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Guest blog: Schooling leaders

By Guest blogger on Dec 18, 2009 12:46 PM

Welcome to the guest blogger section of the Notebook blog.

This week's post comes from Zach Blattner, MGA student at Penn's Fels Institute of Government. This post originally appeared on Fels' Sam's Parlor blog.


The recent violence at South Philadelphia High School has again thrust the School District of Philadelphia into the spotlight.  Bloggers, politicians and advocacy groups are all lashing out in an effort to process the troubling situation and affix blame. To me, the attacks at South Philly High underscore the most significant struggle of American education: attracting, building, and retaining strong school leadership. 

Notes from the news, Dec. 18

By Anonymous on Dec 18, 2009 09:26 AM

Attacking immigrant students not new, say those involved The Inquirer
This thorough piece includes a graphic showing the rates of violence at Philly's neighborhood high schools.

Investigation of Jeffione Thomas case continues, more protest planned The Notebook blog
Thomas was allegedly beaten by school truancy officers, which brings up more concerns about how school security staff are trained and supervised.

Back to school South Philly Review
Asian students at South Philly High have suspended their boycott and returned to class.

If voters approve, BRT will end on Sept. 30 The Inquirer

NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS FOR THE SCHOOL DISTRICT OF PHILADELPHIA!!! PSU blog
PSU members suggest the District work on ending the school-to-prison pipeline, invest in schools, improve the curriculum, and more.

They're on the bus Green Space blog
Another topsy-turvy school bus is making the rounds.

Nine Philadelphia schools are on US News & World Report's top high schools list. The methodology ranks schools based on if: the school serves all students well, students test scores show proficiency, and the students are prepared for college..

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

Investigation of Jeffione Thomas case continues, more protest planned

By Dale Mezzacappa on Dec 17, 2009 06:44 PM

Overshadowed by the news of South Philadelphia High School has been the continuing controversy about an incident in which a Frankford High School student has alleged he was beaten by two District security officers who were on truancy detail. The issue was aired before the School Reform Commission for the first time this week.

Jeffione Thomas, a star running back on the Frankford football team, was late for school on Oct. 29 when he sustained injuries to his face in a scuffle with two officers. Thomas said that he rebuffed the officers when they tried to get him into a truancy van and went into the school instead. The officers followed him and the altercation was caught on school surveillance cameras.

Footage of the altercation starts at 1:30 on this video

Notes from the news, Dec. 17

By Anonymous on Dec 17, 2009 10:05 AM

Asian students back at school, seeking peace The Inquirer
At the SRC meeting yesterday Superintendent Ackerman "deeply apologized" for the emotional harm of the assaults.

See also: Ackerman apologizes, says all students hurt in S. Philly The Notebook blog
Ackerman defends district; apologizes to beaten students Philly.com
Ackerman is OK with officer at S. Philly High Daily News
Asians Back At S. Philly High Metropolis
Arlene Ackerman's 'elephant in the room' The Notebook blog

Parent tells SRC she was pressed not to testify The Notebook blog
Ackerman said the District tries to deal with parents' concerns outside of SRC meetings, but SRC Commissioner Irizarry sensed the parent's "fear was legitimate."

See also: SRC hears of more woes of non-English-speaking pupils The Inquirer

A citywide call for action The Examiner
A community meeting will be held Friday to discuss school safety.

Ex-Phila. Academy leader gets prison term The Inquirer

South Philly grad's immigrant experience 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

Parent tells SRC she was pressed not to testify

By Dale Mezzacappa on Dec 16, 2009 08:50 PM

A parent of a student at the Jackson Elementary School in South Philadelphia told the SRC Wednesday that school and South Region officials tried to intimidate her from testifying before the commission.

Angelica Viceriana, accompanied by Zac Steele, a community organizer from the community organization JUNTOS, said that while she was talking to her daughter's teacher at the school Tuesday, other school staff interrupted and asked specifically to say what she planned to testify about. Staff yelled at her, then repeatedly called her after she went home, she testified.

"They told me to call other parents and not to come to the SRC meeting," she said in Spanish through a translator. She said she was told that if she complied, "they would pay more attention to my child’s concerns." 

Ackerman apologizes, says all students hurt in S. Philly

By Dale Mezzacappa on Dec 16, 2009 04:37 PM

Superintendent Arlene Ackerman said in opening remarks at Wednesday's School Reform Commission meeting that the recent incidents at South Philadelphia High School hurt all students and staff, not just the Asian students who were beaten by some of their schoolmates.

"This incident, while painful to those young people who were physically injured, left emotional scars on all the students and staff at South Philadelphia High School. For this I am saddened and I deeply apologize," she said.

Arlene Ackerman's 'elephant in the room'

By Ron Whitehorne on Dec 16, 2009 02:08 PM

The attacks on Asian students at South Philadelphia High raise difficult questions about the role of racism in our schools, our city, and our country.  Arlene Ackerman, addressing students, parents, and community members at the SRC meeting, called it the "elephant in the room."

She’s right.

Unfortunately in her remarks before and after the meeting, Ackerman has fallen short in providing the leadership to help us understand what happened, and how we can move forward. But others, fortunately, have taken up the slack. 

A good read from Catalyst Ohio

By Anonymous on Dec 16, 2009 02:03 PM

The co-founding editor of another great education publication, Catalyst Ohio, released a book. You can read Catalyst's pitch about this "sizzling, mesmerizing read" below.

