacher Zac Chase is crowdsourcing funding for a Harvard graduate degree in education, and this prompts SLA principal's to reflect on leadership.

Queen Arlene Is Earning Her Nickname The Philly Post blog

Guest Blog: Serve the Community, Serve the Students A Broad View blog

2 Pa. Bills Aim to Make Teens Think Twice Before Cyberbullying Philadelphia Weekly

Letters: On Fatimah Ali & prayer Daily News

What We Can Learn from Peer Pressure Philly Teacher blog

Please email us if we missed anything today or if you have any suggestions of publications, email lists, or other places for us to check for news.

Click here to get Notes from the news in your inbox every day.

Notes from the news

UPenn Writers House reaches out to Philly students

By Guest blogger on Mar 29, 2011 05:25 PM

This guest blog post comes from Allyson Even, outreach coordinator at the Kelly Writers House. The KWH hosts a new online literary magazine for students in Philadelphia, The Blacktop.


The other night, I sat, coffee in hand, with two friends in the rooftop lounge of our dorm doing homework. My companions were reading chapter two of Terry Eagleton’s "How to Read a Poem," entitled What is Poetry? As an employee of the KWH, it was a question that I hear more often than you might expect. To me, the question of what is poetry? is misplaced. Perhaps in academia it has its place, but I spend more time at University City High School than in my own classes.

Notes from the news, Mar. 29

By Anonymous on Mar 29, 2011 10:00 AM

notes from the news imageYoung and Violent, Even Kindergartners The Inquirer
Part three in the "Assault on Learning" series looks at students from five to ten years old. One in six assaults in District schools is committed by a student under ten.

See also: Other cities taking steps to deal with violent behavior The Inquirer
School Violence: A Matter of Public Health A Broad View blog
Safer Neighborhoods = Safer Schools Making the Grade blog
Reflections: Then and Now- School Violence a Symptom of a More Serious Illness City School Stories

Lawmakers would reinstate safe-schools advocate Daily News
State Reps. Taylor and Keller called for reinstating the Office of the Safe Schools Advocate. They introduced the legislation that created the position in 2001. The position was defunded in 2009.

See also: Legislators to seek funding for Philly school-safety post The Inquirer
State reps. want safe schools advocate again The Notebook blog
Lawmakers calling for safe schools watchdog
Philadelphia Tribune

What Waiting for Superman Got Right (And Wrong.) Practical Theory blog
Eighth-grade students find out what high schools accepted them this week. Science Leadership Academy did 1,000 interviews for 125 seats.

Students rally against proposed education budget cuts at the Pennsylvania State Capitol The Patriot-News
Student-athletes from state-supported colleges ran to Harrisburg to join the rally.

See also: Hundreds Of Pa. Students Protest Cuts Fox 29
Corbett Defends Massive School Cuts Fox 29
ED BUDGET HEARING LIVE FEED Keystone State Education Coalition

Proposed Pennsylvania law would give local school boards more freedom to award charters The Inquirer
The bill would also create a State Commission on Charter Schools and Cyber Charter Schools that could grant charters and hear appeals if a charter is rejected by a local district.

Philadelphia-area businesses take part to mentor young readers The Inquirer
The businesses participate in the Philadelphia Reads program, which was founded by Marciene Mattleman in 1997 and now serves 950 students.

OP-ED: Time For Queen Arlene To Vacate The Throne Phawker
Phawker's editor says if Superintendent Ackerman "can't or won't" create a safe learning environment, she should step aside.

See also: It's good to be the queen Attytood

Guest Blog: When Students Have a Voice A Broad View blog

Please email us if we missed anything today or if you have any suggestions of publications, email lists, or other places for us to check for news.

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Notes from the news

State reps. want safe schools advocate again

By Celeste Lavin on Mar 28, 2011 04:52 PM

The Office of the Safe Schools Advocate, which has been unfilled since 2009, may get another start.

Representatives John Taylor (R- Phila.) and Bill Keller (D-Phila.) announced at a press conference at District headquarters that they will propose legislation to fully fund the office. The legislation will re-establish the office, this time under the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, rather than the Department of Education.

The Inquirer's major series on school violence

By Anonymous on Mar 28, 2011 03:01 PM

On Sunday, the Inquirer published the first of a seven-part series about violence in the Philadelphia public schools. The series is a result of a year-long investigative effort by five Inquirer reporters.

