‘Works Bomb’ Detonated at Philadelphia School

A bomb went off in the yard outside a Feltonville school earlier this week, and a student has been charged. The City Paper‘s Dan Denvir reports the student, whose name has not been released, detonated what’s called a “works bomb” just outside the Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences on Wednesday.

What’s a works bomb? It’s a cheap homemade explosive made with toilet bowl cleaner The Works. This now-censored article with directions provides the info — chemicals in bathroom cleaners like The Works mix with the aluminum in tin foil and causes a pretty big explosion.

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Census: Philadelphians Are Moving to Montgomery County

Photo | shutterstock.com

Photo | shutterstock.com

Despite the fact that the American Dream has changed, and no longer necessarily signifies the white picket fence and 2.5 children living in the ’burbs, a Census report that was recently released includes Philadelphia and Montgomery County in the top 25 “pairs of counties with the largest number of people moving from the origin to the destination, minus people moving in the other direction,” according to Business Insider. (Net annual population flow from Philadelphia County to Montco between 2007 and 2011: 5,236.)

This means that large numbers of Philly residents left the city between 2007 and 2011 specifically to live in Montgomery County.

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11 Ways to Improve Your Kid’s Public School

1. Fix something old.

Greenfield Elementary mom Christina Stasiuk led an effort to overhaul the outdated library that included parent-volunteer redecorating; a remodel with “reading circle” areas, a local sculptor’s artwork and a bank of computers; new books; and a “weeding out” of old ones, including some that hadn’t been checked out in 40 years.

2. Build something new.

There is no library at the Philadelphia Performing Arts Charter School, where Roxanne Patel Shepelavy’s daughters go. But right next door is the Fumo Family Branch of the Philly Free Library, so Shepelavy worked with its children’s librarian to organize a book club for se­cond- and third-graders, with meetings at the branch.

3. Be the teacher’s pet.

At Society Hill’s McCall Elementary and Middle School, Lauren Summers takes the role of class parent to new levels; she and another mom, who visits the classroom on a regular basis, take care of administrative tasks and home-classroom communiqués, so the teacher “can focus on the students.” Summers also puts together and emails a weekly newsletter with messages from the teacher and notes from the in-
classroom mom.
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Four Philadelphia Schools That Work

Ways Parents Can Fix Schools

Photo By Clint Blowers

Science Leadership Academy

A partnership between the school district and the Franklin Institute, Center City’s SLA is proof that a strong outside collaborator can help produce strong results. The diverse students (45 percent black, 34 percent white, seven percent Asian, seven percent Hispanic) have to apply to get in, and once there, they follow a college-prep curriculum focused heavily on science, technology, ­math and entrep­­ren­eur­sh­ip—­with a special emphasis on p­roject-based learning (plus some cool outside speakers, like Michael Dell). Eighty-eight percent go on to college, and SLA has been named an Apple Distinguished School from 2009 to 2013.
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Philadelphia’s School Crisis: A City On The Brink

Photography by Clint Blowers

Photograph by Clint Blowers

My family and I moved out of Philadelphia last year. We did so reluctantly, and with a crippling heaping of guilt.

It wasn’t the crime, or the taxes, or the grit. No, we left for the same reason that untold thousands have decamped for the suburbs before us: the crummy state of the city’s public schools, a chronic and seemingly immutable fact of life in Philadelphia.

The failings go way beyond the typical struggles of a big urban district. In December, the latest national assessment found that just 14 percent of Philadelphia fourth-graders were proficient or better at reading, compared to 26 percent in other big cities and 34 percent nationally. Of the 25 largest U.S. cities, Philadelphia ranks 22nd in college degree attainment. Graduates of the School District of Philadelphia are particularly bad off; only about 10 percent of district alums go on to get degrees.

Still, it wasn’t the statistics that drove us away. It was the deflating sense that there was no clear and affordable path for our two young kids to get the education they need—particularly our son, who has some special needs. Despite our love for the city, our belief that Philadelphia is genuinely on the rise, and endless conversations in which we tried to rationalize staying, my wife and I decided we had to leave. The day the moving van arrived, I didn’t feel angry so much as I felt ashamed. That embarrassment is, I think, not entirely uncommon. And it’s a sign that the failings of the city’s schools are damaging Philadelphia even more than in the past.

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Helen Gym: The Agitator

 

Helen Gym Parents United P.A.

Photograph by Colin Lenton

Helen Gym advances, and Mayor Nutter inches warily back. She waves a thick stack of papers at him, each sheath a complaint lodged by parents lamenting the calamitous conditions in Philadelphia’s reeling public schools. There’s the kid with dangerous asthma at the school without a nurse on hand. The dyslexic, orphaned high-school senior applying for colleges with no counselor to lean on. The bullying victim who fled Overbrook High only to find it impossible to enroll at another school.

“This is what we’re fighting against,” Gym tells Nutter. The Mayor is just a few yards from his office door, but he’s the one shifting his feet, looking to get away.

Minutes earlier, Gym had wrapped up a news conference in the ornate Mayor’s Reception Room, where, with the assistance of City Council, she’d usurped a podium usually used by Nutter and his invited guests. Gym and her allies were there to tout their latest pressure tactic: written complaints designed to compel the state to meet basic education standards and shake loose some badly needed dollars for the district.

“It would be nice to have your support, Mayor,” Gym tells him. Nutter issues a few noncommittal mumbles, cleans his glasses, and back-steps for the stairway. Gym shrugs. Powerful figures often look for the exits when she approaches.

That’s what happens when you develop a rep as perhaps Philadelphia’s preeminent public agitator. Relentless, whip-smart, meticulously prepared and utterly fearless, Gym—a private citizen who works without the heft of any meaningful institutional support—has managed to build herself one of the city’s largest bully pulpits.

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