Happy New Year!

Last year was rather insightful and amazing. I took some time off of blogging to pursue other avenues, but I am back.

In addition to my take on news and events, I hope to share stories and experiences with you. Before I met the student or now alumnus in the next story I was sitting in on a meeting of Temple University’s International Student Association when a tall, well dressed student stood up before the crowd and delivered a presentation that called for students to question the way they as international students interacted with others of different races and ethnic groups as well as domestic students in both casual and professional manners. His story is part of a series that includes interviews from Rhonda Brown J.D., Temple’s associate vice president of the Office of IDEAL, Institutional Diversity, Equality, Advocacy and Leadership and Brooke Walker, assistant vice president for Global Partnerships and Programs and International Student and Scholar Services.


CBS Fires Blogger that Incorrectly Reported Joe Paterno’s Death

Adam Jacobi, the blogger responsible for the story released by CBS Sports that incorrectly reported Joe Paterno’s death, has been let go.

“I had an awesome 17 months with CBSSports.com. I’m sorry to everyone, most importantly the Paterno family, for how it ended.”

Adam Jacobi (@Adam_Jacobi)January 27, 2012 (The Business Insider).

Has the Rush to be First Disturbed Basic Ethics of Journalism?

As a print journalism enthusiast, I often hear that the newspaper, and other print forms will die out, leading to a complete digital era. Many class discussions focus on the rush for newspapers and magazines to have a firm online stand. No longer has it become acceptable to print today’s news tomorrow, information is constantly being updated and added to these media sites. In addition to become digital, news must now be instant, further driving the need for media outlets to be the first to release information, the first to break a story, the first to interview a celebrity or person of interest. But, has the need to be the first to publish or share information, shaken the core ethics of Journalism?

No I’m not being dramatic, let me provide you with a simple and recent example.

On Jan. 21, Joe Paterno, former foot ball coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions was falsely declared dead by a tweet.  Onward State, an alternative paper based at Penn State Main, who is often competing with The Daily Collegian, the official campus student newspaper,  declared Paterno to be no more. In hast to be among the first media outlets to report changes in Paterno’s condition,  CBS Sports went ahead and released Paterno’s obituary without citing a direct source for news about Paterno’s death.

Media outlets such as Onward State, The Daily Collegian and CBS must surely have codes of ethics. What was the decision like when deciding to publish information about Paterno’s death. How did the need to be first play a role in the decision? Did it weigh more than the need to verify information?

What has happened to the days of double, perhaps triple checking sources?

The false report of Paterno’s death caused a great stir among Penn State fans, and among several of the people I follow on twitter. Imagine my surprise Saturday night, as people  began replying to the tweets of larger media outlets, correcting their mistake.

Paterno is not the only one who has been falsely declared dead by the media. Over a year ago news organizations pronounced Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifforddead after a shooting in Arizona. Giffords has recently resigned from Congress.

It is rather unlikely that mistakes like these will stop, as the demand for instant information will never go away. Should media outlets compromise their ethics in the drive to be first? What do you think?

Zero Tolerance Policy Helps Local High School Aim High

Located in South Philadelphia, The Academy at Palumbo, hopes to become “the finest high school in Philadelphia,” according to the school’s handbook. After opening in 2006, the magnet liberal arts high school, aimed to prepare its students for higher education, instill a passion for learning and raise each student’s aspiration, according to the school’s website. “When we first opened, the new teachers and principal created behavioral expectations along with the SDP’s student code of conduct,” said Dr. Adrienne Wallace-Chew, principal of Palumbo.

According to the School District of Philadelphia’s (SDP) 2011-2012 Code of Student Conduct, students are expected to “respect the authority of all school personnel and the rights of other students and all members of the school community.”  Students are also expected to comply with their individual schools’ handbooks. At Palumbo, the school handbook expresses a “zero tolerance policy towards the language and behavior of intolerance.” Aimed toward staff and students, The Academy at Palumbo’s zero tolerance policy towards intolerance also extends to the “inappropriate comments regarding ethnicity or sexual orientation, offhanded discriminatory remarks, offensive jokes and overt harassment of any kind.”

In the past, the teachers of Palumbo received training from the school district on making appropriate comments regarding ethnicity or sexual orientation, and  handling offensive or discriminatory comments. Although the SDP did not offer the training this year, “Palumbo has a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) club at the school. “We also have many staff members who are openly gay or lesbian and offer support to our students,” said Chew. “We have not encountered any gay bashing or bullying from students that we are aware of,” she added.

