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Inquirer Daily News

Archive: July, 2011

POSTED: Sunday, July 31, 2011, 8:45 AM

I came back to town after a week's vacation to (yet another) rumor that Philadelphia Schools chief Arlene C. Ackerman is leaving the district.  This time, the information was posted on Facebook by radio personality E. Steven Collins. The beleaguered superintendent is out, Collins said.

Not so, says district spokeswoman Shana Kemp.

"That information is not true.  Sounds like a continuation of the rumors that started a little while ago," Kemp said in an e-mail to The Inquirer early this morning.

POSTED: Friday, July 22, 2011, 2:18 PM

UPDATE, 4:10 p.m.

A state lawmaker on Friday called for Mayor Nutter and Gov. Corbett to have Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman fired.

Rumors that Ackerman's departure is imminent have been swirling for weeks. 

POSTED: Friday, July 22, 2011, 6:15 PM

Some folks have had a hard time getting paychecks from the Philadelphia School District lately.

More than 2,700 district employees were laid off June 30 to close a $629 million budget gap, and many were 10-month employees who are paid over 12 months.  They were promised “summer rollover pay,” a lump sum due no later than Friday.

But on deadline day, some people still had no checks, and lines stretched out the payroll office, with a district security guard managing the crowd, which also included retirees who were shorted money.

POSTED: Thursday, July 21, 2011, 6:38 PM

The parent of a Philadelphia girl has sued her charter school for expelling the five-year-old from kindergarten. It’s the second such lawsuit against First Philadelphia Charter School for Literacy.

According to court documents, the school expelled the girl in May for allegedly “inappropriately touching” another kindergartener. The the school did not give the girl a hearing, said her attorney, Jennifer Lowman of the nonprofit Education Law Center of Pennsylvania.

The lawsuit was filed yesterday and identifies the student, a girl, as "J.J."

POSTED: Tuesday, July 19, 2011, 5:41 PM

The Philadelphia School District and at least one of its unions have agreed to a contract modification that includes givebacks from employees.

Robert McGrogan, head of the Commonwealth Association of School Administrators local, said Tuesday that his union and the district recently agreed to terms that would amend the contract in place through August 2012.

McGrogan will present the agreement to his members at an Aug. 3 meeting.  In the meantime, members’ “step increases” — pay raises given to members based on years of service — have been frozen.

POSTED: Friday, July 15, 2011, 6:36 PM

A seat in the kindergarten class of Penn Alexander, one of the Philadelphia School District’s best schools, has long been coveted. The school has the benefit of a partnership with the University of Pennsylvania, which contributes $1,330 a year for each student enrolled at Penn Alexander.

But many families who paid a premium for houses in the Penn Alexander catchment area in West Philadelphia had faith that even if kindergarten wasn’t a shoo-in, their children would have a spot by first grade.

But now, the school’s kindergarten through third grade classes are full.  New students will have to attend the nearby Lea School, which lacks the resources of Penn Alexander, has lower test scores and a shabbier building. One neighborhood group is trying to bolster Lea and Alexander Wilson, another school in West Philadelphia, but their efforts are just beginning.

POSTED: Thursday, July 14, 2011, 2:34 PM

Pennsylvania Education Secretary Ronald Tomalis today said he has ordered all PSSA exams from 2009 on reviewed for possible testing improprieties.

"It's very concerning," Tomalis said of possible cheating in an interview.

Tomalis had already ordered 40 districts and nine charter schools flagged for possible cheating in a forensic analysis of 2009 PSSAs to investigate testing irregularities.  Now, he wants forensic analyses done for the 2010 and 2011 PSSAs, as well.

POSTED: Wednesday, July 13, 2011, 5:56 PM

Two things.  

THING ONE: One-hundred four summer school teachers have been laid off as a result of lighter-than-expected student attendance and a resulting “rightsizing,” spokeswoman Shana Kemp said.  The teachers were laid off effective Tuesday.  Some have questioned the wisdom of spending $18 million on an 18-day program that provides not just academics but enrichment activities, also.  I wrote about that here and here.

In the face of the criticism, Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman sent a letter to district staff today re-emphasizing why it’s one of her top priorities (she called it an “important and wise investment,” even in the face of a brutal (more than $600 million) budget gap.

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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