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Strong reactions to report of Ramirez resignation

By Paul Socolar on Aug 19, 2009 12:56 PM

While there are not yet any public comments from officials on this news, a number of education advocates have expressed consternation at the report of Heidi Ramirez's expected resignation from the School Reform Commission.

"This is a terrible loss for both the School District and the citizenry of Philadelphia," said Shelly Yanoff, executive director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth. "Heidi was the best appointment that anyone could remember."

Upheaval at the SRC: Ramirez to step down

By Helen Gym on Aug 19, 2009 11:30 AM

Sources inside and outside the District have informed me that School Reform Commissioner Heidi Ramirez will announce her intention to resign from the SRC. The announcement is expected this afternoon when the SRC convenes.

The announcement follows months of Superintendent Arlene Ackerman’s public critiques and complaints about Ramirez’s inquiries into areas such as the budget and contracts.  It also follows Gov. Rendell’s decision in the spring to put Ramirez’s re-nomination in limbo and open angling by Harrisburg legislators to get Republican representation on the SRC. One can only guess that Ramirez, whom Governor Rendell once praised as “the most qualified” member of the SRC for her education background, got little backing from state or city officials.

And that bodes poorly for future oversight of the District.

NOTE: Look for news updates here throughout the day. The Inquirer has additional reporting. And in Spanish in Al Día by reporter Milena Velis.

3:10 p.m. District spokesperson confirms Commissioner Ramirez will resign soon during today's SRC meeting.

6 p.m. Fighting back tears, Heidi Ramirez resigns, saying her educational vision is now "inconsistent" with that of the District. Superintendent Arlene Ackerman notably waited to be the last person to stand in acknowledging Commissioner Ramirez and rolled her eyes before standing. Read her resignation letter and  the text of her public statement.

Safe Schools Advocate off state payroll

By Erika Owens on Aug 18, 2009 05:03 PM

But the story continues. State legislators and the Philadelphia City Controller held a news conference today stating that shutting down the Safe Schools Advocate office is illegal. They say the office is legally mandated and, by closing the office, the Pennsylvania Department of Education is in violation of the law.

An angry response to District contract proposals

By Ron Whitehorne on Aug 17, 2009 04:52 PM

According to a letter to PFT members from President Jerry Jordan, the School District has presented a 16-page list of new contract proposals that, in Jordan’s words would “weaken your voices in your schools…, limit your professional opportunities and leave many of you without the most basic protections our union contract now affords.”

In case you missed it, week of Aug. 9

By Erika Owens on Aug 14, 2009 06:26 PM

The Notebook itself was in the news this week, in a New York Times Magazine article about the newspaper industry in Philly. Read about the Notebook's role in the shifting media landscape here. Editor Paul Socolar's alma mater picked up on the Magazine article in its blog and posted an interview with him.

Lots of news from this week's SRC meeting:

Scores are up again, except for ...

By Paul Socolar on Aug 13, 2009 08:37 PM

The School District presented a report to the SRC and the public on its latest test score results on August 12 and highlighted a seventh consecutive year of gains in both reading and math scores on the PSSA exam. However, Superintendent Ackerman focused her remarks on how far the District has to go and on the continuing racial achievement gaps, passing up an opportunity to applaud District teachers, whose union contract expires this month.

Nutrition 101

By Molly Thacker on Aug 13, 2009 09:00 AM

Milton Friedman said, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” 

Well, in Philadelphia schools, many students are able to get a lunch that is free, but not necessarily one that is healthy. The poor state of nutrition in school cafeterias should not only be alarming for advocates of health, but for advocates of quality, equitable education as well. 

Without wholesome, nutritious food, our students are not able to perform to their academic potential. The lack of quality food in our schools has a direct impact on how well (or poorly) our youth can focus, study, learn, socialize, grow, and develop.

New direction for teacher unionism

By Ron Whitehorne on Aug 12, 2009 12:31 PM

In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold
Greater than the might of armies magnified a thousand fold
We can build a new world on the ashes of the old
For the Union makes us Strong

At a time when the labor movement has bled membership and unions are hard pressed to defend the gains made in earlier years, the radical optimism of this old labor hymn seems badly out of place. But, as I will argue in this and future posts, the vision of unionism as an instrument of social transformation retains its relevance. 

