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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.

Head of state charter coalition: Not sure of size of waiting lists

By Dale Mezzacappa on Dec 12, 2014 04:58 PM

The head of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools said Friday that there is no way of knowing whether the claim is accurate that 40,000 students in Philadelphia now are on charter school waiting lists. 

Is the number larger? is it smaller? Is it close? What is the relationship between the number of names on lists and the actual number of students waiting to get into charters?

Can't say, according to Bob Fayfich, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools. 

U.S. labor secretary praises Philly apprentice program, announces $100M grant competition

By Dale Mezzacappa on Dec 11, 2014 04:01 PM

Tyler Buck skillfully dismantled the screen of an iMac computer and showed U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez how to put it back together.

"You're on the education superhighway," Perez said, telling Buck he has the skills for the future. "The sky's the limit."

Said Buck, "I still have a lot to learn."

State appeal board upholds decision to close Truebright Academy charter

By Dale Mezzacappa on Dec 9, 2014 06:25 PM

The state Charter Appeal Board has upheld the decision of the School Reform Commission to close Truebright Science Academy Charter School.

School District spokesman Fernando Gallard said the decision of the seven-member board was unanimous. Tim Eller, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Education, confirmed the action.

Author Elizabeth Green speaks in Philadelphia about teaching

By Dale Mezzacappa on Dec 5, 2014 11:41 AM

Journalist and author Elizabeth Green came to Philadelphia this week and made the case that good teachers are made, not born.

Once you accept that, Green said, then it becomes obvious why school districts, higher education, all levels of government and the private sector should be developing policies and practices that will better support the people in the nation's largest profession.  

Green, who is also the editor-in-chief of the education news outlet Chalkbeat, appeared at the Notebook's annual member appreciation event Wednesday. That was also the day that her book, Building a Better Teacher, was named one of 100 notable books of 2014 by the New York Times.

Constitution High students march to Liberty Bell to protest Ferguson

By Shannon Nolan and Dale Mezzacappa on Nov 25, 2014 03:07 PM

Cimani Cox was sitting in English class when teacher Rob Paul brought up what had happened the night before in Ferguson -- a grand jury's decision not to indict Police Officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

She decided she had to do something about it. After all, this is Constitution High School.

Before long, she had the support of principal Tom Davidson and teachers for a protest march. 

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