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District grappling with a $14 million shortfall this year, says CFO Stanski

Submitted by Dale Mezzacappa on Fri, 02/21/2014 - 02:01 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

The financially beleaguered School District is on track to end this fiscal year with a shortfall of $14 million, Chief Financial Officer Matthew Stanski told the School Reform Commission Thursday night. 

The news of an unbalanced budget was a grim but not unexpected greeting for new SRC chair Bill Green, who also got an earful from an unhappy capacity crowd of about 250 people. New SRC member Farah Jimenez was not present, fulfilling another commitment that predated her appointment.

Students aching for a spot in top charters sweat out lottery season

Submitted by thenotebook on Thu, 02/20/2014 - 22:48 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks

Anastasia Ratkova draped an anxious arm around her 14-year-old daughter.  That arm was wrapped in a blood-pressure monitor.

It was the night of the MaST charter school enrollment lottery, and people were anxious. Really anxious.

City reaction mixed to Philly school funding request

Submitted by thenotebook on Thu, 02/20/2014 - 18:33 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

by Tom MacDonald for NewsWorks

Philadelphia School District Superintendent William Hite is asking for an additional $300 million each year to provide just the very basics to students.

That request has many City Council members asking what they will get for their money.

WATCH: Bill Green chairs his first SRC meeting

Submitted by thenotebook on Thu, 02/20/2014 - 18:22 | Permalink


At tonight's School Reform Commission meeting, the first to be chaired by Bill Green, District officials will be presenting on two topics -- Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn will speak about the "System of Great Schools Initiative," and District CFO Matthew Stanski will give an update on the District's financial situation for next school year. 

Check here for a list of resolution summaries. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m.

PSP used lobbying firm to promote Green as SRC chair

Submitted by thenotebook on Thu, 02/20/2014 - 12:52 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

by Bill Hangley Jr.

As Bill Green takes the helm of the School Reform Commission, new details have emerged about the process that brought him to the job.

Officials at the Philadelphia School Partnership say that their hired consultants from one of the state's most influential lobbying firms, Wojdak & Associates, actively urged legislators in Harrisburg to support Green as SRC chair during the run-up to his approval by the state Senate. 

“Our advocacy around the SRC was that the city needed a leader who is focused on reform and has the skills and experience to be effective,” said Mark Gleason, the PSP’s executive director. “Based on Bill Green’s vision and experience, we supported him as a candidate who could be a great SRC chair.”

Hite says Philly schools need bare minimum of $320 million more next year

Submitted by Dale Mezzacappa on Wed, 02/19/2014 - 17:51 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

The School District of Philadelphia will ask for $320 million in additional funds next year to reach "a bare minimum amount of improved and sustained educational opportunities for our students and families," according to a financial supplement to Superintendent William Hite's Action Plan 2.0 made public Thursday.

Ideally, Hite said, to fully realize his plan -- built on "bold expectations" for creating schools that can prepare all students for college and careers -- the price tag exceeds twice that amount.

Questions to ask about the District and school budgets

Submitted by James H. Lytle on Wed, 02/19/2014 - 17:04 Posted in Commentary | Permalink

It is hard to find someone in the system who trusts the current School District budget. It’s doubtful that more than a few fully understand it.

The District's budget is in many ways a masterpiece of obfuscation, with a design that dates back to former CEO/Superintendent Paul Vallas, who was an accountant by training. The current version fulfills the District’s obligation to publish an annual budget. But the document’s design features and the survival climate created by the continuing financial crisis have given central administration almost complete control over allocation decisions.

As teacher contract talks drag on, Hite keeps tough stance on work rules

Submitted by thenotebook on Wed, 02/19/2014 - 11:12 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks

For Philadelphia School District Superintendent William Hite, it's a classic managerial quandary.

Either grab some quick savings that could free up money for services that the city's schoolchildren could really use.

Or hold off on that deal in hopes of securing the long-term structural changes that you bet will strengthen the system overall.

Report says that District needs to focus more on ethics and transparency

Submitted by Dale Mezzacappa on Tue, 02/18/2014 - 18:31 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

The School District does not do enough to train employees or clarify and enforce its ethics policies, a long-awaited report being discussed at the School Reform Commission today concludes.

As a result of the lack of focus, members of the public lack confidence that the School District officials and personnel act in an ethical manner, says the report, which was compiled by a task force of outside experts and completed in December, 2012 -- 14 months ago.

WATCH: SRC meeting on ethics report

Submitted by Wendy Harris on Tue, 02/18/2014 - 17:22 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

The School Reform Commission will host a Strategy, Policy and Priorities meeting from 6 to 8 tonight. The topic will be ethics. A report on the ethics policies and practices of the School District of Philadelphia will be presented by Michael Davis, general counsel, and Ellen Kaplan, vice president and policy director of the Committee of Seventy.

The report, which was actually finished in 2012, makes recommendations for assuring Philadelphia citizens that the School District operates with integrity.

10 things we learned from Hite's new Action Plan 2.0

Submitted by Dale Mezzacappa on Tue, 02/18/2014 - 15:03 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

Superintendent William Hite’s Action Plan 2.0 is full of interesting facts and statistics. A few that caught our eye:

1. As a result of school closings and relocations in 2013, school utilization went from 67 percent to 74 percent -- still far from the District's target of having 85 percent of seats occupied, as was specified in its Facilities Master Plan process.

Calling for stable funding streams, Hite will attach a price tag to his new action plan

Submitted by Dale Mezzacappa on Mon, 02/17/2014 - 01:00 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

Superintendent William Hite, seeking to demonstrate that the District is moving forward despite profound financial woes, has released an updated “action plan” for improving city schools.

The 42-page plan takes aim at four “anchor goals” that Hite calls “aspirational in scope and urgent in nature,” including having 100 percent of 8-year-olds reading on grade level and 100 percent of students graduating with college-ready or job-ready skills.

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