Technology company Fiberlink has opened new offices in Philadelphia.
With more than 1,000 new customers acquired in the last year, Fiberlink hired 100 new employees to support its rapidly expanding business. The company plans to continue this pace of growth and aggressive hiring to staff its new office in Philadelphia, which will accommodate more than 140 employees.
The company’s success in the mobile technology sector, powered by the popularity of iPads, iPhones and Androids with business users, drives the need for additional office space in downtown Philadelphia.
“Fiberlink and other small businesses are the key to economic growth in Philadelphia and our nation,” said Mayor Michael Nutter.
“The growth potential and well-being of any city rests in its ability to retain and attract talented young professionals with the promise of good career opportunities. Fiberlink’s continued success demonstrates how innovative technology companies can tap into this strong talent pool and thrive in our city. I thank Fiberlink for continuing to create jobs and promote economic growth in Philadelphia.”
Fiberlink’s new office space is located on the 20th floor of Three Parkway, at 1601 Cherry Street. The nearly 30,000 square feet of space will accommodate the company’s skyrocketing growth and expanding employee base.
“Building on our 20-year history of innovation, Fiberlink continues to deliver industry-leading enterprise mobility management and security solutions for our customers. Our roots are deep in the Philadelphia area, and we look forward to further growth and expansion from our beautiful downtown location,” said James Sheward, CEO and co-founder of Fiberlink.
“We thank Mayor Nutter for his support and our talented team of hometown professionals for their many contributions to our success.”
Headquartered in Blue Bell, Fiberlink enables organizations, ranging from large enterprises to small- and medium-sized businesses across all industries, to cost-effectively support their expanding mobile workforces. Customers across the globe trust the MaaS360 MDM platform to manage and secure their mobile devices, apps and documents. MaaS360 is built on a proven cloud-based platform, delivering fast, easy-to-use enterprise mobility management capabilities.
Fiberlink is looking for professionals in the areas of Inside Sales, Marketing, R&D and customer success to join its team.
The company will host an open house for new job applicants on July 26 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the new downtown location. For information on current job openings, visit http://www.maas360.com/join.
Bright Hope Baptist Church Pastor Kevin Johnson has heard all of the talk about “turning pages” and transparency coming out of the Philadelphia School District the past week.
He’s seen the School Reform Commission swear in a new member, and he’s seen the appointment, by the mayor and the state, of a pair of executive advisors.
But Johnson wants to see the changes in action, not hear about them from a podium.
“All of this looks good in theory,” said Johnson, who is former Superintendent Arlene Ackerman’s minister. “But the verdict is still out. It might work for the adults. But the verdict is out on whether or not it will work for the kids.”
On Monday, Mayor Michael Nutter, state Education Secretary Ron Tomalis and the SRC held a press conference to reinforce the notion of increased cooperation and collaboration between the city and state to improve the school district. In the days to follow, anyone connected with the school district spoke of a new transparency, something sorely lacking in the school district in recent months.
Johnson hopes this new transparency is not solely about the children, but also the business that is generated by the school district’s $3 billion budget. Referencing the uproar in the city when Ackerman gave a previous no-bid contract for $7.5 million to IBS Communications, Inc — one of many minority firms sidestepped for district business — Johnson hopes that this will no longer be the case in a district that is more than 80 percent African American.
“I’m all for fiscal transparency but I’m also for fiscal equity,” Johnson said. “We can be transparent all we want, but what good is it if minority contractors don’t get their fair share? What good is it if there is no equity?”
On the same page with Johnson is state Rep. Ron Waters. Like Johnson, a supporter of Ackerman, Waters wants more than lip service in every facet of the school district’s operation.
“There has to be transparency in order to build up and keep public trust strong,” Waters said. “Taxpayers are entitled to know how the money is being spent and invested. They should know everything from payrolls to contracts to student achievement.”
