Education Week takes notice that Philly’s acclaimed Science Leadership Academy has dumped its Mac laptops for new Chromebooks that cost about a third as much. The new Dell Chromebook 11 was just announced to the world today.
The New York Times reports on a Penn study showing that MOOCs—”massive” online courses provided cheaply or freely by elite universities—aren’t really democratizing education the way it had been hoped. Instead, they’re democratizing dropouts: Only 4 percent of users actually completed the courses.
Screenwriter, film director, producer, and Philadelphia native M. Night Shyamalan takes on the education problems in Philadelphia after publishing his first book, I Got Schooled: The Unlikely Story of How a Moonlighting Movie Maker Learned the Five Key Steps to Closing America’s Education Gap.
Shyamalan who has provided scholarships for students through foundation work, was inspired to get more involved with education after experiences visiting inner city schools. He argues that no inner city education system for low-income kids is working, and presents the five things that he learned, that if applied together, would provide for a stronger public education.
A master of storytelling, Shyamalan weaves together complex topics, while also providing the tools for his audience to conduct his or her own research.
Heidi Hamels will hate the way this story begins.
But this is where her story must begin, because without it, the farm girl never becomes a celebrity, which is how she meets a handsome young man with a wicked changeup who asks her to marry him, and that handsome man doesn’t win a World Series, or tell his wife that her passion is his passion and yes, to take briefcases full of his money and create a foundation that will, without exaggeration, save the lives of children in a far-away country he’s never stepped foot in, and to adopt an orphan from another far-away country, and while she’s at it, to give a little hope to the rundown public schools in the city they now call home.
So the story starts here: Heidi Strobel, as she was known then, standing on a wooden perch in the middle of a blackwater river in the Amazon, hungry and exhausted in the way that makes you do strange things, preparing to take her clothes off for Oreo cookies and peanut butter and a soda in front of what would later be a national television audience. To everyone watching—maybe even herself—it seemed as though she’d traded her dignity for a snack and a morsel of fame, without knowing she was actually about to take her first step toward something much bigger. Naked and unafraid, Heidi jumped.
Heidi Hamels would prefer to begin just about anywhere else, like the first time we meet. Though she usually avoids the word “celebrity,” that’s what she is, and has been, to varying degrees, since her appearance on season six of CBS’s Survivor 10 years ago. We are introduced at XIX, the restaurant high atop the Bellevue with stunning views of the skyline, where Heidi has just been honored as one of the city’s most fashionable women by Nicole Miller Philadelphia. The 35-year-old looks the part—perfectly put-together in a silvery-gray dress that shows off her toned figure, kleig-light smile, blond hair extensions spiraling across her slim shoulders. When Heidi stands up from her table to greet me, she shimmers. “Would you like some food?” she offers, before ordering steak frites and a glass of cabernet. “Do you mind if I eat while we talk?”
By her side is G-N Kang, the director of operations for the Philadelphia office of the Hamels Foundation, the nonprofit Heidi and her husband, 29-year-old Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels, launched in 2008. G-N opens her chrome-shelled MacBook and scrolls through photos from the foundation’s latest trip to Malawi, in September. The African nation holds a number of unwanted distinctions, including more than half a million children orphaned by AIDS and the title of eighth poorest country in the world. I know these things because Heidi tells them to me in a breathless burst, like a five-year-old who just can’t wait to tell you a story! Her passion project is a $3.5 million primary school her foundation is building in the village of Namunda, where young girls are more likely to become prostitutes than high-school graduates. Many Malawian children are raised by their grandparents, because their parents are dead. Every graduate of a Hamels Foundation school will have seven skill sets that will hopefully translate into jobs someday. G-N finally speaks, explaining that the act of fetching water there requires a five-mile walk, then five more back home. “Great point, G-N,” Heidi says. “Such a great point. Glad you brought that up.”
