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Where did thousands of students from closed schools go? First reports are in

By Paul Socolar on Dec 23, 2013 11:54 PM

Just-released 2013 enrollment numbers from the School District show that the overwhelming majority of students displaced from closed schools ended up in other District schools.

The new reports on District, charter, and alternative school enrollments reveal some significant movement of students between schools this year and include the first publicly released data about where the students who were displaced by 24 closings in June have ended up.

District: 'It is paramount that we find out what happened to cause this tragic death'

By Paul Socolar on Oct 18, 2013 04:40 PM

Responding to calls for a formal inquiry into the Sept. 25 asthma-related death of Bryant Elementary student Laporshia Massey, who apparently became ill at school, the School District released the following brief statement on Friday, saying it is investigating -- and cooperating with other investigations:

The School District is concerned about the death of any student, no matter where and when that happens. Especially when a child is dismissed from school and dies several hours later, we take it very seriously out of concerns for the child and his or her family and for our students and staff. Because we want to ensure the safety of all children, it is paramount that we find out what happened to cause this tragic death. We are doing what is necessary to investigate what happened, and we are cooperating with all involved city and state agencies, as we always do, upon the death of one of our students. From our review to date, we are certain that our staff at Bryant are not the cause of the student’s death, and we will continue to address all concerns arising out of this tragedy.

Countdown, Day 3: Class-size challenges and split grades loom

By Paul Socolar on Sep 6, 2013 04:00 PM

The School District's staff has shrunk by 3,000 since June, with 17,144 employees (full-time equivalents) now on the payroll. That's a 15 percent staffing cut. The District has not yet released information about how many of those eliminated positions were teachers.

But when schools open the doors to students on Monday, classrooms will be feeling the pinch from reduced staff in a few different ways.

Countdown, Day 8: Push is on for an agreement in teacher talks

By Paul Socolar on Sep 1, 2013 10:31 PM

Talks are continuing between District negotiators and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers on the eve of Labor Day observances and a mass union membership meeting. Both parties released similar statements saying they plan to keep talking until they reach an agreement.

The teachers' contract expired Saturday. Teachers are expected to report to work on Tuesday.

Sunday evening, a District spokesperson emailed, "The talks are ongoing. It is our intention to continue to meet until we have an agreement."

Countdown, Day 9: Teachers' union prepared to negotiate through the weekend

By Paul Socolar on Aug 31, 2013 12:03 PM

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and the School District's bargaining team returned to the negotiating table on Saturday, the day the union's contract is set to expire.

Neither side has reported progress. Union spokesperson George Jackson said the PFT "plans to continue negotiating through the weekend," but also said the District has not offered any kind of contract extension. 

Countdown, Day 10: Citywide, number of school secretaries is down by 30%

By Paul Socolar on Aug 30, 2013 03:23 PM

As the School District secured the first installments of desperately needed new revenue this summer, one of the first steps taken was to rehire one secretary for each of the 213 schools -- a recognition of the vital role they play in school operations. The cost was $17.6 million.

As schools prepare to open for staff members on Tuesday and for students on Sept. 9, those secretaries are back on the job. The District has estimated that three-fourths of schools saw the return of one of the secretaries from last year.

"It’s based on seniority," said Robert McGrogan, who heads the principals' union, CASA. "The most senior got to stay at their home school." 

Mayor Nutter sticks with his plan to borrow $50 million, rejects property transfer idea

By Paul Socolar on Aug 16, 2013 06:37 PM

Mayor Nutter and key staff members came to meet Friday with the editorial team at WHYY and the Notebook to explain and defend his strategy for securing additional funding for the School District.

Both the mayor and City Council have assured the District that it will get an additional $50 million from the city, but they still disagree about how to raise that money. Counting the $50 million, efforts this summer to bring additional revenues to the District have so far generated only $80 million of the $180 million requested by Superintendent William Hite, so most of the cuts made to balance the budget are still in place.

Clarke's plan aims to raise $50M while getting District out of real estate business

By Paul Socolar on Aug 9, 2013 06:35 PM

City Council President Darrell Clarke responded Thursday to Superintendent William Hite's urgent plea for $50 million in aid from the city by laying out a new proposal for generating city funds for schools through the purchase and then sale of vacant District properties by the city.

