by Isaac Riddle
About 50 parents, teachers, students, and community members joined Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan in a protest about budget cuts outside of Vare-Washington Elementary School on Wednesday afternoon.
The group gathered to voice concerns over the latest loss of programs and services at the South Philadelphia school and to talk about the impact the District’s leveling efforts will have on a school already hurting from staffing shortages brought on by districtwide budget cuts.
by Bill Hangley Jr.
At Philadelphia Academies Inc., staff members are thinking big: They hope their handful of newly funded career academies are soon common in a school district that struggles to keep students engaged.
At Roxborough High School in Northwest Philadelphia, students are just glad somebody stepped in to save a program that looked to be history.
That was the message at Roxborough this week, where the William Penn Foundation announced its plans to provide the Academies program with $1.4 million in new funding to support “Wall to Wall Career Academies” in high schools across the city.
Academies president Lisa Nutter said that the nonprofit’s hands-on learning model could “transform” public schools in Philadelphia. “It’s on a very short list of what works in high school,” she said.
by Holly Otterbein for NewsWorks
City controller candidates Alan Butkovitz and Terry Tracy might be running for the most overlooked office in Philadelphia, but their feisty debate Tuesday night centered on the hottest topic in the city: the cash-strapped School District.
The face-off, co-sponsored by the Committee of Seventy, the League of Women Voters of Philadelphia and Young Involved Philadelphia, took place at WHYY.
Butkovitz, the incumbent Democrat, is running for his third term as controller. Tracy, a GOP newcomer, is an underdog in the bright-blue city where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 6 to 1.
The sudden resignation of School Reform Commission Chairman Pedro Ramos has many asking who his replacement will be. For others, his departure raises the question of how the five-member panel should be selected, especially because the term of another commissioner is set to expire in about three months.
Joseph Dworetzky, who was named to the SRC by former Gov. Ed Rendell, will reach the end of his term in January 2014. Dworetzky has been an outspoken commissioner, unafraid to challenge his fellow SRC members and the District. Back in May, he voted against a stripped-down budget that eliminated nearly everything from schools except a principal and small number of classroom teachers. He also objected to a number of Superintendent William Hite’s proposals to close schools.
Dennis Creedon likes to say that arts education saved him. Dyslexic as a boy, he was able to realize his potential and focus his gifts through music.
Now one of the Philadelphia School District's assistant superintendents, who oversees a learning network, Creedon has also been in charge of arts programming. And with art and music teachers a dwindling breed in District schools, one of his major projects was the creation of a curriculum that helps teach literacy through the arts.
More than seven years in the making, with a grant from the William Penn Foundation, the curriculum was delivered to all 1st- through 8th-grade classrooms at the start of the school year.
Pedro Ramos, who has served for two years as School Reform Commission chair, has resigned from his post and the commission, citing family matters.
Ramos’ term on the SRC expires in 2014. His replacement on the commission has not yet been named. Commissioner Wendell Pritchett has previously filled in as acting chair in his absence.
Ramos was a gubernatorial appointee. The governor appoints three of the five commissioners, and the mayor appoints two.
Ramos, 48, a former Philadelphia school board president, city solicitor, and managing director, was appointed to the panel by Gov. Corbett in 2011. He joined the SRC at a time of unprecedented financial crisis in the District and worked with school, city, and state officials to bring the District's budget back into balance. Advocating a fiscally responsible stance, he presided over deep cuts in spending.
Responding to calls for a formal inquiry into the Sept. 25 asthma-related death of Bryant Elementary student Laporshia Massey, who apparently became ill at school, the School District released the following brief statement on Friday, saying it is investigating -- and cooperating with other investigations:
The School District is concerned about the death of any student, no matter where and when that happens. Especially when a child is dismissed from school and dies several hours later, we take it very seriously out of concerns for the child and his or her family and for our students and staff. Because we want to ensure the safety of all children, it is paramount that we find out what happened to cause this tragic death. We are doing what is necessary to investigate what happened, and we are cooperating with all involved city and state agencies, as we always do, upon the death of one of our students. From our review to date, we are certain that our staff at Bryant are not the cause of the student’s death, and we will continue to address all concerns arising out of this tragedy.
by Naveed Ahsan
School nurses, parents, and education advocates concerned about budget cuts held a silent candlelight vigil outside of District headquarters before Thursday’s School Reform Commission meeting in memory of 12-year-old Laporshia Massey, who died from an asthma attack on Sept. 25.
Though Governor Corbett has announced that he will release the $45 million that the state had appropriated to the District but had been withholding until reforms were made, education advocates continue to debate the issue of fair funding for Philadelphia schools.
This morning on Radio Times, Donna Cooper, executive director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth, and Charles Zogby, secretary of the Budget for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, debated the issue of funding for public education in Pennsylvania.
by Sara Neufeld, The Hechinger Report
In the beginning, Pennsylvania was going to be like most other states, following a new set of national education standards and administering new national standardized tests.
But a lot has happened since 2010, when the state signed on to participate in what’s known as Common Core, an initiative designed to make the United States more globally competitive by ensuring students’ ability to meet basic benchmarks.
A Democratic administration turned Republican, and Gov. Tom Corbett took seriously conservatives concerned about the federal government infringing on states’ rights. In March 2012, Pennsylvania officials released their own document, known as the Pennsylvania Core Standards, which they call a hybrid between the national Common Core and the state’s own guidelines.