by Kristen Forbriger
If the Notebook is going to delve into the proposed universal enrollment process, it should begin with the facts.
Start with the purpose of universal enrollment: to simplify the process of applying to schools for families and make access to the city's best schools more equitable. Also note that universal enrollment is a goal of the Great Schools Compact, which was signed by Mayor Nutter, the School District, charter and Catholic school leaders, and the state secretary of education. Philadelphia School Partnership serves as project manager to the Compact Committee, which includes representatives from all of these.
by Bill Hangley Jr.
At Furness High School, dead batteries in laptops are not being replaced.
At Central High, some seniors who want to take calculus, or AP Chinese, are being told no because there's a lack of room. At the same time, other students are assigned to courses they don’t want.
At these and other high schools, classes are filled to their limit with 33 students, and many afterschool activities have been dropped because there is no money to pay teachers to run them.
As the school year advances under the so-called “doomsday" budget, the stories of deprivation and inadequacy continue to pile up: crowded classrooms, overstretched staff, and frustrated students.
But as the saying goes, the plural of anecdote is not data. Measuring the impact of this year’s austerity budget in terms of lost opportunities and altered life chances for students is very difficult. There is still a big question out there: If the impact of the doomsday cuts in Philadelphia classrooms is as serious as some fear, how will that be measured and communicated to the public?
by Aaron Moselle for NewsWorks
Cook-Wissahickon Elementary in Roxborough is implementing a split-grade classroom.
Fernando Gallard, a spokesperson with the Philadelphia School District, confirmed Friday that two 5th-grade teachers were transferred as part of this year's "leveling" process, which is scheduled to wrap up Monday.
The move means that the K-8 school will have a classroom that combines 3rd and 4th graders.
by Isaac Riddle
[Note: Due to technical difficulties, portions of the video near the beginning are inaudible. Posted below is part of a pre-interview transcript of questions that relates to the affected section, which lasts up to about the 1:36 mark.]
Philadelphia Schools Superintendent William Hite sat down for a live interview on Wednesday with Notebook contributing editor Dale Mezzacappa. The interview was part of the public access channel PhillyCAM's fourth anniversary broadcast.
Hite answered questions about the District’s lack of guidance counselors and nurses, teacher seniority, teacher salaries, state funding, and charter schools. He also responded to the question of whether he had taken a pay cut.
by Elizabeth Fiedler for NewsWorks
The Philadelphia School District has made a controversial choice for its chief safety officer.
Some parents are not happy that the District selected a veteran city police officer who has been the subject of lawsuits claiming physical abuse and sexual harassment.
An open letter to Dr. Hite on parent priorities for $45 Million. Parents United
by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks
What does $45 million mean to the Philadelphia School District?
That was the unanimous feeling from the group of school guidance counselors who gathered Wednesday evening to discuss what they've seen in Philadelphia's traditional public schools so far this year.
Last week, after Gov. Corbett announced that he would release an additional $45 million to the District, Philadelphia schools Superintendent William Hite said he'd immediately begin recalling 400 employees. Of that number, he said, 80 would be guidance counselors.
"It's a Band-Aid in a gaping wound that's just not going to make much of a difference," said Tatiana Olmedo, guidance counselor at Central High School.
Pedro Ramos resigned from the School Reform Commission and his position as chair this week for personal reasons. The letter he sent to Gov. Corbett talks of operational reforms that were made under his watch while the District dealt with deep fiscal challenges.
Although he uses careful language to describe the response of the state and city to the District's request for additional funds, he blames the recession, and not political decisions, for the District's financial woes.
In the letter, Ramos tells Corbett that "financial support" is necessary, along with "a system and a culture of adult accountability," in order to deliver on the promise of a ''safe, high-quality seat for every child."
"I remain optimistic that all our leaders will continue to work together for the benefit of all the Commonwealth's children, including Philadelphia's children," Ramos wrote.
For months, the Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP) has been working to put in place a new citywide process for placing students in schools. Most troubling is that PSP wants this process to be run by an outside, private entity that is created by PSP and could eventually charge a per-pupil fee from participating systems.
“Universal enrollment,” as it is called, would match students to either a District, charter, or parochial school whenever they decide to transfer, move, or transition to another school level.
The PSP proposal would not only take the current student-placement program out of the District’s hands -- unprecedented in any other city -- it would also include parochial schools and coordinate the selection process with the availability of scholarships, which are now often provided through two controversial, voucher-like business tax subsidy programs in Pennsylvania.
by Tom MacDonald for NewsWorks
Philadelphia City Council has approved a bill to sell tax liens to generate cash for the city and the public schools. The city has a hard time collecting overdue taxes.
Councilman Bill Green says selling outstanding tax liens could be very profitable at a time when both the city and the School District need the money.
Pedro Ramos' farewell. Inquirer
City to host Saturday college essay workshops. City of Philadelphia
Making sense of a loss. City Paper
Report defends Penn's economic impact on city. Daily Pennsylvanian
Fight for a better future for public school students. Jewish Exponent
Linda Darling-Hammond on the Common Core Standards. Diane Ravitch's Blog
by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks
Change comes, if only incrementally.
Last week I wrote a story highlighting LaTonia Lee's struggle to ensure that her daughter Christina's Individualized Education Plan (IEP) was being met by the School District of Philadelphia.
Christina's IEP — a legally binding document — dictates, among other things, that she receive one period per week of speech and language therapy. But Christina's school, Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences, in North Philadelphia, did not have a speech therapist through the first six weeks of classes, and as a consequence, Christina's needs remained unfulfilled.
During that time, LaTonia says her daughter struggled both academically and emotionally as Christina became the victim of bullying.
by Isaac Riddle
About 50 parents, teachers, students, and community members joined Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan in a protest about budget cuts outside of Vare-Washington Elementary School on Wednesday afternoon.
The group gathered to voice concerns over the latest loss of programs and services at the South Philadelphia school and to talk about the impact the District’s leveling efforts will have on a school already hurting from staffing shortages brought on by districtwide budget cuts.
by Bill Hangley Jr.
At Philadelphia Academies Inc., staff members are thinking big: They hope their handful of newly funded career academies are soon common in a school district that struggles to keep students engaged.
At Roxborough High School in Northwest Philadelphia, students are just glad somebody stepped in to save a program that looked to be history.
That was the message at Roxborough this week, where the William Penn Foundation announced its plans to provide the Academies program with $1.4 million in new funding to support “Wall to Wall Career Academies” in high schools across the city.
Academies president Lisa Nutter said that the nonprofit’s hands-on learning model could “transform” public schools in Philadelphia. “It’s on a very short list of what works in high school,” she said.
[Update: Video of the interview will be posted sometime Thursday afternoon.]
Superintendent William Hite took the helm of the city's schools last September amid historic turbulence. One year into his post, the superintendent will be sitting down with the Notebook's Dale Mezzacappa for a live interview at 11:30 a.m. today, where he will talk about the latest School District developments, such as the school funding crisis, contract negotiations, as well his plans for innovation in the District.
The 30-minute interview will air on PhillyCAM (channel 66/966 on Comcast, 29/30 on Verizon, or livestream) as part of the public access channel's fourth anniversary broadcast.