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 »

SRC to Give Hite Five More Years at District Helm

Supt. William Hite spoke to reporters, unveiling "Action Plan 3.0."

Supt. William Hite.

For at least two consecutive years, the School Reform Commission has given Superintendent William R. Hite good marks for his leadership, with special praise for his management of the district’s still-precarious finances.

At its Dec. 17 meeting, the commission intends to express its continued confidence in Hite by extending his contract for a second five-year term. The SRC announced its intent this morning in a press release.

“It is crucial that we ensure leadership continuity in the The School District of Philadelphia,” SRC Chair Marjorie Neff  said in the written statement. “Dr. Hite has demonstrated strong leadership through an extraordinarily difficult time, provided sound fiscal oversight and implemented a vision that builds on our school system’s strengths with a focus on equity and high expectations.”

Read more »

The No-Bullshit Guide to Community Schools

A dentist peered into his two-year-old patient’s mouth and grimaced. Almost all of her teeth were rotten, and he hated to think what would have happened to her health had she not had access to this small dental clinic — a place that, despite its humble proportions and location (three chairs, tucked into a pre-K-12 public school called Oyler Learning Center), serves about 4,000 children a year.

When Philly Mayor-elect Jim Kenney and City Council President Darrell Clarke saw that clinic during a visit last month to Oyler, which is in Cincinnati, they were moved.

A week later, standing in the brightly lit gymnasium at Tanner G. Duckrey School in North Philly, flanked by prominent city leaders, including Superintendent William Hite, School Reform Commission Chair Marjorie Neff, and teachers union president Jerry Jordan, they were ready to rally the room.

“We can’t just wait for Superman. We have to fix this,” Kenney said. In front of a crowd of students and reporters, he formalized his campaign promise to bring 25 community learning centers like Oyler to Philadelphia by the end of his first term.

But what the heck is a community learning center? Is it just a buzzword?

Community learning centers like Cincinnati’s Oyler, also known as “community schools,” function simultaneously as schools and hubs that deliver resources to students, their families, and their neighbors.

At its best, the model is cost-efficient (it relies heavily on businesses, nonprofits and universities to carry service costs), customizable (each school has its own advisory board, which selects resources and chooses partners), and empowering (in Cincinnati, each advisory board annually reviews partner-school outcomes to decide if changes are necessary).

It’s an exchange: Locals get improved access to services that keep them healthy, and community partners get free facilities and a competition-free market.

In Philly, the closest thing we have to a community school is Sayre High School in West Philly, or South Philadelphia High. The first has a strong relationship with the University of Pennsylvania, and the second is led by principal (and Kenney’s soon-to-be Chief Education Officer) Otis Hackney, who has helped it partner with dozens of organizations over the last few years. Read more »

Nutter on My Brother’s Keeper: Progress, but More Work to Do


From left: Deputy Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel, Deputy Chief of Staff to the Mayor Christine Piven, Mayor Michael Nutter, assistant to President Obama Broderick Johnson and Superintendent Dr. William Hite. Photo | Fabiola Cineas

Philadelphia is standing up for young men and boys of color.

Statistics have long identified the plight of black men across the country — on average, one in three black men will have some level of contact with the criminal justice system at some point in their lives. In Philadelphia, 75 percent of homicide victims and about 80 percent of the known perpetrators arrested for violent crime are young black men.

These figures were at the crux of Mayor Nutter’s announcements yesterday about the city’s ongoing efforts to improve the lives of young men and boys of color. At City Hall he was joined by Broderick Johnson, Assistant to President Obama and Chair of the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force; Christine Piven, Deputy Chief of Staff to the Mayor and My Brother’s Keeper Philadelphia’s Project Director; Superintendent Dr. William Hite; Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey; and Deputy Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel.

“One shooting, or one homicide is one too many,” said Mayor Nutter, “we have work to do.”

