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District: Despite budget woes, 'we will make it work'

By Benjamin Herold on Apr 22, 2011 01:30 PM

Although they are facing a $629 million budget shortfall, District officials are adamant that their facilities master plan is not about saving money, but completely redesigning the way the District does business.

Rather than seek targeted school closures, say officials, they hope to dispose of up to 50 buildings, change grade configurations, meet new school size guidelines, alter feeder patterns, and radically overhaul the way the District delivers career and technical education, special education, early childhood education, services for English language learners, and athletics. 

But with no money and a scheduled 50 percent cut in central office staff, will they be able to make it work – and should they try? 

Notes from the news, Apr. 22

By Anonymous on Apr 22, 2011 09:54 AM

notes from the news imageFoundations withdraws from plan to run Martin Luther King High The Inquirer
King will remain a District school next year. Foundations' contract providing support services at the school ends in June and will not be renewed.

See also: Foundations withdraws bid for King The Notebook blog
DN Editorial: Foundations/Mosaica school flap: Just offal? Daily News
Foundations withdraws its bid to run King High School Daily News
MLK High charter bid dropped
Philadelphia Tribune
Conflicts, changes, upheaval in Renaissance process Philly School Files blog

Nutter wants to talk to Archie about closed-door meeting WHYY/NewsWorks
Mayor Nutter wants to talk to SRC Chair Archie about Archie's role in a closed-door discussion about King High's management.

See also: Phila. school leader's actions on charter deal raise ethical concerns WHYY/NewsWorks

Dissent lingers as vote nears on Audenried & Vare becoming charter schools run by Universal Daily News
The SRC will vote on Wednesday about turning Vare and Audenried over to Universal Companies to run as charters.

Growth in: Engagement The Notebook blog
The Notebook has a lot of growth to celebrate and share with you. Please join us for our annual event on June 7!

District: It's not all about school closings The Notebook blog
Installment four in a five-part series about the facilities master plan discusses the changes coming to LaBrum and Gratz.

Annette John-Hall: Failing to nurture student chefs' hopes The Inquirer
It is likely that the Careers Through Culinary Arts Program will end after this year.

Dr. Ackerman on the Tom Joyner Morning Show 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

District: It's not all about school closings

By Benjamin Herold on Apr 21, 2011 06:22 PM

Even if your school isn’t likely to be closed, that doesn’t mean it won’t be affected by the District’s facilities master planning process.

Just ask the folks at LaBrum Middle in Northeast Philadelphia and Simon Gratz High in North Philadelphia.

Though neither of those schools is being shut down, both are set for significant changes as part of the District’s first set of “right-sizing” recommendations. LaBrum is being folded into its feeder school, Hancock Elementary, while Gratz is poised to add grades 6-8.

Foundations withdraws bid for King

By the Notebook on Apr 21, 2011 04:59 PM

by Bill Hangley, Jr.

Citing the influence of a “small and vocal minority," Foundations Inc. today took itself out of consideration for the charter to operate Martin Luther King High in Germantown, ending the organization’s eight-year relationship with the school.

The decision will delay King’s planned charter conversion for at least a year.

Growth in: Engagement

By Anonymous on Apr 21, 2011 04:16 PM

On June 7 the Notebook community will gather to celebrate 17 years of independent publishing for Philadelphia's education community — and a year of exciting growth.

In recent months, one of the most striking areas of growth has been the use of our website.

Notes from the news, Apr. 21

By Anonymous on Apr 21, 2011 09:49 AM

notes from the news imageMLK High charter plan falling apart The Inquirer
Breaking news: Foundations, Inc. has withdrawn its bid to manage King High.

See also: Conflicts, changes, upheaval in Renaissance process Philly School Files blog
Phila. school leader's actions on charter deal raise ethical concerns WHYY/NewsWorks

District to charters: Don't try to expand and get a building discount The Notebook blog
In part three in a series of interview excerpts, District staffer Danielle Floyd and consultant Tracy Richter explain how plans to sell facilities could affect charters.

NW Philly parents speculate on District's potential targets WHYY/NewsWorks
At a facilities community meeting last week parents learned more about the facilities process, but not which schools may be closed in their area. 

Notes from the Field-Every Dollar Counts in Budget Crises City School Stories
Former principal Frank Murphy describes some of the difficult decisions he faced as a principal with limited funds.

Live, Online Q & A Series on School Vouchers Begins April 21 Keystone State Education Coalition
The Education Law Center will be hosting an online series on its site PA School Talk.

Philadelphia graduate returns home as an award-winning producer The Inquirer
The Inquirer also wrote about Thomas Oliver when he was a student who participated in a voluntary desegregation program that took him across town to attend George Washington High.

