School Reform Commission Chair Pedro Ramos resigned from his post in October, citing family issues.
Ramos, whose term would have expired in January, served for two years on the SRC at a time of unprecedented financial crisis in the District. He worked with school, city, and state officials to bring the District’s budget back into balance and presided over deep cuts in spending, which include the closure of 30 public schools.
His departure comes in the middle of ongoing contract negotiations with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.
Pedro Ramos resigned from the School Reform Commission and his position as chair this week for personal reasons. The letter he sent to Gov. Corbett talks of operational reforms that were made under his watch while the District dealt with deep fiscal challenges.
Although he uses careful language to describe the response of the state and city to the District's request for additional funds, he blames the recession, and not political decisions, for the District's financial woes.
In the letter, Ramos tells Corbett that "financial support" is necessary, along with "a system and a culture of adult accountability," in order to deliver on the promise of a ''safe, high-quality seat for every child."
"I remain optimistic that all our leaders will continue to work together for the benefit of all the Commonwealth's children, including Philadelphia's children," Ramos wrote.
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.
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.
The School Reform Commission approved the Renaissance charter agreements for three schools on Friday, officially turning Pastorius over to Mastery Charter Schools, Kenderton to Scholar Academies, and Alcorn to Universal Companies.
At a tense, four-hour meeting, the SRC also accepted $1.1 million in grant money from the Philadelphia School Partnership to expand three high-performing District schools: converting the experimental Sustainability Workshop into the Workshop School; creating a second campus of Science Leadership Academy; and expanding the middle school Hill-Freedman to include high school grades.
But it did so over the persistent objections of Commissioner Joseph Dworetzky, who did a financial analysis showing that the District will be absorbing considerable extra cost for these schools after this year -- a move he called financially irresponsible given the District's shaky budget picture. Earlier in the meeting, the District had announced that it only had enough funding to rehire a few hundred of the 3,800 staff laid off this summer.
by Holly Otterbein for NewsWorks
The Pennsylvania House passed a bill Monday that directs $45 million in additional state aid to Philadelphia's cash-starved schools, but only under certain conditions.
One of those conditions is that the money actually materializes.
The state has apparently persuaded federal officials to forgive a years-old debt, freeing up millions of dollars for public education.
However, Gov. Corbett's office said that negotiations between the state and feds over the debt have not been finalized. Corbett spokesman Jay Pagni declined to provide more details.
Strong-armed into agreeing to enrollment caps, five charter schools won five-year operating renewals in votes Wednesday night by the School Reform Commission, but five others still have not come to terms with District officials determined to contain costs in the midst of its fiscal crisis.
Funding uncertainties also spurred a decision by Superintendent William Hite to delay the conversion of three low-performing elementary schools — Alcorn, Kenderton and Pastorius — into Renaissance charters under the District’s school turnaround initiative. The SRC had been scheduled to approve assignment of Alcorn to Universal Companies, Kenderton to Scholar Academies and Pastorius to Mastery Charter Schools.
Hite said that the turnovers were tabled “because of the unpredictability of the budget situation” but that the plan would proceed apace “once we have a clearer picture of our revenue and our funding.”
After listening to hours of impassioned testimony and not a few lectures from students and others that they were shirking their responsibility, the School Reform Commission adopted a stripped-down budget by a vote of 4-1 Thursday night that its own members called unconstitutional and inadequate.
The $2.39 billion operating budget eliminates nearly everything from schools except a principal and a minimal number of classroom teachers. Counselors, librarians, sports, secretaries, support staff, music and art? All gone.
by Bill Hangley Jr.
Day two of City Council’s education hearings was a long string of bleak predictions and passionate calls for funding from public school supporters faced with the prospect of what one parent called “trying to do the impossible with nothing.”
Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell called the day’s testimony “disheartening,” but gave little indication that she and her colleagues are eager to move on meeting the Philadelphia School District’s request for $60 million in additional funding.