Archive: December, 2011
Tucked in today's story about "Occupy 440" - a group of school nurses' protest against the Philadelphia School District's latest round of budget cuts - was a line you may have missed:
District spokesman Fernando Gallard said the Promise Academies had had "significant cuts," including the elimination of the entire central office staff that supervised those schools, which was also axed as of Dec. 31.
Promise Academies, of course, are district-run turnaround schools, the signature initiative of former Superintendent Arlene Ackerman. They operate with extra money and staff in an effort to turn around years of failure - and to combat years of inadequate resources. The first six Promise Academies opened in 2010; three more opened this fall. (Ackerman wanted to open 11, not three, but budget woes caused the School Reform Commission to drastically scale back that plan.)
Waving signs and chanting “save our nurses,” about 50 people gathered outside Philadelphia School District headquarters today to protest the latest round of budget cuts.
They called it "Occupy 440." The protest was not organized by Occupy Philadelphia, but some Occupy Philadelphia protestors joined the cause on North Broad Street.
Effective Dec. 31, 141 employees - including 47 nurses, 28 secretaries, 18 non-teaching assistants, and others — will lose their jobs.
And then there were five.
Feather Houstoun was just confirmed as a School Reform Commission member by the state Senate. The former William Penn Foundation chief and Pennsylvania welfare secretary is expected to attend the SRC meeting scheduled for Friday.
It will be the first time since early this year that the SRC has a full five members. David Girard-diCarlo resigned this winter, then Robert L. Archie Jr. and Johnny Irizarry more recently.
In an e-mail to the Inquirer, former Superintendent Arlene Ackerman has said she did not order pay raises given to some Philadelphia School District employees over the past few months and said that allegations against former district Human Resources executive Estelle Matthews are "serious."
Matthews was escorted out of district headquarters last week; a spokesman said she was "allowed to resign" from her job. The district's Inspector General recently gave the School Reform Commission the draft report from an investigation that found several questionable pay increases totaling more than $80,000 to Matthews' friends and their relatives. The raises were given at a time when thousands of employees were being laid off and schools were being ordered to cut programs and staff to close a $629 million district budget gap.
There were also allegations that Matthews' son was given district jobs despite lacking qualifications.
Germantown High business teacher Sharon Ann Daniels uses the lesson plans in her freshman seminar class and the personal finance class she teaches to older students.
Districts across the country and schools around the world will eventually be invited to join the network, Wharton officials say.
Kristen Graham, Susan Snyder and Martha Woodall
Estelle Matthews, the Philadelphia School District's Human Resources chief, is out.
It's not yet clear the circumstances surrounding her departure, but Matthews' last day was yesterday, a district employee who answered Matthews' phone said.
District spokesman Fernando Gallard said he could not confirm Matthews' departure.
Left to languish, some Philadelphia School District buildings have become dangerous neighborhood eyesores, a review of vacant school properties found.
In the review released this morning, City Controller Alan Butkovitz found that two schools are “drug havens” with “extremely unsanitary conditions,” including used syringes, needle caps, human waste and piles of garbage. Drug parapharnelia was found at the Rudolph Walton School, 2601 N. 28th Street, and the Simon Muhr School, 12th and Allegheny.
Three schools have become “locations for crime” with robbery, theft, drug possession and assault occurring on site.
Kristen Graham and Susan Snyder
Kelley Hodge, who was until recently assistant chief of the Philadelphia District Attorney's Juvenile Court Unit, has just been named Philadelphia's Safe Schools Advocate.
The state-appointed independent watchdog position has been vacant for more than two years.
In her new role, Hodge will advocate for victims of crimes inside city schools. She's also charged with monitoring the district's compliance with reporting violent incidents to the city and state.