Clarke came out in opposition to Mayor Nutter's plan to raise funds for the schools by borrowing against a proposed 1 percent city sales tax extension that has been authorized by the state legislature.

SRC renews five charters; recommends non-renewal for Imani

By Paul Socolar on May 15, 2013 07:58 PM

[Updated 12:59 a.m.] 

The School Reform Commission approved staff recommendations Wednesday night, voting to renew five charter schools and beginning the non-renewal process for one, Imani Education Circle in Germantown. Late in a six-hour meeting, the commission also approved providers for two new Renaissance charters.

Although 16 Philadelphia charter schools have applied for renewal this year, only six of those came up for a vote Wednesday.

The five renewed are: Antonia Pantoja, Christopher Columbus, Eugenio de Hostos, Maritime Academy, and Universal Institute charters. One thing these five schools have in common is that they have all agreed to abide by an enrollment cap throughout the duration of the five-year charter. District officials have explained that it is impossible to manage its budget crisis without predictable enrollment at charter schools.

The District’s central office grew in 2012, budget documents show

By Paul Socolar on Apr 30, 2013 05:07 PM

For the last 18 months, District officials have frequently highlighted the steps they've taken to slash the central office bureaucracy as a way of dealing with an enormous budget gap that came to light in 2011.

They did not highlight their decision to change course and add some jobs back.

The big budget book: 10 things to consider

By Paul Socolar on Apr 29, 2013 09:40 AM

With City Council convening Monday morning for its annual hearings on the School District and its finances, at least a few journalists and local activists spent part of the beautiful spring weekend preparing by trying to make sense of the District’s just-released 350-page “consolidated budget” for the coming year.

It’s dense and dry, but the document does give a detailed picture of what the District looks like now and what’s ahead. A somewhat easier read is the District's "budget in brief," but that got posted online too late on Sunday to be previewed.

Schoolhouse Watch: New forum to discuss old, vacant school buildings

By Paul Socolar on Apr 17, 2013 11:16 AM

As Germantown High School and 21 other schools across the city face closure this summer, the central Germantown business district is one of many facing a major new threat of neighborhood blight. Philadelphia has had more than a dozen school buildings sitting vacant, and the health and safety issues and economic impact from closed schools are topics of growing concern.

A new website launched this week, Schoolhouse Watch, promises to help generate neighborhood-friendly solutions for reusing these vacated properties. The site is designed to include a page with resources and discussion for each of the closing buildings.

A multi-city reporting project will look at expanding learning time

By Paul Socolar on Apr 5, 2013 04:22 PM

In conjunction with partner education news organizations in other cities, the Notebook is launching a year-long reporting project to write about the issue of expanding learning time.

We will join Catalyst-Chicago, EdNews Colorado,  GothamSchools, and EdSource Today (which covers California) in this collaboration, supported by a grant from the Ford Foundation, which has made “more and better learning time” a priority in its philanthropy.

Expanding learning time for students, especially those in low-income communities, has emerged as a major reform initiative. Some argue that additional time that is wisely used can be a key lever for educational equity.

Atlanta officials could face jail time in standardized test cheating scandal

By Paul Socolar on Mar 29, 2013 08:25 PM

Former Atlanta schools superintendent Beverly Hall and 34 other Atlanta teachers and administrators were indicted Friday by a Fulton County grand jury for their role in that city's massive test cheating scandal - charged with conspiring to manipulate test results to make the school system look better than it was.

According to press accounts, Hall could face up to 45 years in prison for racketeering and other charges for her involvement in what is alleged to have been a decade-long conspiracy. She and the others have until Tuesday to surrender to authorities.

The District’s budget: Key facts and figures

By Paul Socolar on Mar 29, 2013 11:33 AM

The School Reform Commission adopted a $2.66 billion “lump-sum budget” Thursday evening. The lump-sum budget provides overall projections for revenue, expenses, and any surplus or deficit, but does not include a detailed breakdown. The detailed budget typically comes in late April and must be adopted by May 31.

From the budget and Thursday's presentation by District staff, here are some key numbers on this year and how officials propose to close a huge gap for next year.

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