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?"
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.
The art will not be sold.
The School Reform Commission rejected a proposal Thursday to hire two companies, including Sotheby's, Inc., to market and sell about 60 pieces of artwork that were taken out of schools nearly a decade ago -- under what some people still consider questionable circumstances -- and put in storage.
The artwork, including paintings by prominent African American artists Henry Ossawa Tanner and Dox Thrash, was at first estimated to be far more valuable than experts now say it is. Commissioners nixed the idea of selling the pieces after hearing that appraisers have put their collective value at less than $1 million, and after being told that the intention was to put any proceeds in the general fund instead of dedicating it to arts-related programming in schools.
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.
Negotiators for the School District and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers reached the midnight deadline without reaching agreement on a new contract.
PFT president Jerry Jordan said in an interview that the two sides "made some progress," although there were still many unresolved issues.
Asked whether the two sides were still far apart, he said, "There are a number of outstanding issues. We were not close enough to close the deal."
by Paul Jablow
Robin Dominick, her 2nd-grade daughter, Leah, at her side, told the School Reform Commission on Thursday night that she was worried about putting her child in a split-grade classroom.
“Can you tell her what to do when a 3rd grader bullies her, with no counselor and no aide?” asked Dominick, president of the Home and School Association at Powel School in Powelton Village.
Maureen Fratantoni, president of the Home and School Association at Nebinger Elementary School in South Philadelphia, pleaded for the rehiring of the school’s music teacher, Aaron Hoke, who was transferred.
By Mark McHugh
Dressed in their red union shirts, members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers filled a crowd of abut 60 people who gathered outside DeBurgos Elementary School on Tuesday afternoon to protest the budget crisis in the School District.
The protest is the first of an August campaign launched by the PFT called “Rally the Neighborhood,” in which PFT members and community organizers will stage rallies at neighborhood schools to call attention to the District’s fiscal crisis and paint a picture for the public of what students will be without when school starts in September.