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Inquirer Daily News

Archive: January, 2013

POSTED: Thursday, January 31, 2013, 4:41 PM

Philadelphia Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. met with Phillies lefthander Cole Hamels and others from the pitcher's foundation today, and officials proclaimed it "a very positive meeting."

The foundation started by Hamels and his wife Heidi has given hundreds of thousands to city public schools in recent years - money for playgrounds and libraries, audio equipment, gardens and other school improvements. 

But a number of the schools the foundation donated to have landed on the list of 37 schools the district wants to close in June.  Taylor Elementary in North Philadelphia, for instance, just got a $300,000 playground installed thanks to the foundation, and it could shut its doors forever at the end of the school year.

POSTED: Monday, January 28, 2013, 1:53 PM
Sylvia Simms, with her granddaughter, founded Parent Power to get parents more involved with kids' education. (Jimmy Viola / Staff Photographer)

A shakeup is coming to the Philadelphia School Reform Commission, the Inquirer has learned. 

Commissioner Lorene Cary, who had taken a leave of absence for medical reasons, will not be reappointed.  Her term is up at the end of the month" .  In her place, Mayor Nutter will appoint Sylvia P. Simms, a parent advocate.

Wendell Pritchett, whose term is also up this month, will be reappointed to the SRC.

POSTED: Wednesday, January 23, 2013, 7:17 PM

Days after a woman was stopped from entering South Philadelphia High when a gun was discovered in a diaper bag she was carrying, another loaded gun was recovered just outside the school, authorities said Wednesday.

“We probably prevented a tragedy, a homicide or a shooting,” said Chief Inspector Cynthia Dorsey, head of the Philadelphia School District’s police force.

The gun was found last Friday when a school police officer observed a young man outside the school at Broad and Snyder at about 3 p.m., near school dismissal time.

POSTED: Friday, January 18, 2013, 6:01 PM
Last year: Parents camped out overnight to sign their children up for kindergarten at the Penn Alexander school. (Charles Fox / Staff Photographer)

By Friday morning, 70 people had lined up on Locust Street to register their children for kindergarten at one of the city’s most sought-after public schools.

By mid-afternoon, there were tents, chairs, takeout food containers, an RV, and a man erecting a temporary structure complete with plywood floors and insulation.

Kindergarten registration doesn’t begin until Tuesday.

POSTED: Thursday, January 17, 2013, 3:37 PM
FILE: Chairman Pedro Ramos, left, presides over a meeting of the School Reform Commission. CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer

Ready for a marathon SRC meeting?  On the agenda tonight: non-renewal vote for Community Academy of Philadelphia Charter School, the city's oldest charter; new plan for Career and Technical Education (that's vocational education); and a whopping 81 speakers, many of whom I'd guess will be discussing planned school closings.  I'll be livetweeting - follow along!  The meeting is scheduled to begin at 5:30.

On a mobile device? Click here to follow along.



POSTED: Wednesday, January 16, 2013, 10:18 PM
William R. Hite Jr. says his Phila. school plan is workable and revenue-neutral. (Tom Gralish / Staff Photographer)
In the wake of the Na'illa Robinson abduction from Bryant Elementary School - an event that officials said revealed serious breaches in Philadelphia School District protocol - the superintendent has sent an email reminding all staff of safety procedures.
Five-year-old Na'illa was taken from her classroom by a woman who identified herself only as "Tiffany."  No school leader was present; the teacher in Na'illa's classroom that day was a substitute. District procedure forbids the release of a student from a classroom.  It also requires the principal or someone he or she designates witness the release of the student from the school's main office.
Schools chief William R. Hite Jr. wrote in an email sent tonight that:
"As part of the ongoing effort to ensure that student safety is an integral part of each school's mission, it is necessary to regularly review school safety plans and District policy. It is crucial that all school staff be aware of safety policies and procedures, as well as their role in implementing them, in order for schools to provide a safe environment for students and staff.

A policy which must be included for review on a regular basis is the Special Release of Pupils, Policy #103.5. This policy is located at http://www.philasd.org/offices/administration/policies/principals/103-5.html. Staff members must be aware of this policy and their role in implementing it.

Policy 103.5 details the steps that must be followed when any individual seeks the early departure of a student. Staff members are reminded of the following:

POSTED: Tuesday, January 15, 2013, 2:36 PM

When a woman calling herself “Tiffany” took a 5-year-old girl from a West Philadelphia School, protocol failed several times, a spokesman said Tuesday.

The unidentified woman, who was dressed in a black burqua, did enter Bryant Elementary school through the main doors and sign in with an aide stationed at a desk just inside the entrance, said Fernando Gallard, Philadelphia School District spokesman.

But visitors must then proceed to the main office, and instead, the woman asked for directions to the kindergarten classroom of Nailla Robinson, and went directly to the little girl’s room.

POSTED: Tuesday, January 15, 2013, 10:21 AM
Thomas Knudsen (left), the district's "chief recovery officer," and former district CFO Michael Masch (right), who is now a "special adviser" to Knudsen. (Sarah J. Glover / Staff Photographer)

I wrote yesterday about former Philadelphia School District CFO Michael Masch's appointment as vice president and CFO of Manhattan College in New York. Masch took issue with the piece, and wrote the following response, which I am posting in its entirety below. It's the first time that Masch has spoken out against criticism of his financial stewardship of the district.

Here's what Masch had to say:

"I was disappointed and surprised to see that, in the Inquirer’s 1/14/13 Philly School Files piece about my new position at Manhattan College, the decision was made to once again repeat some of the false claims that have been made about my record of service to the School District of Philadelphia as its Chief Financial Officer from 2008 to 2011. 

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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