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From the archives: 'Small schools' experiment finds new life in SLCs

By thenotebook on Jul 18, 2014 11:32 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 Spring 1999 print edition:

by Ros Purnell and Helen Gym

In the mid- and late 1980s, Philadelphia became a testing ground for the "small schools" movement. The effort was led by the now-defunct Philadelphia Schools Collaborative, a group of educators who advocated smaller environments to break up the enormous, impersonal, and largely dysfunctional comprehensive high schools. The movement's goal was to create smaller autonomous schools with control over budgets, hiring, and curriculum design.

The campaign for "small schools" in Philadelphia eventually sparked radical changes in Chicago and New York City.

The challenge for Superintendent Hite

By Ron Whitehorne on Jul 18, 2014 10:53 AM

Last month, Superintendent William Hite said he would consider opening the schools fully staffed and run them until the money runs out rather than institute a new round of layoffs. The School Reform Commission, in a rare display of independence and political courage, signaled it would support him. 

After the budget debacle in Harrisburg, in which the governor and his supporters failed to raise substantial new revenue, it’s time for Hite, the SRC, and public education advocates to take that step.

Partnerships director Stacy Holland leaving District

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jul 17, 2014 05:14 PM

Several additional top personnel moves at the School District were made public Thursday.

Chief of Strategic Partnerships Stacy Holland is leaving; her last day will be Aug. 31. She will be the new executive director of the Lenfest Foundation.

Before joining the District, Holland had been president and CEO of the Philadelphia Youth Network and, in that capacity, started working with the District on strengthening outside partnerships. She was hired by the District last October.

Her charge had been to use the District's work with outside organizations and government agencies to maximize services to children.

At Independence Mall, students draw from history

By Cathy Quero on Jul 17, 2014 04:15 PM

Tourists passing through Independence Mall today may have caught a glimpse of Thomas Jefferson, as a man dressed in period uniform delivered a speech for a summer initiative called Project Write-Inspire Me!, a writing enrichment program for high school students.  

The organization, which is a part of the Independence National Historical Park and the Philadelphia Writing Project, tries to empower youth to write by drawing inspiration from American history, according to Project Write counselor Bethany Silba.

The path forward: A Q&A with Susan Gobreski

By Bill Hangley Jr. on Jul 17, 2014 11:55 AM

With all the questions swirling around this year’s education budget, virtually everyone agrees on one thing: It won’t solve the Philadelphia School District’s big problems. Union officials, charter advocates, School Reform Commission officials, parent groups, Mayor Nutter, even President Obama’s top education official, agree that under the current status quo, Philadelphia students are not getting the education they deserve.

With that in mind, the Notebook has asked education advocates to weigh in on the bigger question: What’s the long-term path to a truly stable, well-funded, reliable school system? Over the next few weeks, we’ll run a series of Q&As with local leaders and ask for their thoughts on the route to a better place.

Our first interviewee is Susan Gobreski, executive director of Education Voters Pennsylvania, an advocacy group. A 20-year veteran of political activism in Pennsylvania, Gobreski’s goal is to fight for a “thorough and efficient public education” for all students, District and charter alike. 

Top-level departures and changes in District's central office

By David Limm on Jul 16, 2014 03:25 PM

Turnover continues to strike the ranks of Superintendent William Hite's senior staff at a time when the District could use some consistency. 

Two senior-level staffers in the academic office recently left their posts at 440 N. Broad St. The cadre of assistant superintendents has also been hit by departures; five of the eight positions supervising principals and directing the District's regional school networks are in transition. 

On Tuesday, the District released data showing all its 18,561 employees and their salaries, reflecting its recent personnel moves.

Special ed cuts won't hurt students, Philly school officials say

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Jul 15, 2014 09:31 PM

The Philadelphia School District laid off 157 special education classroom assistants and one-to-one aides last week in a move that officials say won't negatively affect children.

School advocates in the legal community, though, remain highly dubious.

Chief Financial Officer Matt Stanski explained the District's rationale to the School Reform Commission at a June 30 meeting.

"We believe we can maintain existing services for our special education students and, in fact, enhance them through management efficiencies and still see this expenditure reduction," Stanski said.

IRS awards independent tax-exempt status to the Notebook

By thenotebook on Jul 14, 2014 06:28 PM

The Philadelphia Public School Notebook, an independent, nonprofit news organization launched in 1994, has been awarded 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service.

The Notebook publishes in-depth education news daily online at, as well as a bimonthly print newspaper. For its first 19 years, it operated as a project of the nonprofit incubator at Resources for Human Development, a tax-exempt human service organization.

City's summer camps transform into classrooms

By Dorian Geiger on Jul 14, 2014 11:05 AM

Nate Kersey-Williams, a camp counselor at the Frankford Boys and Girls Club in Northeast Philadelphia, is sprawled out in the corner of his club’s stuffy gym. The sound of basketballs meeting hardwood echoes around him. There is no air conditioner. Beads of sweat trickle down a collage of tattoos on his neck.

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