Installments of the series will be published throughout the week, and additional pieces on the web include:

Notes from the news, Mar. 28

By Anonymous on Mar 28, 2011 09:58 AM

notes from the news imageClimate of Violence Stifles City Schools The Inquirer
The Inquirer did a year-long investigation into violence in the Philly schools and is publishing its findings in an "Assault on Learning" series. Reporters will discuss the series today at noon and tomorrow at 4 p.m.

See also: Taking a closer look at the numbers behind school violence The Inquirer
Audenried faces uncertain future as a controversial charter school The Inquirer
Inquirer investigation shows widespread underreporting of violence The Inquirer
Inquirer Reporter Talks School Violence Fox 29
Paper: Violence hampers learning in Philly schools AP via WMFJ
Former safe-schools advocates see a need for the post, which is still unstaffed The Inquirer
A serious beating amid Gratz’s day-to-day violence The Inquirer

Hope, we hardly knew ye The Notebook blog
Another look at the Hope Moffett story and the role of the PFT and District.

See also: Ackerman proves unions still relevant Daily News (opinion)
Philly School District Caves The Philly Post

How I learned not to call Ackerman at home The Inquirer (opinion)
Reporter Dwight Ott recounts his attempts to interview Ackerman, and how a call at home led to him being accused of making threats on her life.

Corbett's vision for Pa. schools The Inquirer
The governor wants to change education by using the state budget and legislation.

See also: Corbett plan riles advocates of full-day kindergarten The Inquirer
John Baer: 'Waiting' is a tough assignment Daily News
La nueva visión educativa del gobernador Corbett Al Día

Teachers: Wager that shoulder chip The Notebook blog
Teachers are getting criticized by the right and the left, but Sam Reed describes three constructive ways teachers can use their shoulder chips.

School On A Saturday? Fox 29

Philadelphia School Battles Students’ Bad Eating Habits, on Campus and Off New York Times

Pa. students running to Capitol to protest education cuts Philadelphia Tribune

Educators Debate Teacher Furloughs Fox 29

Letters: Teachers can be out of this world Daily News

Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency weighs change in eligibility for grants The Patriot-News

Please email us if we missed anything today or if you have any suggestions of publications, email lists, or other places for us to check for news.

Click here to get Notes from the news in your inbox every day.

Notes from the news

Hope, we hardly knew ye

By the Notebook on Mar 25, 2011 10:10 PM

By Benjamin Herold and Dale Mezzacappa

"All we ever wanted was an apology."

That was the head-scratching reason given by School District officials when asked why they suddenly changed their hard-line stance that a young gadfly teacher deserved to be fired. The surprise reversal came during a mediation session with a federal magistrate last Friday, when the District and teachers union agreed to return Hope Moffett to her classroom after nearly a month in “teacher jail.”

Up to that point, the “Hope Held Hostage” drama had been steadily escalating for weeks.

Ackerman talks budget at 'chat and chew'

By the Notebook on Mar 25, 2011 04:36 PM

by Aaron Moselle

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett’s recent proposal to cut more than $1 billion in funding for public schools loomed over a Wednesday night community meeting in Germantown featuring Philadelphia School District Superintendent Arlene Ackerman.

A number of the 60-plus residents that gathered for the District’s first Faith-Based Community Outreach “Chat and Chew” event expressed concerns on two fronts. The first focused on the district’s ability to deliver on its academic goals; the second, on the future of school-related programs and services.

In response, Ackerman painted an uncertain and fairly grim picture for the crowd assembled inside The First Presbyterian Church in Germantown and acknowledged the threat of teacher layoffs.   

Ackerman said the District is facing an uphill budget battle in advance of the 2011-2012 school year. The district has said it’s expecting a $309 million loss in federal stimulus funds, which would anchor an overall budget shortfall that could easily eclipse $400 million.  If Corbett’s education budget is approved, said Ackerman, the district would be left treading in even deeper water and visible cuts would be made across the district.

This story continues on the NewsWorks website; it is a product of a reporting collaboration between the Notebook and WHYY.

Teachers: Wager that shoulder chip

By Samuel Reed III on Mar 25, 2011 01:27 PM

In this current climate of educational reform many teachers are carrying big chips on our shoulders.

