Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

POSTED: Tuesday, July 22, 2014, 11:55 AM

Have an idea for overhauling a city public school? The Philadelphia School District is listening.

Officials on Tuesday announced the “School Redesign Intitiave,” inviting teachers, principals, universities and community organizations to propose and execute turnarounds at city public schools.

It’s a shift for a district that has relied heavily on charter conversions to reform failing schools.

POSTED: Thursday, July 10, 2014, 12:20 PM
Hundreds turned out for a strategy, policy, and priorities meeting on Jan. 13, 2014. Dr. William Hite, Jr, Superintendent of Schools talks to one of the groups. School officials acknowledge today that 300-plus layoff notices are going out. (CHARLES FOX/Staff Photographer/File)

More than 300 Philadelphia School District employees will receive layoff notices on Thursday and Friday.

Most of those affected are noon-time aides and special education classroom assistants. No teachers appear to be affected.

Philadelphia School District officials confirmed the layoffs, and said that the moves were unrelated to the stalled cigarette tax legislation that has imperiled $45 million in state funding.

POSTED: Wednesday, July 9, 2014, 4:18 PM
Superintendent of The School District of Philadelphia William Hite scratches his head while arriving to a public meeting to adopt a operating budget for 2014/2015 at the Philadelphia School District Building on Monday, June 30, 2014. The Pa. Senate's action on Tuesday delays a cigarette tax that would raise millions for Philly schools. ( YONG KIM / Staff Photographer )

Philadelphia School Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said Wednesday that if the state legislature does not pass the cigarette tax by Aug. 15, he would have to begin laying off employees and consider not opening school on time.

"There's a lot of uncertainty around what our next move is," Hite told reporters Wednesday afternoon.

The state Senate passed an amended cigarette tax bill this week, but the legislation still requires House approval. The House is out on summer recess and won't return until a special session called for August 4. Even then, passage is not assured.

POSTED: Thursday, July 3, 2014, 3:52 PM
Wendell Pritchett. (APRIL SAUL/Staff Photographer)
Wendell Pritchett has resigned from the Philadelphia School Reform Commission, and Mayor Nutter has moved quickly to name a replacement - Marjorie Neff, who just retired as principal of Masterman, an elite district magnet school.

Pritchett, an academic who was until recently the chancellor of Rutgers University-Camden, was the longest-serving member of the SRC. Pritchett recently became interim dean of the University of Pennsylvania law school, and is a former Nutter deputy chief of staff.

Nutter, in a statement, hailed Pritchett.

POSTED: Monday, June 30, 2014, 2:06 PM

UPDATE, 2:50 p.m.

Mayor Nutter is urging the SRC to pass a placeholder budget tonight, anticipating that Harrisburg will come through with the funding the school district is asking for. The alternative, Nutter wrote in a letter to the SRC sent today, would force "cuts that are so painful that they raise serious questions about whether it is safe to open schools." 

"Without further action by the Commonwealth, the District would be facing a $93 million gap. the District would be facing a $93 million gap. In order to close that gap, it would have to go through yet another round of painful cuts that could increase class size to more than 40 students, further reduce our teaching force by 1,300, reduce transportation options so that children have to walk longer distances to schools and make cuts to alternative education."

POSTED: Thursday, June 26, 2014, 4:17 PM

The state Supreme Court on Thursday said it would not affirm the Philadelphia School Reform Commission's decision to make drastic work-rule changes for teachers in the fall.

This spring, the commission asked the state's top court to declare that it has the authority to impose the changes, including disregarding seniority for teacher assignments, transfers, layoffs, and recalls.

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers strongly opposed the SRC's move to bypass seniority.

POSTED: Thursday, June 19, 2014, 5:12 PM

Against the backdrop of City Council coming up with a $30 million loanfor the fall, in addition to a $27 borrowing now - to help rescue the beleaguered Philadelphia School District, its School Reform Commission meets Thursday night to consider a full agenda. (On the Council doings - Superintendent Hite calls the move "gigantic," and said it staves off layoff notices, at least for now. It also allows the district to turn its full attention to Harrisburg, where legislators will consider a $2-per pack cigarette tax.)

On tap for the SRC meeting are the usual recognitions of terrific teachers and students (including the ones who rushed into a burning building to save a child!) and also some charter matters. Two charters, Ad Prima and New Media, are scheduled to be nonrenewed, according to the tentative agenda.

Follow along here - I'll be livetweeting, as usual. The meeting's supposed to get underway at 5:30 p.m.

POSTED: Tuesday, June 10, 2014, 1:25 PM
Police respond to an early report of a child with an unknown substance at Commodore John Barry Elementary School at 59th and Race Streets in Philadelphia. (Alejandro Alvarez/Staff Photographer)

An entire first grade class has been taken to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia after one of its students brought drugs to school.

Philadelphia School District spokesman Fernando Gallard said Tuesday that a first grade teacher at Barry Elementary School in West Philadelphia found one of her students playing with what appeared to be small packets of drugs. The teacher asked the child to drop the packets, then following district protocol, had them evacuate the classroom. Police and paramedics were called.

The school nurse and paramedics began checking the children, since drugs can be absorbed through the skin. Officials decided to take the entire class to CHOP for observation.

About this blog

Inquirer reporter Kristen Graham writes the Philly School Files blog, where she covers education in Philadelphia, both in and out of the classroom.

During the school year, you’ll frequently find her hosting live chats about the district on Philly.com.

Please do pass along the scoop about what’s going on at your Philadelphia public school; Kristen welcomes tips, story ideas and witty banter.


Kristen Graham Inquirer Staff Writer
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