What Governor Tom Wolf Means for Philadelphia

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Four years of Tom Corbett have, to put it mildly, been rough on Philadelphia. Chaos in the state-managed and largely state-funded school district. Cuts to social services that Philly’s high-poverty population rely on heavily. A general sense that the city’s worries and challenges were not a priority for a Republican governor from the other side of the state.

Well, Corbett is finished, in significant part because 88 percent of Philly voters cast their ballots for Wolf.

So how will the city fare with Governor Tom Wolf, a progressive Democrat, running Pennsylvania?

Better, probably, but not nearly as well as many imagine.

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Council Calling SRC, Teachers Back to Bargaining Table

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Photo | Jeff Fusco

It’s not easy to get unanimity from the Philadelphia City Council. But every single member has signed on to sponsor a resolution asking the School Reform Commission and Philadelphia Federation of Teachers to call a truce in their battle and head back to the negotiating table.

“Everybody knows in our city, you’ve got to negotiate,” said Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, who introduced the resolution, then got each of her colleagues to sign on as sponsor. “Our school system’s in too much trouble not to negotiate to resolve these issues.”

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SRC’s Contract Move Isn’t About Shared Sacrifice — It’s Looting

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From left: Bill Green (Jeff Meade, via Wikimedia Commons) | School District headquarters (Jeff Fusco) | Helen Gym (Alex Hogan, Flickr)

Recently, I visited my brother-in-law at Radnor High School and was privileged to see him teach his ninth-grade English/civics class. When I walked in, his students were engaged in a debate about Plato and the notion of dissent versus rule of law in Athenian society. The students had finished reading John Stuart Mill and were getting their first papers back for revision. It was October 2nd.

A few days later, I attended a parent meeting at Central High School, one of the city’s premier institutions. Dozens of ninth graders had spent their school year with substitute teachers who changed every week. The substitutes were put in place to relieve teachers leading classrooms with 40, 50, or even more students. For these ninth graders, school didn’t really start until October 8th, when permanent teachers were finally assigned to them.

This is what a teacher’s contract was supposed to prevent.

And it’s why the School Reform Commission’s move last week to tear up that contract is about far more than the dishonest suggestion of “shared sacrifice” and health care contributions.

Students: School Reform Commission Member Told Us ‘You Belong in Jail’

Philadelphia School Reform Commission member Sylvia Simms lashed out at student protesters at a movie screening last night. As seen in the above video posted to YouTube by Waleed Shahid, students clapped and interrupted the screening with chants of “Philly is a union town” and “The SRC has got to go.”

The students — part of Philly Students Union, a student-led group advocating for better school conditions — disrupted a film screening hosted by Simms. Those students say Simms told them “y’all probably go to failing schools.” Al Dia reports she also said, “You belong in jail.”

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What They’re Saying About the School Reform Commission

Protestors demonstrate against the school district's sudden decision to cancel teachers and others contract and force them to pay health care premiums, Monday, Oct. 6, 2014, in Philadelphia. The decision Monday by the School Reform Commission follows nearly two years of stalled negotiations between the district and union.

Protestors demonstrate against the school district’s sudden decision to cancel teachers and others contract and force them to pay health care premiums, Monday, Oct. 6, 2014, in Philadelphia. The decision Monday by the School Reform Commission follows nearly two years of stalled negotiations between the district and union.

A day after the School Reform Commission abruptly and unilaterally ended its contract with the 15,000-member Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, there is still plenty being said — a lot of anger, but some support, for the action. An overview:
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Oxford Mills Urban Oasis Grand Opening

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Oxford Mills, billed as an “urban oasis for teachers and nonprofits,” held its grand opening last week in South Kensington, another step in revitalizing the neighborhood. Oxford Mills was once a dye works factory. It was later abandoned and has now been transformed into a hub for Philadelphia’s education community. The project is a mixed-use real estate development designed to provide low-cost housing for teachers as well as commercial space for educational nonprofits.

Paul Kihn, deputy superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia, told the guests, “Oxford will be a great place for teachers to bond with other like-minded teachers, discuss curriculum, vent about their day, prepare for the future, and relax. … A development such as Oxford Mills will help attract good teachers to the city as well as retain the ones we already have.”

Oxford Mills was developed by Gabe Canuso and Greg Hill, D3 Real Estate Development, and a Baltimore company, Seawall Development Company, who had created a similar project called Miller’s Court in Baltimore. The complex has 114 apartments, with half of them earmarked for teachers who will rent them at a 25 percent discount. The retail includes Artwell, Education Plus, Interfaith Center for Greater Philadelphia, Teach for America, Grace and Glory Yoga, and Gryphon Coffee Company, which are available to the residents as well as the neighborhood.

Oxford Mills Urban Oasis Grand Opening »

Morning Headlines: Twenty Shuttered School Buildings To Be Listed for Immediate Sale

School District of Philadelphia

When it comes to the sale of shuttered school buildings, no one has been more about picking up the pace than City Council President Darrell Clarke. Last fall, the School District put up 28 buildings for sale on their website. Only 7 were listed as expedited sales and open to bidding; the rest were there to get “expressions of interest”. Needless to say, Clarke was not a fan of the slow-moving approach.

Now, however, the District is facing fiscal troubles once more and, as the Inquirer’s Troy Graham reports, appears to finally be taking Clarke’s advice. Twenty school buildings will be listed for immediate sale, one of which is North Broad’s William Penn High School, one of the schools that appeared on last year’s list. More from the Inquirer:
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The Philadelphia School District’s Unfortunate Hashtag: #phled

philadelphia school district hashtag phled

In a city that has smart parents fleeing in droves to the better, safer schools of the suburbs, this hashtag used by the School District of Philadelphia is probably ill-advised. Ah, homophony.

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