February 18, 2016 |
On the day that the Philadelphia School Reform Commission approved three new charter schools, the state Supreme Court issued a ruling Tuesday that could have grave implications for the cash-strapped district's finances and operations for years to come. The court ruled that the SRC had no legal power to suspend portions of the state charter law and school code. The ruling strips the commission of extraordinary powers it believed it had - and used. It was too soon to say exactly what the fallout for the school system would be - district lawyers offered no official comment - but early indications were ominous.
February 2, 2016 |
WHEN Superintendent William Hite announced that he had changed his mind about placing John Wister Elementary School into the "Renaissance" program and turning it over to Mastery Charter Schools, the school community rejoiced. He cited new data that showed the school had made significant growth. But at last week's meeting, School Reform Commissioner Sylvia Simms introduced an eleventh-hour resolution, approved by the SRC, to override Hite's decision. The resolution had not been posted before the meeting, and Chairwoman Marjorie Neff denied requests from members of the public to comment before the vote.
January 24, 2016 |
Sylvia Simms rarely speaks publicly at School Reform Commission meetings. But nearly five hours into a contentious session on Thursday night, the former Philadelphia School District bus aide dropped a bombshell, offering a walk-on resolution that altered the fate of a struggling Germantown public school. "I have pent-up emotions about the way the district has allowed many of our schools in low-income neighborhoods to fail our students and their families," Simms said. "Families are literally crying for alternatives, and they have shown us by their choices that they are not pleased by the way we are educating their children.
January 23, 2016 |
The School Reform Commission voted Thursday to begin the process of giving three struggling Philadelphia public schools to charter companies. Commissioners considered the fates of Jay Cooke, Samuel B. Huey, and John Wister Elementaries at a tense and raucous meeting attended by hundreds, with a long public session frequently interrupted by shouts, jeers, applause, and finger-pointing. Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. had initially proposed handing over all three schools, among the district's lowest performers, to charters, but changed his mind on Wister when recent school-performance data indicated some growth at the Germantown school.
December 22, 2015 |
Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. referred to a recent education bill passed by the Pennsylvania Senate as a "recipe for disaster. " That phrase also describes the School Reform Commission's decision to extend Hite's contract by five years, with two years remaining on the original. In a statement, SRC Chair Marjorie Neff said it was the right time to lock in Hite for the long term, lauding him for demonstrating "strong leadership through an extraordinarily difficult time. " I wonder if she feels the same about losing scores of superb classroom teachers who left to work somewhere they feel valued and respected, or the many more who retired because they couldn't take the conditions and mistreatment in the School District of Philadelphia anymore.
December 19, 2015 |
The Philadelphia School Reform Commission voted Thursday night to lock in William R. Hite Jr. as superintendent for five more years. Hite, who is paid $300,000 a year, is now under contract through August 2022. The vote was 4-0, with Chair Marge Neff absent. He will receive raises only if Philadelphia School District teachers do, and at the same rate. Teachers have been without a contract since August 2013. The superintendent has generally earned plaudits - Mayor Nutter said Thursday that "stability and sound leadership is precisely what the district needs to move forward and continue to make improvements in the quality of education it provides to our city's children," and praised Hite's leadership.
October 29, 2015 |
MAYOR NUTTER yesterday called for an end to the School Reform Commission, the state-mandated board created in 2001 to oversee the Philly school district. "It is now time to end the School Reform Commission in the city of Philadelphia. It's time for it to go," Nutter told an audience of education leaders during an education-policy speech at WHYY studios. The SRC was established when the state took over management of the district under a state law known as Act 46. Nutter has proposed that the process of returning control to the city begin in 2017 and that by September 2018 the locally controlled school board should be in place.
October 17, 2015 |
For more than four restless hours Thursday, anger at Philadelphia School District leaders simmered, at times boiling over. At a School Reform Commission meeting and at a union rally held before the meeting, teachers, parents, and community members expressed anger at the district's planned conversion of three schools into charters, at its handing over substitute-teaching services to a company that has underperformed, at its nurse staffing levels, and...
October 16, 2015
LAST WEEKEND, I saw "He Called Me Malala," a profoundly moving documentary about the life of Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani teenager who was shot through the head because she advocated for the education of young women. The Taliban made a huge mistake in trying to silence her. Not only did Malala survive, she won the Nobel Peace Prize, and is today a widely admired activist for change. Far from muzzling this one courageous voice, the Taliban managed to amplify it, sending it into thatched classrooms in Africa, the White House, onto the stage of the Constitution Center here in Philadelphia and throughout the halls of Buckingham Palace.
October 15, 2015 |
A LOCAL GROUP of education advocates has sent Gov. Wolf a letter asking for the removal of Farah Jimenez from the School Reform Commission because of her husband's association with charter schools. The Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools says it is also concerned about Jimenez's oversight of the school district's Charter School Office, which she details on her LinkedIn page. The group alleges in an Oct. 8 letter obtained by the Daily News that Jimenez, who was appointed to the SRC in February 2014 by former Gov. Tom Corbett, "has taken actions which raise additional problems with her continuing as a Commissioner.