Letters: Philadelphia schools actually need less disruption Daily News

Going green helping to keep school districts in the black The Inquirer

Rep. Roebuck Visits Arise Academy Charter High School UC Review

why don’t you all just f-f-f-ade away… The Workshop blog

Report: Full-day kindergarten improves reading 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.

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Notes from the news

District to charters: Don't try to expand and get a building discount

By Benjamin Herold on Apr 20, 2011 05:16 PM

How badly do Philadelphia’s charter school operators want the chance to buy closed or vacated District facilities?

We’re about to find out.

According to the School District’s proposed Adaptive Reuse Policy, charter operators are to be offered a tradeoff: if they want to be eligible for a discount of up to 25 percent off the fair-market value for a coveted building, they “must agree not to seek additional charter seats” on top of what they already have.

Notes from the news, Apr. 20

By Anonymous on Apr 20, 2011 09:42 AM

notes from the news imageSRC chair faces conflict-of-interest questions The Notebook blog
Chair Robert Archie recused himself from a public vote on a Renaissance manager for King High, but later took part in a closed-door meeting about the school.

See also: Phila. school leader's actions on charter deal raise ethical concerns WHYY/NewsWorks

Will small Philadelphia high schools survive building consolidations? WHYY/NewsWorks
Research for Action found that students benefited from small high schools, but the District said it wants high schools to average 1,000-1,200 students.

See also: District: We can create “personalized” high schools with 1,000 students The Notebook blog
RFA’s Tracey Hartmann on WHYY Research for Action blog

The case against school vouchers in Pennsylvania Daily News (opinion)
Ted Kirsch says Senate Bill 1 takes money from already underfunded public schools.

See also: Despite Changes, Senate Voucher Plan Deeply Flawed Third and State blog
SB1 and the Law Keystone State Education Coalition
New Poll Shows Strong Statewide Support for School Choice Legislation PR NewsWire

Sharing stories about teaching, engaging, part II The Notebook blog
In this installment, Christina Puntel shares her story about how she came to teaching and her work with the Philadelphia Teachers' Learning Cooperative.

15 from West Phila. charter earn exam medals The Inquirer
Students from Boys Latin Charter earned medals on a national Latin exam.

This Moment In Street Art: Hope Moffett As Folk Hero, Arlene Ackerman As Fanger Philebrity

Jenks to lose funds in state budget cuts Chestnut Hill Local

Putting Public Voice in Public Education Research for Action blog

Reform and the “old rules” The Workshop Blog

School Reform as a Forest Fire The Workshop Blog

Spring Break Bucket List 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.

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

Notes from the news

SRC chair faces conflict-of-interest questions

By Bill Hangley Jr. on Apr 19, 2011 05:46 PM

Updated | 10:20 pm

Just over a month ago, the chairman of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission took part in a pivotal closed-door meeting to discuss the fate of a charter school deal potentially worth $60 million, only hours after publicly recusing himself from voting on the matter due to a conflict of interest.

SRC Chairman Robert L. Archie has confirmed his participation in a statement to NewsWorks and the Public School Notebook.  

The meeting was held on the evening of March 16 at School District of Philadelphia headquarters, and included Archie, State Rep. Dwight Evans, and John Q. Porter of Mosaica Education, an Atlanta-based, for-profit school operator.  

Earlier that day, Archie’s fellow commissioners had voted 3-0 to award Mosaica the right to negotiate the charter to run Martin Luther King High in Germantown. Archie didn’t vote, citing his law firm’s ties to another applicant for the charter. Porter described himself that afternoon as “ecstatic” about the vote.  

Sharing stories about teaching, engaging, part II

By Guest blogger on Apr 19, 2011 04:15 PM

This guest blog post is the next in a series from Christina Puntel and Geoffrey Winikur. In this installment, Geoff interviews Christina.

This series was inspired by a desire to give a different response to the Inquirer's "Assualt on Learning" series. We encourage other teachers to share their stories of learning and success. We hope that these stories can help the public re-imagine what makes teaching such an important vocation. It would be wonderful to read snapshots from your classroom that reflect the real work of teaching and learning in the comments section of this series. Let’s hear all about it.

Geoff: What were some early experiences that really got you excited about teaching?

District: We can create "personalized" high schools with 1,000 students

By Benjamin Herold on Apr 19, 2011 01:01 PM

Will the District’s new facilities master plan mean the end of Philadelphia’s small high schools?

District officials say no, describing their newly announced recommendation that high schools should have between 1,000 and 1,200 students more a guideline for consideration than a hard-and-fast rule.

There are many who will be watching closely to see if that’s true: The student organizing groups that fought hard to get small schools. Researchers who found that size does matter, at least in terms of school climate and student-teacher relationships. Taxpayers who paid the bill for the $1.7 billion capital program through which many of the schools were created.

