Sunday, December 21, 2014

POSTED: Friday, May 2, 2014, 3:50 PM
Edward Steel Elementary School on Wayne Avenue in Philadelphia. Google StreetView

Parents at a Philadelphia School District school that might have been turned over to a charter have voted decisively - they want Steel Elementary to remain a traditional public school.

In all, 129 parents wanted Steel to remain a district school, and 54 wanted to it turned over to Mastery Charter Schools.The district announced the results Friday afternoon.

Some parents filed a grievance over the voting process, saying the district changed rules mid-stream.

POSTED: Wednesday, April 30, 2014, 4:12 PM

The School Reform Commission on Wednesday night will get an earful from parents and community members horrified at the Philadelphia School District's proposed budget.

The numbers are daunting: the district needs $216 million in new money to get to this year's admittedly inadequate level of services. (That would mean still no full-time counselors or nurses in every school, or enough basic supplies.) If the district wants to begin to fulfill Superintendent William R. Hite Jr.'s Action Plan v.2.0, the spend is $440 million.

The possible sources of that money - city and state lawmakers, and the district's teachers' union - all largely say they have done their job in funding the schools.

POSTED: Friday, April 25, 2014, 11:21 AM
Taryn Flaherty holds a sign urging funds for school while in a jammed room for an Aug. 2013 news conference. The school district's budget, released this morning, indicates the district needs millions in new money just to maintain current services for the next school year and that more layoffs are likely if that money doesn't come. ( CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer )

Philadelphia School District officials introduced their 2014-15 budget Friday morning, and it was just as grim as promised. It projects operating revenues of $2.5 billion and expenditures of $2.8 billion.

The school system needs $440 million in new city and state money to provide just a few more services than they currently do. To maintain the current level of funding, which does not allow for counselors or nurses in every school or adequate supplies, the district needs a total of $216.2 million in new money.

And if it doesn't get the funds? Officials said there was hardly anywhere to cut but where it hurts most.

POSTED: Tuesday, April 22, 2014, 2:34 PM

Philadelphians want the School Reform Commission abolished and the city's public schools returned to local control, the teachers' union said Tuesday.

Nearly 97 percent of over 3,000 city residents surveyed over three months favor a return to local control for the Philadelphia School District, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers officials announced. PFT members and members of PCAPS, the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools, conducted the survey.

Most of those polled said that if the SRC is abolished, they favor either an elected school board or a combination of an elected and appointed school board.

POSTED: Tuesday, April 15, 2014, 1:58 PM

Philadelphia voters are down on the School Reform Commission and Gov. Corbett, and side with city teachers in their contract dispute with the Philadelphia School District.

The news comes from a new poll of registered voters commissioned by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and conducted by Hart Research Associates.

Corbett, the poll found, gets low marks from city voters on education issues. In all, 74 percent of the 554 registered voters surveyed said they are either fully dissatisified or somewhat dissatisifed with how the governor has handled public education. And, pollster Guy Molyneux says, 62 percent of voters say Corbett's handling of education has made them less likely to support him for re-election in November, including 53 percent of voters who are not registered Democrats.

POSTED: Monday, April 14, 2014, 5:31 PM
Bill Green, head of the SRC. Two local education-reform organizations have filed papers asking the state Supreme Court to act quickly on the School Reform Commission's request to affirm it has broad powers to impose work-rule changes. (file)

Two local education-reform organizations have filed papers asking the state Supreme Court to act quickly on the School Reform Commission's request to affirm it has broad powers to impose work-rule changes.

The Philadelphia School Partnership and PennCAN (Pennsylvania Campaign for Achievement Now) on Monday filed an amicus curiae - friend of the court - brief with the high court. PSP and PennCAN, in the brief, noted the organizations are "deeply concerned that the ongoing and annually-worsening city school budget crisis - and the intractable labor disputes that always accompany it - will continue to erode the state of public education in Philadelphia."

The SRC has moved to make broad changes, including bypassing seniority for Philadelphia School District teacher assignments, transfers, layoffs and recalls. The commission asked the state Supreme Court to declare definitively that the 2001 law that created the SRC gives it the power to do make those changes.

POSTED: Wednesday, April 9, 2014, 2:26 PM
Ozzie Wright, a retired Philadelphia principal and respected climate specialist, has been brought in to help calm the climate at Bartram High. (April Saul/Inquirer staff)

Ozzie Wright knows Bartram High. He was raised in the neighborhood, and when he returned to Philadelphia from military service, he lived in a house near the school on S. 67th Street.

And when the retired Philadelphia principal and Army captain heard about what was going on at Bartram this year - fights and open marijuana smoking and a "conflict resolution specialist" knocked unconscious by a student - his reaction was typical: shock, dismay.

"I hate to see these things happen in any school," said Wright.

POSTED: Thursday, April 3, 2014, 4:08 PM
These frame grabs from Tuesday's melee were taken from the video posted on social media.

Trouble continues at Bartram High, where a "conflict resolution specialist" was knocked unconscious on March 21.

A brawl erupted in the school cafeteria on Tuesday, with teens punching and stomping on each other and school police. The fight occurred at lunchtime, and was captured by a cell phone camera, with footage posted on social media.

It appears serious, with dozens gathered, and several students exchanging punches. A male school police officer attemps to separate them as the room fills with screams. In short order, a larger brawl erupts between mostly female students. A female police officer attempts to break up one skirmish, then others. At one point, the female police officer appears to fall to the floor.

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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