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September events and school calendar

By the Notebook on Sep 4, 2009 03:10 PM

Every month the Notebook publishes a list of education events in Philadelphia. Check here for the list of events in September. At the bottom is the school calendar for September as well.

The full 2009-10 school year calendar is available at It is also available in Spanish at

Have an event you'd like to put on the list? Email us. Have any suggestions on other events the Notebook should be at? Please let me know. We're particularly interested in opportunities for getting the Fall Guide out to middle grades students and their families because of its focus on choosing a high school.

Setting the record straight on Ramirez' SRC tenure

By Helen Gym on Sep 3, 2009 10:50 AM

In reading the recent spate of stories in the media about the resignation of Heidi Ramirez, one might have thought Ramirez – who’s been described in the media as “outspoken” and “persistent” – was constantly at odds with Superintendent Arlene Ackerman.

In fact, a review of the existing public record shows that Ramirez voted in concert with the CEO in all but a handful of instances. 

(There is no formal, public record of SRC votes, but I used first-hand information and news reports and checked with other sources to substantiate my count.)

During her 17-month tenure, Ramirez accepted the Superintendent’s recommendation on nearly every District initiative, including reforms to the alternative education and disciplinary school contracts and an effort to recruit more teachers of color to the District. In the few times Ramirez voted against the CEO’s recommendation, she articulated concerns focused on needs-based assessment, actual costs, evidence-based results, process, and performance measures.

In other words, her questions were the stuff of oversight – not micromanagement or personality disagreements: Is this what the District needs? How much does it cost? What’s the record of success? How will we know when we’ve met our goals?

Philadelphia Weekly reports on violence against Asian students

By Helen Gym on Sep 3, 2009 07:16 AM

Via Philebrity:

This week’s Philadelphia Weekly  cover story has a crushing story about violence heaped on Asian students in many Philadelphia public schools.

District wants your comments on charter policy

By Anonymous on Sep 2, 2009 01:56 PM

The Inquirer reported today that the School District of Philadelphia is soliciting comments on its Charter School Policy, in regard to the process by which schools can increase enrollment or alter grade configurations. You can read the draft amendment here.

Changes to the policy include making an enrollment increase or grade alteration part of the charter school's renewal application. It also lays out the criteria that District staff will use to evaluate the school's request, and how the request will be reviewed and decided.

One week of summer to go!

By Anonymous on Sep 1, 2009 08:57 PM

What do you have planned for this last week before the 2009-10 school year begins? The Notebook is keeping busy!

This week the Notebook releases its Fall Guide.

Helen Gym will post a follow up on the Ramirez resignation, which she sketched out in a comment on a Young Philly Politics post about a recent editorial about Ramirez.

Ron Whitehorne will continue blogging about social justice unionism.

I will finish planning out a new daily schools coverage roundup to kick off next Tuesday. Please let me know if you have any suggestions on blogs, papers, Web sites, or list servs I should be watching.

On Labor Day the Notebook will be tabling at the AFL-CIO parade and festival at Penn's Landing. Stop by to say hi or grab a copy of the Fall Guide. Have any suggestions on other events the Notebook should be at? Please let me know. We're particularly interested in getting the Fall Guide out to middle grades students and their families because of its focus on choosing a high school.

Coming next week: The Notebook Fall Guide

By the Notebook on Aug 28, 2009 03:59 PM

Watch this space next week for The Notebook's first ever Fall Guide. (Here it is!) This year the spotlight is on high schools and it will tell you what you really need to know to start the school year off right.

The Fall Guide will be available starting late next week. For the first time, you'll be able to pick up a copy of the Notebook on the first day of school. This is part of the Notebook's expansion plan. This spring you'll also find another edition of the Notebook, which will bring us to six editions per year.

Features in the Fall Guide include profiles of all public high schools and articles about what's new in the District, selecting a high school, new charter schools, and "what I wish I knew."

Let's start the conversation now--what do you wish you knew about high school before you started?

Girard-diCarlo and Dworetzky nominated to SRC

By Paul Socolar on Aug 27, 2009 03:53 PM

[Updated 4:45 pm] Gov. Rendell announced this afternoon that he plans to renominate attorney Joseph Dworetzky to the School Reform Commission and to fill the SRC slot being vacated by Heidi Ramirez with David Girard-diCarlo, an attorney who recently served as the Bush administration's ambassador to Austria.