Nutter on Tuesday named Lori Shorr, since 2008 the mayor’s chief education officer and the director of the office of the public school family and child advocate, as the city’s executive adviser. Tomalis named Edward Williams, the school district’s former chief academic officer, as the state’s representative. Acting chair Wendell Pritchett, the mayor’s most recent appointee to the SRC, made his debut at the first SRC meeting of the academic year on Wednesday. Nutter is expected to name his next appointee later this month, and gubernatorial appointee Pedro Ramos should go before the state senate for confirmation around Thanksgiving.
And in one final Wednesday move, Craig Carnaroli, executive vice president at the University of Pennsylvania, was chosen to head up the Financial Operations and Systems Working Group, an unpaid position. The SRC will appoint a group of five to nine executives from around the city with expertise on financial, contracting, and personnel matters.
On Wednesday, Shorr and Williams said their role is to offer advice to interim superintendent Leroy Nunery. However, Nunery will “be the man to make the final decisions,” Williams said.
All of these moves are seen as counters to the circus-like operation of the district in recent months. There has been little explanation as to how the district budget gap soared to $629 million. Some have wondered if the strong-arm tactics of former SRC chairman Robert Archie and state Rep. Dwight Evans — detailed in a scathing report by the mayor’s chief integrity officer — warrant criminal charges.
All this, of course, was sandwiched between Ackerman’s SRC-granted contract extension, her refusal to support Evans’ charter takeover of Martin Luther King High School and her subsequent ouster as superintendent, orchestrated by the SRC.
This has activist Elder Pamela Williams making demands.
Before moving on, Williams wants to see the SRC’s books opened for the public going all the way back to its inception in January 2005. Like Johnson, she wants a full accounting of all the districts contracts.
“We say that we are going to be transparent, but where does it start?” Williams asked.
Referring to Shorr, Williams added, “It does not start with the mayor appointing an overseer to watch over Leroy Nunery,” the interim superintendent. “Now everything that happens will be pushed under the rug.”
Williams also believes that district chief financial officer Michael Masch has been given a free ride with regard to the district’s financial woes. Ackerman once described the advice given her by Masch as “mumbo-jumbo.”
PHILADELPHIA — Democratic Mayor Michael Nutter cruised to a second consecutive term in office Tuesday, easily defeating little-known Republican challenger Karen Brown.
Nutter, a 54-year-old former city councilman, was the heavy favorite over Brown, a 52-year-old former high school math teacher and Democrat who switched parties to face Nutter and barely survived a challenge in the May primary.
With more than 40 percent of precincts reporting, Nutter had 50,479 votes, or about 72 percent of the ballots cast. Brown had 16,855 votes, or about 24 percent. Political activist Wali "Diop" Rahman also was on the ballot as an independent and was a distant third.
Brown declined to comment when reached by The Associated Press, and Nutter did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Democrats outnumber Republicans by a more than 6-1 ratio in Philadelphia, which hasn't had a Republican mayor in nearly 60 years.
In his re-election bid, the incumbent touted the fact that homicides are down about 18 percent since his election in 2007, a contest that focused largely on reducing crime and corruption. He's also successfully overseen the implementation of single-stream recycling and a 311 information call center, while avoiding drastic cuts to core city services during the recession.
But Brown and others argued Nutter hasn't done enough to reduce violent crime, noting that the numbers were up over last year and that, while progress has been made, it falls short of the goal of a 30 percent to 50 percent reduction in homicides Nutter set at his inauguration. Others criticize Nutter's decision to push property and sales tax increases to balance the budget, along with an abandoned plan to shutter some libraries. -- (AP)
Mayor Michael Nutter was in Denver on Thursday as part of his reaffirmation, and the city’s commitment, to either improve low- and under-performing schools, or close those facilities altogether for the good of the students.
As part of that commitment, on Tuesday, Nutter along with School District and School Reform Commission officials discussed objectives for a visit to Denver, Col. to have a first-hand look at the city’s education compact.
