At its October meetings, the School Reform Commission:

  • Heard a District report on the first year or Phase I of Imagine 2014 and the process and implementation goals for Phase II of the reform plan. Jennie Wu, deputy for Strategic Planning and Implementation noted increases in PSSA proficiencies in both reading and math, increases in the on-time and six-year graduation rates, and fewer teacher vacancies on the first day of school. The progress report also indicated decreases in parent satisfaction with their child’s school and principal. Other areas where the District fell short include: closing the achievement gap in reading, increasing grade 3 PSSA reading proficiency rates, increasing the percentage of teachers of color, and improving retention numbers for new teachers, which according to Chief Talent Development Officer Estelle Matthews will be addressed by a new teacher support and retention plan to be developed in December.    

  • Heard the final report from members of the African American and Latino Male Dropout Taskforce about ways to increase graduation rates and improve the educational and life outcomes among these students. A draft of the report was released in September. Taskforce chair Bill McKinney said “the challenge is a large one,” noting that the six-year cohort dropout rates for Black and Latino males are 43 percent and 51 percent, respectively, and that for students who don’t graduate from high school, average earnings are less than $10,000 per year. Other recommendations included: providing in-school mentors for all students; cultural competency training for teachers and staff; establishing single-sex classes; increasing peer mentoring opportunities; increasing partnerships with social service agencies, community based organizations, and mental health providers to ensure that resources are allocated where needed; and adding advanced placement courses at all schools. SRC Chair Robert Archie and Commissioner Johnny Irizarry served as chairs of the taskforce.

  • Heard the first quarter financial report presented by Chief Financial Officer Michael Masch, who said that the District would close the fiscal year with its $3.2 billion consolidated budget in balance, but would have to come up with creative ways to deal with the loss of $250 million annually in federal stimulus dollars when the funds run out July 1. “There are things to be concerned about … (and) we will have to wrestle this spring with making some very tough budget decisions,” he said.

  • Heard from a small group of West Philadelphia High School students led by senior Marie Hines regarding the deteriorating climate at the school. Students blame the climate issues on turnover of principals and the breakdown of the academy structure. Hines said she was speaking out even though she was afraid of retaliation, but interim Principal Chapman and Associate Superintendent Tomás Hanna later assured students that they would be heard through listening sessions and small group discussions with no consequences for expressing their concerns.   

  • Heard testimony from parent Kennesha Bell about problems with the District’s school bus routes. Bell said drivers are often late and sometimes don’t show up at all. Bell said that she has had to leave her job to drive her child and other children stranded at the bus stops to school because drivers have ignored scheduled pickup times. John Lombardi, administrator for the District’s transportation services, said that he is working on improving performance by assigning a street supervisor to monitor the bus routes. But a visibly annoyed Superintendent Ackerman said, “I don’t think it’s good enough to say ‘We’re working on it.’” Ackerman said that this issue was raised by many parents at her September parent roundtable, and that “my office is now paying close attention to fixing these bus routes.” The route in question is operated by Durham School Services, a Texas-based firm.

  • Recognized Masterman High School and Franklin Learning Center, both recently named as Blue Ribbon Schools by the U. S. Department of Education. The schools are among the 304 public and private schools nationwide – and 14 in Pennsylvania – to earn the honor this year. Both are repeat Blue Ribbon winners. The Blue Ribbon Schools award program recognizes schools whose students achieve at very high levels or have made significant progress and helped close the achievement gaps, especially among disadvantaged and minority students.

  • Approved the appointment of Deputy Superintendent/Deputy Chief Executive Officer Leroy Nunery at a salary of $230,000 to be made retroactive to June 7, the date when he began serving that role. Nunery was formerly chief of institutional advancement and strategic partnerships for the District, earning then an annual salary of $180,000. 

  • Voted to approve a $10 million contract with various Supplemental Educational Service vendors to provide Title I supplemental education services to income-eligible students. Providers include: A Plus Test Prep and Tutoring, Catapult Learning, LLC, Huntington Learning Center, and Sylvan Learning Center.

  • Approved a $9 million contract to install surveillance equipment at some of the District’s most violent schools. As part of the District’s Project Safe Schools Initiative, cameras will be placed in schools identified as persistently dangerous.

  • Voted to accept professional development services and materials from Children’s Literacy Initiative to develop 3rd grade model classrooms and grade-level readers, and to support existing model kindergarten and 1st grade classrooms.

  • Voted to expel eight students.


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