It's been another newsy day for the Philadelphia School District.
Earlier, officials announced that they were amending - not cancelling - a contract with Source4Teachers, the firm awarded a two-year, $34 million contract this spring to handle substitute-teaching services. The New Jersey company's performance has been subpar - at its high point recently, it filled just 30 percent of short- and long-term classroom openings.
Superintendent William R. Hite said the district would take back part of the work, handling long-term sub services itself. But Source4Teachers will keep staffing short-term vacancies.
Source4Teachers, the New Jersey firm hired to fix the Philadelphia School District's substitute-teaching problem, has struggled since the beginning of the school year to fill the hundreds of vacancies in city classrooms each day. Many have called for its two-year, $34 million contract to be cancelled.
The superintendent described it in an email to employees Thursday by saying that its relationship with Source4Teachers "has not worked as anticipated."
The district has announced Thursday that it was changing the way it did things - but stopping short of halting Source4Teachers' work.
The Philadelphia School District will have to borrow money to scrape together enough cash to make payroll through the end of the year, officials confirmed.
A small legal ad appeared in The Inquirer today, announcing a special School Reform Commission meeting for Thursday at 1:30. The subject? "a resolution authorizing the issuance of tax and revenue anticipation notes..."
Fernando Gallard, district spokesman, said the meeting is actually being postponed, but that the SRC in the coming days will meet to authorize temporary borrowing to make ends meet.
It's SRC Thursday, and I'll be livetweeting the goings-on - beginning with a 4:30 p.m. Philadelphia Federation of Teachers rally, and continuing on to the meeting, scheduled for a 5:30 p.m. start. (Read the recap below.)
The teachers' union is rallying against a plan recently announced by Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. to give three Philadelphia School District schools to charters and close two more, among other things.
They're also promoting "community schools" - a model popular in some other cities, where schools become hubs with medical, mental, and dental services embedded inside the building.
The official business was a City Council hearing: Philadelphia School District officials called to testify on the remaining $25 million in new money Council has yet to appropriate to the school system.
But the Wednesday hearing was brief - a record 21 minutes - and it was clear that last week's announcement that the district had agreed to a data-sharing deal with Council had smoothed the way for the transfer. Council President Darrell Clarke, who for the last several months has expressed frustration and disappointment with district leaders, essentially said the agreement was a reset of the relationship.
He even praised Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. and SRC Chair Marjorie Neff for their service.
Sweeping changes are afoot for the Philadelphia School District, with closures, conversions to charters and even new schools proposed Thursday by the superintendent.
In all, 5,000 students at 15 schools would be affected by the plan, which requires School Reform Commission approval.
Beeber Middle School in West Philadelphia — which staved off closure once before, in 2013 — would be phased out, shuttering in 2018. Grades will be added at Beeber’s feeder schools.
Seven area schools have been recognized for their excellence by the U.S. Department of Education as National Blue Ribbon Schools. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made the announcement Tuesday.
In Philadelphia, Our Mother of Consolation in Chestnut Hill won the coveted distinction. No Philadelphia public schools made the list.
In the Pennsylvania suburbs, Holicong Middle School in Doylestown won the honor, as did Radnor Middle School and St. Norbert Elementary School in Paoli and St. Agnes Elementary in West Chester.
Already closed Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday for Yom Kippur and the upcoming Pope's visit, the Philadelphia School District just announced it will keep schools shuttered on Monday as well.
The call was made early. Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. had said they would treat Monday as an inclement weather day, making the decision after consulting with city officials.
Hite, in an email to staff, said that "based on additional information we received today from the city and SEPTA," both schools and administrative offices will be closed" because services would be insufficient to open schools. Hence, the six day weekend for staff and students - and childcare headache for many parents.