Nutter signed off on the Philadelphia Great Schools Compact last year and during a recent interview with the Tribune, mentioned the upcoming trip to see best practices in action. Nutter said the goal is to evaluate what effects Denver’s district-charter collaboration compact has had on its educational system and how to replicate successful collaboration and school models.
Nutter has said there are vacant 50,000 seats in the District, and that the students in failing public schools deserve better. He said those schools will be reformed, restructured or replaced.
“The Compact is a transformational opportunity for Philadelphia’s schools, and I am looking forward to seeing how it can best be implemented by cities,” Mayor Nutter said. “We need to have a system of great schools all across Philadelphia. No child in our city should have to sit in a bad seat in a bad school. We will be zeroing in on the lowest performing seats, while simultaneously working to replicate the innovation and progress made in good schools such as Dunbar Elementary.”
Recently, Mayor Nutter, the School District of Philadelphia, and charter school leaders announced that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will provide a $100,000 grant to support the implementation of the Compact, and Philadelphia is eligible to apply for a share of more than $40 million in funding and program-related investments.
The Compact was approved by the School Reform Commission last month and has been signed by the mayor, SRC Chairman Pedro Ramos, Acting Schools Superintendent Leroy Nunnery, and organizations representing all but six of the city’s charter schools.
“The Philadelphia Great Schools Compact is an opportunity for partnership among a diverse group of educators,” Ramos said. “We will be visiting Denver Public Schools this week to get a better sense of how other cities have been successful and moving forward, to more fully evaluate what changes Philadelphia’s schools can make to provide the highest quality education for our students.”
Those community leaders and education officials who signed the Philadelphia Great Schools Compact did so with the intention and commitment to mutually share the responsibility of enabling the children of Philadelphia to prepare for secondary and post secondary education and career development.
To accomplish that goal, there was mutual agreement to share information, best practices and the responsibility for success or failure.
“The Compact that we signed is the state, city, SRC and charter community agreeing that for schools not making the grade — we’re going to help them — but if they can’t, we’re going to close them, and for this city that’s a big task,” said Dr. Lori Shorr, Nutter’s Chief Education Officer. “When you go in and say, ‘this school isn’t teaching kids at the level and we’re bringing in new people to do the work’ — that’s been tried before in the city and hasn’t worked too well. But we’re in a different place now, and we don’t have any more time to wait. Some of the restructured schools are showing great gains and there’s no reason not to penetrate further and do this with more of the schools. Maybe part of the problem is that some schools haven’t lived up to parents’ expectations, and we have to change that so parents can feel on the side of schools again with their kids.”
The city’s success as a diverse convention destination was touted during the Multicultural Affairs Congress’ 17th annual recognition luncheon on Thursday.
Mayor Michael Nutter highlighted the economic impact of the city’s multicultural tourism market as he addressed more than 500 attendees who packed the Hyatt’s ballroom.
“As we look forward, Philadelphia’s multicultural tourism market share is only going to keep growing,” said Nutter.
“Over the next four years we expect to see approximately $76 million in multicultural tourism industry economic impact here in Philadelphia.”
Two major conventions are the 2016 Bicentennial Celebration of the AME Church, expected to generate an economic impact of $26 million and perhaps 30,000 visitors; and the 2012 National Association of Latino Arts and Culture Convention.
Other future convention highlights include the Black Engineer of the Year Awards, the National Haitian Charismatic Congress, the North American South Asian Bar Association and Jack & Jill.
Due to the Pennsylvania Convention Center’s expansion, the city needs more hotels. With that in mind, Nutter called for the establishment of a minority-owned hotel.
“What I want to see is a hotel in this city built by minorities, owned by minorities, operated by minorities and supported by this entire community,” he stressed.
“The time has come not just to talk about jobs, not just to talk about contracts, not just to talk about goods and services, but equity and ownership — and this is an industry that will support that kind of activity right here in the city of Philadelphia.”
Held under the theme “Power, Pride and Progress,” the luncheon served as an occasion to honor industry and community leaders for their accomplishments in support of MAC’s mission.