Notes from the news, Apr. 19

By Wendy Harris on Apr 19, 2011 09:14 AM

notes from the news imageWill small Philadelphia high schools survive building consolidations? WHYY/NewsWorks
Many worry about what the District's plan to close up to 50 buildings over the next three years means for the push for more small schools.

See also: District to decide best use for closed schools before public input The Notebook blog

Political Ad Compares Philly to Libya NBC Philadelphia
Republican mayoral candidate John Featherman has a video that compares Philadelphia to Libya, and crticizes former mayor Jonn Street, Mayor Michael Nutter, and Superintendent Arlene Ackerman.

See also: Using Gadhafi to make a point about Philadelphia politics WHYY/NewsWorks

Nutter endorses candidates for 1st and 6th District Council seats WHYY/NewsWorks
One of the candidates Mayor Nutter has endorsed for Philadelphia City Council is former School Reform Commission member Marty Bednarek.

See also: Nutter hoping to mold Council The Inquirer
Briefly... CITY/REGION Daily News

Expansion and relocation plans for Green Woods in limbo WHYY/NewsWorks
For now the new home for Green Woods Charter School is in limbo as the school awaits word from both the SRC for a requested enrollment expansion and the Chestnut Hill Historical Society for renovation plans.

Taking the mound at Citizens Bank Park on Science Day: Philliebot  The Inquirer
One of the city's science festival's highlights, a one-armed, three-wheeled robot named Philliebot, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Wednesday's Phillies game against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Fire damages three school buses in Northeast The Inquirer
Buses belonging to the School District were vandalized in a Northeast parking lot that suffered a fire over the weekend. 

See also: More school buses vandalized in NE Phila. 6 ABC
Five Phila. School Buses Up in Flames NBC Philadelphia

PlanPhilly's Philly Tech Week event picks Plan Philly

See also: Neuroscientist Dr. John Medina is Opening Keynote for ISTE 2011 in Philadelphia PR Newswire

Philadelphia Offering Condoms to 11-year-Olds New American

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

District to decide best use for closed schools before public input

By Benjamin Herold on Apr 18, 2011 03:53 PM

If your neighborhood public school is closed, do you think it should become a condominium, a park, or a charter school?

Under current plans, the School District won't be asking you.

According to their proposed “Adaptive Reuse Policy,” the District wants to decide internally whether closed schools should be designated for educational, public/nonprofit, or private re-use. District officials will give the public the chance to get involved - by evaluating proposals  - but only after a decision about what types of buyers are eligible has already been made.

Notes from the news, Apr. 18

By Wendy Harris on Apr 18, 2011 09:51 AM

notes from the news imageParents rally for Ackerman at Rep. McGeehan's office
Daily News
Members of Parent Power protested Friday outside Rep. Michael McGeehan's office to let the state legislator know that Ackerman is doing her best.

See also: Street to Nutter: Take a stand on Ackerman The Inquirier
Letters: Bashing Philadelphia School Superintendent Arlene Ackerman
Daily News
City, state and church leaders defend Ackerman as McGeehan calls for her termination WHYY/NewsWorks

A call for parent mentors The Inquirer
Charles A. Williams III, of Drexel University's Center for the Prevention of School-Aged Violence, says providing a parent mentorship program is a solution to the violence that plauges District schools.

Reform is the Name of the Game at Philly Schools Mt. Airy Patch
District representatives discussed the facilities master plan with area residents at Roxborough High School.

Students Rally for School Choice, Senate Postpones Final Vote Mt. Airy Patch
Students convereged on the captiol telling lawmakers that they want school choice, but they may have to wait a few weeks as the controversial voucher bill has been delayed for at least two weeks.

See also: Amended school choice voucher bill moves forward, but vote delayed
School Vouchers Can Hurt as Well as Help The American (blog)
Where there's room, transfers make sense Courier Post

New Media former CEO denies taking $522,000 in tax money The Inquirer

See also: Ex- charter CEO pleads not guilty to 27 federal counts

Editorial: Buildings aren't sacred The Inquirer

Opinion: Just another report on violence in Philadelphia schools Daily News
Phil Goldsmith, who once served as interim CEO of the District, responds to Inquirer series on school voilence, saying schools are not the source of school voilence, but "the repository" of it.

See also: Violence is not an option The Notebook 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

Violence is not an option

By Guest blogger on Apr 15, 2011 02:05 PM

This guest blog post is from Elliott Seif, a former teacher and administrator.


The recent series in the Philadelphia Inquirer highlights the problem of violence in Philadelphia schools. While the problems are serious, there are multiple remedies. Many of these have been developed by and tried in schools, with great success. The District needs a comprehensive approach that will provide multiple resources and approaches needed to solve this problem.

Here are three suggestions as to how to deal with this serious problem:

1. Revise the zero-tolerance policy and create a nuanced policy.

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