Student Achievement and Support Committee: October 11, 2018

by Diane Payne

Present at this second meeting of the Student Achievement and Support were Board Co-chairs Chris McGinley and Angela McIver, along with Committee members Julia Danzy, Leticia Egea-Hinton, Mallory Fix-Lopez, and Maria McColgan.  Three APPS members attended, two testified. Lisa Haver asked about the indefinite postponement of charter renewals which result in de facto contract extensions without public scrutiny. Cheri Micheau addressed the lack of equity in the school selection process for English Language Learners  and students with special needs. There were three staff presentations: The High School Selection Process/District-wide Comprehensive Plan, New Charter Application timeline, and Multiple Charter School Organizations (MCSO) revised timeline.

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Eyes on the Board of Education: October 18, 2018

by Karel Kilimnik

As the Board of Education continues threading its path through the thicket of District policies and funding challenges, we are witnessing several changes. There are now four Board Committees working to improve public participation: Finance and Facilities, Student Achievement and Support, Policy, and Community Engagement. Board members are certainly more friendly and welcoming toward the public than their predecessors on the SRC. In addition, several changes have been made on the Board’s website page, although there have been some glitches. APPS members have met with Board staff and explained how the new format can be more user-friendly, a banner at the top of the page noting the changes and a guide to navigating the site. We appreciate the Board staff meeting with us, noting our concerns, and their assurances that changes will be made. Presently, we have found that clicking on “Action Materials” on the Board page raises a screen with choices between “Online Agenda” or “Download Agenda”. Clicking on Online Agenda provides a document with active links. Selecting Download Agenda provides the list of Action Items followed by their descriptions .  There are only 23 Action Items this month.

The true test of this Board, of course, will be how they vote. Will they continue to question District spending, especially the outsourcing of services and staff? Will Board members listen to stakeholder concerns and act on investigating them?

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System of Great Schools 2018: Initial Focus Meetings

System of Great Schools 2018: Initial Focus Meetings

by Lisa Haver and Karel Kilimnik

The School District of Philadelphia has chosen three neighborhood elementary schools, all in West Philadelphia: Harrington Elementary, Lamberton Elementary, and Locke Elementary. APPS members attended all three initial focus meetings held on September 25, 26 and 27, respectively. We will be attending and reporting the remainder of the focus meetings and the final Feedback and Findings meeting, at which time the school communities will be told of the decision, made by Superintendent Hite, about the fate of their schools.

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Ears on the Board of Education: September 20, 2019

SB 7-9-18

by Diane Payne

Present

All nine members of the Board of Education (BOE) were present.  Eight members of APPS attended; five testified on behalf of public education.  Mayor Kenney came to welcome the students who were chosen as non-voting BOE representatives.  Of 54 applicants, two students were selected by a Board committee to serve as non-voting student representatives.  Julia Frank of Northeast High School and Alfredo Pratico of J.R. of Masterman High School were sworn in and seated.  They will alternate attendance at future meetings and will bring student voice to issues before the Board.

City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds-Brown spoke to welcome the Board and to advise them that City Council was there to support and monitor district operations.  She noted three main areas of concern: school health and safety, suspensions, and African-American studies in the district’s high school curriculum. Also in attendance for part of the meeting was Councilwoman Helen Gym.   Gym has been outspoken against the Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ) and was the only No vote on the issue earlier that day in Council. The Board’s agenda included a vote on the current list of KOZ properties (more on this below).

The meeting began with a  lovely musical performance by Universal Language, a group of Franklin Learning Center students.  It was inspiring to hear the beautiful voice and stellar musical accompaniment of these student musicians.

Superintendent’s Remarks

Superintendent William Hite addressed the District’s upcoming open enrollment process.  The timeline has been moved, but the total number of days to complete the application process is the same.  Applications can be submitted from September 21st through November 2nd. There was a question about counselors having a difficult time due to the new timeline conflicting with Early Admission College Applications (EACA).  Dr. Hite said that only 5 high schools were possibly affected but research indicated really only one school would be affected. They were assured by that school there was no problem with conflicts impacting the EACAs.

Board Reverts to Business as Usual                                                    

The official BOE agenda included an extensive visual presentation on the Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ) properties from First Deputy Director Sylvie Gallier Howard and Senior Deputy Director Duane Bumb of the City’s Commerce Department.  (The power-point can be viewed here.)  The PA General Assembly created KOZs in 1998 as a program designed to spark development in blighted, vacant, or underutilized properties that might not otherwise be developed. This program abates a long list of both state and city taxes as the lure for investment and the projected economic improvement, particularly job creation. The hook for the School District is that by law these properties must make Payments In Lieu of Taxes (PILOTS) that amount to 110% of the 55% that would come to the District in real estate taxes.  These PILOTS are paid annually and are based on the previous year’s property assessment. By law, both City Council and the BOE must approve the list of properties submitted by the Commerce Department before the applications can proceed to the state.  (These properties can be viewed on the above mentioned powerpoint.)

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