To Lori Shorr, among the most interesting things about the PSD’s long-awaited organizational chart is the expiration date stamped on top: “Through January 2, 2013.”
That reminds Shorr, who is Mayor Nutter’s chief education officer, that when it comes to internal organization, the District remains very much in wait-and-see mode. New Superintendent William Hite is in the midst of what officials call his “90-day review,” after which he is expected to establish specific priorities for his administration, which may include additional internal reorganization.
“If he’s going to do big organizational change, he’s going to do it in January,” Shorr said.
It was an evening of troubling data, frustrated parents, and hopeful promises from District officials who know they have a long way to go.
This month’s School Reform Commission strategy meeting focused on the challenges posed by special education, and judging from the evening’s proceedings, they are significant. Monday's session included a look at a selection of data showing that Philadelphia ranks among the worst urban districts in the nation in terms of the academic performance of students with learning disabilities – Philadelphia’s scores fell below those of Chicago, Los Angeles, Cleveland, and Detroit on national assessments. Special education students are suspended at significantly higher rates than their classmates, and they graduate at significantly lower rates.
Charlene Young, a parent at Smedley Elementary in Frankford, doesn’t want much for her daughter’s school – just an end to the chaos.
“More controlled classrooms,” she said. “More organization, more respect for the teachers, more respect for each other inside the school.”
Jana Wilcox, development director at the Young Scholars Charter School, promised that her team could deliver.