Kristen Graham and Martha Woodall
In a stunning move that could reshape the face of city schools, the Philadelphia School Reform Commission voted Monday to unilaterally cancel its teachers’ contract. The vote was unanimous.
The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers was given no advance word of the action — which happened at an early-morning SRC meeting called with minimal notice — and which figures to result in a legal challenge to the takeover law the SRC believes gives it the power to bypass negotiations and impose terms.
Jerry Jordan, PFT president, called the move "cowardly" and vowed to fight it strongly.
A School Reform Commission meeting for "general purposes" has been scheduled for this morning at 9:30.
The next regularly scheduled meeting was October 16, but Monday's meeting was called very recently - advertised in a small legal notice in the Sunday Inquirer and with a press release sent by Philadelphia School District staff shortly after 7 a.m.
On Twitter, Philadelphia School District watchers have already begun expressing fury that the meeting was arranged so hastily and with so little public notice.
Lincoln High School in the Northeast was evacuated because of a bomb threat, officials said.
A school staffer received an email saying that devices had been placed around the school, said Police Officer Rafeeq Strickland. Police were notified at 1:45 p.m. and were at the school by 1:48 p.m..
Outside the school at Rowland and Ryan Avenues, a helicopter hovered and about 15 police cars were on the scene. Students and staff were told to keep 300 feet from the building.
The Philadelphia School District's budget crisis isn't just pinching students and teachers. It's also affecting the school system's bond rating.
Fitch Ratings this week downgraded the district's underlying bond rating to BB-. The district's rating outlook remains negative, Fitch analysts said.
"The downgrade of the underlying rating largely reflects the continued deterioration of the district's already tenuous financial position," a Fitch report said. "The district's plans to achieve structural balance rely heavily on its continued ability to achieve dramatic expenditures savings, particularly gaining significant negotiated concessions from the teacher's union. Fitch believes the level of cooperation needed to fully realize these plans will likely not be forthcoming, resulting in continued negative operations and increased accumulated deficits."
Hill-Freedman World Academy, a magnet school in Northwest Philadelphia, has won a National Blue Ribbon Award from the U.S. Department of Education, Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced Tuesday.
It was one of several schools in the area to score the presitigious honor. The others are Franklin Towne Charter High School in Philadelphia, Merion Elementary School in Lower Merion, Mount Saint Joseph Academy in Flourtown, and Norwood-Fontbonne Academy in Philadelphia.
Long a middle school, Hill-Freedman is in the process of expanding to educate students in sixth through twelfth grades. It currently has middle school students and high school freshmen and sophomores, 400 students split between two buildings.
The results of the Philadelphia School District's 2014 state exams are in: overall, city students' performance dipped slightly.
Both reading and math scores dropped, and fewer than half of all students met state standards.
In reading, 42 percent of students met the bar set by the state on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, down from 42.3 percent. In math, 45.2 percent met standards, down from 46.9 percent.
With the passage of the all-important cigarette tax - expected to be signed into law this morning by Governor Corbett - does the Philadelphia School District still have a deficit? ($81 million was the number officials had been stressing.)
Yes, and no.
SRC Chairman Bill Green said on Tuesday that even with the cigarette tax money - the district estimates it will collect $49 million this school year - a gap remains.
Eliminate the School Reform Commission?
Not so fast, Chairman Bill Green said.
Responding to a City Council vote to place on the November ballot a nonbinding referendum asking Philadelphia voters whether they want schools returned to local control, Green was emphatic: the SRC isn't going away yet, and he's not threatened by Council's move, which was spurred by 40,000 city residents signaling they wanted to weigh in on the issue.