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Mayor, Council, PFT, District, charters join in asking state for new funds

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jul 2, 2015 05:10 PM

Putting aside their usual bickering over what the School District deserves and how it spends its money, the city's key education players sent a joint letter to the Philadelphia legislative delegation Thursday "in unified support of restoring critically needed state funds" that will benefit students. 

How did Superintendent Hite fare on his performance review?

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jul 2, 2015 03:04 PM

William Hite, nearing the end of his third year as superintendent, got positive marks from the School Reform Commission in his annual performance review.

He was eligible for a $60,000 bonus, but declined to take it, citing the District's budget woes.

SRC set to adopt budget considerably smaller than what it sought

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jun 30, 2015 05:06 PM

Updated | 6 p.m. 

The School Reform Commission will vote Thursday on a 2015-16 budget of $2.8 billion, while giving Superintendent William Hite authorization to spend $2.67 billion of that pending the state's completion of its own highly contentious budget.

Students tell their stories: A chess expert nearly lost to the system

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jun 26, 2015 10:18 AM

In researching our edition on "boosting graduation rates for all," the Notebook interviewed young people who had dropped out and were now reengaging in school. We asked why they left, why they returned, and what obstacles they face. Some described heartbreaking personal situations and herculean struggles. But all displayed hope and optimism about their futures. They were all eager to tell their stories.

PFT files unfair labor practice charge about substitute outsourcing

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jun 24, 2015 01:38 PM

Updated, 10:45 p.m. with District comment

As it had vowed to do, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers filed charges of unfair labor practice Friday against the School District for its decision to outsource substitute teaching.

The PFT, which is seeking an expedited hearing before the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, claims that, in two years of stalled contract negotiations, the District never brought up the issue. 

SRC outsources substitute teaching, approves five new charters

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jun 18, 2015 08:50 PM

The School Reform Commission approved a two-year, $34 million contract to outsource substitute teaching on Thursday, a move that District officials said would result in more learning time for thousands of students a day.

The SRC vote was unanimous, despite concerns about contracting out District jobs raised by City Council – which is holding back $25 million in city funding in part over this issue – and vehement opposition from the teachers' union.

City Council passes school tax bills; conditions for $25 million still not clear

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jun 18, 2015 04:46 PM

City Council passed bills Thursday that increase various tax rates to raise $70 million for the School District, but won't decide until September on conditions for releasing $25 million of those funds. 

Council President Darrell Clarke said that Council intends to get more answers on how the District will spend new money after it comes back from its summer recess.  

Long SRC agenda Thursday includes new charters and outsourcing of subs

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jun 17, 2015 06:08 PM

The School Reform Commission is scheduled to vote Thursday on a $34 million, two-year contract with Cherry Hill-based Source4Teachers to provide substitute service to city schools.

The SRC is also scheduled to vote on the agreements for five new charter schools and renewals for five Renaissance charters: four Mastery schools, as well as Universal Daroff.

Closing of Kensington Urban postponed a year

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jun 16, 2015 07:26 PM

The merger of Kensington International Business High School and Kensington Urban Education High School has been postponed a year so that the community can be involved in planning for the change, District officials said Tuesday.

Superintendent William Hite sent a letter to parents saying that he was recommending delaying the merger until 2016-17.

Students tell their stories: From dropping out to aspiring to a media career

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jun 16, 2015 01:12 PM

In researching our edition on "boosting graduation rates for all," the Notebook interviewed young people who had dropped out and were now reengaging in school. We asked why they left, why they returned, and what obstacles they face. Some described heartbreaking personal situations and herculean struggles. But all displayed hope and optimism about their futures. They were all eager to tell their stories.

Grad Nation Philadelphia brainstorms ideas for keeping students in school

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jun 14, 2015 10:13 PM

For Rayna Harvey, a member of the organization Youth United for Change, there is no mystery about what it would take to produce more high school graduates in Philadelphia.

Offer classes that are relevant to their lives. Teach them skills that they will need in the real world.

And most important, listen to them and strive to understand their wants and needs and the problems many of them face in their daily lives.

Clarke says Council is offering $100M for schools; District says just $45M assured

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jun 10, 2015 09:47 PM

City Council advanced several tax-hike bills Wednesday that are projected to raise an additional $70 million for schools. But officials from the financially struggling School District say that they can only count on $45 million of that money right now.   

The difference: $25 million of the proposed increase has been parked in the Council's own budget, pending more answers from the District on plans to privatize substitute teachers and possibly nurses, moves that Council opposes.

Reports: Most states' education spending inadequate, unfair

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jun 9, 2015 09:47 AM

Most states invest too little in education and distribute the funds inequitably, harming the academic potential and life chances of the country's growing cadre of low-income students, according to two reports from civil rights groups released on Monday.

The reports, from the Education Law Center, based in Newark, N.J., and the D.C.-based Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights Education Fund, outline how school funding in almost all of the country is largely at odds with student need. In all but a handful of states, more affluent students get more resources, while the more impoverished get less.

Students tell their stories: I tried cyber school ... I was going to give up school.

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jun 5, 2015 03:36 PM

In researching our edition on "boosting graduation rates for all," the Notebook interviewed young people who had dropped out and were now reengaging in school. We asked why they left, why they returned, and what obstacles they face. Some described heartbreaking personal situations and herculean struggles. But all displayed hope and optimism about their futures. They were all eager to tell their stories.

Simone Gause, 19, from Frankford, did well at First Philadelphia Charter School for Literacy through 8th grade. But due to health issues, her mother decided she should try cyber education for the first two years of high school.

Harvey Finkle: Photographer captures movement for educational equity

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jun 5, 2015 01:37 PM

At the June 9 Turning the Page for Change event, the Notebook will honor Harvey Finkle for his nearly half-century of work documenting social movements in Philadelphia, including the long and continuing struggle for equitable and excellent public education.

The Notebook was founded in 1994 as a volunteer operation. Even after it was staffed, photographs were “catch as catch can,” said editor and publisher Paul Socolar. “In 2000, when Harvey connected with me and offered to help, he worked with a tiny budget to start giving us quality photographs.”

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