Superintendent William Hite’s Action Plan 2.0 is full of interesting facts and statistics. A few that caught our eye:
1. As a result of school closings and relocations in 2013, school utilization went from 67 percent to 74 percent -- still far from the District's target of having 85 percent of seats occupied, as was specified in its Facilities Master Plan process.
The State Senate approved the nominations of City Councilman Bill Green and People’s Emergency Center executive director Farah Jimenez to the School Reform Commission in a vote of 44-2 this afternoon. Sens. Vincent Hughes and Andrew Dinniman were the dissenting votes.
Gov. Corbett nominated both Green and Jimenez to the five-member panel last month. Green will fill the chair position left vacant by Pedro Ramos, who resigned in October, citing family issues. Jimenez will fill the seat left vacant by Joseph Dwortezky, whose term expired in January.
After losing two dozen schools last year -- on top of six in 2012 -- the School District of Philadelphia won't be seeing any closings in 2014.
Superintendent William Hite announced Friday afternoon that the District would not be proposing any school closures this year.
A newly formed coalition in Philadelphia is joining the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, an effort to make sure that as of the year 2020, all city students read on grade level by the end of 3rd grade.
by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks
Where do we go from here?
That's the question that Philadelphia schools Superintendent William Hite put before the packed crowd gathered at District headquarters on Monday night for a School Reform Commission meeting on strategy, policy and priorities.
Like a college professor facilitating a philosophical discussion, Hite broke the crowd up into more than a dozen large, round tables and asked this overarching question of questions:
"What action should we take to get as many students as possible attending schools where at least 50 percent [of students] are reading and doing math at grade level?"
A meeting on "school report cards" will take place from 6 to 7:30 tonight at Baldi Middle School in Northeast Philadelphia. It is the fourth of five such meetings held by the District to gather community feedback for a new grading system for schools.
This summer the District announced plans for a new school report card to replace the school annual reports and faulty School Performance Index (SPI) scores that have served as measures of accountability. An earlier series of forums was scrapped after two contentious meetings where angry parents questioned the motives behind rolling out a new and costly accountability system during a time of tremendous financial and structural instability and the value of the project.
At the time, a District spokesman indicated that the reason for the cancellation was the unstructured, off-point nature of the discussions, saying the District was not seeking input on whether it should proceed with school report cards, but rather, what information they should contain.
by Isaac Riddle
[Note: Due to technical difficulties, portions of the video near the beginning are inaudible. Posted below is part of a pre-interview transcript of questions that relates to the affected section, which lasts up to about the 1:36 mark.]
Philadelphia Schools Superintendent William Hite sat down for a live interview on Wednesday with Notebook contributing editor Dale Mezzacappa. The interview was part of the public access channel PhillyCAM's fourth anniversary broadcast.
Hite answered questions about the District’s lack of guidance counselors and nurses, teacher seniority, teacher salaries, state funding, and charter schools. He also responded to the question of whether he had taken a pay cut.
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.
At the School Reform Commission's monthly action meeting, the SRC unanimously reaffirmed their non-renewals for two charters: Community Academy of Philadelphia Charter School and Truebright Science Academy Charter School. The commision rejected a resolution for the District to sell artwork that has been in storage for as long as a decade. Instead commissioners asked District staff to develop a plan for restoring the works of the art to the schools where they were originally housed.
The meeting began at 5:30 p.m.
Due to the District's fiscal crisis, most schools in Philadelphia are suffering a counselor drought. But Promise Academies are not among them.
In fact, the 12 Promise Academies -- the District's in-house turnaround schools -- have 19 counselors, which amounts to 15 percent of the 126 counselors available to all 220 or so District-run schools.
More than half the District's schools -- 115 of them, with a population of more than 48,000 students -- are sharing 16 "itinerant" counselors who travel from school to school and have caseloads averaging about 3,000 students each.
In the Promise Academies, which have a combined enrollment of about 8,000, the average caseload works out to one counselor per about 420 students, much closer to the recommendations of the American School Counselor Association.