Some people would describe Heidi as a “force of nature.” Others might call her simply annoying—so unrelenting with all the Africa stuff. Okay, yes, we get it, you’re saving the world. But consider that Forbes recently named the Hamels Foundation “an athlete charity that actually works,” because 100 percent of the money it raises is invested in Africa and the places Heidi and Cole have called home—San Diego and Philadelphia and Springfield, Missouri. Of all the athletes and their wives in this town, only two other couples—Chase and Jen Utley and Jimmy and Johari Rollins—have achieved such name-recognition status. They also run their own worthwhile charities. But the Hamelses have both local and global goals, and live like they preach—last fall, they adopted an orphaned baby girl from Ethiopia. Their annual “Diamonds and Denim” fete has become one of the city’s must-attend social events. Heidi and Cole are the closest thing Philadelphia has to Brangelina. As Heidi later tells me, “I hate to even use another celebrity in an interview, because you don’t want to take their idea as your own, but Angelina Jolie one time said, ‘I hope nobody remembers me as an actress. I hope everybody remembers me as a U.N. ambassador.’”
Yes, she says “another celebrity,” as if she and Angie are in the same club. Perhaps you find that distasteful or laughable—or honest, because it’s true, to a degree. Heidi doesn’t really care what you think of her, as long as the foundation’s mission—her mission—is understood. Somewhere in the middle of her Malawi filibuster at XIX, Heidi shares two anecdotes that help tell her story, to explain how she went from reality-TV star to international do-gooder. We’ll save one tale for later. The other happened after she’d finished Survivor, when she asked the show’s host, Jeff Probst, why she’d been selected to compete.
“He said they picked me because I was strong and tough,” she says, “but that the GP—that’s the general public—wouldn’t believe a pretty blonde could be smart. That’s when I knew I was in trouble.”
Paul Vallas, who was the superintendent of Philly schools once upon a time, has proven a lightning rod of controversy in his latest stop, Bridgeport, Conn. Tomorrow’s school board election is widely seen as a referendum on his future there.
Earlier this week, the principal at Inglewood Elementary School in Montgomery County sent a letter home to parents telling them: There won’t be any Halloween this year. But, according to a new statement from the North Penn School District, of which Inglewood is a part, the principal was mistaken. Read more »
On Wednesday, the MacArthur Foundation announced the 24 recipients of its “genius” grant, a $625,000 no-strings-attached award given to “individuals who show exceptional creativity in their work and the prospect for still more in the future.” Read more »
The fallout hasn’t stopped from the two Coatesville school administrators who used racial and sexual slurs in texts with each other. Hundreds of people showed at the Coatesville school board meeting Tuesday night to demand the two men be fired—instead of accepting their resignations—and that they be denied their pensions. According to reports, school board members said they accepted the resignations in order to clean house quickly, and that they don’t have any control over the pension disbursement. (Only one of the men, former Superintendent Richard Como, was eligible for his pension anyway.)
Dissatisfied, speaker after speaker, they demanded the board to fire Como and Donato. When board members voted to allow Como and Donato to resign, the parents we spoke to were outraged.
Mikeysa Wilson of Coatesville said, “I don’t have anything to say anymore, they should have fired them.”
Claire Bessick of Coatesville added, “They should be fired, they did wrong, you do wrong on your job, don’t you get fired?”
Board members did not comment following the meeting but hours before the vote, they explained that Como and Donato, as public officials, cannot be terminated without due process. They went onto say that in their view, the best solution was to allow the two to resign and in doing so, not waste tax dollars on legal costs and put the focus back on students.
The West Chester Daily Local News adds:
Before the board members had the chance to vote on the resignations, two whistleblowers revealed themselves in front of the crowd, drawing a roaring applause. Acting Assistant Superintendent Teresa Powell and Director of Technology Abdallah Hawa took the podium to announce that they were the sources who had provided the Daily Local News with the controversial text message transcripts that were published Sunday.
“I am a single parent with three young children here in Coatesville, and they depend on me to take care of them. So I have had to wrestle with whether or not I was going to come up and speak to you about the truth,” Powell said. “I said a few minutes ago that a little integrity is better than any career, because I absolutely love my job, but I love being a person with integrity even more.”