The Notebook is also offering a book--when you become a member at the Sustaining level or higher you can choose a premium gift of Keeping the Promise? The Debate Over Charter Schools or a Notebook travel mug.

South Philly grad's immigrant experience

By Gustavo Martínez on Dec 16, 2009 11:16 AM

We'll pick up the conversation from last week. As an update, we can tell you that school authorities announced measures in an attempt to make South Philly High safer. This includes cameras, more police, and an education program so kids learn how to deal with other cultures.

School District CEO Arlene Ackerman said she wanted the Asian students to come back to school on Monday, and that she would be there to welcome them back and have personal conversations with each one of the affected students. The students returned today.

I spoke with a South Philly High graduate, who is a recent immigrant, about his experience acclimating to the new environment.

Notes from the news, Dec. 16

By Anonymous on Dec 16, 2009 10:37 AM

After Chinatown meeting, boycott suspended The Notebook blog
The students return to school while they wait for the District to improve school climate.

See also: Students 'suspend' boycott at South Phila. High The Inquirer
Asian Students Return to South Phila. HS After Talks KYW

Peacekeeper or bully with a short fuse? Daily News
Sgt. Samuels, a school police officer who was just transferred to South Philly High because he speaks Cantonese, had a reputation at his prior school.

What are we teaching our kids? Daily News (opinion)
This piece questions Nutter's praise for Ackerman's "immediate" action since it took her eight days to arrive at South Philly High.

See also: Nutter backs Ackerman’s handling of S. Philly High The Inquirer
UPDATED: Mayor Nutter jumps the shark Attytood
Arlene, you're doing a heckuva job Young Philly Politics

District seeking 'turnaround' applicants The Notebook blog
An information session today about doing business with the District is aimed at potential applicants for the Renaissance Schools program.

Editorial: Who's your daddy? The Inquirer
The Mayor and City Council are sending mixed messages about the BRT.

YMCA offers free membership to every 7th grader starting January 2010 PSU 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

After Chinatown meeting, boycott suspended

By Paul Socolar on Dec 15, 2009 07:54 PM

Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, South Philadelphia High School Principal LaGreta Brown, and other District officials went to Chinatown late Tuesday afternoon to meet privately with students from South Philadelphia - and the meeting ended with Asian students from the school announcing that they plan to suspend their boycott, which was in its second week.

District seeking 'turnaround' applicants

By Dale Mezzacappa on Dec 15, 2009 06:09 PM

In an effort to widen the pool of potential operators of so-called Renaissance Schools, the District is holding two information sessions in December - one on Wednesday at 5 p.m. - detailing how to do business with the District. 

We need to stand together to fix our schools

By Eric Braxton on Dec 15, 2009 10:39 AM

On Sunday I attended a rally in support of the Asian students at South Philadelphia High School. 

It was a powerful and emotional event. 

Several adult speakers told stories about how they had been harassed in high school because they were Asian, but they did not have the courage or support to stand up like the students from South Philly.

Notes from the news, Dec. 15

By Anonymous on Dec 15, 2009 04:38 AM

Human relations group steps in to Asian students' dispute WHYY
The city's Human Relations Commission met with District and community leaders on Monday.

See also: Rights Commission, officials meet on S. Philly High The Inquirer
Tensions among students at South Philadelphia High School Radio Times
Asian Community Leaders, District Talk
FOX 29

Protesters want outside probe of incident at Frankford High Daily News
The protesters rallied on Monday to support Frankford High student Jeff Thomas, who says he was beaten by two truancy officers. The officers are still on the job.

See also: Group Wants Student Beating Case Probed FOX 29
Probe called for in alleged student beatings by security officers The Inquirer
Rally held for student charged with assault 6 ABC
Group Wants Probe Of Philly School Altercation AP via CBS 3

South Phila. High principal left A.C. post under pressure The Inquirer
Philly District officials say they are unconcerned about Brown's rocky past since she was exonerated.

City schools need dialogue The Inquirer (opinion)
Two Teacher Action Group members penned this editorial about how to improve school climate.

School not treating mom uniformly? The Inquirer
The mom has been speaking out against Northeast High's new uniform policy, and the District has asked her to stop speaking at parent roundtables.

New Media charter long past deadline to overhaul leadership The Inquirer

Nutter tells BRT workers to quit politics, take test The Inquirer

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

Notes from the news, Dec. 14

By Anonymous on Dec 14, 2009 10:09 AM

100 rally to support S. Phila. High's Asian students The Inquirer
The event was held by Asian Americans United, whose members said that "there is a broad community of people who care about them and all of the students at the school."

See also: Gearing up for a long struggle at S. Philly The Notebook blog

City sets up meeting to mediate school ethnic tensions The Inquirer
The city Human Relations Commission called a meeting for Monday with District leaders and students and parents.

See also: HR Board Holds Meeting Amid Racial Violence at S. Philly High KYW
Attacks Against Asian Students Prompt Private Meeting NBC 10
Sunday rally, Monday meeting on S. Philly The Notebook blog

Principal had a rocky end at old job Daily News
South Philly Principal LaGreta Brown had a controversial history in New Jersey.

See also: South Philly principal had troubles in NJ The Notebook blog

Federal complaint expected on school violence The Inquirer
The complaint will claim violation of the students' 14th Amendment equal protection rights.

See also: Rights complaint planned in Philly school attacks Forbes via AP

Phila. school violence abetted by Pa. officials The Inquirer (opinion)
Former safety watchdog Jack Stollsteimer wrote about how whenever he tried to fix things he "ran into a brick wall of resistance" from the state.

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