Kristen Graham has covered the Philadelphia School District since May 2008. A native Philadelphian – and a product of the district and Temple University – she has written about everything from crime and county government to education since joining the Inquirer in 2000. If asked politely, Kristen, who has also spent time as an online producer at Philly.com, will sing as much of “Hail Northeast,” her high school’s alma mater, as she remembers. She comes from a family of teachers and believes there is no more difficult or important job than that of an educator.
Kristen is a Pulitzer Prize winner, part of a team whose "Assault on Learning" series about violence in the Philadelphia schools won the 2012 prize for public service for the Inquirer. During the school year, you’ll frequently find her chatting live on Philly.com about the district. Please do pass along the scoop about what’s going on at your Philadelphia public school; Kristen welcomes tips, story ideas and witty banter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-854-5146.
Beginning in Sunday's paper, The Inquirer will run a seven-day series on violence in the Philadelphia School District. It's the culmination of more than a year of reporting by me and four colleagues.
The December, 2009 racially-motivated violence at South Philadelphia High - which sparked national headlines and multiple investigations, including one by the U.S. Department of Justice - prompted us to take a closer look at the topic. When I told people what we were investigating violence in Philadelphia schools, some people would say something along the lines of "Why are you doing that? Everyone knows that urban schools can be very dangerous."
But we wanted to get beyond broad generalizations. What's it really like inside one of the largest school systems in the country?
What we found wasn't always what you'd expect. There are many success stories - schools in tough places that get it right, schools whose students feel safe all the time. (I think it's just as important to write about the best practices as it is to write about the terrible failings, and we did that.)
But there are many schools where violence disrupts learning frequently, where it's common for teachers to get assaulted and students to be harassed.
There's an extensive web presentation that will go live on Sunday - check the main page of Philly.com, or www.philly.com/schoolviolence. (Again, not live yet, but will be on Sunday.) But I'll be sure to post updates daily in this spot, and will welcome your feedback. This blog will be the central repository for comments - please do read and share your thoughts.