PAUL SOCOLAR was a burr under the saddle of many public officials before training his sights on the city's public schools.

In 1994, Socolar and a band of committed community activists dropped everything else to form the Philadelphia Public School Notebook. After 16 years, the "Notebook" has grown from a pamphlet to a 32-page bimonthly with 60,000 regular readers. Its Web site, TheNotebook.org, is a daily stop for serious public-school advocates.

A monthly "Newsflash" and daily blogs keep its readers current between editions. The Notebook is published in Spanish and English and circulated in all sections of the city.

Oh, and did we mention that it's free?

The Notebook augments the mainstream media's coverage of the district and even digests school-related stories from those media. But it takes a back seat to no one in its comprehensive coverage and unabashed advocacy.

That's why representatives of every element of the city's public-school community showed up this week at the University of the Arts to salute the Notebook for its sustained support of the public-school mission.

We add our voice to the well-deserved chorus of acclaim. *