With two recent developments – the expansion of its programs to other portions of the commonwealth and the invitation of the chief aide of a once-controversial Civil Rights-era leader – Lincoln University is increasing both its viability and academic footprint in the state.
Lincoln University’s decision to expand its offerings by providing undergraduate and graduate-level business programs to Coatesville-area students will only help the university’s stature moving forward.
According to university officials, in September the school will begin offering the extra programming at the Gordon Education Center, 351 Kersey St., in Coatesville. The classes will initially be offered in the evenings and on weekends, and as the classes grow, so will the number of classes and the times when they will be held. Students will be able to obtain accelerated undergraduate and graduate degrees in business.
“Once again, Lincoln University claims another first with its expansion to the city of Coatesville,” said Lincoln University President Dr. Robert R. Jennings via a statement released by his office. “Lincoln University-Coatesville will offer a great and convenient opportunity for working adult, veteran or other student who has already obtained an associates or bachelor’s degree in business and wishes to further his or her professional career with an advanced degree.”
And thanks to a well-known almnus, Lincoln University will also enjoy a rare opportunity to obtain a glimpse into the civil rights era from someone deeply embedded within the movement.
Abdullah H. Abdur-Razzaq, a 1958 graduate of the university, will give a free talk, “Brothers: Perspectives on Malcolm X,” on Tuesday, April 9 at 7 p.m. in Lincoln University’s Grim Hall Auditorium. Abdur-Razzaq also gave a previous speech at the university, titled “The Life and Times of James 67X: Life at Lincoln and Lincoln’s Connections with Malcolm X.”
Shortly after graduation, Abdur-Razzaq joined the Nation of Islam’s famous Temple No. 7 in Harlem, of which slain leader Malcolm X served as its most fiery minister. For a time, Abdur-Razzaq served as a lieutenant in the Fruit of Islam, the NOI’s self-defense wing. Abdur-Razzaq went on to become of one of Malcolm X’s closest aides, standing with Malcolm X as the minister found Muslim Mosque, Inc., where he served as secretary, and the Organization of Afro-American Unity, two developments that came after Malcolm X broke with the NOI and its leadership.
Temple No. 7 was destroyed in a bombing in 1965, after Malcolm X’s assassination, which forced the NOI to move and rename it Muhammad’s Mosque Number Seven.
Like Malcolm X, who went from Malcolm Little and his “Red” street hustler moniker to Malcolm X during his time with the NOI, and lastly, to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz after his pilgrimages to Mecca, Abdur-Razzaq went through similar transitions. Born James Monroe King Warden, he changed his name to James 67X when he joined the NOI, and then once again to James Shabazz while assisting his ministerial leader in the creation of the Muslim Mosque and OAAU.
Abdur-Razzaq has remained busy in the decades that ensued, and currently serves as staff consultant for the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture, which coincidentally has offices on Malcolm X Boulevard in Harlem.
“It is a rare privilege to have a living legacy walk among us. Students will be able to peer into the past through the one person who says, ‘If you want to know more about the last year of the life of Malcolm X, I am the man to see,’” said Lincoln University Religion Professor Dr. Mel Lehman. “At 81 years of age, he is ready to tell it all regarding his years at Lincoln, connections that other Lincoln students had with Malcolm X, and of course, his own relationships with Malcolm and interpretations of the life and experiences they shared.”
In the face of declining resources to work with, seven area school principals have overcome obstacles, budgetary and otherwise, and have excelled at their craft to the point where, on Tuesday afternoon April 9, they will be recognized for their work by receiving the Lindback Distinguished Principal Leadership Award.
The award ceremony will begin at 4:30 at the Prince Music Theater, 1412 Chestnut St; although the ceremony is primarily for the recognized principals and School District of Philadelphia staff, it is a free event and is open to the public. Mayor Michael Nutter, District Superintendent Dr. William Hite Jr. and Lindback Foundation trustees will present the awards.
The Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation have recognized academic leaders in secondary education since the 1961 creation of the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching.
The Foundation was initially established by a testamentary gift in trust under the will of Christian R. Lindback. The individual and corporate trustees were given broad discretion to support charitable purposes within the territorial United States. Educational goals and the support of distressed individuals in the City of Philadelphia through existing charitable organizations were given emphasis. The trustees have focused discretionary grant attention on the Greater Philadelphia area including South Jersey.
“The Lindback Foundation has a long history of being awarded at the college level, and more recently, the Foundation has extended the award to the 51 principals in each of the 51 high schools,” explained Lindback Foundation Trustee Sheldon Bonovitz. “The principal award that these principals will receive includes $15,000 for their school. Even though it sounds like a small amount of money, for the principals to have that much in their school for discretional spending is a big deal.
“And it is a prestigious honor.”
The Philadelphia-based foundation created the award in 2011 as a way to specifically recognize School District of Philadelphia principals.
“One of the criteria for selecting the principals for the award is the use of funds on behalf of their school,” Bonovitz explained. “Principals can really choose the way the money is spent, and it can be spent in various creative ways.
“That was really important for principals to garner an award of this magnitude.”
