This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
At its September meetings the School Reform Commission:
- Heard a report on the District’s budget. Chief Business Officer Michael Masch said that state funding cuts could mean as much as $160 million revenue shortfall, but that the District intends to preserve the first-year initiatives of Superintendent Arlene Ackerman’s Imagine 2014 plan, which include reduced class sizes in the K-3 grades and the hiring of more guidance counselors. Budget revisions are expected to be presented to the SRC in October.
- Heard a “Climate and Safety Review” report presented by Chief of School Operations Tomas Hanna and the District’s safety chief, James Golden. Golden said there were 17,000 violent incidents in District schools last school year, an 11 percent drop from the previous school year. Both discussed issues about the Persistently Dangerous Schools list. Twenty-five District schools are on the PDS list and Philadelphia is the only school district in the state that has schools in this category. Superintendent Arlene Ackerman expressed concern that the formula takes into account those incidents that occur off school property, and asked that the District also reexamine how dangerous incidents are reported to the police.
- Voted unanimously to extend contract agreements with four of its bargaining units: the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) until October 31; the Commonwealth Association of School Administrators (CASA) until November 30; Local 1201, affiliated with Service Employees International Union until October 31; and the School Police Association of Philadelphia until November 30.
- Continued discussion about the presence on the District’s payroll of 80 employees of the Board of Revision of Taxes (BRT). The BRT assesses the value of city properties and for decades the District has been paying the salaries of many of its clerks. The cost to the District is more than $4 million annually. Commissioner Johnny Irizarry questioned the District’s plan to move the employees off the payroll. Chief Business Officer Michael Masch responded that “we wish to end the current relationship … that continues to be our position.” In public testimony, Parents United for Public Education founder Helen Gym argued that state law requires BRT workers to be on the city’s payroll.
- Saw District staff withdraw six proposed contracts, including a $75,000 agreement with Elois Brooks, a former colleague of Ackerman, to provide support for the Empowerment Schools Initiative; a $2.5 million grant fund to authorize the purchase of instructional materials from Voyager Expanded Learning, Inc. for the extended day program; and a $45,000 contract with Maven, Inc. to provide governmental relations consultative services.
- Approved an $830,000 contract with City Year of Philadelphia to provide students with academic support activities, afterschool programs, violence prevention activities, service learning and civic engagement opportunities, and college and career awareness activities, in up to 11 high schools and 13 elementary schools. City Year is a national organization that provides services to underserved children and youth.
- Heard a report on Adequate Yearly Progress. Deputy for Accountability David Weiner discussed how many District schools have made Adequate Yearly Progress and the criteria for making AYP. According to the report, 32 percent of District schools made AYP in 2009, down from 34 percent the year before.