Monday, December 11, 2017

The Agony of Victory

It's official: The football gods must hate us.

Most Monday mornings after the kind of exhilarating win the Eagles gutted out vs. the Rams in L.A. yesterday afternoon, the Philadelphia region would be on top of the world.

The Eagles are back on top of the NFL, with a league-best 11-2 record. They locked up the NFC East crown. People would be making their reservations for Minneapolis, where they are playing the Super Bowl this year.

Instead, a shroud hangs over Philadelphia.

I tried to capture it on today's front page.

I called it the "Agony of Victory."

That's because the Eagles likely have lost the one player who makes them something special.

Carson Wentz left the game in the fourth quarter with a knee injury. Some sources are saying he may have torn an ACL. That would mean he's out for the season, including the playoffs.

Give the Eagles and Nick Foles all the credit in the world.

They still managed to rally and beat the Rams, 43-35, in what might be the best NFL game you'll see in a long time, Let's be clear. Without Carson Wentz, the Eagles are still a playoff team. They might even win a couple of games.

But they are not a Super Bowl team.

That is the difference Carson Wentz makes.

It is the risk you take with Wentz. Ironically, he suffered the injury on a play that didn't matter. He plunged into the end zone on a scramble but the play was nullified by a holding call on right tackle Lane Johnson.

Incredibly, Wentz stayed in the game for several plays and still threw a TD pass.

At least the NFL should be happy. It as great TV.

Now we wait for the medical news.

And we curse our fate as Eagles fans.

'Fake News' and the practice of journalism

It was another tough week for journalism last week.

And this has nothing to do with the cratering business model that threatens the industry.

No, this is about reporting, and what we do.

As clearly evidenced by high-profile cases in which news organizations got things wrong, the business is having its issues. Those instances put a cloud over the vast majority of what we do.

It plays into the hands of those who are all too willing to scream "fake news" every time something gets reported that they don't like. It happens every day.

I know. I answer the phone and I hear it.

I talk a little bit about the practice of journalism in my weekly Letter From the Editor print column today.

The battle against gerrymandering

No elected post should be "voter-proof."

That is what they are arguing in a courtroom in downtown Philly.

It's about gerrymandering.

And here is the key thing to remember.

Try to take politics out of it. That is actually one of the things this lawsuit against the most recent Congressional redistricting plan is attempting to accomplish.

The truth is both sides engage in this, using the redrawing of the boundaries to favor their side.

Today a second suit will kick off out in Harrisburg.

Make sure you read our editorial on this whole shameful process here.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Dreaded Saturday Eagles Pick

The Eagles this week may have to do something they have not done yet this year.

No, not win after a loss. They already did that in Week 3 when they recovered from their only other loss, against the Chiefs, and held off the Giants.

But the one thing they have not done so far this year is win a high-scoring shootout. For the most part, during that most enjoyable nine-game win streak, they were blowing out the lesser lights of this year's NFL.

That won't be the case Sunday in L.A.

The Rams are for real. On both sides of the ball.

Led by Jared Goff, they are going to score points, even against the Eagles' stout defense. They can grind it on the ground, led by Todd Gurley, or in the air with Goff.

Everyone will be watching the battle between Goff, who was taken No. 1 in the draft, against Wentz, who went No. 2.

But keep your eyes on the line. It's likely the team that can run the ball and control the clock is going to take this game.

There is another factor at play as well. The Eagles got a wake-up call vs. Seattle, but they have not exactly been in their normal routine this week. They are practicing on a baseball field and staying in a hotel, maybe with one eye on the wildfires that have been devastating southern California.

The Seattle game was a test. Can the Eagles beat a very good, playoff-caliber team? They came up short. Now they get another bite at the apple. I still don't think they're up to the task.

Carson Wentz and the Eagles offense would be wise not to have another slow start, as is suddenly their habit. They may not be able to catch the high-flying Rams.

I see the Eagles falling behind in the first half, then both teams putting up points in the second.

I hope I'm wrong, but I think the Birds will lose two in a row for the first time this year, endangering their ability to secure home field advantage in the playoffs.

THE PICK: Make it Rams 33, Eagles 29. Two losses in a row? That's something that hasn't happened this year. This will be a good test for Doug Pederson and the Eagles, to see how they react after an off night in Seattle. I still think they're a solid playoff team, I just don't think they're as good as they looked while rolling over the dregs of the NFL. Again, I hope I'm wrong.

LAST WEEK: The Seahawks were a desperate team and it showed. They simply outplayed the Eagles, who continued a trend, bad first half, furious rally in second half. But they continued to turn the ball over, and in the NFL that is a killer. The loss dropped the Eagles to a still very good 10-2. In the meantime, going with Seattle allowed me to pull even again, with an identical 10-2 mark. I'm going against them again this week.

