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An elected school board for Philly? No thanks

By Dave Davies for NewsWorks on Oct 14, 2014 05:15 PM

The sad state of Philadelphia's public schools inspires fury, frustration, and now, from the Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf, a really bad idea for fundamental change.

Wolf recently proposed replacing the current five-member School Reform Commission that runs the schools with a locally elected school board.

I know Wolf means well. But establishing an elected school board in Philadelphia will not empower parents and their communities. It will put the selection of our school board members in the hands of the same people who pick judges, state legislators, sheriffs and city commissioners in this town: Democratic ward leaders.

Philadelphia's schools have been singled out by Pa. for unfair treatment

By Michael Masch on Oct 14, 2014 01:52 PM

Philadelphia public schools are in a financial crisis. They have been in crisis for the last three years.

Why has this happened? Where do we stand? What needs to happen next? These are the questions we face.

In addressing these questions, we should acknowledge that it is difficult to solve a problem if one is not clear about what the problem is. Even after years of upheaval and drama, there is some dispute as to the causes of our school budget crisis.

Some in our community maintain that the School District is in a budget crisis because it has a “structural deficit.” Others suggest that the crisis results from internal fiscal mismanagement. Still others claim that the crisis was caused by the withdrawal of federal stimulus funding.

Free fall workshops on restorative practices

By the Notebook on Oct 14, 2014 09:53 AM

Three workshops this fall will offer the chance to learn about restorative practices, a method of improving classroom learning environments and creating safer schools.

The one-day professional development workshops will be offered at the School District's Education Center at 440 N. Broad  St. from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on three Saturdays: Oct. 18, Nov. 8, and Dec. 20. The workshops are free to parents, students, Philadelphia residents, and staff of community organizations who live in Philly.

Save the dates: High school fair is this weekend

By Shannon Nolan on Oct 13, 2014 03:59 PM

The annual Philadelphia High School Fair will be held Friday and Saturday (Oct. 17 and 18) at the Armory at Drexel University on North 33rd Street, between Market and Cuthbert Streets.

More than 100 high schools from across the city will have booths that families, students, and caregivers can go to for information about school programs, extracurricular activities, admissions criteria, and how to apply. 

Protester who tried to make citizen's arrest of Corbett arrested

By Shannon Nolan on Oct 13, 2014 01:56 PM

The Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign held a demonstration with parents, students, and teachers from Moffet, Masterman, and Penn Treaty schools at Gov. Corbett’s Philadelphia office late last week, in response to the School Reform Commission’s decision to cut teachers’ health benefits.

The action led to the arrest of parent and protest organizer Cheri Honkala.

Fact-checking the District's claims about the contract cancellation

By Paul Socolar on Oct 13, 2014 10:05 AM

Last Monday, the School Reform Commission voted to cancel the teachers' union contract and unilaterally change the health benefits for members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. After that action, PFT president Jerry Jordan charged that several of the official statements about the contract situation were "lies."  

Here is a look at some of the statements and issues in dispute, and what the Notebook has been able to find out about them.

 

PFT message: Come back to the table or we'll try to make you

By Bill Hangley Jr. on Oct 10, 2014 11:13 PM

Teachers' union officials wrapped up a whirlwind week of protests and rallies by calling Friday on the School Reform Commission to scuttle its plans to cancel the union’s contract and come back to the bargaining table.

“What has been created in Philadelphia is not good for the children,” said Jerry Jordan, head of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, as he sat before a host of Democratic legislators, union leaders, community advocates, and teachers.

Seeing the varieties of traumatic experience in Philadelphia's students

By Paul Jablow on Oct 10, 2014 04:42 PM

Linnea Hunter has changed the student behavior charts on the wall of her 3rd-grade class at Paul L. Dunbar Elementary School.

Marie Acevedo, a bilingual counselor at Lincoln High School, has installed a filter over the fluorescent lights in her office, giving it a softer, more welcoming atmosphere.

Denise Burrage, an autistic support teacher at Thomas K. Finletter School, said she has improved her communication with a hard-to-reach student, sensing his aversion to loud noise and the times when he wants to be complimented and those when he doesn’t.

All three are among the 102 School District of Philadelphia staffers from 69 schools to complete courses in the past year in trauma-informed care. This is a technical term for dealing with students by shifting the focus from “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?”

What are we willing to do for our kids?

By Sean Vereen on Oct 10, 2014 01:59 PM

The recent controversial move by the School Reform Commission to cancel the teachers’ union contract is indicative of the morass that is our public education system. Amid the backdrop of a District in permanent financial and political crisis, we are engulfed in a failing national debate about education reform. Addressing educational inequalities and the lack of social opportunity for kids has been lost between the two sides of the debate.

One side believes that dissolving the public system and replacing it with a diverse “marketplace of schools” will solve our problems. Yet that “marketplace” has not systematically produced better results. 

From the archives: The great K-8 debate

By the Notebook on Oct 10, 2014 12:05 PM
 

The Notebook was launched in 1994 as a newspaper committed to ensuring quality and equity in Philadelphia public schools. We celebrated the 20th anniversary of the first publication this spring. We are featuring an article from our archives each week, shedding light on both the dramatic changes that have taken place in public education and the persistent issues facing Philadelphia's school system.

This piece is from the Summer 2001 print edition:


by Keith Look

A growing body of research shows K-8 schools to be effective in improving student achievement in the middle grades.

Winners and losers in release of new District funding allotments, leveling

By Dale Mezzacappa on Oct 9, 2014 05:03 PM

The District giveth, and the District taketh away -- at least for some Philadelphia schools.

Principals got a memo Wednesday offering additional per pupil allocations for their schools as a result of the School Reform Commission's move to cancel the teachers' contract and cut health-care costs.

[Update, 10/15: The District has finalized the amounts to be received by schools in this first round. Very few school allocations changed, but the earlier spreadsheet slightly misstated the enrollment at some schools.]

But for many principals, it was no windfall. At dozens of schools, the extra money was accompanied by a decrease in teacher allotment because of “leveling,” or the adjustment of staff size to match actual, instead of projected, student enrollment.

The District promptly released the school-by-school breakdown of additional funds and changes to teacher allotments Thursday afternoon in response to a request from the Notebook.

A recovering teacher thanks her students for standing up

By Larissa Pahomov on Oct 9, 2014 03:29 PM

 

Almost exactly a month ago, I wrote about recovering from surgery and going back to work.

Then, on Monday, my school district had a stealth meeting to cancel my union’s contract and impose health - care benefits changes onto staff.

In response, I sent out a tweet that was personal, but important to me.

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