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SRC votes to close Imani Charter; school vows appeal

By Dale Mezzacappa on Nov 20, 2014 11:50 PM

The School Reform Commission voted 4-1 Thursday night to close Imani Education Circle Charter School in Germantown, leading the school's board and CEO to promise a swift and strong appeal to the state.

"We will go through the appeal process and will be fine," said CEO Francine Fulton after the vote.  "I have no fear the state will deny our charter."

District posts charter school applications on its website

By Paul Socolar on Nov 20, 2014 08:24 PM

Earlier this week, the School District released a list of 40 applications that it received from organizations wanting to open new charter schools next fall.

Now the District has posted the 40 full applications on its website.

SRC violated Pa. Sunshine Act, court complaint alleges

By Paul Socolar on Nov 20, 2014 01:06 PM

Advocates have filed a complaint in Philadelphia court charging that the School Reform Commission violated the state Sunshine Act when it met Oct. 6 and voted to cancel the contract of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

The suit was filed by the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools in the Court of Common Pleas. In a statement, Lisa Haver of APPS, a plaintiff in the case, said, "The public should expect that the SRC would give adequate advance notice of such a major action, not take pains to shut the public out."

The School District has not offered a response and generally declines to comment on pending litigation.

Four Philadelphia-area high schools get $200K for college prep

By Shannon Nolan on Nov 20, 2014 12:18 PM

Students at four Philadelphia-area high schools now have a greater chance of going to college, thanks to a $200,000 grant.

College Possible, a nonprofit that offers college preparedness services for low-income students, accepted the grant from AT&T during an event at Parkway Center City High School on Wednesday. The money will be split among its four partner high schools: George Washington, Parkway Center City, West Philadelphia, and Upper Darby High School in Delaware County.

On second day, funding panel hears from POWER, charters

By Dale Mezzacappa on Nov 19, 2014 11:23 PM

On its second day in Philadelphia, the Basic Education Funding Commission heard Wednesday from two distinct groups.

First were charter operators, who highlighted their successes and parsed the complexities of the state's education funding streams, mostly to argue that their schools are being shortchanged.

And then there were the ministers, parents, and advocates from POWER, the faith-based advocacy group, who urged the legislators to to think of school funding as a matter of justice.

Philly's opt-out movement grows as Council holds hearing on testing

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Nov 19, 2014 07:06 PM

In a sign that the movement to opt out of testing is gaining traction, the Philadelphia City Council Education Committee on Wednesday heard parents, teachers, and education advocates decry state and federal officials' emphasis on high-stakes standardized testing.

"Standardized tests negatively impact students living in poverty, English language learners, and children with special needs, of which Philadelphia has many," said Alison McDowell, a District parent who has led Philadelphia's opt-out movement and helped organize the hearing with Councilman Mark Squilla.

PCAPS to launch campaign for community schools

By Payne Schroeder on Nov 19, 2014 03:45 PM

The Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools will launch its campaign for community schools on Thursday, Nov. 20, at Arch Street United Methodist Church in Center City.

As a member of the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, which is a confederation of parent, youth, and community organizations, PCAPS will host a community meeting at 4 p.m.

Similar events are set to occur in 20 other cities across the country as part of the alliance's week of action.

Community brainstorms new uses for vacant schools

By Payne Schroeder on Nov 19, 2014 01:27 PM

The challenge, posed to community members at a charette last week, was to devise, design, and present new uses for two shuttered school buildings within 24 hours.

The Community Design Collaborative, a nonprofit that provides free design services; the Deputy Mayor’s Office; and the American Institute of Architects hosted the charette, a term used in design circles to describe a collaborative planning session involving representatives from different disciplines.

Commission hears from Philadelphia that spending cuts have created a crisis

By Dale Mezzacappa on Nov 18, 2014 06:12 PM

Experts, advocates, and ordinary citizens from Philadelphia on Tuesday told legislators charged with revising Pennsylvania's education funding formula that city schools are reeling from the consequences of insufficient revenue and urged the panel to base state aid on real student need. 

"Philadelphia schools are now a strong investment," said School Reform Commission Chair Bill Green to the members of the Basic Education Funding Commission, which has been holding hearings around the state. He said that several years ago, while on City Council, he didn't believe this, but that he is now confident in the leadership of Superintendent William Hite.

A different model of School District governance

By Susan Gobreski on Nov 18, 2014 03:23 PM

There is a conversation happening in the city about the issue of local control of the School District of Philadelphia and moving away from a state-run district.

It is virtually inarguable that the state-controlled School Reform Commission has not solved the issues of the District. Indeed, one could argue that the premise that governance was the problem has been proven false. Clearly, the citizens of Philadelphia must have more to say, while still ensuring that those who allocate funding are directly engaged with the decision-making.

Local control most likely means either an elected board or mayoral control, each presenting challenges. There are numerous troubling issues with mayoral control: It has been trendy, but it is not a proven improvement strategy, and people should be wary of it. Furthermore, it is not substantially different from the SRC in that a handful of appointments are made, insulated from the public and other elected officials.

Headed into an election year, voters should be skeptical at best about people who want to be handed the only set of keys to the District.

Caucus of teachers' union focused on social justice holds first conference

By Payne Schroeder on Nov 18, 2014 11:17 AM

This past spring, a caucus formed within the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers with the goal of energizing the union's ranks and re-engaging members in pressing issues of social justice in education.

On Nov. 8, the Caucus of Working Educators (WE) held its first annual convention at the Old First Reformed United Church of Christ in Philadelphia, where more than 125 teachers, counselors, and education advocates from Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey came to learn more about strategizing and organizing.

Fair on Wednesday to focus on historically Black colleges

By Shannon Nolan on Nov 18, 2014 10:04 AM

A free college fair hosting historically black colleges and universities will be held at School District headquarters, 440 N. Broad St., on Wednesday, Nov. 19. It's open to all college-bound students and their families.

The Malcolm Bernard Historically Black College and Universities College Fair will bring more than 40 college admissions professionals who are interested in recruiting students from high schools and community colleges. The fair will run from 3:30 to 7 p.m.

“[This] College Fair is very important because students and parents can learn how HBCUs have educational programs, financial packages, and scholarships that fit the need of students from diverse ethnic, economic, and academic backgrounds,” said Barbara Bernard, executive director of the Malcolm Bernard HBCU College Fair Inc.

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