Updated | 2:40 p.m.
The Philadelphia School District plans to designate two additional schools, likely K-6 or K-8 elementaries, for conversion to charter schools in September, Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn said Tuesday, making this the fifth straight year of the so-called Renaissance Charter Schools Initiative.
But the process will be significantly different this time. In the past, the District has chosen the schools to be converted and approved a set of providers, each of which made pitches to the school communities. Each School Advisory Council (SAC) then voted on which provider to accept.
For this round, the District will match a provider with a school, and the "school communities" will then vote on whether to accept the choice or remain under District control. Athough the schools will have SACs, the goal is to have all parents at a designated school participate in the vote, Kihn said.
In a call with reporters, Kihn said that the changes in procedure were made in response to feedback from parents and community members involved in past Renaissance conversions.
The School District is proposing an overhaul of its charter school authorizing policy to make it more rigorous and consistent and is seeking public comment on the changes.
The deadline for providing such comment is this Friday, March 7. Comments can be recorded here. Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn said the proposed policy will be revised to take the feedback into account.
Specifically, the proposed rules are aimed to support high-quality charters and close underperforming ones, while offering more frequent monitoring, more transparency, and the opportunity for expansion to charters that meet new, higher standards and academic benchmarks.
Renowned actress, playwright, professor, and activist Anna Deavere Smith is in Philadelphia for research on one of her signature projects that combine journalism, ethnography, social commentary, and theater. Her subject: the school-to-prison pipeline.
Smith discussed her work-in-progress Wednesday night in a packed session at the Philadelphia Theatre Company, where the plan is for her finished theatrical work to be produced at the end of the 2014-15 season. A documentary is also being made about her process in crafting the piece.
As she has done for similar projects, Smith is interviewing dozens of people – in this case, students, teachers, parents, principals, judges, public defenders, prisoners, former prisoners, prison officials, politicians, police, advocates, school dropouts, thought leaders, and people working with the anti-violence project CeaseFire – to shed light on the sprawling topic.
The School Reform Commission approved the creation of three small, non-selective high schools Thursday that are meant to personalize learning while stressing inquiry- and project-based learning.
The schools, which are still being designed, will abandon the model of consecutive, subject-based periods for a school day to make more effective use of technology, off-campus internships, and community integration. They are meant to reinvigorate the concept of neighborhood schools, said Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn.
The financially beleaguered School District is on track to end this fiscal year with a shortfall of $14 million, Chief Financial Officer Matthew Stanski told the School Reform Commission Thursday night.
The news of an unbalanced budget was a grim but not unexpected greeting for new SRC chair Bill Green, who also got an earful from an unhappy capacity crowd of about 250 people. New SRC member Farah Jimenez was not present, fulfilling another commitment that predated her appointment.