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SRC approves new KIPP charter school and transfer of Douglass to Mastery

By Dale Mezzacappa on May 21, 2015 10:33 PM

On Thursday, the School Reform Commission approved a new K-4 KIPP charter school for West Philadelphia to open in 2016 and voted to transfer management of Young Scholars Frederick Douglass Charter School from Scholar Academies to Mastery.

The three-year KIPP charter was approved by a 3-1 vote, with SRC Chair Marjorie Neff dissenting. Commissioner Farah Jimenez recused herself due to a potential conflict of interest.

Nurses protest District plans to privatize school health services

By Dale Mezzacappa on May 21, 2015 10:13 PM

Umbrellas in hand, more than 50 people demonstrated outside School District headquarters Thursday against District plans to outsource school-based health services, a move that could further reduce the ranks of unionized school nurses.

Several speakers said that the proposal was nothing more than a union-busting move that would line the pockets of private health-care providers on the backs of children.

Students tell their stories: From the verge of foster care to YESPhilly

By Dale Mezzacappa | Video by Trenae Nuri on May 21, 2015 03:12 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.

Cuts could put graduation gains at risk, Nutter and others warn

By Dale Mezzacappa on May 20, 2015 05:17 PM

A key author of a new report showing rising graduation rates in Philadelphia, especially among vulnerable student groups, warned that the impact of recent District budget cuts has not yet shown up in the data and could affect future classes.

SRC to vote on turning over Young Scholars-Douglass to Mastery

By Dale Mezzacappa on May 19, 2015 10:01 PM

The School Reform Commission plans to vote on a resolution Thursday that keeps open the academically struggling Young Scholars Frederick Douglass charter school in North Philadelphia on the condition that its management be taken over by Mastery Charter.

Douglass is one of the initial seven low-performing District schools given to a charter operator for academic turnaround in 2010 under the Renaissance schools initiative, and it is the first to be recommended for transfer from one charter operator to another. 

District reaches deal with aides and cafeteria workers

By Dale Mezzacappa on May 18, 2015 05:43 PM

The School District has reached a deal with the union that represents more than 1,600 noontime aides and cafeteria workers, who have traded some seniority prerogatives and District payments into a benefit fund for higher wages.

The members of UNITE HERE! Local 634 on Saturday ratified a contract that runs through September 2017 and will gradually bring all members up to the 21st Century Living Wage set by the city, estimated to be $12.67 an hour by 2017. Most employees, who are part-time, now earn $10.88 an hour and have average annual salaries of $8,000. 

School becomes safe harbor after Philly train derailment

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on May 13, 2015 08:14 PM

Webster Elementary school in Kensington is used to serving those with profound needs. Ninety-seven percent of the children live in poverty. Blighted homes dot the streets surrounding the school. Drug dealers hover in the shadows of the nearby El train.

Tuesday night, though, the school opened its doors to a very different set of struggles, becoming the first refuge for those involved in the Amtrak train derailment that's claimed at least eight lives.

District seeking to outsource school health services; could include nurses

By Dale Mezzacappa on May 13, 2015 04:16 PM


The School District is inviting outside proposals with "bold and innovative ideas" for student health and medical services, a move that could result in the reduction of unionized school nurses, whose ranks have been decimated over the last several years due to budget cuts. 

Superintendent William Hite and Chief of Student Support Services Karyn Lynch said at a press briefing that the goal of the 51-page request for proposals, issued Wednesday, is to provide more school-based health services for students while not increasing cost.

Chief Financial Officer Matt Stanski to leave District at the end of June

By Dale Mezzacappa on May 12, 2015 06:19 PM

School District Chief Financial Officer Matthew Stanski is leaving at the end of June to take a similar position in the Montgomery County, Maryland, school district.

Stanski came to Philadelphia to manage District finances in November 2012 from Prince George's County, Maryland, where he had worked with Superintendent William Hite.

District spokesman Fernando Gallard said that the Montgomery County Board of Education voted Tuesday on Stanski's appointment to be their supervisor for management, budget and planning.

Jay Mohan of PhillyCAM: An appreciation

By Wendy Harris on May 11, 2015 12:37 PM

Whenever you walked into PhillyCAM, the city’s public-access television station, you were likely to see Jay Mohan. He was the tall, slender guy with the big smile who sat behind the equipment desk, ready to help people check out the cameras, lights, microphones and whatever else they needed for their independent videos. He was also the person who assisted students, members, and others with their television shows and helped out in the many training classes held there.

Three Renaissance charter renewals in question

By Dale Mezzacappa on May 5, 2015 04:57 PM

The School Reform Commission will consider more than a dozen charter renewals on Monday and is expected to hear at least two recommendations for nonrenewal -- including one at a District school that was turned over to a private operator for turnaround.

The District's Charter Schools Office is opposing renewal for Bluford Elementary, which is a Renaissance turnaround charter operated by Universal Companies. It is also recommending non-renewal for Delaware Valley Charter High School, citing academic inconsistencies and fiscal issues.

What does a state education formula do?

By Dale Mezzacappa on May 1, 2015 10:00 AM

Nationally, most education funding comes from local sources, but all state governments contribute to school costs in some way. Most of the time, the state programs compensate in some way for differences in property wealth, income levels, and taxing capacity among school districts.

Most states also have a formula that guides how the aid is distributed among districts in a consistent way from year to year, based on factors such as enrollment, local wealth, and student characteristics.

School Progress Reports released for Philly District

By Dale Mezzacappa on Apr 30, 2015 02:33 PM

The School District has released its School Progress Reports for 2013-14, which quantify a number of indicators to evaluate achievement, climate, and equity. The reports, which replaced the troubled School Performance Index, are in their second year.

Community Academy charter wins appeal to stay open

By Dale Mezzacappa on Apr 28, 2015 06:16 PM

Updated | Wednesday, 7 p.m.

The state Charter Appeal Board, in a 4-3 vote, has ordered the School Reform Commission to renew the charter of Community Academy of Philadelphia (CAP).

Community Academy, launched in the 1980s as an alternative for students having difficulty in the traditional system, became a charter school in 1997. It is the city's oldest charter.

SRC to hold hearing on proposed closure of Kensington Urban

By Dale Mezzacappa on Apr 28, 2015 04:31 PM

The School Reform Commission is holding a hearing Tuesday evening on the proposal to close Kensington Urban Academy and merge it with Kensington International Business High School. The two schools now share a building.

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