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District orders school police to stay out of Level 1 offenses

Submitted by thenotebook on Tue, 03/25/2014 - 16:56 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks

Philadelphia School District has directed school police officers to stop responding to calls related to Level 1 student conduct offenses. The proscribed violations range from "failure to follow classroom rules" to "truancy" to "verbal altercations" to "inappropriate touching/public displays of affection."

"These infractions are not criminal offenses; they are classroom/student management issues," wrote District Chief Inspector Carl W. Holmes to school administrators and school police in a memo dated March 10.

A closer look at the District's legal argument to the Pa. Supreme Court

Submitted by Paul Socolar on Mon, 03/24/2014 - 22:46 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

School District lawyers, in their Monday petition to the state Supreme Court, argue that by law they do not have to negotiate with the teachers' union on such issues as hiring practices, layoffs, prep time, and contracting out.

The state takeover law exempts these "non-mandatory" areas from collective bargaining, the lawyers say. They ask the court to affirm that the District can unilaterally implement new rules and practices in those areas, even while continuing to bargain with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers on other contract issues.

The PFT plans to fight this argument in court.

Hite suspending seniority for September, seeking approval from Supreme Court

Submitted by Dale Mezzacappa on Mon, 03/24/2014 - 16:18 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

Updated | 6:20 p.m.

With labor negotiations stalled, Superintendent William Hite said Monday that he intends to impose a system for assigning teachers to schools next year that eliminates seniority as the deciding factor and instead gives principals the power to fill all vacancies and assemble staff.

“It is our intention to implement a range of work-rule reforms, and these include teacher assignment and transfer, layoff and recall, staffing levels, leveling, and the use of prep time,” Hite said in an interview.

The District filed a 60-page motion asking the state Supreme Court to issue a "declaratory judgment" to affirm its legal right to make such changes unilaterally.

City tax collection doing better, but still struggles to catch up with deadbeats

Submitted by thenotebook on Mon, 03/24/2014 - 15:42 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

by Tom MacDonald for NewsWorks

City Council is reviewing why Philadelphia doesn't collect all the taxes it's owed.

Council members are taking an even closer look at taxes that could help the struggling public schools.

District's new high schools now accepting applications; info session on Wednesday

Submitted by thenotebook on Mon, 03/24/2014 - 13:28 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

by Dan Hampton

Applications for three new, non-selective high schools planned for North Philadelphia in the fall are now being accepted. The deadline for 8th graders to apply to the U School, Building 21, and Learning in New Contexts (the LINC) is April 25.

A town-hall-style informational meeting will be held at the District’s headquarters on Wednesday, March 26, between 6 and 8 p.m., where parents, students, and other community members can ask questions about these schools.

Poverty is no excuse, but it should never be overlooked

Submitted by Eileen DiFranco on Mon, 03/24/2014 - 11:59 Posted in Commentary | Permalink

One of my granddaughter’s favorite requests to her parents is "read to me." My son and his wife read three books to their children each night before bedtime and make weekly trips to the public library. At 5 years old, one child can explain the word “symmetry.” Their 3-year-old uses words like “specific” in context.  

A high school English teacher I know once asked in each of his five classes how many of his students had parents who read to them when they were little. Not one student raised a hand.

Most of these students had caring parents. Most had loving parents. However, in just about every case, each student had parents who worked too hard at low-paying jobs and were gone early in the morning until late at night. Aside from time dedicated to daily chores, there simply was no money, no time, and no energy to buy books or go to the library and then read. Reading to their children is a luxury the families can’t afford. 

Parents learn how to turn kids into confident readers

Submitted by thenotebook on Fri, 03/21/2014 - 12:53 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

by Connie Langland

On a March afternoon, 8-year-old Jakai Rhoades and his mother, Ebony Wilkie, began tackling his homework. 

“What does this word look like?” Wilkie asked her son, a 3rd grader at nearby Blaine Elementary School. “It’s a compound word—two words together. Do you see?”

“Spaceship,” he answered, correctly.

“Rumble … rumble … ROOAAARRRR,” read Jakai. “The rocket goes up into …” He stumbled on the next word. But his mom was at the ready, pointing upwards again and again, offering Jakai a really big hint.

SRC approves building sales, ratifies principals' contract

Submitted by Dale Mezzacappa on Thu, 03/20/2014 - 22:04 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

The School Reform Commission approved the sales of six vacant properties Thursday night, most of them schools that were closed within the last two years.

It also ratified a contract with the Commonwealth Association of School Administrators, which represents principals and assistant principals, who will reduce their work year and see lower salaries. 

The properties will be sold for a total of $37 million under the current agreements, but the District will net $25.8 million after closing costs and other costs are taken out, said Fran Burns, the District's operations manager.

Students ask SRC for fresher lunch food

Submitted by Dale Mezzacappa on Thu, 03/20/2014 - 19:50 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

Student activists from Youth United for Change pressed their case Thursday with the School Reform Commission to change lunch vendors to one that serves more fresh and appealing food.

The District "has the opportunity to become a national leader in the campaign to change the way how children eat in school," said Daniel Frye of YUC, a senior at Kensington Urban Education Academy.

How do demographics affect performance at public high schools?

Submitted by thenotebook on Thu, 03/20/2014 - 14:45 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

by Kevin McCorry at NewsWorks

Last week, I wrote a story about Chrislie Dor, a Philadelphia School District student who applied to two District-run magnet high schools.

If accepted, she said, she would attend one of those schools. If not, she said, she'd enroll in a high school run by a charter organization.

SRC to vote Thursday on sale of 7 recently closed school buildings

Submitted by David Limm on Wed, 03/19/2014 - 15:32 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

The District is set to sell seven of its shuttered school buildings for a total of $37 million. The School Reform Commission will vote on resolutions to approve the proposed sales to six buyers at a meeting Thursday night.

Should the SRC approve the sale of all the properties to their proposed buyers, the District would come within $24 million of its stated revenue goal from real estate sales for this fiscal year. 

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