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In an effort to improve town-gown relations, the School of Social Work and Graduate School of Fine Arts have teamed up to warehouse government-collected data about city statistics online so it can be at the disposal of the community and the University. Compiling and making public this information has a dual benefit, according to School of Social Work Professor Dennis Culhane. The system attempts to establish a way Penn and the city can establish a "mechanism to more systematically make available their data for research purposes," Culhane said. Philadelphia's government agencies and community groups can use the data to identify anything from where rates of teen pregnancy in the city are the highest to the locations of abandoned homes. As a result, daycare centers and prevention programs can be properly placed, and because the database identifies the owners of abandoned homes, potential buyers can contact current owners with offers to purchase. This was just one of the initiatives discussed by members of the University's Board of Trustees at a Neighborhood Initiatives Committee meeting yesterday. Administrators also reported that that the Penn-Assisted School, known officially as the Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander University of Pennsylvania Partnership School, has been faring well since its opening just last year. Its students are performing in the middle 50 percent range nationally, quite high for a Philadelphia public school, Graduate School of Education professor Susan Fuhrman said. "We certainly feel that we are attracting families with younger kids back to the neighborhood." However, Fuhrman and others are concerned about recent federal legislation -- namely, the No Child Left Behind Act -- that could bring low-achieving students from throughout the city to Penn-Alexander, rather than limiting its enrollment the school's current catchment area. "We didn't want Penn-Alexander to be a magnet for low-achieving students from around the city," Fuhrman said. "The subsidy was meant for a neighborhood school." Trustees and administrators also discussed a plan recently launched by the Division of Public Safety to improve safety around campus. Part of this, the "Share the Road" campaign, will ultimately eliminate bikers on Locust Walk and other pedestrian thoroughfares around Penn in an effort to make the campus safe for pedestrians, Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush said. Rush noted the decline in West Philadelphia crime since 1996, citing falling rates in all categories except bike theft. "They have flooded the street with police.... We are way ahead of the curve in terms of crime." Vice President for Facilities and Real Estate Omar Blaik touted the success of retailers in University City, citing the less than 10 percent vacancy rate in the community around Penn. The Bridge: Cinema de Lux "has contributed to a vibrancy of the 40th Street corridor that we haven't seen before," he said. "People told us that there was no business in Philadelphia, and now we've shown them that there is."

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