Nutter’s words came on the day after his successor, Jim Kenney, was officially selected. Yet Nutter made it clear that his support for initiatives around helping young men and boys of color wouldn’t dwindle even after his term. Read more »

Insider: Darrell Clarke Won His Needless School District Power Play

City Council President Darrell L. Clarke. | Copyright of the Philadelphia City Council. Produced and Edited by Michael Falconi

City Council President Darrell L. Clarke. | Copyright of the Philadelphia City Council. Produced and Edited by Michael Falconi.

(Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from a Citified insider.) 

The laughter and colliding high-fives you heard recently in the vicinity of lower North Broad Street were those of Council President Darrell Clarke and school boss William Hite (+ entourages) celebrating their sealing of an agreement that allows Council greater access to school budget figures, management details and provide general fiscal oversight.

Clarke says the agreement “is a document that will not only get a consensus, but it will actually require that we see each other a whole lot.” There will be quarterly reports to council on hiring and meetings to discuss those reports and handle general inquiries. CFOs will meet with CFOs, and so forth.

Politicians being practitioners of “the gesture,” there was a real-live signing ceremony to communicate that this was a Very Big Deal. In case we weren’t properly impressed, Clarke and School Reform Commission Chief Marjorie Neff later jointly announced the agreement was “historic.”

The Clark/Neff announcement contains language suggesting the practical independence of the School Reform Commission has been diminished. Phrases like “our common goal,” “we will continue to fight,” “we cannot do this work alone,” all indicate a new concord that has these two in tandem, in agreement on the direction of the district. The governor still appoints a majority of the commission, but the new guv is a Democrat and that’s a difference that makes all the difference.

Given that Clarke, for months, held hostage $25 million to coerce this deal, one might think it was actually — well — significant. It ain’t. City Council has “forever” had annual hearings to review district requests for cash. They’ve always had the legal right to say “nope, not gonna do it.” The mere fact that Council interdicted district loot is proof they have all the clout they really need. Read more »

Insider: What Philly Mag’s Awful Cover Reveals About School “Choice”

School District of Philadelphia

Photo by Jeff Fusco

(Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from a Citified insider. Check Citified next week for a different take from at-large City Council candidate Helen Gym.)

My first reaction to the cover of Philly Mag’s new issue was, wow, they can’t be serious. But that reaction was followed by the realization that the photo ironically represents an unfortunate reality: in Philadelphia, the ability to choose a school for your child – the topic of the issue – too often belongs to those who can afford it, a whiter and wealthier population than the city as a whole.

As the articles show, the school choice process in Philadelphia is really complicated, even for those with the resources to navigate it. There’s a myth that increased options are THE problem; the variety of schools of different types with separate applications have made it too complicated for families. The common refrain goes, “Why can’t we just make all neighborhood schools great? Then we wouldn’t have to worry about navigating choices, applications and deadlines!”

That argument ignores this fact: those with the ability to buy it have always had and taken advantage of school choice. By buying a home in a different school district or paying for a private education, middle and upper-income families like mine have exercised school choice for decades. Today, even in neighborhoods with the strongest neighborhood schools, many families are choosing another public option. For example, according to the most recent data available, less than two-thirds of public school students living in the top-performing Greenfield Elementary neighborhood catchment attend the school, while the other 36 percent are choosing a charter, magnet or transferring to another neighborhood school. And I would bet that a very significant number of families in this Center City neighborhood are choosing a private school.

Read more »

3 Huge Problems With the Charter School Movement

[Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include comment from PIDC.] has a story this week that distills many of the troubling qualities of the charter school movement down to a disturbing essence.

Yes, it’s that bad.

This deeply reported piece by Alex Wigglesworth and Ryan Briggs zooms in on one school and one deal: the academically well-regarded String Theory Charter School, which is housed in a high-end eight-story office building at 16th and Vine. This is the same building that not long ago was the North American headquarters for GlaxoSmithKline. It would be eyebrow-raising enough if the taxpayer-funded String Theory were merely leasing such high-end digs. But the school — or, technically, a separate nonprofit run by two of the school’s board members — actually owns the tower, and acquired it through a $55 million tax-exempt bond deal. Read more »

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