Palumbo’s zero tolerance policy towards intolerance plays a large role in keeping the peace among its diverse student body of over 600 students. According to the SDP, African American students make up the largest ethnic group at Palumbo, at 50.6 percent of the school. Asians make up 21 percent of the student population, followed by whites at 17 percent. Latinos account for 9.3 percent of the school’s student body, while Other, makes up the remaining 1.9 percent.  Of Palumbo’s current student population, 73.4 percent of students are economically disadvantaged, according to the SDP. “There’s a diverse student body, not a lot of cliques, everyone gets along with everyone,” said English teacher, Christopher Alvarez. As a diverse high school, The Academy at Palumbo strongly enforces the SDP’s Multiracial-Multicultural-Gender Education policy. Issued on Aug, 18, 2004, the policy encourages students to develop a sense of respect among staff and students. The policy also implemented a grievance process that allowed ‘students who found that they had either been discriminated against or denied the rights guaranteed by the policy’ to have both the Principal of the school and the SDP investigate the incident,’ according to School District of Philadelphia’s Office of Accountability.

With student body of over 600 students, The Academy at Palumbo currently employs two school police officers and uses metal detector and kiosks, which are located in the first floor hallway to monitor students’ entrance into the school, according to Chew. During the 2010-2011 school year there were two suspensions, down four from the previous school year. There were also three incidents of assault during the 2010-2011 school term, according to the SDP. In addition to the school police officers, the high school has three noontime aides and two school support assistants.

“Most students here will follow the rules because they are the rules,” said ninth grade English teacher, Meghan Donnelly. Donnelly, who previously taught English at Edison High School in North Philly, found the students at Palumbo to be refreshing. “Here, there’s an innate sense of wanting to do the right thing. At my other school there had to be a sense of punishment,” said Donnelly. “Its positive incentives here,” she added.

In addition to its zero tolerance policy towards intolerance, attendance is also very important to the high school. Palumbo uses a system of detention, and the loss of school privileges to encourage students to attend school. According to the school’s Absence/Lateness Policy, “Due to the accelerated pace and heavy workload at The Academy at Palumbo, its especially important for students to make a commitment to attend school everyday.” For the past three school years, 2008-2011, the school has maintained a 90 percent student attendance rate, according to the SDP. As a result of Palumbo’s high attendance rate, the high school recently won the Get Schooled Fall Challenge. According to the Get Schooled, Dec. 1 press release, the high school increased its attendance to 97 percent in seven weeks, Oct. 3 to Nov. 18. For their efforts students of The Academy of Palumbo will be awarded a red-carpet event, “with a Mission: Impossible-themed event at the school and preview screening of Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol at the UA Riverview theatre in Philadelphia,” according to the non-profit organization.

Similar to the challenge, Palumbo provides incentives for students to succeed. According to the school’s handbook, extra curricular activities are privileges that can be taken away due to students’ behavior and grades.  “We have over 15 extra curricular clubs and offer boys and girls volleyball, basketball, baseball, football, badminton, soccer, track and field, softball and wrestling, ” said Chew. Palumbo’s extracurricular clubs include afterschool yoga, a knitting circle, a poetry club and an afterschool Journalism program.

As a special admittance high school, The Academy at Palumbo, selects students according to its admission requirements. “All A’s and B’s with one C and standardized test scores at the 88 percentile in Reading and Math, good behavior, good attendance,” Chew summarized.

“I think that because the students are selected, there is a culture of not getting into fights. Students who were successful in the past are less likely to get distracted,” said Alvarez. According to the SDP, of Palumbo’s student body, 13.4 percent of students are mentally gifted, 3.1 percent of students are with a disability and 83.5 percent of students are without an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). “We have a Mentally Gifted (MG) English and MG Drama and 12 Advanced Placement courses,” said Chew.

The Academy of Palumbo, according to the 2010 School Performance Index (SPI) is ranked among the top 10 schools in Philadelphia. Data shows that during the 2010-2011 school year, Palumbo had a higher attendance rate and performed better on both the Math and Reading PSSA tests than schools like Carver High School of Science and Engineering, located in North Philadelphia and the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA). According to the SPI, schools are measured and compared by their “academic progress or growth on the PSSA and academic achievement, performance on the PSSA, as well as the satisfaction of parents, teachers, and students.”

“All policies are part of an attempt to establish guidelines by which we all use to effectively function. All organizations must have policies,” said Chew. “When I was at Central high school we had a saying, “We will never lose on substance, only on process.” If you don’t have a good process you won’t readily see success in the daily things you do, the substance of school. I have carried that saying with me to Palumbo, using it to become one of the finest high schools in the city,” Chew concluded.


Happy Holidays

I’m currently working on two articles for my Public Affairs Reporting and Journalism Research courses. I just finished an article for an online magazine here at Temple and will share that link with you as soon as possible. I hope to write during winter break, but I’m not making any promises (have to search for an internship and enjoy my family). Happy holidays, be safe and stay warm!

