This week is the highly anticipated debut of Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez, who cut his teeth as a priest in the Philly region and is seen as a change agent in the Latino community. And tonight, you can see two Sixers stars on opposite teams in the NBA All-Star game. Also, for today’s Q&A we spoke with Inquirer reporter Maddie Hanna, who has been quite busy covering school issues outside the city limits.
Each week we go behind the scenes with one of our reporters or editors to discuss their work and the challenges they face along the way. This week we chat with Maddie Hanna, who covers education around the region with a focus on suburban school districts, charter schools, and school funding issues.
What does a “typical” day look like for you? How do you look around for stories and what captures your attention?
Like many reporters, my days often aren’t typical! They might start at a school, or end at a late-night school board meeting. I might be at my desk making calls to sources, or checking out the conversation in parent groups on Facebook, or going through new data and reports. I’m always on the hunt for stories that may take place in a particular school or district but speak to larger issues — like a story I wrote last week on a local school contacting the police in response to a 6-year-old with Down syndrome pointing her finger like a gun at a teacher.
In your experience, what are one or two issues that separate (or unite) suburban school districts from Philly’s?
There can be stark differences in the resources available in suburban districts compared to Philadelphia schools — an issue that’s part of an ongoing lawsuit against the state over school funding. But the suburbs aren’t a monolith, and school districts outside Philadelphia experience funding challenges, too, including rising charter school enrollments and other mounting financial problems. Understanding how these pieces work together is important for covering education.
What are some hurdles you face while trying to do your job?
There’s a lot to keep track of, with more than 60 school districts in the counties surrounding Philadelphia, and 87 charter schools in Philadelphia alone. So I try to find stories that have broader themes and are relevant to students and families in a variety of schools.
Fill in the blank: Reach out and contact me any time if you have _____
A story idea! I rely on readers to help keep me in the loop and want to know what’s going on in your schools and what issues matter to you and your families. It helps inform my work. Please contact me at email@example.com.
You can also keep in touch with Maddie at @maddiehanna on Twitter.
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