This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
It’s back to business for the members of the School Reform Commission tonight. As the District prepares to open school doors next month, the SRC will convene for the first meeting of the 2015-16 school year. A draft of the meeting resolutions shows they will have many items to attend to, including an assortment of contracts, grant acceptance, and a whole lot of donations.
Some items of interest have been noted below, but you can also look through the resolutions and their summaries here. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m.
• Two charter schools are requesting changes to their names: Belmont Academy Charter School will become Inquiry Charter School, and Francis D. Pastorius Mastery Charter School will change its name to Pastorious-Richardson Mastery Charter School in honor of the late State Rep. David P. Richardson.
• A new student code of conduct will be considered. According to the resolution, changes were made to the policy governing the punishment for bringing a weapon to school and clarification was added to what is deemed an "inappropriate use of an electronic device." Last year, students and groups like Youth United for Change protested the fact that students could be expelled for that charge.
• The following academic calendar changes are being requested:
- The first day of kindergarten is Sept. 17, not 16.
- With the arrival of Pope Francis, schools should be closed Thursday, Sept. 24, in addition to Wednesday (for Yom Kippur) and Friday (also for papal visit).
- Change Oct. 9 to a normal school day to make up for the lost day.
- Replace the first make-up date for snow days (June 23) with the first three days of spring break (as needed).
• The SRC will vote on a revised new charter application from Esperanza Elementary Charter School. The SRC voted 4-1 to deny the school’s application in February — some of the reasons for denial were:
- Did not show community support for school’s plan.
- Lack of proper planning or understanding of legal requirements governing school’s financial structures and operations.
- Did not show that a comprehensive learning environment would be provided.
- Inadequate financial planning.
- Failing to provide required information and materials.
- Would not serve as a model for other public schools, as required by charter school law.
• A $300,000 donation from Mastery is being offered for school-based coaching services. According to the resolution:
The purpose of this program is to support the creation of an effective, school-based coaching model that leverages excellent teachers to coach other teachers who are either adequate or good at their craft and can be moved from adequate to good or from good to great.
Through this program, District master teachers will coach fellow teachers during four coaching cycles per year. The program expects to impact 72 teachers across three schools. Time for coaching will either be scheduled release time or compensated prep payback time. Additionally, coaches will be compensated for time spent on the project outside of school hours.
• The sales of two former schools are being proposed:
- Former Frances Willard to Project HOME for $400,000
- Former Sheridan West to GM Holdings for $600,000
• As the District looks to reduce the number of pre-plated lunches in favor of full-service cafeterias with more and healthier lunch options, it will look to amend its contract with its grocery provider. The number of full-service cafeterias has increased from 29 percent in 2011 to 54 percent in 2014, according to the District. The cost is offset by a decrease in the contract for satellite meal expenses this past year.
• The District’s 28-year old student information system could be replaced with a new, more secure, web-based, compatible, and mobile-friendly one. It will allow for things like "standards-aligned assessment, competency-based delivery, and non-standard calendars." The cost of the system and possible 12-year contract with Infinite Campus Inc. is $22.5 million.
• The District and individual schools could look forward to getting a new website and easy-to-use content management system (WordPress).
Editors’ note: Descriptions of several of the resolutions have been reworded to make clear that these actions were under consideration for approval at the meeting and not yet acted on.