School District Cutting Ties with Sorely Underperforming Sub Contractor

William Hite, Superintendent of Philadelphia Schools, in the Pennsylvania Capitol meeting with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and state legislators seeking funds for Philadelphia Schools during state budget talks Sunday, June 29, 2014, in Harrisburg, Pa. AP Photo | Bradley C. Bower

Philadelphia School District Superintendent William Hite | Photo by Bradley C. Bower/AP

The Philadelphia School District is parting ways with Source4Teachers, a private group hired in 2015 to supply substitute teachers for classrooms, the Inquirer reported on Friday.

The decision to outsource substitutes was criticized from the start by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, whose members used to fill in for absent district teachers. But the district was confident that privatizing that service would pay off. It agreed to pay the Cherry Hill-based firm $34 million for two years. In turn, Source4Teachers agreed to fill 75 percent of vacant classrooms on the first day of school last fall and 90 percent by the beginning of this year.

It failed in spectacular fashion. The Inquirer reported in September that the firm only filled 11 percent of classrooms on the first day of school. In February, Newsworks reported that the fill rate had barely climbed above one-third by the end of last year. A substantial number of schools had single-digit fill rates, and some schools have practically gone without substitutes, according to the Newsworks report.

“I am committed to resolving the substitute teacher staffing challenges long facing our schools,” Superintendent William Hite told the Inquirer. “Our effort to improve substitute coverage this year fell woefully short.”
Read more »

Bill Green: I’m Taking Tom Wolf to Court Over SRC Ouster

Bill Green | City Council Flickr

Bill Green | City Council Flickr

Update: Governor Tom Wolf has responded to Bill Green’s claims that he lacked the authority to unseat him as chair of the SRC. A statement issued by his spokesman Jeffrey Sheridan reads:

“Governor Wolf used his authority, as provided by statute, to appoint the chair of the School Reform Commission and to bring new leadership to the school district, which has been devastated by education cuts. Even now, after the governor has fought for greater investment in education at all levels and started to restore the funding Philadelphia lost, the district is in dire financial straits and our children are at a disadvantage. Due to misguided and poor decisions made by Harrisburg politicians, the district has been forced to lay off educators, cut important programs and slash transportation, security and other vital services. Governor Wolf will continue fighting for more funding for education and to provide a new path forward for Philadelphia’s schools.”

Earlier: Last spring, after the School Reform Commission he chaired had approved five new charter schools in Philadelphia, Bill Green was removed from his role as chair by Governor Tom Wolf and replaced with fellow commissioner Marjorie Neff.

Wolf was said to not want any new charter schools approved. Neff had voted against the new charter applications. At the time, Green, a former Philadelphia City Councilman, had said he planned to challenge the governor’s authority to make such a move. Then some time passed, and that challenge never came. Fast forward one year, and Green, in an oped in today’s Inquirer, says his challenge is coming now.  Read more »

Wait, How Many Public School Students Are Truant?

Photo | It's Our City via Flickr / Creative Commons

Photo | It’s Our City via Flickr / Creative Commons

There was a moment during Monday’s marathon City Council hearing on youth gun violence that could have been punctuated with the jarring sound of an old record being scratched.

First Assistant District Attorney George Mosee told City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson and other members of Council’s Committee on Public Safety that on any given day, almost 50 percent of Philadelphia public school kids aren’t in school.

The district has roughly 134,000 students. If that number were accurate, the city’s truancy problem would be indescribably bad, even by Hunger Games standards.

Karyn Lynch, chief student support officer for the School District of Philadelphia, testified that Mosee’s estimate was wrong — like, dramatically wrong. The council members repeatedly quizzed both Mosee and Lynch about truancy, exposing a simmering tension between the School District and the D.A.’s Office over how to drive down the number of kids who skip school.

We tried to sort things out today. Read more »

From Playgrounds to Play Spaces

Co-Play at Haverford Bright Futures

One possible future for the Haverford Bright Futures Center playground is this proposal, “Co-Play at Haverford Bright Futures,” one of three finalists for the Mill Creek site. Photos | Courtesy Community Design Collaborative

The last time the Community Design Collaborative ran its Infill Philadelphia design competition, they asked the entrants to get wet. This time, they want them to go out and play.

