Tuesday, October 6, 2015

POSTED: Wednesday, August 12, 2015, 12:49 PM

Pennsylvania's highest court will decide whether the School Reform Commission can cancel its teachers contract, it said in a brief order issued this week.

What does it mean?

Had the Supreme Court declined to take a crack at the case, the SRC's Oct. 2014 move to nullify the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers' contract would have been null and void. Commonwealth Court in January sided with the PFT, keeping at bay the commission's move to cancel the teachers' contract and impose changes to teachers' healthcare plans.

POSTED: Wednesday, July 8, 2015, 1:42 PM
Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. is shaking up his leadership team. ( CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer / File )

Significant changes continue at the Philadelphia School District, with Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. Wednesday announcing a number of personnel shifts, hires and other moves.
Hite expanded the number of “learning networks” — groups of schools arranged by geography or theme — to 13 from 8, and has hired a crop of new asssistant superintendents to oversee them.
He’s also shuffling his cabinet around. Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn recently announced his resignation, and will not be replaced.
But Naomi Wyatt, former human-resources chief, will become chief of staff, a new position for Hite. Fran Burns, the chief operating officer, will add duties as “executive sponsor for finance,” in the wake of Chief Financial Officer Matthew Stanski’s departure.
Sophie Bryan, who had been special assistant to Hite among other roles, is now Chief External Relations Officer, replacing Rodney Oglesby, the former government relations staffer who left the district.
Evelyn Sample-Oates becomes director of the Office of Advocacy and External Engagement. Karyn Lynch, the Chief of Student Services, will oversee the Office of Parent and Family Services.
Hite also made some interim appointments. Wayne Grasela, the former senior vice president for food services, becomes acting deputy chief operating officer. Amy Virus takes over Grasela’s former job.
And Kendra-Lee Rosati, who had headed recruitment for the district, becomes acting human-resources chief.
Karen Kolsky, a former assistant superintendent, will be acting chief of the neighborhood learning networks.
New learning network assistant superintendents are Racquel Jones, who had worked in Baltimore City public schools; Randi Klein-Davila, the former principal of Hackett Elementary; and Jeff Rhodes, who comes from Michigan and recently completed doctoral work at the University of Pennsylvania will all lead groups of neighborhood schools.
Other new assistant superintendents will lead specialized networks. Chris Lehmann, the nationally-acclaimed founding principal of Philadelphia’s Science Leadership Academy, will remain a principal of that school and add responsibility for the Innovation Network.
Eric Beacoats, who worked for a charter management group in Illinois and was superintendent of Durham, N.C. schools, will lead the Turnaround Network of struggling schools. Christina Grant takes over the Opportunity Network of alternative schools. She comes to Philadelphia from the Great Oaks Foundation, where she was superintendent.
Cheryl Logan, who had been a neighborhood assistant superintendent, moves over to lead the Autonomy Network — a group of strong schools given charter-like flexibility in budgeting and curriculum.
Salary information was not immediately available.

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POSTED: Wednesday, July 8, 2015, 8:24 AM
Chris Lehmann , founding principal of Science Leadership Academy. MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer

Expect more changes in the Philadelphia School District, with Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. scheduled to announce news about the schools' "learning networks" - groups of schools organized by geography or theme.

Acclaimed Science Leadership Academy Principal Chris Lehmann has said that he will lead the Innovative Schools Network. Lehmann is SLA's founding principal; he will remain as co-principal and Aaron Gerwer, who had worked as an intern under Lehmann, will join him as co-principal.

"The work we will now do as part of the Innovative Schools Network is a continuation of the belief in the agency and ability of the students and families of Philadelphia," Lehmann wrote in a letter to SLA families and posted on his blog. "It is my pleasure to be able to continue to serve as principal of SLA and to now help other school communities serve their students in powerful, modern ways."

POSTED: Tuesday, July 7, 2015, 3:57 PM
File photo: Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan. ( (David Maialetti)

Every Philadelphia public school could have a full-time counselor in September, and dozens of laid-off counselors stand to be re-hired if a recently-issued arbitrator’s decision stands.

Handing the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers a significant victory, the independent arbitrator ruled that district was out of bounds when it bypassed seniority in recalling laid-off employees, and that it is in violation of its contract for failing to have one full-time counselor at every school, union officials confirmed Tuesday.

The district has vowed to appeal the decision, throwing into doubt whether the changes will be in place when school opens in the fall.

POSTED: Thursday, July 2, 2015, 1:57 PM
Schools Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. (Stephanie Aaronson/staff)

Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. has gotten his report card: solid, but no straight As.

And though he was eligible for a performance bonus, Hite declined to take one, citing the Philadelphia School District’s dire financial straits.

The city schools leader was evaluated by the School Reform Commission in six areas: student growth and achievement; systems leadership; district operations and financial management; communication and community relations; human resource management; and professionalism.

POSTED: Wednesday, July 1, 2015, 1:38 PM
Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn has resigned from the Philadelphia School District.

Philadelphia School District Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn has resigned his position, officials confirmed Wednesday.

Kihn, who was Superintendent William R. Hite Jr.'s second-in-command, has been with the district for three years. He was paid $210,000, and is leaving to spend more time with his family, who are moving back to Washington, D.C.

Kihn came to the district from the global consulting firm McKinsey & Co.

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.”

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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