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Victory in court: Notebook v. District

By Paul Socolar on May 3, 2012 05:40 PM

The Notebook has prevailed in court for a second time in a legal battle with the District over the public’s right to see resolutions that are under consideration by the School Reform Commission.

Last week, Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer upheld a Philadelphia judge’s ruling in favor of the Notebook. Jubelirer’s ruling affirmed that once the District introduces a resolution before a public meeting of the SRC, it becomes a public record and is accessible under the Right to Know Law.

Budget: This is what austerity looks like

By Paul Socolar on Apr 24, 2012 05:01 PM

The District's transformation plan announced today includes a five-year budget plan. The District also published its annual 43-page budget-in-brief document today. Here are 10 details that stand out about this far-reaching plan to bring the budget, which now has a $218 million gap, back into balance:

Celebrated artist a product of Philly schools

By Paul Socolar on Apr 9, 2012 01:38 PM

Briefly mentioned in the catalog of Philadelphia's current blockbuster exhibit of the work of renowned African American artist Henry Ossawa Tanner is the fact that Tanner attended Roberts Vaux Consolidated School, from which he graduated in 1877.

That makes him possibly the most acclaimed visual artist ever to graduate from the Philadelphia public school system.

Charters, turnarounds and closings to keep SRC busy

By Paul Socolar on Jan 20, 2012 01:54 PM

While the School Reform Commission's focus over the next few months will be trying to pull the District back from the brink of financial catastrophe, there will also be plenty of other important - and controversial - work to be tackled.

SRC crafts criteria for new superintendent

By Paul Socolar on Jan 13, 2012 02:09 PM

The School Reform Commission has drafted six criteria for the superintendent the District is preparing to hire, as well as a more detailed timeline for the search.

The draft criteria, outlined in a recent presentation by commissioners Lorene Cary and Feather Houstoun at the Philadelphia Education Fund, emphasize the need "to coordinate and motivate a diverse group of managers of different types of schools in different types of settings."

Race to the Top funds: No budgetary relief

By Paul Socolar on Jan 4, 2012 06:24 PM

The promise of federal Race to the Top funds awarded to Pennsylvania late last month represents a shadow of its former self.

On December 23, the state announced that it received a $41.3 million federal grant under that initiative, with a major focus on improving teacher and principal evaluation. The grant is to be disbursed over four years, with half of the money going to Pennsylvania school districts and half going to the state.

update to post

By Paul Socolar on Dec 21, 2011 09:14 PM

The new School Reform Commission is intent on demonstrating that it’s serious about transparency – even on relatively arcane matters.

SRC: Serious about transparency

By Paul Socolar on Dec 21, 2011 02:12 PM

[Updated 12/22 with correction on Bill Green] The new School Reform Commission is intent on demonstrating that it’s serious about transparency – even on relatively arcane matters.

What happened at the SRC

By Paul Socolar on Dec 16, 2011 03:09 PM

UPDATED: For the first time since February, the School Reform Commission has its full cohort of five members. Friday afternoon's planning meeting was the first meeting for newly appointed commissioner Feather Houstoun. Resolutions introduced at the session will be voted on next Wednesday.

Some highlights of the meeting included testimony on budget cuts and look at a major planned shift in the commission's meeting schedule:

Houstoun approved to fill out SRC

By Paul Socolar on Dec 12, 2011 08:51 PM

Feather Houstoun, Gov. Tom Corbett's most recent nominee to the School Reform Commission, was confirmed today by the Pennsylvania Senate. She becomes the fourth new commissioner added since September, rounding out the five-member panel.

Houstoun, a Republican, has a long history as a public official in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and until earlier this year headed the Philadelphia-based William Penn Foundation.

Principals get bad budget news

By Paul Socolar on Dec 1, 2011 07:01 PM

Philadelphia's principals today got the grim news in an email that their operating budget for the current year is being cut again – anywhere from 1 to 3 percent.

The email, from Acting Superintendent Leroy Nunery and Chief Financial Officer Michael Masch, also announced a significant reduction in school nursing services.

Upcoming events in October

By Paul Socolar on Oct 6, 2011 10:28 AM

The Notebook's calendar of events for October is now online. This month's activities include one more SRC meeting, the School District's high school fair, and special events by the Philadelphia Writing Project and Youth United for Change.

District sheds new light on contracting

By Paul Socolar on Oct 5, 2011 09:57 PM

Responding to years of criticism about obscure, unfair, and inefficient contracting practices, the District has this year for the first time released extensive details of its more than $300 million in annual expenditures going to outside providers of goods and services.

Layoff notices hit 848 blue-collar workers

By Paul Socolar on Sep 14, 2011 06:34 PM

For a second time this month, the School District has responded to a union's rejection of a giveback proposal by announcing a mass layoff: 848 members of District 1201 of SEIU Local 32BJ, which represents transportation, maintenance, and custodial workers, are receiving notices that they will be laid off in 12 months.

Schools, their principals and divisions for 2011-12

By Paul Socolar on Aug 26, 2011 03:10 PM

The School District has provided an updated list (XLS, PDF) of schools, their principals, and what academic division and assistant superintendent they are assigned to for the coming school year.

Some of the key changes:

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