Teach For America... The New Peace Corps?

By Samuel Reed III on Aug 27, 2009 01:25 AM

Let me start off with a disclaimer. I am a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Botswana, RPCV 88-91). 

I am a self-confessed believer in the value of public service. I even persuaded my reluctant son, Thato, to join AmeriCorps in between his college matriculation and finding himself. He volunteered at Harding Middle School. It would have been a financial hardship if he didn’t have parental support, but that’s another blog post.

It should not come as a surprise that I value the public service mission of the Teach For America (TFA) program.

Interestingly, in some circles, TFA is described as the “New Peace Corps.” Based upon my Peace Corps service and experience working with TFA, I recognize some parallels between both organizations.

District, union okay two-month contract extension

By Dale Mezzacappa on Aug 26, 2009 05:02 PM

[Updated, 6:00 pm]  The School District and Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) have just announced a 60-day contract extension, which both sides say will permit them "to focus on a successful and smooth opening of the 2009-2010 school year." The contract was due to expire next Monday.

The extension doesn't come as much of a surprise, given that there is still no state budget or firm sense of how much money the District will have to offer the teachers.

Teacher accountability - Can the administration and the union find some common ground?

By Ron Whitehorne on Aug 26, 2009 11:08 AM

Here we have, in embryo, the nub of the differences between the School District and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers:

“During the previous five years, the District had been offering an excellent education to some but not all Philadelphia students. Although incremental progress had been made in terms of student achievement, a large percentage of students still do not complete high school within six years and persistent participation and achievement “gaps” remain between students of different ethnicities, home languages, areas of residence, and program placement. At the same time, adults within the District were not always held accountable for protecting the core mission of the District – providing every student with an excellent and high-quality education."

--Arlene Ackerman, message on strategic plan

“...As teachers, we are held accountable for reaching and teaching all children, regardless of the myriad of factors that influence their academic success or failure. We, and no one else, are held accountable for raising test scores in classes whose sizes we can’t control, in schools that are falling apart, without enough books or computers and too often without the support of families.”

--Jerry Jordan, May issue of Reporter

Another SRC nominee is in limbo

By Dale Mezzacappa on Aug 25, 2009 04:21 PM

The plot thickens.

Gov. Rendell has recalled the name of Joseph Dworetzky as his nominee for the School Reform Commission, the governor's spokesman confirmed today.

But, he added, Rendell intends to resubmit it. 

"He has not yet been resubmitted, but it is the governor's intention to do so," said spokesman Gary Tuma. "He still has the governor's full support." 

Summer break not really a break for teachers

By Anna Weiss on Aug 25, 2009 03:42 PM

It's the old familiar refrain: "Oh, you're a teacher? It must be nice to have those summers off." Or, the more sneering version: "You know, those of us in the adult world have to work the whole year." 

Although these comments are frequently dripping with condescension, I'm personally more offended by their sheer untruth. I personally didn't know a single teacher on my 7th grade team who truly had the summer off. We were all either teaching summer school, leading youths on service learning projects in Costa Rica, participating in professional development sessions, or, in my case, coaching new teachers. 

In case you missed it, week of Aug. 16

By Anonymous on Aug 24, 2009 05:59 AM

The Notebook was first with the week's big news about Heidi Ramirez' resignation from the SRC. Other coverage of the resignation:

Here is a video of the announcement from Al Día:

Who's on first?

By Len Rieser on Aug 24, 2009 12:53 AM

I wondered, in the wake of Heidi Ramirez’ resignation, whether state law is at all unclear about the respective roles of the SRC and the superintendent.   

The 2001 takeover law, quaintly entitled “Distress in school districts of the first class,” is actually a sledgehammer of a statute, designed to place broad powers in the hands of the newly-created SRC. (Inconveniently, the takeover law isn’t readily available on the web – in fact, none of Pennsylvania’s statutes are – but you can find it by going to a law library and asking to see 24 PS § 6-696, or by contacting me.)

Among other things, the law says flatly that the SRC shall be responsible for “the operation, management and educational program of the school district of the first class” -- about as sweeping a provision as could be written.

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