Saturday, August 29, 2015

POSTED: Wednesday, July 1, 2015, 11:29 AM
Exposed insulation was found at Beeber Middle School in West Philadelphia. Exposed asbestos was found at Key Elementary in South Philadelphia. (Philadelphia City Controller's office)

City Controller Alan Butkovitz Wednesday detailed what he said were "hazardous and unsanitary" conditions inside Philadelphia schools.

He said he found immediate health hazards that went unaddressed by the Philadelphia School District.

Over four months, members of the Controller's staff visited 20 schools throughout the city as a followup to a 2008 report citing problems with school facilities. Things were much the same, Butkovitz said.

POSTED: Thursday, June 25, 2015, 11:57 AM

One of the the city’s top high schools just got more support for its newest venture, a middle school launching in the fall.
Carver High School for Engineering and Science, which is expanding to serve 120 seventh and eighth grade students in September, was awarded $200,000 from the Philadelphia School Partnership.
That’s on top of a $147,000 grant PSP, a deep-pocketed nonprofit, already awarded to Carver to fund planning for the middle school.
The newest award will support more planning as the school develops, Principal Ted Domers said.
“There’s a void of meaningful STEM \[science, technology, engineering and math\] education in the city and across the country,” Domers said. “We think this is an opporunity to doing something that no one else is doing.”
Carver middle school students will take engineering and computer science classes from the moment they walk in the door. They’ll take algebra as eighth graders. Eventually, that will mean more advanced classes for them as high schoolers.
“The only reason our kids can’t accelerate quicker is because we can’t expose them quickly enough,” Domers said.
Going forward, there’s no reason a sophomore Carver student won’t be able to take a class like Advanced Placement computer science as a sophomore, Domers said.
By their senior year, students who start at Carver in middle school should be able to spend more time on independent study or internships outside of the classroom.
To date, PSP has spent $35 million on schools of all types in the city, including $20.6 million on charter schools, $11.9 million on district schools and $3 million on private schools.
PSP is regarded warily in some education circles, regarded as anti-teachers union and pro-charter at the expense of traditional public schools.
But it has money to spend, and real influence.
PSP officials said they were pleased to invest in Carver, a district school with a proven record of innovation.
“Carver serves predominately low-income students in Philadelphia who don’t often have enough opportunities to explore the sciences, so we are thrilled to give more students access to this opportunity at an early age,” said Jessica Pena, director of the group’s Great Schools Fund. “Principal Domers engaged thoughtful planning partners — including teachers, taff and families — in developing the vision and curriculum for the new middle school. We are excited for the school to welcome new students and families this fall.”

POSTED: Thursday, June 18, 2015, 5:33 PM

Happy final student day of the Philadelphia School District year. The School Reform Commission is marking this auspicious occasion with its regular monthly voting meeting, featuring a packed agenda.

Top on most people's minds is the consideration of a resolution that would pay up to $34 million for a two-year contract with Source 4 Teachers, a Cherry Hill firm, to manage substitute services. If adopted, this move would effectively outsource more than 1,000 jobs now held by union workers.

Needless to say, it's attracted enormous controversy.

POSTED: Tuesday, June 16, 2015, 2:35 PM
The School Reform Commission holds a public hearing Tuesday, April 28, 2015, on its plan to close Kensington Urban Education Academy and consolidate it with Kensington International Business, Finance and Entrepreneurship. (Steven M. Falk/Staff Photographer)

The planned closure of Kensington Urban Education Academy High School - scheduled for this week - has been pushed back a year, the Philadelphia School District told parents and students Tuesday.

Community pressure caused the shift, officials said. The school will still close, merging with Kensington International Business, Finance and Entrepreneurship High School, but the two schools will become one in September 2016.

In a letter to the school community, Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said that the planning year "will provide more time to collaborate with students, staff, families and community stakeholders on the design for a new academic program at the merged school."

POSTED: Monday, June 15, 2015, 4:40 PM
James Well, 8, jumps through water from a fire hydrant in South Philadelphia on Friday, June 12, 2015. Philadelphia public schools will close at noon on Tuesday due to foretasted high temperatures. (YONG KIM / Staff Photographer)

Because of forecasted high temperatures, Philadelphia public schools will close at noon on Tuesday, officials announced.

Most city schools lack air conditioning.

Schools with graduation ceremonies planned for Tuesday have the option of remaining open for the ceremonies. Call individual schools to confirm graduation schedules.

POSTED: Wednesday, June 10, 2015, 12:58 PM
Philadelphia School District officials have said that it would cost $17 million to put full-time, unionized nurses in every public school. (File photo)

When he was in kindergarten, Sabrina Jones' medically fragile son had a rotating cast of private-duty nurses at his Philadelphia public school.

"It just wasn't a good experience," said Jones — too little consistency, no real connection with her son, who has a feeding tube. But when her son moved to a school that had a full-time school nurse, things improved dramatically.

"The relationship between the nurse and my child is essential," said Jones, whose son is now a fourth-grader at Lingelbach Elementary in Germantown. "How could you think replacing school nurses could possibly help children?"

POSTED: Tuesday, June 9, 2015, 4:37 PM
"I'm not sure it's ever been done before, to have the auditor general at the disposal of City Council," Schools Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said. "We welcome the scrutiny." (STEPHANIE AARONSON/Staff Photographer)

Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. heard City Council clearly - they're skeptical of how the millions they've provided over the past several years have been spent.

Council's concerns were raised anew in the past few weeks, as they consider Mayor Nutter's proposal to hike property taxes to give the schools an additional $105 million. That plan appears dead in the water, with Council officials saying they are more likely to enact a plan that includes a more modest tax hike, coupled with a raise in the Use and Occupancy tax and possibly a jump in parking-lot taxes.

Hite and his team say they've provided every detail Council wants. But the Philadelphia School District chief had an idea: what if the state's top auditor would help give city officials assurances, too?

POSTED: Thursday, May 28, 2015, 1:31 PM
Chief Financial Officer Matthew Stanski said the analysis underscored the points officials were trying to make this week to a skeptical, frustrated City Council: they keep coming back for more money year after year because the money they receive isn’t enough to cover their fixed costs. (MICHAEL BRYANT/Staff Photographer)

In the face of steep revenue cuts, the city school system is now spending less to educate each student than it has since 2008, and benefits are costing it nearly $8,000 more per teacher than they did three years ago.

Mix lower revenues with rising fixed costs and the result is fewer dollars spent in Philadelphia School District classrooms, an outside analysis of district finances released Thursday found.

Chief Financial Officer Matthew Stanski said the analysis underscored the points officials were trying to make this week to a skeptical, frustrated City Council: they keep coming back for more money year after year because the money they receive isn’t enough to cover their fixed costs.

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

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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