by Holly Otterbein for NewsWorks
Safely steering kids to and from school is never an easy task.
In Philadelphia, there's an extra challenge this year. As the School District faces an unprecedented financial crisis, about 9,000 of the city's 134,000 students will be heading to a new school because their former one was closed or consolidated in June.
That means kids will be traversing through unfamiliar neighborhoods, past different intersections and around novel corners.
School District and city officials say they have stepped up their efforts in the wake of 24 schools shutting down. But some parents and teachers are concerned that they are not fully prepared.
The loss of bus service to a successful and highly competitive school in South Philadelphia brought parents, students, and the school band out to protest during Wednesday night's School Reform Commission meeting.
The Girard Academic Music Program (GAMP), which serves grades 5-12, will lose yellow bus service for its 500-plus students starting in the fall of next year. Younger students already enrolled will, however, retain service until they reach the 9th grade. Everyone else will move to using SEPTA TransPasses.
By Dale Mezzacappa and Benjamin Herold
The School District released a 119-page document on Thursday that summarized the analyses and recommendations of the Boston Consulting Group, an outside firm retained at private expense to help the District avert a financial meltdown by radically overhauling its business operations and delivery of education.
The document details BCG’s work and thinking on hot-button topics ranging from charter expansion to labor negotiations. It also includes the previously unreleased analyses behind controversial District proposals to close dozens of schools and reorganize those that are left into decentralized, independently managed “achievement networks.”
By Katie McCabe
The School Reform Commission voted Monday to outsource the three top management positions in its transportation department, but recessed until Wednesday to allow more time for talks with the labor union representing bus drivers, mechanics, and other blue-collar workers whose jobs could be facing a similar fate.
The Boston Consulting Group has identified up to 60 Philadelphia school buildings as potential candidates for closure and helped line up private vendors willing to replace the School District’s unionized blue-collar workforce at a $50 million discount.
These steps are just part of the blue-chip consulting firm’s far-ranging behind-the-scenes effort to help the beleaguered city school system rethink how it does business.
The broad scope of BCG’s efforts this spring are detailed in previously unreleased “statements of work” obtained by the Notebook/NewsWorks under Pennsylvania’s Right to Know law.
Read the documents:
A new study by the Keystone Research Center says that contracting out student transportation has increased costs for Pennsylvania school districts instead of saving them money.
"Handing the reins over to the private sector is not always a good bargain for taxpayers," said Keystone executive director Stephen Herzenberg, a co-author of the study with labor economist Mark Price.
The School Reform Commission Thursday finalized a $37 million loan from SEPTA to underwrite this year's free student TransPasses, a move that has helped it close its budget gap.
The program assists more than 55,000 public, charter, private, and parochial students who ride public transportation for free to and from school daily.
For a second time this month, the School District has responded to a union's rejection of a giveback proposal by announcing a mass layoff: 848 members of District 1201 of SEIU Local 32BJ, which represents transportation, maintenance, and custodial workers, are receiving notices that they will be laid off in 12 months.
Hopefully, SEPTA and the Transport Workers Union Local 234 will be able to “play ball” and resolve their pending contract negotiations. I give credit to the transit union for leveraging the Phillies and Yankees World Series while it was in town.