“The individuals and organizations selected as awardees truly embody this year’s theme of ‘Power, Pride and Progress.’ They have been allies in maximizing multicultural hospitality opportunities for our region and represent the type of leadership that MAC celebrates,” said MAC executive director, Tanya Hall.
“We are extremely pleased to be honoring these recipients for their contributions.”
MAC posthumously recognized KYW Newsradio community affairs reporter Karin Phillips with the Legacy Award. The newly created award honored Phillips for her contributions toward raising awareness about the activities and accomplishments of Philadelphia’s multicultural convention and hospitality community. Her work supported many of Philadelphia’s diverse hospitality initiatives and conventions, including the National NAACP Convention, the unveiling of the historic President’s House and the Philadelphia International Dragon Boat Festival. Phillips died Sept. 13 following a brief illness.
Award recipients included Charisse R. Lilllie, president of the Comcast Foundation and vice president for Community Investment, Comcast Corp., Outstanding Recognition Award; El Sol newspaper, Share the Heritage Award; David Kong, president and CEO, Best Western International, Industry Appreciation Award; and local host committee, National Association of Latino Arts and Culture 2012 Convention, Bring It Home Award.
“At Comcast, diversity is really a way of life for us. We have done a number of things since we acquired NBC Universal to really move the ball and to really make sure that we as a company are faithful to the principles of diversity,” said Lillie.
She touted Comcast’s Joint Diversity Council and the company’s Internet Essential program that provides low-cost broadband service to underserved families.
Since MAC’s inception in 1987, Philadelphia has hosted more than 1,000 groups, resulting in an economic impact of more than $900 million.
MAC is a division of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Philadelphia for the most part escaped the wrath of Hurricane Sandy, which swamped New York City and left a swath of devastation that stretched from New Jersey to New England.
Mayor Michael Nutter characterized the city as being in “premium condition” after the storm.
There was just one minor storm-related injury in Philadelphia, he said.
“We continue to assess the damage and clean up around the city,” said Nutter. “We will call on our state and federal partners, and of course Philadelphians themselves, to get the city up and running at full speed.”
On Tuesday, Nutter was unable to say how much the storm had cost the city in overtime and other expenses.
“We will do all of those calculations later,” he said. “Our primary focus has been on public safety.”
While Philadelphia was spared the kind of damage that devastated portions of New Jersey and New York, there was substantial flooding in some areas, most notably from two tidal surges on the Delaware River, one of which, at 10.62 feet, topped the previous record of 10.6 feet.
But by Wednesday, the city had returned to near normal.
City, state and federal offices were open, as were the city courts.
District Attorney Seth Williams reminded people with court dates that were canceled on Monday and Tuesday that they were not off the hook.
“They will see subpoenas for new court dates,” he said. “They can expect a call from the court.”
Students were back in school, though four buildings – Edison High School, Philadelphia Learning Academies North, B. Anderson Elementary School and Pennypacker Elementary School – remained closed Wednesday due to power outages.
“We expect to have a normal day, and a full day,” said Superintendent William Hite.
Regional rail trains were up and running with only minor delays. Traffic was once again flowing up and down Broad Street.
Though Center City remained largely empty Tuesday, much of SEPTA’s service in the city had been restored by noon, with the Broad Street Line and the Frankford El up and running. Nearly all bus and trolley routes were functioning as normal by Tuesday afternoon.
Amtrak resumed limited service on Wednesday. It had suspended all trains along the Northeast corridor during Hurricane Sandy. Service between New York City and Boston remained suspended Thursday.
Most flights had resumed at Philadelphia International Airport, though there were scattered delays and schedule changes throughout the week as Sandy’s impact rippled up and down the East Coast.
That did not mean no cleanup was needed.
Nutter, at a press conference on Tuesday, said there was still much to be done.
At that point, 65,000 people in the city remained without power; 340 downed trees needed clearing, 120 downed power lines needed attention, and crews were working to restore 73 traffic signals that were broken or lacked power. Transportation Commissioner Rina Cutler said they were being fixed “as we speak” at the press conference on Tuesday.
