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Archive: April, 2013

POSTED: Tuesday, April 30, 2013, 12:37 PM

After a significant two-year battle, teachers at the New Media Technology Charter School in West Oak Lane have voted to unionize, the Pennsylvania American Federation of Teachers said Tuesday.

The vote was 26 to 3, and is significant because of how it occurred.  New Media's teachers had asked to be recognized under public labor law, but the school contended that New Media was a private entity - even though it receives more than $5 million in public money. 

The New Media vote was the first in the state to be held according to private labor law.  It was overseen by the National Labor Relations Board.

POSTED: Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 12:45 PM
2011 file photo: Among the 28 students who took a leap of faith by leaving their neighborhood high schools are Kenrick Tan (left) and (from right) Rasheed Bonds, Angelina Rementer, and Allen Robinson. (April Saul / Staff Photographer)

     A city nonprofit with growing clout will spend $6 million to expand two successful public schools and turn another Philadelphia School District program into a full-fledged high school, officials announced Wednesday.

    The Philadelphia School Partnership’s money will grow the Hill-Freeman magnet middle school in East Germantown into the high school grades; add a second campus of the Science Leadership Academy; and turn the Workshop School, now in its second year as an alternative senior-year project, into its own high school.

    Philadelphia School Partnership, which is well on its way to raising $100 million to invest in strong charter, public and nonpublic schools across the city, has also signaled its intent to give away another roughly $2 million to district schools affected by the School Reform Commission’s move to shut 24 buildings. That money will fund grants to schools receiving large numbers of students from closing schools.

POSTED: Friday, April 19, 2013, 10:22 AM
Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary School. (Photo from http://webgui.phila.k12.pa.us)

Bethune Elementary School, on Old York Road in North Philadelphia, was on lockdown for an hour this morning after staff observed a trespasser inside the school. The lockdown began at 8:45.

Police were called, and an adult male was discovered outside the school.  He was arrested for trespassing, and the lockdown was lifted at about 9:45, said Chanice Savage, a district spokeswoman.

It was unclear what the trespasser was attempting to do inside Bethune.

POSTED: Thursday, April 18, 2013, 2:43 PM
After 100 days on the job, Philadelphia School District superintendent Bill Hite talks with reporter in his office January 2, 2013 ( TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer )

(Scroll down for live-tweet coverage)

6 p.m.

(Update from briefing with superintendent, chief financial officer)


POSTED: Monday, April 15, 2013, 3:41 PM

Hi, all.  Tonight, I'll be livetweeting the School Reform Commission's strategy/policy/planning meeting, which will tackle the subject of career and technical education (also known as vocational education.)

We talk a lot about kids being ready for college, but we know that strong career and technical ed programs are crucial for many kids. And the Philadelphia School District has acknowledged that its programs need to be significantly strengthened.

So, follow along here, or on Twitter. On a mobile device? Click here. You can also stream the meeting directly at the district's website.


