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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." 

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.

SRC approves building sales, ratifies principals' contract

Submitted by Dale Mezzacappa on Thu, 03/20/2014 - 22:04 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

The School Reform Commission approved the sales of six vacant properties Thursday night, most of them schools that were closed within the last two years.

It also ratified a contract with the Commonwealth Association of School Administrators, which represents principals and assistant principals, who will reduce their work year and see lower salaries. 

The properties will be sold for a total of $37 million under the current agreements, but the District will net $25.8 million after closing costs and other costs are taken out, said Fran Burns, the District's operations manager.

Day one for Bill Green, the 'change agent'

Submitted by thenotebook on Fri, 02/21/2014 - 18:20 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

by Bill Hangley Jr.

The boos began as soon as Bill Green walked in the door. He waited 32 minutes to bang his gavel – the first he’s ever wielded.

“I really wanted a bigger gavel,” he said later with a laugh. “But they told me that size doesn’t matter. I guess we’ll find out.”

It was exactly 5:38 p.m. when Green entered the auditorium at 440 N. Broad St. for the first of what will likely be dozens of School Reform Commission meetings – five years’ worth, if all goes according to plan. 

A packed house was primed and ready. Teachers wearing red shirts and union supporters, parents and community activists, volunteers and professionals, familiar faces and new ones, all seething with frustration built up over year after year of budget cuts, deficits, layoffs, closures, fishy deals, flashy plans and unmet promises.

They came to unload on Bill Green.

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.   

Exit interview: SRC's Dworetzky on hopes, frustrations, and the future of Philly schools

Submitted by thenotebook on Wed, 01/22/2014 - 13:50 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks

In many ways, Joseph Dworetzky was the voice of the people during his four-year tenure as a School Reform Commission member — often casting the lone "no" vote on SRC decisions that were unpopular with the education advocates who regularly testify at the group's action meetings.

Dworetzky, a lawyer who spent time as city solicitor in Ed Rendell's mayoral administration, held views that often clashed with those of his SRC colleagues.

Bill Green to chair SRC, Jimenez to replace Dworetzky, sources say

Submitted by Dale Mezzacappa on Fri, 01/17/2014 - 01:01 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

Notebook sources and other news reports indicate that Gov. Corbett intends to nominate Councilman Bill Green as chair of the School Reform Commission on Friday and appoint Farah Jimenez, executive director of the People's Emergency Center, to fill a second seat on the commission being vacated by Joseph Dworetzky.

Notes from SRC meeting on student engagement now posted

Submitted by thenotebook on Mon, 01/13/2014 - 15:42 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

by Khoury Johnson

At the Dec. 16 School Reform Commission meeting, a group of high school students led their peers in a series of roundtable discussions to talk about what the District can do to keep students motivated and engaged in school. Notes from that meeting have been posted on the District’s website.

District again postpones votes to renew two charters

Submitted by Dale Mezzacappa on Fri, 12/20/2013 - 00:22 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

The School Reform Commission postponed scheduled votes on two charter schools Thursday, pulling one at the last minute for reasons related to an investigation of test cheating.

Philadelphia Electrical & Technology Charter High School was one of three city charters flagged by the state for potential cheating after analyses of test results for 2009, 2010, and 2011 showed statistical irregularities. The charter was directed by the state to conduct an investigation, which resulted in the dismissal of an assistant principal and the imposition of stricter testing protocols. 

The renewal vote on PE&T was delayed, officials said, not because of problems with the school's own probe, but because the District is not yet ready to release its investigations into possible cheating at more than a dozen District-run schools.

Students to lead discussion at Monday’s SRC meeting

Submitted by thenotebook on Thu, 12/12/2013 - 16:13 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

The School Reform Commission will hold its next Strategy, Policy, and Priorities meeting on Monday, Dec. 16. Leading the discussion on the topic of student engagement  will be students themselves.

To accommodate students, the meeting will start at 4:30 p.m. instead of the usual 6 p.m. start time.

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