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District takes steps to outsource substitute teacher services

By Dale Mezzacappa on Apr 10, 2015 06:11 PM

Updated | 9 p.m. (with comments from PFT president Jerry Jordan)

The School District of Philadelphia wants to hire a private company to provide substitute teachers, a move that it says will improve coverage while possibly saving money. It will also bring nonunionized teachers into schools. 

On Friday the District posted a request for proposal (RFP) seeking bids on a service to fill about 500 empty classrooms a day, or an average of more than two per school. Naomi Wyatt, the District's chief talent officer, said that the District is currently able to fill only 64 percent of the vacancies – a poor rate that can destabilize the school day and costs money besides.

What went wrong with Promise Academies?

By Dale Mezzacappa on Apr 1, 2015 01:24 PM

Promise Academies, the once-vaunted internal turnaround model for District schools, failed to thrive due to a drop in funding, inconsistent leadership, and teacher layoffs that decimated the climate and trust that the schools had built, according to a new study.

District receives $1.5 million grant for innovations in early literacy

By Dale Mezzacappa on Mar 31, 2015 06:27 PM


The Philadelphia School District and the Free Library have received a $1.5 million federal grant for a program called "Building Bridges with Books" that will benefit students from 10 elementary schools.

The program is designed to "build bridges" between families and schools through early literacy activities, including monthly parent training sessions on the importance of reading and talking to children and regular visits to the library.

District makes testing opt-out information more prominent

By Dale Mezzacappa on Mar 27, 2015 05:43 PM

School officials have responded to demands that they be more explicit in letting parents know that they have a right to opt out their children from taking standardized tests.

The steps are small, yet opt-out activists say that they are significant.

District budget, if funded, would add $130 million directly to schools

By Dale Mezzacappa on Mar 26, 2015 04:07 PM

The SRC adopted a "lump sum" budget Thursday that assumes that more than $264 million in new revenue from the city and state will be delivered. The funding has been proposed by Gov. Wolf and Mayor Nutter, but is by no means guaranteed.

The District needs to use $85 million of that just to keep services at current levels, according to Chief Financial Officer Matthew Stanski. It plans to use the rest to restore money to schools and embark on some of Superintendent William Hite's new initiatives.

SRC adopts nearly $2.9B 'lump sum' budget for 2015-16

By Dale Mezzacappa on Mar 26, 2015 03:01 PM

The School Reform Commission met Thursday afternoon to vote on a $2.86 billion "lump sum" budget for next school year that includes nearly $265 million in new revenue, based on proposals from Gov. Wolf and Mayor Nutter that would funnel more money to the District.

The budget shows that the District expects to end this fiscal year on June 30 with a $6.9 million surplus, which it plans to spend down next year.

Arise Academy charter will close in June

By Dale Mezzacappa on Mar 19, 2015 10:09 PM

Arise Academy, a charter school founded to educate children in the foster care system, will close its doors in June after six years of struggling to serve its difficult population and meet the requirements set out as a condition of its continued operation.

Education top issue for city, poll finds

By Dale Mezzacappa on Mar 16, 2015 05:25 PM

A poll from the Pew Charitable Trusts has found that residents rank education as the top issue facing Philadelphia, outpacing crime and the economy.

Opinion on the quality of the public schools has sunk over the past several years, the poll showed, but views on charter schools were mixed. 

Neff and Green present a unified front despite SRC shake-up

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Mar 10, 2015 05:51 PM

In the wake of the recent School Reform Commission shake-up, Marjorie Neff and Bill Green presented a unified front Tuesday at a lighthearted news conference at Philadelphia School District headquarters.

Green, a former city councilman who left his post to become SRC chair in January 2014, was stripped of the leadership position by Gov. Wolf on March 1.

Rendell Center for civic education moving to Annenberg at Penn

By Dale Mezzacappa on Mar 6, 2015 03:02 PM

In a move designed to beef up civics education in schools, the Rendell Center for Civics & Civic Engagement will relocate to the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania.

The Rendell Center, led by Judge Marjorie O. Rendell of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, focuses on civics education for the younger grades, while Annenberg has concentrated on middle and upper grades.

Philly School District vs. ASPIRA: Second warning for charter

By Bill Hangley for NewsWorks on Mar 5, 2015 08:33 PM

The Philadelphia School District is telling one of its largest charter school operators to shape up -- or risk losing one of its schools.

According to documents obtained by the Philadelphia Daily News, District officials want charter provider ASPIRA of Pennsylvania to meet 17 conditions if the nonprofit is to continue running John B. Stetson Charter School in North Philadelphia.

Hite Action Plan 3.0 focuses on equity, reallocating dollars

By Dale Mezzacappa on Mar 4, 2015 11:03 AM

Superintendent William Hite released his Action Plan 3.0 on Wednesday morning, calling for administrative reorganization of schools and a focus on "equity" that could see a higher share of available funds concentrated in needy neighborhood schools.

The plan comes a day after Gov. Wolf announced his budget proposal, which includes historic investments in education and millions of additional state dollars for Philadelphia. Hite called his blueprint "a new approach to lifting the achievement of every student, wherever they live and whatever their background."

Education highlights from Gov. Wolf's proposed budget

By Dale Mezzacappa on Mar 3, 2015 02:45 PM

Here are the highlights from Gov. Wolf’s proposed education budget, in which he says he is “making a historic commitment to education.”

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

By Dale Mezzacappa on Mar 2, 2015 05:35 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 09:23 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."

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