POSTED: Wednesday, April 10, 2013, 1:02 PM
District headquarters for the School District of Philadelphia
A newly-formed umbrella group of many of the city’s leading education nonprofits hopes to affect the upcoming Philadelphia teachers’ contract.
The “Coalition for Effective Teaching,” made up of the Aspira Association, Congreso de Latinos Unidos, Education Voters of Pennsylvania, Public Citizens for Children and Youth, and the Urban League of Greater Philadelphia, has studied the current Philadelphia Federation of Teachers contract and is today announcing recommendations for changes, both for teachers and the Philadelphia School District management.
The Coalition says this is a critical moment for Philadelphia, an “opportunity to adopt reforms that will improve the capacity of the district’s teachers and principals to make a more signifcant contribution to student success and achievement.”
The highlights of what the Coalition is recommending for the PFT contract, which expires in August:
--The group believes that “the district should not have to ask its employees to reduce their pay to balance the district budget.” That’s key, because the district’s opening proposal recommended pay cuts of up to 13 percent, plus benefit contributions of that much.  Instead, the group says, “more funds must be made available to the district to enable it to attract and retain high achieving staff.” There’s no explanation as to where those funds might come from, but the district has said that it will request $120 million more from the state and $60 million more from the city - and those numbers assume big givebacks in the contract already.
--The group believes that class size should not increase, but that exceptions should be made for “blended learning” opportunities - instances when classroom instruction is combined with online or other innovative forms of instruction. This should only be done “to increase student access to high quality courses and instruction.”
--It also recommends the elimination of seniority-based hiring. That is, a move to universal site-selection, the process now in place in some instances in the district that allows principals and their teams to hire the teachers they feel are a good fit for the school, rather than teachers choosing from open positions by seniority, with no principal input.  “This will ensure that in all cases, the teacher is a good fit on the school’s instructional team,” the group says.  Similarly, the group wants to end any transfer/rehiring policies that now overrule the decisions of site selection committees. This would eliminate seniority rules governing staff reductions.
--The group believes that a teacher’s pay should only be increased for new degrees and certifications “in cases where research demonstrates that the degree correlates to gains in student achievement.”  It also wants to create new pay grades rewarding teachers who move into teacher leader positions, to bolster professional development.
--Outside of the contract, the group also recommends changes it wants the disrict to effect, including implementing “an effective principal evaluation program.”  It also wants management to find more money to reward principals deemed effective on multiple evaluation measures, including school safety.  It also wants the district to be able to remove ineffective principals.
--The group also wants the district to help develop better teacher evaluation skills, and to “create the expectation that all teachers be evaluated fairly and honestly so that they clearly understand their strengths and areas in which they might improve.”
--The group also calls for principals to be held more accountable for keeping their schools safe. It calls for the district to tie safety to principal evaluations, and in the district’s toughest schools, require principals to adopt “proven practices” to calm violence and promote a positive school climate.  Under the coalition’s proposal, principals who haven’t shown progress in making their schools safer would be removed.
--The group wants the district to attract and keep the best teachers and principals.  It acknowledges that fixes have been attempted in the past decade, “yet the improvements are not substantial enough to ensure that Philadelphia can successfully hire the best teachers and principals.” It wants the district to rely on expert organizations to devise a plan for recruitment of “promising teachers of diverse backgrounds.” New teachers should get better orientation and a full year of coaching, as well as stronger teacher training.
--To bolster public confidence in these reforms, the group calls on the School Reform Commission to “adopt a meaningful process for tracking progress on these reforms that provides for regular public reports.”
More from the group’s formal announcement, scheduled for 1 p.m., soon.

A newly-formed umbrella group of many of the city’s leading education nonprofits hopes to affect the upcoming Philadelphia teachers’ contract.

 The “Coalition for Effective Teaching,” made up of the Aspira Association, Congreso de Latinos Unidos, Education Voters of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Education Fund, Public Citizens for Children and Youth, The Urban League of Philadelphia and the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey has studied the current Philadelphia Federation of Teachers contract and is today announcing recommendations for changes, both for teachers and the Philadelphia School District management.

POSTED: Monday, April 8, 2013, 5:43 PM
SRC Chairman Pedro Ramos speaks at Thursday's raucous public meeting on school closings while general counsel Michael Davis, and Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. (right) listen.

Tonight, the School Reform Commission will be hearing from parents, teachers and community members in two more formal school closing hearings - for M.H. Stanton Elementary, in North Philadelphia, and Beeber Middle School, in West Philadelphia.  (They were late additions to the closing list, and so not voted on when the SRC moved to shut 23 schools last month.)

I'll be livetweeting; follow along here or on Twitter. On a mobile device? Click here.

Earlier today, my colleague Karie Simmons covered a press conference where concerned citizens - and Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell - said they will continue to try to halt the closings.


POSTED: Thursday, April 4, 2013, 11:06 AM

Two city schools in Feltonville were locked down and police besieged a home in the neighborhood Thursday after four students reported a woman had pointed a weapon at them on their way to school, police said.

Using a robot, police, however, determined no one was in the house and declared an all-clear just before noon.

Police later executed a search warrant at house on the 4600 block of Ella Street but left empty handed.

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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