“Play is a really important component the city of Philadelphia should have in its public spaces for people who raise children,” said Alexa Bosse, program associate at the Collaborative and manager of its Play Space program. “It’s also a way to activate public spaces so people develop community ties.”

The mother of 3-year-old twins knows whereof she speaks. “Even though I lived in my community for a decade before I had kids, the connections I made at the playground were valuable.” Read more »

Ex-Philly Teacher Cleared of Most Charges in Cheating Trial

Philadelphia School District Building

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Ary Sloane, a former Philadelphia School District teacher accused of illegally changing answers to improve test scores, was found not guilty of most charges on Thursday in Common Pleas court. Her attorney, Michael Coard, called it a “stunning victory for justice” and a “stunning defeat for the attorney general.”

Sloane was found not guilty of tampering with public records and forgery, but received a guilty verdict on conspiracy charges.

“Guilty of conspiracy,” Coard wrote in a text to Philadelphia magazine. “To do what? We’ll fight to get that inconsistent — and illegal — verdict reversed prior to the 5/9 sentencing. And we’ll win!” Read more »

5 Takeaways From Kenney’s Chamber of Commerce Speech

Photo Credit | Matt Rourke, AP

Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

In his first few weeks as mayor, Jim Kenney didn’t announce many new or surprising initiatives. On Inauguration Day, City Council Darrell Clarke unveiled more ambitious plans than Kenney did; just last week, it was Clarke — not Kenney — who rolled out a massive jobs plan in the mayor’s reception room.

During his speech at the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce’s annual mayoral luncheon on Wednesday, Kenney had an opportunity to change that. Past mayors have used the event to reveal some of the ideas up their sleeves. In fact, a spokeswoman for Kenney said last month that he didn’t provide more specifics on Inauguration Day because he planned to do so at two other events: the chamber talk and his budget address.

So did Kenney follow through? Here are five takeaways from his speech to the Chamber of Commerce: Read more »

Philly School Under Lockdown After Officer’s Gun Was Stolen

Kensington Urban Education Academy. Photo | Google Street View

Kensington Urban Education Academy. Photo | Google Street View

UPDATE: The lockdown has reportedly been lifted.

ORIGINAL: Kensington’s Urban Education Academy is under lockdown after a school officer’s gun was stolen.

The officer was off-duty at the time of the theft. Philadelphia Police spokeswoman Christine O’Brien said the school officer left the gun in his car, however, he is unsure whether it was stolen outside of his home or outside of the school.

The school has been locked down as a precaution. Read more »

Philly Schools Are Closed Monday

Photo Jan 24, 11 48 59 AM

Good evening, Philadelphia. Here’s what we know — and don’t know — as sunset falls on a snow-blanketed region:

District and Catholic schools in Philadelphia will be closed Monday. The announcement from the School District of Philadelphia came late Sunday afternoon: “Due to the snowstorm that occurred over the weekend, all School District of Philadelphia schools are closed for Monday, January 25.” The Archdiocese of Philadelphia also announced that “Archdiocesan high schools and Catholic elementary schools in the City of Philadelphia will be closed tomorrow, Monday, January 25, 2016 due to ongoing travel difficulties associated with the weekend’s winter storm.” Also closed are all early childhood and after-school programs and all administrative offices.”

City employees, however, will be on the job: Mayor Jim Kenney declared at a Sunday morning press conference that City Hall will be open. CBS3 reports, however, that there will be no trash or recycling collection on Monday.  Read more »

Mayor Jim Kenney’s Inaugural Block Party


Monday night Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney celebrated his installment as the 99th mayor at an inauguration party at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. It wasn’t your normal Inaugural Ball: It was billed as an invite-only “block party” with nine food trucks, picnic tables and every sports mascot in the city dancing on stage with DJs Jerry Blavat and Patty Jackson to the tunes of the Sounds of Philadelphia. Before the general admission block party, the new mayor held a fundraiser on the terrace level where guests paid $5,000 each to attend, with proceeds going to the Fund for the School District. It was announced at the event that $650,000 had been raised so far.

Photos after the jump »

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