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Kids vs. politics

By Helen Gym on Jun 12, 2014 04:16 PM

City Council yesterday proved once again that Philadelphia’s schoolchildren come second to politicking. Instead of following through on its promise to guarantee the District at least $50 million -- a promise it made last August, when Superintendent William Hite refused to open schools otherwise -- City Council’s finance committee moved forward with a bill to halve that amount to $27 million.

It seems inconceivable for Council to behave in this manner, especially at a time when District finances have never been more dire. If City Council doesn’t move on filling the basic budget gap, the District will be forced to pass an obscene budget that will lay off staff and see class sizes go through the roof. The PR damage and the loss of internal capacity at the District is not something that can be made up even if Council were to later piece together funds over the summer.

Funding crisis threatens spread of innovation

By Benjamin Herold for Education Week on Jun 12, 2014 02:19 PM

Nearly a year after Superintendent William Hite committed millions of dollars to expand Science Leadership Academy and two other pioneering District schools here, the investment in hands-on, technology-rich instructional models has stirred hope and experimentation across the city.

But the tentative flourishing of innovation is at risk of being overwhelmed by a massive funding shortfall that has cast doubt on the superintendent's ability to safely open schools in September, let alone spread promising new models across the 131,000-student system.

With film, students document dire conditions in schools

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Jun 12, 2014 10:10 AM

A student-produced documentary that provides an overview of the Philadelphia School District's funding crisis premiered Wednesday night at an event hosted by Philly School Counselors United.

Dalena Bui and Danielle Little, seniors at Science Leadership Academy, co-directed the eight-minute film, which they've titled Schools Interrupted.

"I'm the first one in my family to go to college," narrates Bui in the film. "My parents are immigrants from Vietnam, and they sacrificed their lives so that my siblings and I could have a better education and a better life."

Council approves $27M toward current year gap, rebuffs District pleas for more

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jun 11, 2014 06:52 PM

The City Council Finance Committee on Wednesday agreed to borrow $27 million to give to the financially ailing School District immediately, an amount based on the assumption that both the University City High School and William Penn High School properties would be sold before the end of this month.

Between the loan and the property sales, Council expects to reach the goal of delivering $61 million in additional funds promised to the District last August for this school year. 

The promise allowed the District to avoid more layoffs at that time. But with the fiscal year almost over, the money has not yet been delivered.

YUC students walk out of school to protest budget cuts

By thenotebook on Jun 11, 2014 05:56 PM

Students from nine high schools walked out of school at noon Wednesday, converging on the School District, City Hall and Gov. Corbett's Philadelphia office to protest inadequate funding of their schools. 

As many as 200 students and supporters marched down Broad Street chanting and waving signs, escorted by police officers from Civil Affairs.

Thanks to everyone who helped the Notebook celebrate 20 years

By thenotebook on Jun 11, 2014 05:07 PM

Thanks to the more than 300 people who turned out for the Notebook's 20th anniversary event on Tuesday, June 10, at University of the Arts. The event celebrated the Notebook's growth and impact since its launch in 1994 as an in-depth, independent education newspaper committed to advancing quality and equity.

Philly Futures helps college-bound students defy expectations, odds

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Jun 11, 2014 03:17 PM

Chris Felix wants to shatter the misconceptions about students in the Philadelphia School District.

"When somebody hears that I come from Northeast High School, they expect me to be failing half my classes, they expect my pants to be sagging below my behind," said Felix, 18. "But ... when I walk down Market Street and I have a tie on, my shirt's tucked in, pants are above the waist, belt on, I just know that I'm breaking through that stereotype."

City Council leader, schools chief clash over means to fund schools

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Jun 11, 2014 10:13 AM

The Philadelphia School District's budget crises never seem to end.

In fact, even as students and parents hold their collective breath for the possibility of even more cuts to classroom resources for next school year, the ghost of last year's crisis lingers.

Last summer, Superintendent William Hite said he would not open schools unless the District received an additional $50 million from the city.

City, District move to improve services for students involved with child welfare

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jun 10, 2014 03:31 PM

The city and School District are moving to provide more intense and coordinated services for nearly one in five city students -- 17 percent -- who have been involved in the child welfare or juvenile justice system, officials said Tuesday.

They plan to place 27 additional social workers in schools that serve high numbers of these students, work harder to coordinate community-based services for them and their families, and provide attendance officers to keep track of absentees, said Karyn Lynch, the School District's chief of student support services. 

The officials released a report showing that these students need special education services at much higher rates than their peers and that their outcomes -- attendance, test scores, grade promotion, and graduation rates -- are poorer.

Hope and possibility inspired the Notebook's founding

By Helen Gym on Jun 10, 2014 10:59 AM

Like most great things, the Philadelphia Public School Notebook was a concept and a vision long before it became the indispensable news forum it is today.

I still remember my first introduction – a large gymnasium in Feltonville with dozens of us in an ever-widening circle talking about a vision of an independent media outlet that would uplift the voices and concerns of parents, youth, teachers, staff, and concerned Philadelphians about our schools. I was surrounded by the most amazing and diverse array of visionaries from all over the city – longtime educators, parent organizers, community leaders, and artists – who made room for a rookie teacher like me with a bewildered political understanding about education and race politics.

We came from a variety of experiences far beyond schools: housing and criminal justice struggles, the Asian American movement, community development. The Notebook has always reminded me of how much I learned at the feet of so many of Philadelphia’s best grassroots leaders and activists.

Redevelopment at University City High School hits a snag

By Tom MacDonald for NewsWorks on Jun 9, 2014 01:27 PM

Redevelopment plans for a former Philadelphia high school are hoping to get back on track after hitting a roadblock.

After introducing a bill that would make zoning changes for the project, Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell was outraged when the proposed redevelopers of University City High School tried to push through Council amended plans for the property.

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