At the peak of the storm on Monday, the city and Red Cross were housing 380 people at shelters at West Philadelphia, Roxborough and Fels high schools. That number had fallen to 250 people by Tuesday and by early afternoon on Wednesday only 15 people remained at West Philadelphia High School. It was closed Thursday as residents returned home.
In addition to those forced to evacuate, Nutter said the city helped find shelter for 130 homeless people.
Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said the city received 18,000 calls for assistance from Sunday to Tuesday. That was about 500 more than the city received last year during Hurricane Irene during a similar period.
“That’s not all that bad, considering the severity of the storm,” he said.
Ramsey added that most of the problems that remained by Tuesday were traffic control issues.
Fire and emergency medical crews responded to 1,300 calls Monday into Tuesday.
“That’s 300 more than the previous record of 1,000 set during Hurricane Floyd in 1999. Great service,” said Nutter, adding: “Let us thank our first responders and public safety personnel for their work during this storm.”
The mayor also reported that the city received 46 reports of structural problems related to the storm and that L&I was investigating them.
Little did Charles Carroll High School tenth-grader Samantha Pawlucy know that when she wore a Mitt Romney T-shirt to school, it would set off a freedom of speech firestorm that has apparently caught officials with the School District of Philadelphia off guard, and qualifies as yet another crisis for newly-installed district Superintendent Dr. William Hite Sr.
The 16-year-old Pawlucy was allegedly harassed by one of her teachers last month when she wore the T-shirt, and was told to either take off the t-shirt or leave the class. Pawlucy decided to leave the class.
The outrage has led to a throng of Pawlucy’s supporters cheering her on as she returned to classes on Tuesday, after missing several days over her unwillingness to acquiesce to her teacher’s demands.
Hite, barely a month into the job, has already had to deal with the fallout of the widespread teacher cheating scandal and the recent discrimination lawsuit filed by Action United, which claims the School Reform Commission’s decision to close as many as 64 schools will disproportionately affect minority and special-needs students.
Hite, for his part, has asserted his leadership throughout this situation, and struck a pre-emptive yet conciliatory tone with his statements on the matter.
“The Carroll High School Community — students, teachers, administrators, parents and neighbors — recently has been pulled into an argument that drove a wedge between families, friends and classmates. This has been disruptive and hurtful for a school whose success is drawn from its diverse and close-knit student body. And it has been particularly distressing to the Pawlucy family, whose daughter was targeted for simply expressing herself by wearing a T-shirt,” Hite wrote in a statement released by the district. “Over the next couple of weeks, I will join Mayor Michael Nutter and Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan in working directly with the Carroll High School community to assist them in moving away from a divisive and damaging discourse towards a conversation that brings together diverse beliefs, inspires understanding, and heals.”
According to various media reports, Pawlucy had no problems returning to class.
Repeated phones calls to School District spokesman Fernando Gallard seeking comment on the district’s free speech policy, or of students wearing clothing with political messages or endorsements, weren’t returned as of Tribune press time.
Hite did allude to the future of Pawlucy’s teacher, Lynette Gaymon.
“Our efforts will not take away from the hard lesson learned when an educator acts thoughtlessly. We all concur that there is no room for that type of behavior from adults, especially in a classroom,” Hite said. “We will also support and stand by Samantha Pawlucy, Lynette Gaymon and all of the children and adults who have become targets of hatred and venom by individuals who demand that a wrong be righted with another wrong. There is no room in our community for that type of behavior, and we will not let it take root in our schools.
“Going forward, both as a school community and city, we will celebrate, embrace and respect our differences, and learn and grow from this teachable moment.”
The Pawlucy incident sheds a light on students’ freedom of speech, although not egregious enough by itself to solicit a reaction from the American Civil Liberties Union.
If contacted, the ACLU would certainly take up the case, said ACLU of Pennsylvania Senior Staff Attorney Mary Catherine Roper.
