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Short on nurses, District considers how to plug health service holes

By Eileen DiFranco on Jan 6, 2015 05:40 PM

Since 2011, the number of nurses in the Philadelphia School District has dropped by 40 percent, leaving many schools uncovered by nurses for most days each week. This fact, according to Meredith Elementary principal Cindy Farlino, a presenter at the School Reform Commission meeting Monday night, has caused high anxiety for non-medical school personnel, like principals, who must administer inhalers and give medications on those uncovered days, praying that things will work out.

Building capacity for student health services was the topic of last night's meeting, where I, a school nurse, acted as a facilitator for group discussions. The meeting began with an overview of the issue; we heard that school nurses had 257,000 visits from students for illness or injury last year. Over 147,000 doses of prescription medication were administered. The impact of asthma in schools was highlighted -- it affects 36,000 students. Then, in the first of two panel discussions, a school nurse and a principal addressed the various responsibilities and challenges that each faced in providing health services to students in need.

Fattah prepares for a new term with visit to MLK High

By Aaron Moselle for NewsWorks on Jan 6, 2015 04:06 PM

Dominic Castelli's social studies class at Martin Luther King High School was in full swing Monday when the discussion turned to today's political agendas.

A student's arm shot up.

"Increasing the minimum wage," she said, referring to the Democratic Party.

TFA closes New York training site, sending trainees to Philly

By Shannon Nolan on Jan 6, 2015 11:36 AM

Amid a low recruitment projection for 2015, Teach for America is moving its New York training institute to Philadelphia and will consolidate the two into one during the summer.  

The move, first announced in a Chalkbeat New York article last month, is said to be due to declining numbers of recruits for TFA's New York City school partners.

In a letter to TFA partners that appeared in a Dec. 15 Washington Post article, co-CEOs Elisa Villanueva Beard and Matt Kramer said that recruitment concerns extend past New York this year.

Round 2 of new charter hearings probes demographics and bottom lines

By Laura Benshoff for NewsWorks on Jan 5, 2015 06:03 PM

In the wake of two charter schools closing abruptly last month, the Philadelphia School District entered a second round of hearings Monday on 40 proposed new charter schools.

Widening equity gap? State, advocates differ on AP education funding report

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Jan 5, 2015 04:36 PM

The gap between what wealthy and poor school districts spend on education in Pennsylvania has doubled since Gov. Corbett took office, according to a recent study by the Associated Press.

In 2014-15, wealthier districts are expected to spend nearly $1,800 more per student than poorer districts, according to the AP. In 2010-2011, that difference was $750.

Some of that inequity has been driven by Corbett's decision to stop giving extra resources to districts coping with the added costs of charter schools – which are almost exclusively situated in poor, urban districts such as Philadelphia, Chester-Upland, York, and Reading.

Politics, fiscal issues frame state school aid debate

By Andrew Ujifusa, Education Week on Jan 2, 2015 05:27 PM

In November’s Republican-dominated elections, the Pennsylvania governor’s race was a big outlier, and the implications for public school spending in the Keystone State are just starting to play out.

The Democratic victor, Gov.-elect Tom Wolf, made support for increased school spending a centerpiece of a campaign that ousted incumbent Gov. Tom Corbett, the only Republican governor who won a seat in 2010, but then lost it in 2014.

District working to place students from closed Palmer Charter School

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jan 2, 2015 04:21 PM

With classes at Philadelphia public schools starting up again on Monday, District officials were working hard to find new placements for students left without a school when the Walter Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter abruptly shut its doors during the winter break.

Round 2 of new charter hearings gets underway on Monday

By the Notebook on Jan 2, 2015 03:07 PM

The first three of 40 separate hearings in a second round of presentations on proposed new Philadelphia charter schools will take place Monday at School District headquarters.

Then 10 more days of hearings are scheduled this month, as the District prepares to make decisions by the end of February on whether to approve these charter applications.

Digital college-readiness tool comes to Philly public schools

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Jan 2, 2015 12:24 PM

With the help of private philanthropy, the Philadelphia School District has inked a five-year deal that will give its 6th- to 12th-grade students access to the Naviance platform — a web-based college- and career-readiness tool that officials say has been used with great success by wealthier districts across the nation for years.

"This is a huge thing for Philadelphia students," said Karyn Lynch, the District's chief of student services.

Next teachers' contract will include longer school day, says Green

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Jan 1, 2015 09:51 AM

Philadelphia School Reform Commission Chairman Bill Green says the District's next contract with the teachers' union will include a longer school day.

"Longer school days and longer school years are some of the things that are going to make improvements in high-poverty urban districts," said Green in a telephone interview Wednesday.

Green said state law mandates that the Philadelphia School District extend its teachers' contracted workday.

From the archives: Parents still struggling for a seat at the table

By the Notebook on Dec 30, 2014 07:39 PM

The Notebook 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 earlier this year. 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 final piece for our series of reprints, about parent involvement and its obstacles, is from the Summer 2004 print edition:


by Beandrea Davis

"Profound parent involvement means sharing leadership - and that means sharing knowledge, responsibility, and most difficult of all, power. This is anything but simple."

In this statement, longtime education activist Rochelle Nichols Solomon describes the core of an ongoing struggle to create more meaningful roles for parents in schools.

From the archives: District pursues creation of new, smaller high schools

By the Notebook on Dec 26, 2014 01:35 PM

The Notebook 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 earlier this year. 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 2004 print edition; the School District under Paul Vallas was creating more high school options:


by Paul Socolar

Responding to growing evidence that large, urban high schools often are not as good learning environments as smaller schools, the School District is expanding its roster of high schools and thereby aiming to reduce student enrollment at large high schools.

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