This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
At its November meetings, the School Reform Commission:
- Heard a report on the District’s revised 2009-10 budget. Chief Business Officer Michael Masch said that the $3.084 billion budget actually reflects an 11.8 percent increase in the level of spending compared to last year. He outlined the cuts the District would have to make to close the gap left by smaller than expected state appropriations. Some of these trims will impact pieces of the District’s Imagine 2014 strategic plan, with the postponement of a student reengagement center, systems upgrades, and other initiatives. The SRC will hold hearings about the new budget on their regular meeting dates of December 9 and 16 and will vote to adopt the revised budget at a special meeting at 12 p.m. on December 18. (Budget documents are currently under revision after District officials acknowledged an error in response to a Notebook blog post).
- Heard from the student creators of a new “T.A.C.K.L.E. TRUANCY” campaign. A group of high school student government leaders started work in September to design a campaign to combat truancy. In the 2008-09 school year there was an average of 11,000 truant students per day. Campaign members hope to increase student attendance through the use of advertisements on SEPTA buses, in schools, and at shopping centers; public service announcements; a new website (www.tackletruancy.org); a documentary (“A day in the life of a truant”); a mentorship program; a truancy march; and a concert. Several celebrity athletes including Donovan McNabb, Ryan Howard, and Jimmy Rollins are supporting the effort and have made commitments to record PSAs. The SRC voted to approve a $50,000 budget for the campaign, which will kick off on January 4, 2010 and run through June.
- Heard testimony from members of Youth United for Change about a breakthrough in moving toward small high schools in Kensington. The District’s Chief of Staff Tomas Hanna confirmed that once the new Kensington CAPA moves into its new building next fall, a new small high school – Kensington’s fourth – will open in the old building. The new school will have an urban education theme focused on preparing students to become teachers and creating a larger pipeline of teachers of color. Student activists thanked the commission and District officials for honoring a promise by former schools chief Paul Vallas to break up Kensington, once a school of nearly 1,400 students.
- Heard testimony from the former education director of New Media Technology Charter School Jerald Thompson about improprieties that have occurred at the embattled charter. Thompson said that the school is still in violation of rules set forth by the commission. “What is going on at New Media Technology Charter School needs to be brought forward to the attention of the SRC and be severely dealt with because what is does is it creates an atmosphere that is not acceptable for our children and it harms our children,” he said. The SRC voted in August to give NMTCS a new five-year charter, contingent upon the school replacing its CEO and board as well as 21 other conditions.
- Voted to approve receipt of a $75,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help the District apply for federal Race to the Top funds in support of the Renaissance Schools initiative. The plan proposes to transform some of the District’s lowest-performing schools, with the first set of schools scheduled to open next fall.
- Approved a $300,000 contract with SchoolWorks, an education consulting company, to conduct quality school audits for the charter school renewal process and Renaissance Schools selection process.
- Voted to expel four students.