“The law is so very clear, and the teacher was nowhere close to the line. You do not call out a student in class, and by the student’s version of accounts, it was way over the line,” Roper said, noting that the Pennsylvania branch of the ACLU is perhaps the most active branch in terms of defending student’s freedom of speech and urges students and families to visit the ACLU’s website and become acquainted with student freedom of speech rights. “It is a shame the teacher did what she did, but I am pleased that the school district acted quickly to take action to defend the student’s rights.
“[Students] are compelled to go to school, but they should not have to give up their opinions to get an education,” continued Roper. “That’s the basic line here. No one should give up independent thought to get an education, and that is a principle everyone should embrace.”
Roper voiced concern over the level of vitriol this situation has caused, which has only been ratcheted up through menacing phone calls and threats received by both the Pawlucy family and Gaymon.
“I am really distressed, not only as an ACLU lawyer but as a person, by the subsequent attacks on [Pawlucy] and her family,” Roper said. “One of the things you ask is, where is this coming from? The whole point of having the right to have different opinions is to talk about those differences, not throw rocks.”
The ACLU certainly hasn’t shied away from such cases, and its website refers to the landmark 1969 ruling in the Tinker v. Des Moines case, in which the ACLU successfully defended the right of student Beth Tinker to wear a black armband in opposition of the Vietnam War. The ACLU was also instrumental in the 2003 case involving a student kicked out of school for wearing a T-shirt with a picture of former President George W. Bush with the caption “international terrorist” underneath. The judge in that case also ruled in the student’s favor.
"The court's decision reaffirms the principle that students don't give up their right to express opinions on matters of public importance once they enter school," said Kary Moss, Executive Director of the ACLU of Michigan, after the judge’s ruling in that case. "Schools are not speech-free zones."
The more things change, according to the old saying, the more they stay the same.
Decades ago when systemic prejudice blunted participation by Black owned construction businesses and construction workers on the project building Dilworth Plaza on the west side of City Hall a white mayor and white city council president headed city government.
Today as systemic prejudice blunts participation of Black owned construction businesses and construction workers on the $50-million project remaking that plaza into a park-like space with ice skating rink a Black mayor and Black city council president head city government.
The systemic prejudice perpetuating the exclusion of Blacks from equitable economic access around Philadelphia provided poignant context for comments made during a hearing regarding homelessness in City Council Chambers last Thursday afternoon.
The contrast of the construction outside City Hall and pleas for compassion inside City Council again exposed the reality that discriminatory exclusions from employment and economic opportunities — aided and abetted by officials in the public and private sectors — are contributory elements in the matrix of homelessness.
During that hearing, convened by City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, speakers assailed the [allegedly] callous new policy by the administration of Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter barring the outdoor feeding of large numbers of people.
While the parameters of this Nutter administration policy apply to outdoor feeding in all city-owned, parks this policy clearly targets snatching food from the mouths of the needy homeless congregating along the Parkway in Center City particularly near the newly opened Barnes Foundation Museum.
Religious, civic and educational groups are those principally engaged in feeding the homeless in the Center City sections targeted by Nutter’s ban.
“This city, for the second year in a row, is the second hungriest district in the entire United States. That is a shame that needs to be addressed,” Erik Younge said during that hearing.
Younge, a writer for One Step Away, a local newspaper produced by homeless persons, said he has participated in programs feeding the needy for 35 years.
“Why stop people doing a necessary thing? Good health is both a human right and a civil right,” Younge said. “Feeding people is a fundamental right … banning it is immoral.”
Speakers like Younge and David Shively sought compassion for the homeless from the Nutter Administration. But those pleas eluded ears of ranking officials who, as a KWY reporter noted, didn’t testify during that hearing.
“If we don’t have people who care about those at the bottom we will have more people at the bottom,” Shively said during his hearing presentation.
Shively, who’s fed the homeless for over a dozen years said, “We must see those people we don’t want to look at.”
