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A Fresh Start For A Philadelphia School District Steeped In Controversy

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - After a tumultuous summer that saw the buyout of superintendent Arlene Ackerman, a new school year begins today for Philadelphia public school students.

For acting superintendent Leroy Nunery, day one is an opportunity for the school system to try to rebuild trust. "Obviously, it's time to turn the page to try to get us focused and refocused on some core issues -- about being accountable, but also regaining the confidence and the credibility that we need to have in order to run a major public enterprise," he says.

Teachers union president Jerry Jordan, who refused to negotiate concessions with Ackerman, says he'll give Nunery a chance:  "I, along with my members, are willing to give Dr. Nunery a fair opportunity to be successful, and to work with him in order to do a good job."

A ceremonial start to the school year begins with a bell-ringing at the new West Philadelphia High School building, at 49th and Chestnut Streets (photo).

The old building at 48th and Walnut, nearly 100 years old, saw a series of arson fires several years ago.  But city councilwoman Jannie Blackwell says that was then, and this is now.

"We have so many learning labs and big gyms and so many places to do so many things," she says.  "It's a state-of-the-art, modern facility. And we believe that people will respect it -- students will respect it for what it is."

Blackwell would like to see some mixed-income housing and commercial enterprises at the old building.

The new West Philly High will be run as a district "Promise Academy," with a longer school day and more resources aimed at turning around its poor academic performance.

Reported by Mike DeNardo, KYW Newsradio 1060

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