At the end of April 2012, the School District released a reform plan - a "blueprint" to radically transform public education in the city by closing dozens of schools, expanding charters, and reorganizing the School District into decentralized "achievement networks" run primarily by private entities.
Keep up with the latest developments on the plan and community reaction here.
The Notebook has a content-sharing agreement with Education Week, where this piece -- about how "portfolio management' works in other districts -- originally appeared.
Even as federal investigators were finalizing a massive fraud indictment against one of Philadelphia’s most prominent charter school operators, the School Reform Commission was moving thousands of students and hundreds of millions of dollars into the city's publicly funded charter sector.
It’s a massive gamble, made riskier by the meager staffing in the School District’s Office of Charter Schools. Currently, 80 independently managed Philadelphia charters serving more than 50,000 students are monitored by just six people – a number that observers on all sides of the heated charter school debate agree is woefully inadequate.
The William Penn Foundation has paid more than $160,000 for work being done by two private communications firms to support the School Reform Commission’s much-debated “transformation blueprint.”
It's just one of several efforts undertaken by the city's civic leaders on behalf of the cash-strapped District that was revealed by a review of William Penn's recent grants.
The organizations doing the communications work, Sage Communications and the Bravo Group, are being paid through William Penn funds that have been passed through the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania and the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, respectively. Each grant was for $82,500, the maximum allowable without the approval of William Penn’s board, which meets three times a year.
Jeremy Nowak believes that Philadelphia is at a crossroads.
“There’s a scenario where this becomes one of the great cities in America, and there’s a scenario where we keep going in decline,” said Nowak.
“I think this is a critical time for us to decide which direction we want to go.”
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: