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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.

Celebrate the Notebook's 20th birthday: Turning the Page for Change

By Tim Cravens on Jun 8, 2014 12:51 PM

The Notebook is celebrating 20 years of informing, empowering, and connecting people who care about Philadelphia’s public schools. On Tuesday, June 10, from 4:30 to 7 p.m., we will be marking the milestone at our annual Turning the Page for Change celebration at the University of the Arts, Hamilton Hall, 320 S. Broad Street.

Editor and publisher Paul Socolar recently talked with Philly Magazine about the Notebook's work and its impact. Check out the interview, plus some Harvey Finkle Notebook photos.

From the archives: Councils seeking a role

By thenotebook on Jun 6, 2014 12:05 PM

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 1997 print edition:

by Solomon Jones and Helen Gym

When you talk about how school councils are faring in the District, compare these two faces.

One reflects the enthusiasm and confidence of Thora Jacobson, a parent at Meredith Elementary School who attended Meredith's first school council meeting in early October. Jacobson said the council immediately began making plans to address student achievement.

"I really do feel it will be effective," said Jacobson. "I feel pretty strongly this is a system within which I can work and where I can effect a change."

Survey paints bleak picture of Pa. funding

By Mary Wilson for New​sWorks on Jun 6, 2014 10:56 AM

A survey of traditional Pennsylvania school districts paints a grim picture for the coming academic year, with most respondents bracing for higher costs and fewer resources.

Just over half of the state's school districts responded to the fourth annual study conducted by the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators and the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials. The survey did not include responses from public charter or cyber charter schools.

Muñoz-Marín parents vote decisively to keep school within the District

By Bill Hangley Jr. on Jun 6, 2014 09:56 AM
Updated | 3:50 p.m.: Superintendent William Hite announced that Muñoz-Marín will remain a traditional District school, saying, “Parents and guardians have chosen a path for their school and we are going to support their choice and quickly move forward with the very important work of improving outcomes for students at Muñoz Marín.”


A long, lively day of voting at Muñoz-Marín School in North Philadelphia ended with a decisive victory for the school’s current administration, with parents rejecting a proposed match with a charter provider, ASPIRA, and electing to remain under District management.

“It’s 223 for traditional public school and 70 for ASPIRA,” spokesperson Fernando Gallard announced at 7:45 Thursday night to a roar of delight from the school’s jubilant supporters and staff.

Bill aiming to curtail teacher seniority clears hurdle in Pa. House

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Jun 5, 2014 03:56 PM

In a bipartisan 16-8 vote, the Pennsylvania House Education Committee has green-lighted a bill that would eliminate state-mandated seniority protections for teachers.

HB 1722, sponsored by State Rep. Tim Krieger, R-Westmoreland, would require districts to base layoffs on a teacher's performance as measured by the state's new teacher evaluation system.

Now, 499 of Pennsylvania's 500 school districts are required to base teacher layoff and recall decisions on the inverse order of seniority, sometimes referred to as "last in, first out."

City charters get $100M more for special ed than they spend; debate rages in Harrisburg

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jun 5, 2014 02:12 PM

Philadelphia charter schools received more than $175 million last year to educate special education students, but spent only about $77 million for that purpose, according to a Notebook analysis of state documents.

That is a nearly $100 million gap at a time when city education leaders are considering raising some class sizes to 41 students and laying off 800 more teachers in District-run schools due to severe funding shortfalls. Payments to charters, which are fixed under law, make up nearly a third of its $2.4 billion budget.

The issue goes beyond Philadelphia. Statewide, charters, including cybers, collect about $350 million for special education students, but spend just $156 million on them, according to calculations from the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO). The Notebook used the PASBO analysis of state data to calculate the numbers for Philadelphia, which has half the state’s 170 charter schools.

Two former District educators surrender licenses in wake of cheating scandal

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jun 5, 2014 12:29 PM

The former principal of Elverson Military Academy and a former teacher at John Welsh Elementary School surrendered their credentials last month as a result of allegations of cheating on standardized tests.

Notices of the disciplinary actions against Robert Manning and Michael Reardon were posted on the Pennsylvania Department of Education website Tuesday.

Manning, 62, was principal of Elverson when scores soared in 2011 and then plunged the following year after stricter test protocols were put in place.

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