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At the SRC

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

At its April meetings, the School Reform Commission:

  • Heard a presentation about the District’s Summer Learning and More (S.L.A.M.) 2010 program. Chief of School Operations John Frangipani discussed five strands of this year’s summer school program. These include:
  • Summer Academy in the Empowerment, Renaissance Eligible, and Renaissance Alert Schools;
  • Summer Program in non-Empowerment and Vanguard Schools;
  • Extended School Year (ESY) for low-incidence special education students;
  • Summer Bridge Transition Program for elementary students transitioning to middle schools; and
  • City of Philadelphia Out of School Time Summer Camp Partnerships and Freedom Schools to take place at 45 school sites.
  • In addition to taking core subjects, students can also participate in a number of enrichment programs. S.L.A.M. 2010 will start June 29 and will be held at 117 elementary, middle, and high schools with 3,400 teachers providing instruction for 50,000 students in grades pre-K through 12.
  • Voted to approve a $700,000 contract with Philadelphia Youth Network (PYN) to manage payroll, data collection, and data entry for the District’s Summer Employment Program. Superintendent Ackerman said students will be able to work while attending summer school.
  • Heard a presentation about the District’s proposed FY2010-11 Unified Operating Budget. Chief Business Officer Michael Masch outlined how the District’s $3.2 billion budget will be funded and spent. Of the total amount, $180 million will go toward the implementation of Imagine 2014 initiatives, including $119 million for the continuation of Phase One initiatives implemented last year and $61 million for new or expanding initiatives. Masch said that Philadelphia schools should expect an increase of $52 million in federal stimulus grant dollars and a $90 million boost in the state’s basic education subsidy if Governor Rendell’s education budget passes.
  • Voted to authorize the opening of the Kensington Urban Education Academy in September. The academy will be the fourth small high school to grow out of the former Kensington High School. A college preparatory program serving up to 400 students grades 9-12, it will focus on teaching as a profession and prepare future educators to teach in urban school districts. Student organizing group Youth United for Change (YUC) has campaigned for years to replace the former Kensington with four smaller schools. The new academy, which will be housed in the original building, will start with 9th grade this fall and expand to 12th grade by 2014.
  • Voted to approve the sale of six unoccupied school properties: Ada Lewis Middle School, old Roberto Clemente, Alcorn Annex, Elizabeth Gillespie Middle School, William S. Peirce High School, and Simon Muhr. Community activist Judith Robinson testified about the need for proper notification of and more community input into the sale of District-owned properties deemed “unused and unnecessary” in response to a recent vote by the SRC to approve a $1 land transfer of property behind Tanner Duckrey Elementary School to NewCourtland, a company that develops senior housing complexes. Robinson and fellow activist Danita Bates, who also testified, said that the sale of District properties must include community engagement and greater scrutiny.
  • Voted to approve the District’s $412,500 contract with Teach for America (TFA) to extend employment of up to150 returning TFA teachers and to hire 150 new teachers for the 2010-11 school year. Superintendent Ackerman said that the District has up to 300 TFA teachers at any given time, but that the District does not want to rely solely on TFA for its recruitment efforts, and is looking to work with other universities such as Arcadia University and Eastern University to help in bringing on new talent. The District’s retention rate for TFA teachers after serving their two-year mandatory term is 20 percent.
  • Voted to accept a $26 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to implement an initiative called Dropout Prevention through Mentoring, Education, Employment, and Social Support (MEES). The program is intended to increase academic achievement, decrease dropout rates and violent incidents, and build an overall supportive atmosphere in four schools on the persistently dangerous schools list: Frankford, Fels, Olney West, and Edison. Students enrolled in the participating schools and those who have dropped out are eligible for services provided by the program. A previous Department of Labor grant supports programs at seven other District high schools.
  • Approved an amendment to the District’s original contract with SchoolNet, Inc. to increase the dollar amount by an additional $2,260,524 for the purchase of a Comprehensive Gradebook, Rostering, and Scheduling software module. The new software will track a variety of student data to help teachers monitor and improve student performance. The Office of Teaching and Learning will work with other offices on the development and ongoing support of this system, as well as the appropriate uses of the new data that is collected.
  • Voted to approve the appointment of Leroy Nunery as chief of institutional advancement and strategic partnerships. Nunery is the founder of the consulting firm PlusUltre, a former executive of Edison Schools, now Edison Learning, and was a finalist for the position of District superintendent. In his new role, he will earn an annual salary of $180,000.
  • Heard testimony from parent Vilma Cartegena, whose child attends Stetson Middle School, about the confusion among parents about the Renaissance Schools process. Cartegena said that she and many other parents do not want Stetson to be turned into a charter school. Stetson is one of nine Renaissance Schools announced in March and is slated to be turned over to one of six outside providers for management. “Stetson is a part of my family and we feel that the District is abandoning us and we don’t want that to happen,” Cartegena said. Superintendent Ackerman assured Cartegena that parents will “get a chance to choose…we just ask that you take a look at all the options and make your choice.”
  • Heard testimony from supporters of People for People Charter School criticizing the report recently released by the City Controller’s Office identifying the charter as one of 13 involved in financial mismanagement and other questionable practices. Leonard Jamison, a charter board member, said, “Rather than being financially enriched by the People for People Charter School, Dr. [Herbert] Lusk and PFP Inc. have consistently sought ways to empower the PFP Charter School to be the best it can be for students, families, and the community it serves.” Dr. Jamison asked that the SRC support the renewal of the charter. Representatives from KIPP Philadelphia also asked for support of its renewal.
  • Honored retired kindergarten teacher Erlene Nelson for 54 years of teaching in the School District. Nelson will be among five inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame, which recognizes and celebrates exceptional teachers for their commitment and dedication to educating America’s children. “This has been a journey of absolute joy,” Nelson said of her work in the District. “This award is like a fine diamond that is cut into many facets…and it goes to every parent, student, superintendent, administrator, colleague, teacher, friend, and family member.”
  • Voted to expel 28 students.