If he had been shaken by the events of the last 24 hours, Bill Green wasn’t showing it when he appeared late Monday afternoon at Philadelphia School District Headquarters. He was all smiles and handshakes as he entered a meeting where students were being asked to weigh in on an issue — the district’s budget woes — that adults haven’t been able to fully resolve.
There wasn’t even an awkward moment when Matthew Stanski, the district’s chief financial officer, referred to Green as “Chairman Green” during public comments. Green — for now, anyway — is no longer the chairman of the School Reform Commission. Gov. Tom Wolf announced Sunday that he was replacing Green with fellow commissioner Marjorie Neff. Green has said he will seek a court ruling challenging Wolf’s authority to do so.
He told Philly Mag that events started rolling on Saturday. Read more »
Now we know for sure: There is no good way to govern Philadelphia schools — because all attempts to do so will end in tears.
Today, those tears belong to Bill Green, who gave up a council seat last year to make a longshot bet that he could lead Philadelphia schools into a new, brighter era. Now he’s apparently lost that bet, pending the outcome of a legal challenge — but the issues exposed by his untimely fall from grace have not. The Philadelphia School District is all but ungovernable.
A central issue: One underlying assumption of the state takeover of the Philadelphia school district — lo these many years ago — was that the state would speak with something like one voice. Yes, the governor gets to choose three of the School Reform Commission’s five members, and three people can generate disagreement on any topic. But the direction from Harrisburg, at least, was supposed to be somewhat consistent.
Not so. Read more »
Following Sunday night’s surprise news that Gov. Tom Wolf has dumped Bill Green as chair of the School Reform Commission, new Chair Marjorie Neff this morning has just issued her first official statement through the school district.
“The governor has asked me to serve as chair of the SRC to help realize his vision for public education,” she said in a statement. “I am hopeful that my background and experience as an educator and a parent will be useful to the task at hand.” Read more »
[Updated with comments from Marjorie Neff]
Gov. Tom Wolf has announced he will replace School Reform Commission chairman Bill Green with Marjorie Neff, a fellow SRC member. The decision came a week after the Green-led SRC approved five new charter schools for the district, with Neff as the lone “no” vote.
Green announced Wolf’s action in a Sunday-night press release, followed an hour later by the official announcement from Wolf’s team. Green said he does not believe that Wolf has the legal authority to remove him as chair, and said he would seek a ruling from Commonwealth Court to resolve the matter.
“The School District of Philadelphia is in dire financial straits, and our children are being put at a disadvantage as a result of misguided cuts and poor decisions,” Wolf said in a written statement. “The district was forced to make major cutbacks in transportation, security, and janitorial services just to open on time last year. We must make new investments in education and provide a fresh path forward for Philadelphia’s schools.” Read more »
[UPDATE] The SRC has approved 5 of 39 new charter school applications — with conditions.
[ORIGINAL] As promised, the School Reform Commission will be deciding on all 39 new Philadelphia charter school applications this afternoon. Philly Mag’s Holly Otterbein is on the scene, providing a blow-by-blow account of what’s sure to be a contentious meeting for public school advocates and school reformers. Follow her live coverage, and the #phled conversation, on Twitter below:
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Protestors in October demonstrate against the school district’s sudden decision to cancel teachers and others contract and force them to pay health care premiums. The Commonwealth Court just ruled the SRC lacks the power to void the teacher contract.
[Update, 3:25 p.m.] SRC Chairman Bill Green says his board hasn’t yet decided if it will appeal the ruling. “I’m obviously very disappointed, but I’m not sure I understand the reasoning of the court,” Green said.
He’s not sure what happens next. “We said in the beginning we hope to resolve this through negotiation and not litigation, but that has not been possible and still appears not to be possible,” Green said.
He said the district had hoped to end this fiscal year on relatively stable financial footing, and be able to ask the state and city for new school funds that would be used not just to plug deficits, but to invest in improving city schools. “If this stands, it would put us in the place of asking for money to avoid cuts, instead of asking for money to allow (Superintendent) Bill Hite and his team to be proactive and transform our schools.”
Green estimates the deficit next year will be about $80 million if the ruling is not appealed and new city or state funds are not allocated for the schools. “The problem is, there’s very few places to go (for cuts) except class size,” Green said.
[Original, 12:11 p.m.] In a unanimous decision, a five-judge panel of the Commonwealth Court ruled this morning that the School Reform Commission lacks the power to void its contract with the teacher’s union and impose new terms, as the SRC did on October 6, of last year. Read more »
Almost one month after Bill Green and his controversial School Reform Commission voted unanimously and unilaterally to cancel the labor contract for the approximately 15,000 teachers in the Philadelphia public school system, it looks like the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools and schools activist Lisa Haver, one of the founders of the alliance, are taking Green, the SRC and the School District of Philadelphia to court. Read more »
The School Reform Commission approving the sale of 11 Philadelphia schools is big news this morning, punctuated with some pretty big numbers. The Daily News’s Solomon Leach has details on how the sales will break down.
The two biggest parcels are each going for $6.8 million. Germantown High, Carroll High, Fulton Elementary, Walter Smith Elementary and Abigail Vare Elementary are all going to the Concordia Group. Two of the elementary schools – Vare and Smith – are slated to become residential buildings.
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KYW Radio reports that the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and its allies are seeking a November ballot question that would dissolve the School Resource Commission. The SRC — features a mix of state and city appointees, with a majority appointed by the governor — has been in existence since 2001, when it was created during a state takeover of Philadelphia schools.
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Why anyone would sacrifice his cushy half-councilman/half-lawyer gig and toss away mayoral ambitions to take a position that would get him publicly yelled at on a regular basis by hundreds of angry people is beyond me.
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