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New arguments in legal battle over teacher work rules; PDE and SRC press urgency

Submitted by Dale Mezzacappa on Mon, 04/07/2014 - 18:15 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

The legal battle over whether Philadelphia's School Reform Commission has the power to unilaterally impose new work rules on the District's teachers is getting more intense with the filing of new arguments urging quick action by the Supreme Court.

In a friend-of-the-court brief filed Friday, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) maintains that "the collective bargaining agreement ... has proven a particularly high barrier to the District effecting reforms essential to providing services in a fiscally responsible and manageable manner." 

Going to AERA? These sessions have a Philadelphia focus

Submitted by thenotebook on Wed, 04/02/2014 - 12:11 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

by Jeseamy Muentes

More than 13,000 attendees, including education and policy leaders, will gather in Philadelphia this week at the annual meeting of the American Education Research Association (AERA).

The event will be held April 3-7 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center and the downtown Philadelphia Marriott hotel. The theme is “The Power of Education Research for Innovation in Practice and Policy.” More than a dozen of the 100-plus sessions will include local leaders or have a Philadelphia focus.

Lump sum budget counts on $440 million not yet secured; principals storm Council

Submitted by Dale Mezzacappa on Thu, 03/27/2014 - 22:27 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

The School Reform Commission voted Thursday to approve a $2.8 billion “lump sum” budget for fiscal 2015 that counts on receiving $440 million more in revenue than it currently has secured.

It did so shortly after an unprecedented scene in City Hall, when a few dozen school principals clogged the corridors to dramatize the appalling conditions in their schools and ask Council members for more funds.

And State Sen. Vincent Hughes addressed the SRC directly after holding a rally on the District’s steps in which he called for taxing Marcellus Shale extraction – Pennsylvania is the only gas-producing state in the country that doesn’t do so – to raise money for education.

10 things we learned from Hite's new Action Plan 2.0

Submitted by Dale Mezzacappa on Tue, 02/18/2014 - 15:03 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

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.

Senate approves Green and Jimenez for School Reform Commission

Submitted by Wendy Harris on Tue, 02/04/2014 - 17:49 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

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.   

No school closings this year, says Superintendent Hite

Submitted by David Limm on Fri, 01/10/2014 - 14:30 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

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.  

Local campaign launched to have all students reading proficiently by 3rd grade

Submitted by Dale Mezzacappa on Fri, 12/20/2013 - 17:48 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

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. 

District seeks public input on how to navigate dire straits

Submitted by thenotebook on Tue, 11/19/2013 - 11:04 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

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?"

District rounding out the series of meetings about new grading system for schools

Submitted by David Limm on Mon, 11/04/2013 - 14:59 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

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. 

Hite sits down with Notebook to talk budget cuts, funding, charters

Submitted by thenotebook on Fri, 10/25/2013 - 12:02 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

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.

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