It has found expression in the ranks of teacher unionism, as activists grapple with how to respond to the crisis in public education and the simultaneous attacks on teacher unions.

The boss in Philly?

By Erika Owens on Aug 11, 2009 12:13 PM

No, not that one (he'll be here in October anyway). Tony Danza.

Next week the SRC will decide if Tony Danza can film a reality TV show in a Philly public high school.

Should A&E be allowed to develop another reality show in Philadelphia? Would it be a distraction, something lampooning the Philly schools, or an opportunity to shine a light on an actual urban classroom and not just its movie equivalent?

The Notebook and the shifting media landscape

By thenotebook on Aug 7, 2009 01:15 PM

The media landscape of Philadelphia is the subject of an August 9 New York Times Magazine article. Notebook editor Paul Socolar is described as "something like the journalist of the future." The Philadelphia Public School Notebook has been on the cutting edge throughout its history.

Fifteen years ago, a group of concerned parents, teachers, and community members founded the Notebook to be a resource and voice for people working for equality and quality in Philadelphia's troubled public school system. These pioneers saw a void in the local media landscape and filled it with a free quarterly newspaper, raising money from individuals and foundations and maintaining high journalistic standards while pursuing a mission of educational change.

Notebook in the NY Times Magazine

By Erika Owens on Aug 7, 2009 01:01 PM

In the August 9 New York Times Magazine, an article about the newspaper industry in Philadelphia highlights the Notebook as one of the emerging new media in the city and compliments the quality of its coverage. Times reporter Michael Sokolove writes that the Notebook  "breaks stories and is notably well written."

Two fellow Knight-funded projects and partners in the local alternative media universe - the Media Mobilizing Project and Plan Philly - also get shout outs.

Here is an excerpt:

Media literacy education elevator pitch

By Samuel Reed III on Aug 7, 2009 06:44 AM

The first thing I get when I register at the National Association of Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) conference, held in downtown Detroit, is my conference bag. 

If you have attended professional conferences before you know that your bag serves multiple purposes. You have somewhere to place all your conference materials and goodies sponsors provide, and it serves as tool to promote the association.

With my bag over my shoulder I collect the key for my room and enter the elevator. I greet another guest thinking maybe he was also attending the same conference. He returns my friendly greeting, and asks “what is NAMLE ... are you attending a conference here at the hotel?” I proudly say, “it's a media literacy education organization, and I'm attending their conference." He gives me a blank look, “media literacy... what is that?”

Engaging students in school reform

By Eric Braxton on Aug 6, 2009 01:18 PM

Often when we talk about engaging stakeholders in school reform we include teachers, parents, and even community and business leaders. Unfortunately, students, who are the most direct stakeholders of all, are often left out of the mix. 

I believe that if we are really going to turn around our high schools, we can no longer view students as passive beneficiaries of education. We must start to see them as active participants in creating change.   

Does Army junket violate guidance counselor ethics?

By Helen Gym on Aug 6, 2009 10:43 AM

Imagine if Walmart paid for your high school’s guidance counselor to take a four-day paid trip to “Walmart Land” where your guidance counselor got to engage in fun team-building exercises, toured the Walmart History Museum, and then to top it all off, took a bungee jump–the first of their life off--the Walmart Tower.

There would be day-long presentations and lectures on Walmart’s contributions, conveniently omitting key issues like say, oh, pay scale, perhaps, or the fact that bungee jumping has nothing to do with the typical Wal-mart’s worker’s actual responsibilities.

Afterward, the Walmart Recruiter says, “We hope you’ll take back to your school what you learned. We planned this trip because Walmart hasn’t seen enough prospective employees from your schools. We hope this visit will change that.”

What the Notebook has for you

By thenotebook on Aug 5, 2009 01:13 AM

With a print edition, daily updated blog, and e-newsletter, the Notebook publishes a lot of information. Here's a rundown of ways to use all that we offer.

Ways to learn:

Starting with the 2009-20 school year you can pick up a copy of the print edition six times a year, instead of four. In every edition you'll find the following:

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