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SRC likely to vote on budget without knowing state revenue

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jun 27, 2014 05:46 PM

The School Reform Commission is likely to vote on a budget Monday without knowing how much money the District will be getting from the state.

Intense budget maneuvering during the week will continue into the weekend, but it is entirely possible that the General Assembly will miss its June 30 deadline for approving a state budget.

Gov. Corbett said he would hold out past the deadline until he got support for his priorities, which include pension reform and privatization of state liquor stores. 

As of Friday, the House had passed a budget that includes no new revenue sources and would virtually wipe out increases for education spending that Corbett had proposed. That plan would eliminate about $20 million of the funds that the District was counting on from the state.

Summer Lost trailer: Web series to explore summer slide

By Dorian Geiger on Jun 27, 2014 01:46 PM

Too much downtime this summer could prove to be a major detriment to Philadelphia's students when they return to classes in fall.

Summer learning loss, often nicknamed "summer slide," is a nationwide phenomenon that affects children, especially from kindergarten to 4th grade. Over the summer months, they lose reading and math skills that they learned during the school year, and in the fall, they return to their studies having fallen behind.

From the archives: Bilingual education gets big boost

By thenotebook on Jun 27, 2014 11:16 AM

The Notebook was launched in 1994 as a newspaper committed to ensuring quality and equity in Philadelphia public schools. We are celebrating 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.

From the Fall 1998 print edition:


by Helen Gym

Innovation came suddenly for teacher Shouben Li.

Notified the night before the first day of school for staff that he was a pilot teacher in a new bilingual program in Chinese at McCall Elementary School, he hastily gathered what few materials he could and brought them to his new classroom. Despite a frantic two days to prepare, Li said he knew his efforts would be well rewarded when he met his students.

Will Philly delegation 'play ball' on budget to win dollars for city schools?

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Jun 26, 2014 06:13 PM

Facing a $66 million budget shortfall that threatens to turn schools into "empty shells," the Philadelphia School District has turned its efforts for additional funding to Harrisburg.

But lawmakers there are grappling with a $1.4 billion hole in their own budget, and the District's budget woes are but one of many legislative pieces maneuvering on the chessboard.

With mere days remaining before the state's June 30 budget deadline, the halls of the state Capitol are abuzz with politicking and strategy.

Pa. Supreme Court declines to rule on District's move to impose work rules

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jun 26, 2014 06:09 PM

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has declined to rule on whether the School Reform Commission has the absolute right to unilaterally impose work rules on the teachers' union in the absence of a contract.

The opinion offered no explanation for the decision. Chief Justice Ron Castille wrote a lengthy dissent, concluding that due to the District's dire financial position, the court was "duty-bound to engage in the review requested here." He was joined in the dissent by Justice Max Baer.

The non-decision favors the union, because it will make it easier for the union to file grievances and legal challenges to District actions that violate the terms of the expired contract. 

The SRC had asked the Supreme Court to definitively declare that certain noneconomic issues, including the use of seniority in teacher assignment and transfer, were not mandatory subjects of collective bargaining with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. And it asked the justices to do so under "exclusive jurisdiction" -- a way of skipping over the usual process of starting in a lower court and moving up through appeals.

Mastery 3.0: Moving beyond turnarounds

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jun 26, 2014 03:20 PM

Concerned that not enough students at Mastery charter schools are enrolling, persisting, and succeeding in college, the organization is revamping its curriculum and instructional methods, according to founder and CEO Scott Gordon.

The charter school network, which operates 15 schools in the city – most of them converted District schools – sent a notice to parents at the end of the school year and provided the Notebook with documents that outline some new teaching strategies and the philosophy behind the changes, dubbed Mastery 3.0.

At White House Maker Faire, Workshop students showcase the car they built

By Cathy Quero on Jun 25, 2014 04:24 PM

Students from the Workshop School in West Philadelphia took the fast lane to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. last week as one of six groups and individuals to attend the first-ever White House Maker Faire to showcase the race car they built that runs on doughnut oil.

“I never thought that I would get to meet the president and build a race car,” said Taliya Carter, a rising 10th grader at Workshop and one of 15 students who worked on building the car. “It was so cool. We worked hard on it.”

Youth poet laureate looks to 'give a voice to young people'

By Neema Roshania for NewsWorks on Jun 25, 2014 02:46 PM

Soledad Alfaro-Allah says that she's only been a poet for a year and a half, but her mother maintains that her daughter has written verses for much longer than that.

"As far back as I can remember, she was playing with words and putting words together," said Soledad's same-named mother. "She has always loved words."

Help us reach 300 members by June 30. You could win framed art!

By Tim Cravens on Jun 25, 2014 12:04 PM

The Notebook is in the final days of a campaign to reach 300 members by June 30. We're getting close, but we still need 75 more memberships to reach our goal. If you become a member by the end of this week (June 27), you'll be eligible to enter to win a framed photo by our photographer, Harvey Finkle, or a framed editorial cartoon by our cartoonist, Eric Joselyn.

Independence Charter, two Catholic schools to receive $344K in PSP grants

By David Limm on Jun 25, 2014 11:47 AM

A charter school and two Catholic elementary schools will receive three grants totaling $343,600, the Philadelphia School Partnership announced Wednesday.

St. Thomas Aquinas School in South Philadelphia and St. Helena-Incarnation School in Olney will receive $275,000 in turnaround grants to help improve the schools' academics and long-term financial footing. The schools are part of the Independence Mission Schools network. The nonprofit last year took over running 13 formerly parish and interparochial schools, most of which had seen years of declining enrollment.

Universal-Bluford dedicates library to beloved educator

By Cathy Quero on Jun 24, 2014 04:39 PM

Universal-Bluford Charter School on Tuesday dedicated its library to Bettye Brown, a veteran teacher and beloved staffer who passed away earlier this year.

The ceremony, attended by members of the school's community, Brown's family, and Universal Companies founder Kenny Gamble, took place at the West Philadelphia school, where Brown worked as a coordinator for the charter network's school advisory councils from 2011 until her passing in January.

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