Follow the local and national news, and you will see attacks against teachers from both the liberal and conservative establishment. In addition to politicians weighing in on how we are doing our jobs, parents, students, wealthy donors, and ordinary taxpayers are spewing a narrative that most teachers in “low-performing schools” are ineffective. The concept of teacher “accountability” could easily be translated to “it's the teachers' fault for failing schools.”

Notes from the news, Mar. 25

By Anonymous on Mar 25, 2011 09:54 AM

notes from the news imageThemes from TAG community budget forum The Notebook blog
The District and community groups have held budget meetings over the past week. Two of our bloggers reflected on the meetings.

See also: Another budget meeting charade The Notebook blog

Ackerman: King decision up to SRC WHYY/NewsWorks
The SRC will have the final word on who will manage King, or if it will remain a District school for another year. The vote will likely take place on April 27.

Likely budget crunch forces a look at retirement incentives for the school district WHYY/NewsWorks
Superintendent Ackerman discussed the budget at a "chat and chew" and how teachers can stem staff cuts. She noted the possibility that 10 percent of teachers, who've worked long enough and are financially able, could lesson layoffs if given the right incentives to retire.  

Pushing school reforms that have failed us before The Inquirer (opinion)
Christopher Paslay again expresses skepticism at a YUC report, and says the lesson from the report on pushouts should not be to emphasize "entertainment over instruction."

School-voucher pros & cons debated by panel in N. Phila. The Inquirer
Several lawmakers and activists discussed the voucher bill in the state legislature. State Rep. Tony Payton and State Sen. Anthony Williams both support the bill.

Changing Skyline: Salvation Army Kroc Center: A gem for North Philadelphia The Inquirer
The center will offer an afterschool program, in addition to several other sports and activities.

Colleges that profit, students who don't The Inquirer

Former safe schools advocate may run for Congress Philly.com

Call for School Prayer Draws Rebuke Jewish Exponent

Budget Cuts: Take Action Keystone State Education Coalition

Please email us if we missed anything today or if you have any suggestions of publications, email lists, or other places for us to check for news.

Click here to get Notes from the news in your inbox every day.

Notes from the news

Ackerman discusses King management

By the Notebook on Mar 24, 2011 06:06 PM

by Bill Hangley, Jr.

With controversy swirling around the role played by State Rep. Dwight Evans in the selection of a new charter operator for Martin Luther King High, Superintendent Arlene Ackerman says the school’s fate is now in the hands of the School Reform Commission.

“It will be up to the SRC,” said Ackerman in an interview Wednesday night. The board will have to decide when it meets next month whether to hand King over to the New Jersey-based nonprofit on whose behalf Evans intervened last week, Foundations Inc.

District spokesperson Jamilah Fraser said the vote is tentatively scheduled for April 27. She said that while procedural restrictions mean the SRC can’t vote to replace Foundations with another charter provider, it can choose not to vote at all, leaving King as a district-run school for at least another year.

Last week, acting on Ackerman’s recommendation, the SRC voted to grant Mosaica Education the right to run King as a charter next year. Based on the District’s standard per-pupil reimbursement to charter schools, the King contract would be worth an estimated $12 million annually. Evans, however, wanted to see the job go to his longtime partner in education projects, the nonprofit Foundations Inc., which has managed King on behalf of the district since 2003, and whose executives have given Evans thousands in campaign donations over the years.

This story continues on the NewsWorks website; it is a product of a reporting collaboration between the Notebook and WHYY.

Another budget meeting charade

By Helen Gym on Mar 24, 2011 05:27 PM

Last week’s two scheduled budget meetings reinforced a troubling theme in the District’s approach to community engagement – creating a forum where community concerns are rendered irrelevant. Consider the baffling process dozens of parents endured last Saturday morning.

Themes from TAG community budget forum

By Ron Whitehorne on Mar 24, 2011 02:07 PM

Last night, along with 150 other people, I attended the budget forum organized by the Teacher Action Group and cosponsored by Education Not Incarceration-Delaware Valley and ACTION United.

A few themes emerged from the give and take between the audience and a panel consisting of City Controller Alan Butkovitz; longtime District administrator James "Torch" Lytle; Sarah Morris and Victor Saez from Youth Art & Self-Empowerment Project; Jaileah Gibson, Philadelphia Student Union member and a senior at Sayre; Arlene Kempin from the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers; Brett Schaeffer from Education Law Center; and State Rep. James Roebuck, minority chair of the House Education Committee.

Here, in no particular order, are some key points:

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