Nutter Administration officials deny any offensive against the homeless along the Parkway inclusive of sweeping the destitute away from the eye sight of tourists visiting the new Barnes.
Nutter officials defend the banning policy saying its purpose is to provide dignity and better quality food to the homeless by moving meals to indoor settings where the homeless can receive other services.
However, the Administration’s suggested indoor feeding settings and service provisions were not in place when the ban policy began last Friday.
“City officials have stated that there is no information on illnesses from outdoor meals,” Rev Brian Jenkins said during his testimony at Thursday’s hearing. Jenkins is the executive director of Chosen 300, a ministry with specific outreach to the homeless.
“Every day there are food carts in Center City were 30 to 50 people line up for hot dogs and bags of chips and the City sees no [food quality] problem,” Jenkins said.
The intent of the administration’s feeding ban, Jenkins declared, is to “tuck the homeless in a corner and pretend they don’t exist.”
The Nutter administration’s new hard-line on the homeless, at least the homeless in Center City areas seeking tourists, contrasts with that administration’s soft-peddling of employment excluding prejudice within Philadelphia’s construction industry.
The Nutter administration, like too many previous administrations and contemporary private sector CEOs, accommodates prejudicial practices by building trades unions plus the prime contractors that both accept trade union employment discrimination and practice prejudice against Black-owned construction related businesses.
“Why wasn’t even one of the homeless men and women who have lived on the Parkway for years marked for training or employment with the $150-200 million raised and/or expended by the Barnes? ... or anyplace else???,” a former Philadelphia housing director, Tom Massaro, asked in a recent letter he sent to a news reporter.
“Many of these citizens will remain hungry and homeless because the Mayor blew an ideal chance to engage the city’s philanthropic community in addressing the city’s struggle to assist hungry and homeless citizens on the Parkway and elsewhere.”
The concerns voiced by Massaro about structural exclusions of non-whites in Philadelphia’s lucrative contracting and high-wage paying construction industry echoes observations made in September 1966 by the national NAACP’s Director of Labor Programs.
In a 1966 Philadelphia Tribune article that NAACP official, Herbert Hill, caustically said “high government officials who piously demand law and order are the same officials who refuse to enforce the law in protecting the rights of Negroes against discrimination in employment.”
A 1966 Tribune editorial supported Hill’s observation stating, “The only reason Negroes are treated as second class citizens is because the law enforcement agencies refuse to enforce the law.”
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Journalism Fellowship Program.
Mayor’s proposal would generate additional $94M for education
School commissioners this week asked City Council members to go along with Mayor Michael Nutter’s plan to implement the Actual Value Initiative this year so the district would receive an additional $94 million.
Without it, said School Reform Commission Chair Pedro Ramos, the district would face a $312 million budget deficit rather than the $218 million shortfall that is anticipated at the moment.
“Without those funds, our gap next year would grow to over $300 million, which … is unthinkable,” Ramos told Council members Tuesday during Council hearings on the district’s budget. “We believe [we have] a realistic path back to structural financial balance.” Commissioners and district officials gave each Council member a large binder that broke down district $2.6 billion budget by school and included line items of things that are likely to be cut without the added funding. In addition, to a fiscal budget for 2013, the district also brought to Council its restructuring plans, which include the scheduled closure of 40 schools this year, a five-year plan that included a projected $1.1 billion deficit over that period and 24 more school closures.
Much of Council’s concern stems from the mayor’s plan to move the basis of property taxes from traditional assessed values based on millage to full market value — AVI. The shift is expected to increase property taxes for many Philadelphians, which makes many Council members even more uncertain about extra money for schools.
Council members are cautiously weighing all their options as they look at the district’s spending plan and warned school commissioners that they intended to give unusual scrutiny to the district’s figures.
“We have a school district that is all but broken,” said Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, chair of Council’s education committee. “We have been misled for years … every year the district returns with open hands. We need change.”