Budget Cuts Meet Philadelphia High School Teacher Stretched Thin

At Overbrook High School, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, before most students start their day, they will encounter English teacher Bonnie Breese. This petite, African American woman is heard before she is seen in the marble halls of Overbrook High, and is an element to the glue that holds the West Philadelphia school together in spite of  several recent setbacks. Breese starts her school day by delivering the daily announcements, monitoring the bustling hallways, or standing in front of students discussing literary devices. “Once I hit that door, roller skates,” said Breese. “You’re on roller skates all day long.”

Breese taught in Pennsylvania state correctional facilities and counseled in juvenile prisons for five years before becoming a full time public school teacher. “In between jobs and just for the heck of it I would substitute teach, and I just always did that because I was certified .While counseling in the juvenile prison, I would teach in the prison, my third job was to teach summer school,” said Breese. “So here I was working around the clock and I was loving teaching. I said, this is ridiculous, every time I turn around my behind is back in the classroom teaching somebody. Why don’t I do this full-time,” she asked herself.

As Breese began to look for a permanent teaching position a friend suggested that she leave her Williamsport home and move to Philadelphia, where there was a great need for teachers. Initially, Breese says, “I didn’t want to come back to Philly, because of my daughter. She was getting ready to go to high school.” However, Breese settled in Philadelphia and interviewed for a teaching position after passing a rigid examination. “I came down, interviewed, took the test, then interviewed in front of a panel,” said Breese. “They interviewed you in front of six people. They asked questions, then you do a demonstration lesson, all of that and that’s after you pass the test, then they would call you back for the interview. After that you ended up in a number line up, ranking you to see if you could get the job.” “That’s how I started,” she explained.

After 11 years at Overbrook, Breese has seen several changes within the education system and the programs offered at the high school. “The demise of the education system has to do with socio-economic status, clearly,” said Breese. “I see clearly that we’re about to have one of the [largest] divides between the haves and the have nots. We can go across the street to Lower Merion, they’re not having these issues, five blocks away.” In over a decade, Breese saw essential programs disappear from the school. “We had an art magnet program, gone. We used to have a music magnet program, gone. What else,” she asked. In most of the marble hallways there are large murals, serving as reminders of the school’s art program.

Overbrook High School took a hard hit when the school district clamored to close a gap of $629 million. Not only did the school lose funding for program and supplies such as books for the library, but the loss of support staff and several teachers, left the remaining staff thinly spread trying to adequately deal with behavioral problems while providing an education for students.

Teachers, hoping to preserve their after school efforts or activities, write individual grants so that these programs can continue. For Breese, funding was not the driving force to her continuing to provide Radio, the Prime Movers program which teaches students to form their own newspapers and media. Radio is an extensive effort that allows high school students to meet with professional journalists and college students. “It doesn’t matter if I get paid or not,” says Breese, “I’m going to make it happen.” Radio also allows students to connect with the school’s community, building lasting relationships there. Breese started out as a print journalism major, and currently holds a degree in Communication and Education. “The university where I graduated, I was the first and only black editor for the newspaper.” “It’s another job,” said Breese “but the kids want it, you need it, it’s here,”.

Breese, who began teaching full time solely teaching special education classes, has also seen the state of the economy and resulting school district budget cuts affect the roles teachers take on. Outside of teaching special education, Breese also served as program leader, or a small community leader, to the upper grades. Her principal found that these two roles conflicted and moved Breese to teacher English to the higher grades. As a program leader, Breese helps students transition through school with ease. “If they get in trouble in class I should be able to stand for them, behind them, next to them,” explains Breese. Special education is not longer offered at Overbrook, instead students with special needs or learning disabilities have been placed in mainstream classes. “We [had] the autistic class, the M.R class, the LS, life skills and then the life skills support class, and those are your I.Q. 50 and below,” said Breese.

In addition to teaching and acting as program leader, Breese is the sponsor of the high school’s year book and spends her free time policing the halls, making sure that students remain civil and go to  class. This new role came after the school lost four of its school security guards to budget cuts. Breese, also holds detention with several fellow teachers during the week. Last school year, Breese was also in charge of transportation, handing out transpasses to students who live more than 1.6 miles away from the school.“They [the school district] tried to get that out, but its back on budget, said Breese. “They’re ready to stop giving out transportation funds!”

“I love what I do,” said Breese. “I might be mad, taking my shoes off, talking big trash, but I love what I do. I tell the young people. You all teach me like I’m teaching you. They keep me hip.”

Follow Up

I ended my last post wondering how the media and authorities would react to the protest on Wall St. While major news organizations have relaxed their coverage, several  arrests have been made. According to the organizers of the Occupy Wall Street, four protesters have been arrested. A protester recorded one of the arrests and shared the video via social media.

For additional information: