Archive: April, 2011
My colleague Martha Woodall has this breaking news:
A state representative from Northeast Philadelphia who has criticized Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman will call for her removal on Thursday.
“Every day she is there she is doing irreparable harm to the school district,” State Rep. Michael McGeehan, D-Phila., said Wednesday night.
It's a packed agenda at the Philadelphia School Reform Commission meeting today, where officials are hearing a a progress report on the state of the district's finances.
Here's the Cliff's Notes: not good.
Chief Financial Officer Michael Masch has braced us for the coming year's disaster of a budget, with its $629 million gap. But today's presentation also focused on the current fiscal year's budget, 2010-11. The biggest headline today is that the district will need to dip into its reserve to the tune of $25 million to balance the budget this year. That's $25 million that won't be available to offset the $629 million gap for next year. As it relates to next year's budget, Masch said the district has taken hits from people who suggest it should have known about the coming fiscal crisis. Yes, and no, he said.
Arlene Ackerman, Philadelphia's school superintendent, owes the IRS more than $20,000 in back taxes, according to public records. Fox29 first reported this news in a broadcast today.
The superintendent is paid $348,000 annually. That's her base salary, and doesn't include performance bonuses and other perks, like a car, contributions to a retirement fund, a hefty life insurance policy, etc.
District spokeswoman Jamilah Fraser provided a statement from Ackerman's personal tax attorney.
Our Assault on Learning team has been reporting for the past few days on a proposal currently being floated to station city police in the Philadelphia School District's toughest schools. (Read our Saturday story breaking this news here: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/special_packages/inquirer/school-violence/20110409_Nutter_and_Ramsey_consider_putting_armed_police_officers_in_some_schools.html)
In today's paper, our colleague Jeff Shields, reporting on a City Council hearing, noted that Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey told Council that "there are some schools right now being run by gang members." (Read that story here: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/pennsylvania/119674379.html) This, presumably, is evidence for why city police ought to be in schools.
That line really stopped me. Gangs running some city schools. Wow.
The Philadelphia School District has 70,000 empty seats, and that number will only rise as charter schools expand in the city and the district itself votes to cede management of some schools to outside organizations. We know the district is counting on $25 million in savings over the next two years through closing and consolidating schools.
But which schools? We've waited a long time to hear the answer to that. The district has held meetings throughout the city but given given scant details. Tonight, at a special School Reform Commission meeting, we got a little more clarity on how what the district will look like in the future.
No schools will close in September, however, and we don't know which ones will close by 2014, the target date for the district's "rightsizing" efforts.
Our seven part investigative series on school violence, "Assault on Learning," contained some frankly startling statistics. (In the 2009-10 school year, an average of 25 teachers, students and staff a day were beaten, robbed, sexually assaulted or victims of other violent crime, for instance.)
I heard from hundreds (and hundreds and hundreds) of folks as the stories ran. Some of them were shocked - they didn't realize things were that bad. Some of them were gratified - they were glad that my colleagues and I told the story of what they deal with every day. And some were angry. "But I (send my child to, teach in, volunteer in) a Philadelphia public school that is safe."
Let me be clear - violence is pervasive in too many of the district's 257 schools. It's certainly more pervasive than officials would let on. We wrote about schools across the city that have struggled with unsafe conditions. We wrote about schools where violence is not just a threat in the hallways, but in the classroom.
There's lots going on in the Philadelphia School District.
As you've read by now, a threat was made on Philadelphia School District Arlene Ackerman's life this weekend. Details are sketchy, but we do know that an e-mail was sent to the district's website this weekend specifically mentioning the superintendent. Security is stepped up at district headquarters today (http://www.philly.com/philly/news/breaking/20110404_Security_stepped_up_a_School_District_in_face_of_threat.html).
It hasn't been a good stretch of weeks for Dr. Ackerman. A $629 million budget gap for 2010-11, The Inquirer's Assault on Learning (http://www.philly.com/philly/news/special_packages/inquirer/school-violence/118812644.html) series, which described pervasive violence in many district schools, and now this. Like Dr. Ackerman or not, this a chilling development. You may think the superintendent earns too much (a complaint readers often mention to me), but this is no way to deal with it.
Join Kristen Graham for a chat at noon Monday on the Philadelphia School District. On mobile? Click here to join. Read the Inquirer's investigative series on violence in Philadelphia public schools here.
Today, our seven-part Assault on Learning series concludes with my colleague Jeff Gammage's inside look at South Philadelphia High, where on Dec. 3, 2009, anti-Asian violence rocked the school and attracted national headlines. Jeff and I covered the South Philly incident closely, often taking the school district to task for what happened that day and what happened for the rest of the year.
Otis Hackney, a Philadelphia native and on Dec. 3 the principal of suburban Springfield High in Montgomery County, was named principal beginning this school year. Mr. Hackney and the district allowed Jeff to spend the year inside the school. (Jeff spent so much time at Southern he eventually got a locker!) The story - which you can find here - http://www.philly.com/philly/news/special_packages/inquirer/school-violence/20110402_sv2011_7.html?c=r - made me hopeful. The school is not perfect, and in fact it faces great change as a Promise Academy next year - but Jeff's story shows that while the school has not forgotten the terrible acts of that terrible day, it has recovered in many ways. A strong principal, a committed faculty, and a group of students who want to learn made that happen.
Along with the rest of the Assault on Violence team, I heard from a lot of people as the series ran. Some said they felt hopeless or depressed. Hold on, I told them. Read Jeff's story, and read Part 6, about solutions that are working, both here and in other urban districts. (Find that here - http://www.philly.com/philly/news/special_packages/inquirer/school-violence/119030714.html?c3)