The awarded principals are Stephen Brandt of Roxborough High School, Debora Carrera of Kensington High School for Creative and Performing Arts, Rosalind Chivis of the High School of the Future, Lisa Ciaranca-Kaplan of Andrew Jackson Elementary School, Gina Hubbard of Joseph Greenberg Elementary School, Victoria Johnson-Pressley of John F. McCloskey Elementary School and Johnny Whaley of the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts.
“The principals who receive this award are really outstanding executives, and for their schools to have success, it must start with the principals, who are the equivalent of CEO’s,” Bonovitz said. “So we felt it was very important to recognize the job principals are doing, particularly in these troubling times, with budget constraints and the loss of teachers through attrition.”
In the wake of several embarrassing arrests in the city and reported proliferation of human trafficking in the region, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown recently introduced legislation that would reform and regulate the so-called “touch therapy” massage industry.
Brown’s office recently organized an investigation into human trafficking, and found that a loophole exists in the current law which allows for certain behaviors to go unchecked and therefore, unregulated; worse, these businesses can be used as a cover for the far more nefarious dealings going on within the premises.
The bill in question is the Massage Therapy Act of 2008, enacted by the state’s General Assembly, which provided early parameters and punishment for violators. Brown says that bill doesn’t fully address the current misuse of its provisions.
Specifically, she found that the loophole provides exemptions for individuals who use “touch to affect the energy systems, acupoints, Qi meridians or channels of energy of the human body, including acupressure, Asian bodywork therapy, polarity therapy bodywork, quigon, reiki, shiatsu and tui na.”
Brown’s bill has three prongs: All touch therapy establishments must apply for and receive new licenses, valid for one year, from the Department of Licenses and Inspections; it establishes a $100 application fee,whose filers will have to submit to an extensive background check, which includes all criminal business complaints, and finally, it establishes a $300 fine for those operators who fail to obtain and produce on demand a valid, current license.Operating a massage therapy business without the required license would be considered a Class III offense.
According to Brown’s office, any potential massage therapy business owner or operator will be barred from obtaining a license if they have been “convicted of a crime of moral turpitude,” or if L&I has probable cause to believe the owner or operator has engaged in massage therapy-connected criminal activity.
Additionally, touch therapy business owners and operators will be required to openly display their licenses at every location they operate from.
“This bill will finally regulate an industry that has allowed some bad apples to operate with an ‘anything goes’ approach, all under the auspices of ‘touch therapy,’” Brown said. “They are flagrantly violating the law right under the noses of law enforcement, casting a cloud of suspicion on the professionals that are actually practicing the legitimate healing techniques involved in touch therapy, and in the process, using and abusing women and girls who deserve a better life.
“This is unacceptable,” Brown continued. “I do not know how or why these exemptions were granted, but I can almost guarantee that they were not conceived of or implemented at the suggestions of a woman.”
School District of Philadelphia officials – already coping with the fallout from its recent announcement that it is facing a $304 million shortfall for fiscal year 2014 – now must contend with the twin body-blows of dealing with the troubling news that the district was forced to dismiss two principals caught up in a cheating scandal not unlike the one that recently rocked Atlanta, and of needing to recalculate the School Performance Index scores for every school in its portfolio.
While the need for a recalculation is relatively easy to comprehend, the district may have more explaining to do in regard to the dismissal earlier this week of Barbara McCreery and Lola Marie O’Rourke, the two former principals suspended and forced to surrender their administrative certifications in order to escape criminal charges.
According to published reports, state officials had been investigating claims that McCreery erased and changed student answers on standardized tests, known as the PSSAs, while leading Communications Technology High School in 2009-10. She also allegedly created an answer key and manipulated student data.
At Communications Technology High School, math results for 11th graders spiked from nearly 30 percent proficiency in 2008-09 to almost 70 percent in 2009-10. In reading, scores jumped from 53 percent to about 75 percent in the same period.
McCreery left the district in 2010.
Accusations against O’Rourke, now ex-principal of Locke Elementary School, included changing answers as well as giving answers to students, directing others to review secure testing documents and storing exam materials in an unsecure location.
Similar spikes and troughs could be seen for all grade levels at Locke in both math and reading. For instance, third grade math scores skyrocketed from about 26 percent proficiency in 2008-09 to about 73 percent the following year.
The results jumped even higher, to about 85 percent, in 2010-11 before plunging to below 20 percent in 2011-12.
The allegations stem from a nearly two-year probe by the state Education Department into scores on the 2009-11 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment exams, and were only discovered after a routine forensic report on the tests — which are given to students statewide in grades 3-8 and 11 — had revealed statistical anomalies and high percentages of wrong-to-right erasure marks.
All told, state education officials have found evidence of tampering in at least 15 districts or charter schools, resulting in more than 140 misconduct complaints filed with the state’s Professional Standards and Practices Commission. Philadelphia is the only district still under investigation.
“There must be severe consequences for adults that have violated testing integrity protocols in schools,” district officials said via a statement released to the media. “There is no room in schools for any adult involved in cheating.”