GAME BY GAME:Chiefs 27, Eagles 20. (My Pick: Chiefs 33, Eagles 17)

Eagles 30, Redskins 17. (My Pick: Eagles 26, Redskins 13)

Eagles 27, Giants 24. (My Pick: Eagles 23, Giants 17)

Eagles 26, Chargers 24. (My Pick: Chargers 27, Eagles 17)

Eagles 34, Cardinals 7. (My Pick: Eagles 29, Cardinals 24)

Eagles 28, Panthers 23. (My Pick: Panthers 26, Eagles 17)

Eagles 34, Redskins 24. (My Pick: Eagles 31, Redskins 19)

Eagles 33, 49ers 10. (My Pick: Eagles 24, 49ers 10)

Eagles 51, Broncos 23 (My Pick: Eagles 23, Broncos 19)

Eagles 37, Cowboys 9 (My Pick: Eagles 29, Cowboys 17)

Eagles 31, Bears 3 (My Pick: Eagles 31, Bears 13)

Seahawks 24, Eagles 10 (My Pick: Seahawks 23, Eagles 17)

Friday, December 8, 2017

The shame of Chester Upland

On our editorial page today, we delve into the shame of the Chester Upland School District.

How bad are things there?

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale was in town to talk about his team's recent audit of the troubled school district.

There was only one problem.

The audit didn't happen.

Why?

Brace yourself.

The district could not even produce the documents needed to perform the audit.

You can't make this stuff up.

And this from a school district that annually receives millions of dollars in taxpayer money via state funding.

For their part, the district is blaming a recent move to new offices and also points out most of the discrepancies and missing documents took place in the term of a previous administration.

The problem in Chester Upland is that there is always a previous administration.

The district has been under state receivership since 2012 and in that time has had three receivers and two different superintendents.

Of course, in the meantime, it's the children and families of Chester Upland who wind up losing.

No wonder there is a groundswell for school choice and charter schools.

It's gone on far too long.

You can read our editorial here.

Dec. 8, 1980.

The day the music died.

John Lennon was shot as he returned to his home in The Dakota apartment building off Central Park in New York City.

Here is the way much of the world learned about the death of the former Beatle:

Thursday, December 7, 2017

'Chaos' in the Chester Upland School District

Stop us if you've heard this before.

Chester Upland School District is a mess.

Actually, the word used by Auditor General Eugene DePasquale was "chaos."

DePasquale was in town Wednesday to release the results of the latest state audit of Chester Upland's books.

Or at least that was his hope.

It didn't turn out that way.

That's because DePasquale said things are so bad in Chester Upland that officials were not even able to supply the necessary paperwork his office needed to do the audit.

"Total administrative chaos," is how the auditor general put it.

DePasquale, who has now been in charge of reviewing the books for public agencies in the state for almost five years, says that has never happened before.

The Democrat stopped in our office in Swarthmore Wednesday morning to discuss his dealings with the district.

He noted it's "very rare" to run into this kind of difficulty and lack of cooperation. At one point he referred to the district as the Titanic.

“It is rather rare to find a school district in such disarray that we are unable to complete an audit and leaves doubts about whether the district’s students are getting the education they deserve and need,” DePasquale said in a statement.

“Sadly, with Chester Upland School District, there was so much information the district couldn’t provide that we were unable to come to a full conclusion on the district’s status.”

For their part, the district blames much of the problem on the missing documents on a recent move to new offices.

The auditor general did offer some hope that the new team in control of the district is showing signs of progress at turning things around. Veteran Chester Upland educator Dr. Juan Baughn took over as superintendent when Dr. Gregory Shannon resigned suddenly last December. Baughn was formally named superintendent back in July.

The audit would have covered the years 2013-2016. DePasquale said the district's finances continue to crater Back in 2012 the district had a $2 million balance; now they're staring at a $163 million deficit.

The school district released a statement saying most of the infractions took place in the academic years 2012 to 2016, before the current administration was in place.

DePasquale has referred the matter to the governor's office, the state Department of Education and the Legislature.

He also noted that he believed the district, which has been under state receivership since 2012, would benefit by a return to local control, as they are preparing to do in the city of Philadelphia. Chester Upland has gone through three state receivers since then.

DePasquale also pointed out something that often gets lost in the numbers.

The children and families are Chester Upland are too often getting cheated out of a decent education by bureaucratic bungling.

And have been for a long time.

You can read our story here.

For the full auditor general's report, CLICK HERE.