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Green says PFT 'backslid' in talks; Jordan says it's the other way around

By Dale Mezzacappa on Mar 2, 2015 04:35 PM

The School District and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, locked in a legal battle and power struggle over the future direction of the District, returned to the bargaining table over the weekend for the first time since last summer.

Superintendent William Hite and School Reform Commissioner Bill Green said Monday that the talks showed that the two sides are further apart than ever.

Gov. Wolf ousts Green, names Neff chair of SRC

By Dale Mezzacappa on Mar 1, 2015 08:23 PM

Updated | 8:30 a.m.

Gov. Wolf has asked Marjorie Neff to take over as the chair of the School Reform Commission, ousting Bill Green from that role. 

“The School District of Philadelphia is in dire financial straits, and our children are being put at a disadvantage as a result of misguided cuts and poor decisions,” the governor said in a statement. “The district was forced to make major cutbacks in transportation, security, and janitorial services just to open on time last year. We must make new investments in education and provide a fresh path forward for Philadelphia’s schools."

District appeals to state Supreme Court on teachers' contract decision

By Dale Mezzappa, audio by Laura Benshoff on Feb 23, 2015 02:31 PM

Updated | 4:30 p.m.

The School Reform Commission is asking the state Supreme Court to reverse a lower court decision that the SRC lacks the authority to cancel its contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and spend the savings on programs in the schools. 

The District and SRC waited until the last possible day to file the appeal of the Commonwealth Court's Jan. 22 decision.

Facing growing shortfall, officials ask public for ideas on new revenue, cuts

By Dale Mezzacappa on Feb 10, 2015 06:31 PM

At the School Reform Commission's latest strategy, planning and priorities meeting Monday night, District officials again laid out a bleak budget picture -- predicting a shortfall next fiscal year of $80 million. The projection assumes that no labor savings and no new revenues are forthcoming.

At the two-hour meeting, officials asked about 40 members of the public who attended how they would make decisions about raising new revenue and cutting spending -- or adding services, should more than enough money to balance the budget miraculously materialize.

New education secretary outlines priorities, obstacles

By Dale Mezzacappa on Feb 3, 2015 01:32 PM

After finding more funding to send to schools, Gov. Tom Wolf's top education priority is tackling the problems of distressed districts, including Philadelphia, according to acting Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera.

As Wolf prepares his first budget, Rivera said that in his first weeks heading the Pennsylvania Department of Education he has also been helping the Wolf adminstration in "creating and facilitating a plan to support some of the state's neediest schools."

Pedro Rivera named state education secretary

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jan 19, 2015 02:57 PM

Gov.-elect Tom Wolf named Lancaster superindentent and Philadelphia native Pedro Rivera to be the state secretary of education on Monday.

In a statement, Wolf said that Rivera had improved student achievement and graduation rates in Lancaster, as well as stabilizing the district's finances. He also cited Rivera's implementation of a "community schools" model, in which students and their families can get medical, dental, vision and other services on site.

SRC votes to revoke Palmer charter

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jan 15, 2015 09:47 PM

The School Reform Commission tonight voted unanimously to revoke the charter of the Walter D. Palmer Leadership and Learning Charter School, which is already closed.

In financial disarray after losing a court battle with the District over enrolling students above its alloted amount, the K-8 school abruptly shut down last month during winter break. Palmer's high school had closed in October.

The two closings left 1,250 students stranded without a school to attend.

Co-chair Pedro Rivera talks about Wolf's education transition team

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jan 8, 2015 06:19 PM

Longtime Philadelphia teacher and administrator Pedro Rivera, who is now the Lancaster superintendent, is the co-chair of Gov.-elect Tom Wolf's transition committee for education. 

Rivera was born and raised in Philadelphia, spent 13 years in the Philadelphia system, and has led Lancaster schools since 2008. He said in a Thursday interview that the committee is working on finding the people who can best engineer a "transformation" of the Department of Education and carry out Wolf's education priorities.

Politics, fiscal issues frame state school aid debate

By Andrew Ujifusa, Education Week on Jan 2, 2015 05:27 PM

In November’s Republican-dominated elections, the Pennsylvania governor’s race was a big outlier, and the implications for public school spending in the Keystone State are just starting to play out.

The Democratic victor, Gov.-elect Tom Wolf, made support for increased school spending a centerpiece of a campaign that ousted incumbent Gov. Tom Corbett, the only Republican governor who won a seat in 2010, but then lost it in 2014.

District working to place students from closed Palmer Charter School

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jan 2, 2015 04:21 PM

With classes at Philadelphia public schools starting up again on Monday, District officials were working hard to find new placements for students left without a school when the Walter Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter abruptly shut its doors during the winter break.

Digital college-readiness tool comes to Philly public schools

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Jan 2, 2015 12:24 PM

With the help of private philanthropy, the Philadelphia School District has inked a five-year deal that will give its 6th- to 12th-grade students access to the Naviance platform — a web-based college- and career-readiness tool that officials say has been used with great success by wealthier districts across the nation for years.

"This is a huge thing for Philadelphia students," said Karyn Lynch, the District's chief of student services.

Looking back: Which Philly education stories were most important, most read?

By Dale Mezzacappa on Dec 23, 2014 06:36 PM

The Notebook is closed until Jan. 2, and our reporters won't be posting new stories. But follow our Philly Ed Twitter feed for any breaking news and join the conversation in our comments.

It is time for our year-end review of the biggest education news in Philadelphia in 2014. We looked at the 20 top stories viewed on our site over the course of the year, as well as other major developments that had an impact on education in the city.   

Wolf's education transition committee has heavy Philadelphia presence

By Dale Mezzacappa on Dec 19, 2014 06:17 PM

Half of the members of Gov.-elect Tom Wolf's 18-person transition committee for education issues have Philadelphia ties, including co-chair Pedro Rivera, the Lancaster superintendent.

Rivera was born and raised in Philadelphia and spent 13 years in the system as a teacher, principal, and director of human resources before heading to Lancaster in 2008. There he has drawn attention for improving student achievement and the district's financial position.

District: We need $309M more next year to provide effective education

By Dale Mezzacappa on Dec 18, 2014 02:30 PM

Updated | 7:50 p.m.

Tonight Superintendent William Hite presented two five-year financial plans to the School Reform Commission.

One is called "Inadequate Status Quo" and reflects the "grim reality" of current conditions in schools. 

The other, called "Transformation," asks for enough resources to "provide all ... students with the kind of educational opportunities that will enable them to fulfill their promise."

Ground rules set for 2nd round of charter hearings in January

By Dale Mezzacappa on Dec 16, 2014 05:24 PM

The School District has established the ground rules for a second round of hearings on charter school applications next month.

According to an email from the District's Charter Schools Office, each of the 40 applications will get a two-hour hearing. Last week, the applicants went through a first round of hearings in front of a District hearing officer, in which they had 15 minutes apiece to make their case.

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