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Series explores history of Underground Railroad in Philadelphia

By Shannon Nolan on Oct 7, 2014 03:07 PM

The history of the Underground Railroad in Philadelphia will be honored throughout October with a citywide series of events presented by the Moonstone Arts Center.

Recounting the period from 1830 to 1870 in Philadelphia, the month-long series will offer programs on the Underground Railroad and highlight many individuals who fought against slavery during that time.

“There are 22 events that include screenings of 'The William Still Story' at neighborhood libraries, lectures, panel discussions, storytelling and music on various aspects of the Underground Railroad in Philadelphia,” wrote John Lavin in an email. Lavin is a Moonstone Arts Center member and teacher at Kensington International Business High School.

Many express outrage in response to SRC decision to break teachers' contract

By Payne Schroeder, WHYY audio report by Kevin McCorry on Oct 6, 2014 05:57 PM

A cry of “shame” was heard from the audience as the School Reform Commission announced Monday, during a suddenly scheduled meeting, that it would break the contract with the teachers' union and unilaterally impose changes to its members’ health benefits.

After the sparsely attended morning meeting, many in the local education community attacked the SRC’s decision. There was an afternoon protest held outside Gov. Corbett's Philadelphia office. But there were also statements of support for the action to reduce members' health benefits, including from the Corbett administration in Harrisburg, the Philadelphia School Partnership, and even former Gov. Edward Rendell.

Details of the health benefit changes

By Dale Mezzacappa and Paul Socolar on Oct 6, 2014 01:21 PM

The District will require all PFT members to contribute to the cost of their benefits. Those earning less than $25,000 will pay 5 percent of the plan's premiums. Those earning between $25,000 and $55,000 will pay 10 percent, and those earning over $55,000 will pay 13 percent.

The District says monthly payments for PFT members will range from $27 to $71 for single coverage and $77 to $200 per month for family coverage.

SRC revokes teachers' contract, changes health benefits, redirects $44 million to schools

By Dale Mezzacappa and Paul Socolar on Oct 6, 2014 09:30 AM

After 21 months of fruitless labor talks, the School District made a bold move Monday to unilaterally restructure teachers' health benefits and send $44 million in savings directly back to schools.

At a special meeting that was barely publicized until hours before its 9:30 a.m. start, with no public testimony before acting, the School Reform Commission unanimously voted to cancel the contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers in order to rework its health-care provisions. The District also filed a legal action in Commonwealth Court to establish its right to rewrite the contract based on special powers granted to the SRC.

SRC schedules special meeting 'for general purposes' on Monday morning

By the Notebook on Oct 5, 2014 10:43 PM

A special School Reform Commission meeting will be held Monday morning at 9:30.

A small legal notice appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday edition, but the meeting was not otherwise announced. It is not on the District's website (which on Sunday night said that the next SRC meeting is Oct. 16). The newspaper ad said the meeting was for "general purposes."

Councilman proposes setting stage for local takeover of Philly schools

By Tom MacDonald for NewsWorks on Oct 3, 2014 03:59 PM

It may be a case of putting the cart before the horse, but a Philadelphia councilman is proposing requirements for a city school board.

The proposal is taking shape even though there's no sign that the state will return the Philadelphia School District to local control.

Visualizing a board made up mostly of education experts, Councilman David Oh said he would also like to include several members elected from the public as part of his charter change request.

A guide for student bike commuters

By Payne Schroeder on Oct 3, 2014 12:15 PM

In response to the District’s proposed budget cuts to subsidized public transportation, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia has created a guide for high school students who want to bike to school as an alternative.

Last school year, high school students who lived more than 1.5 miles from their schools were eligible to receive free SEPTA TransPasses. But in August the District made a proposal to increase the distance to two miles, making 7,500 high school students ineligible to receive the subsidy.

Hite said during the first School Reform Commission meeting of the new school year that the District is working with several partners to avoid the transportation cuts, but many students still need assistance.

From the archives: Budget crisis 'more stark than ever'

By the Notebook on Oct 3, 2014 10:59 AM


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 Spring 2001 print edition:

by Paul Socolar

Confronting a fiscal crisis of monster proportions, the School District enters the spring in search of some major new revenue from all levels of government and facing a growing likelihood of new budget cuts.

Two Philly charters owe their existence to appeals to state board

By Dale Mezzacappa on Oct 2, 2014 07:22 PM

The new cigarette tax bill that sends badly needed money to the School District comes with a controversial provision -- that the District start accepting applications for new charter schools.

To the consternation of the charter community, the School Reform Commission has not considered new charter applications since 2007, citing its precarious financial situation, although it has continued converting low-performing District schools to charters.

District and Penn team up to study school turnarounds

By David Limm on Oct 2, 2014 05:30 PM

Philadelphia, distinct among large urban districts for its long history of pursuing school turnarounds using outside management organizations, has been a real-world laboratory of reform experiments for more than a decade.

By studying the successes and failures of the District's recent efforts to turn around academically underachieving schools, a team of researchers wants to create a body of knowledge that all schools can use to improve.

Comparing Wolf and Corbett on 'Radio Times'

By the Notebook on Oct 2, 2014 10:30 AM

On WHYY's Radio Times this morning, Notebook editor Dale Mezzacappa talked about the differences in approach to education between gubernatorial candidates Tom Wolf and Tom Corbett. 

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