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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
City Councilman Bill Green has long taken a special interest in the School District of Philadelphia, and a few years ago he laid out a detailed education agenda that, in essence, favored the abolition of the School Reform Commission, expansion of charters, and more parental choice.
Sources confirm that the councilman now would like to head the SRC and has spoken to members of Gov. Corbett's administration. One Harrisburg source said that Green is "definitely in the mix" as Corbett looks to fill the vacancy left by Pedro Ramos, who resigned for personal reasons. A second vacancy is expected when Commissioner Joseph Dworetzky's term expires in January. Dworetzky is a holdover appointment of former Gov. Ed Rendell.
In an interview, Green would not comment on whether he is interested in the SRC post or had talked to Corbett's team about it. However, he was willing to discuss education policy generally and clarify how his thinking has evolved since he released the policy papers on the School District in 2010 and 2011.
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?"