Last year, under the leadership of former school Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, the district coaxed $53 million in additional funding from Council. But, many Council members felt she tricked them when it became clear after the fact that despite Ackerman’s statements to the contrary during the budget process, the district did have money to pay for full-day kindergarten. Ackerman used the threat of eliminating full-day kindergarten as her primary bargaining chip in budget talks with Council.
The additional funds came from a property tax increase — the third consecutive year that real estate taxes went up. The experience has left Council gun shy.
“Where is this extra $94 million going?” asked Council President Darrell Clarke about this year’s additional monies, adding: “I don’t think there is anyone who doesn’t think you need more dollars.”
Ramos said the district was simply providing Council with a snapshot of its finances.
“This is the reality of the state of district,” he said. “It doesn’t go away regardless of who is in this seat or your seat. The fundamentals don’t change. We’re showing in practical terms where things are today.”
Ramos emphasized that the SRC is examining its budget options and that the numbers discussed this week were “far from final.”
Though Council members asked many questions — including questions about the search for a new superintendent — transparency and accountability was a re-occurring theme.
“I want to make sure that whatever we do this year it includes long-term accountability, said Maria Quinones Sanchez, in statements echoed by several of her colleagues.
Traditionally, Council has little oversight of the SRC.
Councilman Dennis O’Brien, a former state representative, said the real responsibility rested not with Council but with the mayor and Gov. Tom Corbett, because they appoint SRC members.
“We have a dysfunctional conversation here,” he said. “We have an SRC presenting assumptions that only the mayor and governor can respond to. We are here as window dressing. There are two people who can change the conversation and that is the governor and the mayor.”
Ramos said the SRC has pressed the governor for his support.
“We’ve asked the governor for support in every way we can,” Ramos said. “We are asking the governor to work with the SRC on fiscal sustainability, but this can’t be done in quick sound bites.”
Council is conducting its budget hearings as a committee of the whole, and the education budget hearings drew every member of Council with the exception of Councilman Brian O’Neill.
Councilman Oh praises superintendent’s handling of case
Two city council members weighed in on the Samantha Pawlucy controversy Thursday — the day after Mitt Romney called the Philadelphia 16 year-old who has attracted national attention for her support of his candidacy.
Councilman David Oh lauded school Superintendent William Hite for his handling of the incident while taking a jab at Hite’s predecessor — Arlene Ackerman.
“I find it very reassuring that the school district is taking action on it,” Oh said. “I think in contrast to the prior school district, in terms of their failing in dealing with an incident in which Chinese students were taken out of a classroom and then beaten, and then the principal excused that behavior and action was not taken for many months, this is reassuring to the parents in Philadelphia.”
Pawlucy was reportedly mocked by her geometry teacher at Charles Carroll High School for wearing a Romney T-shirt in class on Sept. 28. The incident made her feel so uncomfortable, she told school officials, that she is now transferring to another school.
The Associated Press reported Thursday that Romney called Pawlucy at home. Though officials with the Romney campaign confirmed the call they declined to provide details. The family would not comment.
Councilman Dennis O’Brien, an advocate for kids with disabilities, said the incident highlighted the issue of bullying — this time by a teacher.
“My kids — kids with disabilities — are often victimized in numerous settings and with little response,” he said. “This offers us all the opportunity to look at bullying. The fact that we tolerate this is the beginning and the root of all this bullying.”
The girl briefly returned to Charles Carroll High School in the city's Port Richmond section Tuesday. But her father says she never actually made it to class because she felt uncomfortable.
In other news, Council President Darrell Clarke decided not to introduce a proposal, put forth by the mayor’s office, that would create a new hybrid pension plan for new city employees.
“We want to know what the potential implications are,” Clarke said. “We anticipate introducing this bill in the future, but I want to understand what is we’re putting in the hopper.”
Last month Mayor Michael Nutter announced a new pay and benefits package for about 5,500 employees that would include changes to their pensions. But, in order to create the less expensive plan, the administration needs council’s approval.