Editor and director of the Notebook since 1999, Paul was one of the Notebook’s founders in 1994. He came to the Notebook as a public school parent with a long history of involvement in public education and other social justice issues. His children both graduated from Philadelphia public schools. He has been an active Home & School Association member and served as a parent representative on a School Council. Prior to becoming editor, he worked on education issues for the National Coalition of Education Activists and the American Friends Service Committee.
[Updated 12:59 a.m.]
The School Reform Commission approved staff recommendations Wednesday night, voting to renew five charter schools and beginning the non-renewal process for one, Imani Education Circle in Germantown. Late in a six-hour meeting, the commission also approved providers for two new Renaissance charters.
Although 16 Philadelphia charter schools have applied for renewal this year, only six of those came up for a vote Wednesday.
The five renewed are: Antonia Pantoja, Christopher Columbus, Eugenio de Hostos, Maritime Academy, and Universal Institute charters. One thing these five schools have in common is that they have all agreed to abide by an enrollment cap throughout the duration of the five-year charter. District officials have explained that it is impossible to manage its budget crisis without predictable enrollment at charter schools.
For the last 18 months, District officials have frequently highlighted the steps they've taken to slash the central office bureaucracy as a way of dealing with an enormous budget gap that came to light in 2011.
They did not highlight their decision to change course and add some jobs back.
With City Council convening Monday morning for its annual hearings on the School District and its finances, at least a few journalists and local activists spent part of the beautiful spring weekend preparing by trying to make sense of the District’s just-released 350-page “consolidated budget” for the coming year.
It’s dense and dry, but the document does give a detailed picture of what the District looks like now and what’s ahead. A somewhat easier read is the District's "budget in brief," but that got posted online too late on Sunday to be previewed.
As Germantown High School and 21 other schools across the city face closure this summer, the central Germantown business district is one of many facing a major new threat of neighborhood blight. Philadelphia has had more than a dozen school buildings sitting vacant, and the health and safety issues and economic impact from closed schools are topics of growing concern.
A new website launched this week, Schoolhouse Watch, promises to help generate neighborhood-friendly solutions for reusing these vacated properties. The site is designed to include a page with resources and discussion for each of the closing buildings.
In conjunction with partner education news organizations in other cities, the Notebook is launching a year-long reporting project to write about the issue of expanding learning time.
We will join Catalyst-Chicago, EdNews Colorado, GothamSchools, and EdSource Today (which covers California) in this collaboration, supported by a grant from the Ford Foundation, which has made “more and better learning time” a priority in its philanthropy.
Expanding learning time for students, especially those in low-income communities, has emerged as a major reform initiative. Some argue that additional time that is wisely used can be a key lever for educational equity.