In regard to the recalculation, the district uses SPI as one of the methods in evaluating and determining a school’s overall quality, and district officials believe this is even more comprehensive than the federal Adequate Yearly Progress – or AYP – metrics.
However, after noticing a few errors as it audited its own findings, district officials contracted with an outside firm to run another audit; those findings will be released next month, but officials with the district have said the grade discrepancies were either one percentage point too high or too low.
This district says the calculations caused the error, not the method.
“It is important to note that the underlying data feeding into the SPI was not in question nor considered to be faulty,” Hite said. “The calculation used to produce the SPI scores for traditional public and charter schools was in question. We have rectified these errors and produced more accurate results.”
About half of the schools will see their scores unchanged.
The corrections were specifically related to how the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment’s Growth Measure, which weighs heavily into the SPI score; according to the district, for the recalculation, it used the Growth Measure throughout all of its schools.
The district also will more evenly calculate the achievement gap score, taking into account schools with very few white and Asian students. The district also relied on the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education and the Philadelphia Great School Compact Accountability Working Group for input and review.
The controversial property assessment program Actual Value Initiative – AVI – took a brief backseat during Thursday’s council meeting, as members and community stakeholders threw their collective weight against another perceived scourge: the city’s penchant for entering into risky rate management agreements commonly referred to as “swaps.”
Councilman Jim Kenney’s resolution, which passed through council with a unanimous vote, urges the Pennsylvania Senate to enact Senate Bill 293, which would block all municipalities throughout the Commonwealth from entering such agreements.
SB 293, introduced in February by Sen. Mike Folmer and cosponsored by Sen. Dominic Pileggi, has been referred to the Senate Local Government Committee.
Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner has long been a critic of the tactic. According to Wagner, a swap is a financial contract between two parties betting on which way interest rates will move. The party that guesses correctly gets paid and the party that guesses incorrectly must pay the other party. The amount of cash being swapped is determined by the size of the debt being financed by bonds with variable interest rates. Wagner in January released a report on the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission’s involvement in interest-rate swaps has cost Pennsylvania taxpayers and turnpike motorists at least $108.9 million.
A 2009 investigation completed by Wagner’s office of the Bethlehem Area School District found that on a statewide basis, 107 of 500 school districts and 86 local governments had $14.9 billion in public debt tied to swaps. The numbers have since increased to $17.5 billion in public debt, encompassing 108 of 500 school districts and 101 local governments. In the process, millions of public dollars have been lost in interest-rate swap deals.
While economist James Foster testified that the city will lose an additional $240 million if it goes through with swaps, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan spoke of the impact these swap deals had and continue to have on students.
“Swaps certainly have a huge impact on our schools and our students, and I am here today to urge you to support the resolution against swaps in Philadelphia and in the school district,” Jordan testified. “Teachers have become experts on the toll that cuts to education funding have taken on our schools and our children. Philadelphia has only 42 librarians for its 239 schools; we’ve seen the layoffs of 101 school nurses, which has put our children’s health at risk; 25 percent of our schools don’t have music teachers, and there’s been less support for English as secondary language learners.
“These are just a few examples of how the cuts in state aid have been structured to hit Philadelphia the hardest,” Jordan continued. “And the money that the school district has lost on swaps would be money that would put those monies back into those services.”
Of particular note, council also passed a bill that would change the interest and penalty rates for unpaid taxes.
Council President Darrell Clarke wouldn’t floor the Earned Sick Days Bill, intimating that since Mayor Michael Nutter has recently vetoed the bill, there wasn’t much council could do about it at its regular weekly meeting.
Councilman Bill Greenlee recently introduced the legislation, officially titled the Healthy Families and Workplace Bill, and council passed it in late March.
“I am heartened by the vote, and the expression by a solid majority of my colleagues that healthy workplaces and fairness for employees are good for Philadelphia’s economy. This is about respect for all workers, including low wage employees,” Greenlee said. “This also is about public health, and keeping those workers away from the general public when they come down with a communicable illness.
“Today is a great day for the more than 200,000 Philadelphia workers who will be eligible to earn paid sick leave.”
Even without gaining the floor to state their case to council, supporters of the bill – led by the Philadelphia Coalition for Healthy Families and Workplaces – held a press conference in the hallway leading to council. During that press conference, many proponents blasted the mayor’s veto as painful and shortsighted.
“Mayor Nutter’s veto shows that he has chosen to side with cooperate lobbyists instead of Philadelphia’s families who need and want earned sick time. Small businesses and economists alike support earned sick time, and the mayor’s position against the bill misses a real opportunity to get our economy on the right track for all Philadelphians,” said Pathways PA Senior Director of Policy and Media Relations Marianna Bellesorte. “When workers without earned sick days have to forgo a day’s pay, or worse, lose their jobs because they are ill, it affects all of us.
“We call on the city council, which has twice passed an earned sick days bill, to stand up to the corporate lobbyists, override Mayor Nutter’s veto and bring earned sick days to nearly 200,000 Philadelphians who currently are forced to choose between their financial security and their health.”