Eyes on the Board of Education: August 16, 2018

SB 7-9-18

by Karel Kilimnik

Welcome back from summer vacation. School starts later this month with a new governing body at the helm. The new Board of Education will be steering our District through the Straits of Unequal Funding. They will have to reverse the lack of trust in the District, with decisions imposed without stakeholder participation, and start rebuilding District staff and student supports, which will mean stopping the shoveling of money into the pockets of outside vendors. A significant change in this month’s Action List Summary indicates a first step in increasing transparency: for the first time in memory, the District is publishing Capital Programs Contract Modification summaries. What we still need to see posted are the contracts for vendors receiving contracts this month, including One Bright Ray, Camelot, EBS Healthcare, Progressus, and Lakeside Global Institute.
At the inaugural Board meeting last month, many new BOE members declared themselves staunch advocates of transparency and community involvement. We look forward to their implementing policies and practices that reflect their words. Thus far they have set up four committees: Finance and Facilities (meeting monthly); Student Achievement and Support (meeting monthly); Policy (meeting quarterly); and District Partnerships and Community Engagement (meeting quarterly). Thus far, only the Finance Committee has announced its first meeting (September 6 at 10 a.m. at 440). For a description of each committee’s responsibilities, scroll down the Action Item Summary. The Philadelphia Public School Notebook has posted committee co-chairs along with members.

As a rule, the SRC simply accepted any information presented by Superintendent Hite, whom they hired in 2012. The SRC renewed his 5-year contract before his initial term expired. At the July BOE meeting, representatives from several school communities testified about being informed about decisions made by Dr. Hite after the fact. There had been no community meetings and no way for the community to have a say in major decisions affecting students and parents. There has been ongoing pushback by Strawberry Mansion High School supporters since learning of Dr Hite’s decision to effectively close this neighborhood comprehensive high school after years of starving the school of programs and staff. Across town, parents of kindergarten and first graders at the Mayfair School were shocked to learn, in May, that their children will be bused to Austin Meehan Middle School beginning in August and for the foreseeable future. They have major objections and concerns for the safety of their young children, both on the bus and being housed in a middle school in desperate need of repair. The latest voices came from public school parents in East Mt. Airy after the SRC approved Resolution SRC-8 in May to allow Ad Prima Charter School to relocate from Frankford to East Mt. Airy—without informing neighbors. Ad Prima was denied this request to relocate a year before due to a lack of community involvement. Yet the lame-duck SRC saw fit to approve this move without telling the very people to be affected. (APPS member Lisa Haver asked the SRC in May why the East Mt. Airy community was not informed or given any opportunity to testify about the proposed move. Commissioner Bill Green answered that as long as the charter parents were OK with the move, the District had no obligation to inform the E. Mt. Airy community.) The dominoes began to fall, thus enabling the deeply flawed Deep Roots Charter School to open in the newly vacant former Ad Prima building. Ad Prima deemed it unsatisfactory—but there was no explanation of why it would be suitable for Deep Roots students.

Will this Board listen to stakeholders instead of simply rubber-stamping decisions made by the Hite administration about the restructuring of the District? His six-year tenure has opened District doors to vendors marketing their product—such as TNTP and the unaccredited Relay Graduate School of Education. The BOE must question the practice of targeting schools for the Turnaround Network (now renamed the Acceleration Network), forcing out teachers and principals and creating unnecessary trauma for the students. BOE members must attend the next round of Priority School community meetings; maybe then the parents and students will actually be heard about what their schools need, instead of ending up with outside contractors and consultants. APPS members have attended every Priority School meeting for the past two years. We have heard teachers, parents, and students ask for what their schools actually need—more teachers and staff, smaller class size, fixing crumbling and toxic buildings—then witnessed the imposition of entities such as ISA and Jounce upon school communities that never asked for them.

Strawberry Mansion Community Continues Fight to Save High School

Teachers and staff return to school on August 20 with students following a week later. At the July 31 community meeting, District staff, once again, were unable or unwilling to answer questions raised by concerned stakeholders. Action Item A-15 refers to one of those unanswered questions: when One Bright Ray’s Daytime school (co-located on the fifth floor of Mansion) would admit and dismiss students daily. With less than a month before school opens, the Hite administration also failed to provide a tentative roster, to address the concerns around high school students co-located with overage students, or even acknowledge that there are still five teaching vacancies. How does this create stability in an under-resourced school? (Action Items A-18 and B-8 also deal with SMHS issues.) The BOE should take a step back and revoke the SRC decision to eliminate the 9th grade and ensure that ninth graders are admitted the following school year to attend the already existing comprehensive high school. Every time there is pushback, District representatives—first the “Strawberry Mansion Task Force”, now the “Strawberry Mansion Planning Committee”—respond with another attempt of appeasement.

Hopefully the BOE will provide opportunities for all school communities to be included in the initial planning stage of any significant change.

BOE Must Reverse Outsourcing Trend

Before the BOE agrees to further outsourcing (Action Items A-2; A-8 ) it must consider the following: whether a business whose job it is to make money can do better than a public system with no profit motive, and the fact that companies usually pay less than the District as well as forbid workers from negotiating fair salaries and benefits and safe working conditions.

The SLA network continues to grow as the original school prepares to move into Ben Franklin High School in 2019/20 and SLAMS relocates to another Drexel-based location. CEO Chris Lehman oversees three schools that receive generous donations from the Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP). (See Action Items A-11and B-13).

Next BOE meeting:

Thursday September 20, 2018 at 5 p.m. Call 215.400.4180 by 3p.m. the day before in order to register to speak.  Please consider attending even if you are not speaking to support defenders of public education.


Click here to read the Action Items of Note and the APPS Analysis

Ears on the Board of Education: July 9, 2018

SB 7-9-18

by Diane Payne

Local Control Returns!

All nine members of the newly appointed Board of Education were present for this meeting, as were many elected officials and union representatives who took the opportunity to both welcome the new board and to thank for taking on this difficult public service: Mayor James Kenney, Council President Darrell Clarke, Councilmembers Maria Quinones-Sanchez, Helen Gym, Jannie Blackwell, Derek Green, and CASA President Dr. Robin Cooper.

Seven of the nine APPS members in attendance spoke to welcome the board and to advise them that APPS’ mission of defending public education will continue. To see their testimonies, go to APPSPhilly.net.

The nine new board members are: Julia Danzy, Leticia Egea-Hinton, Mallory Fix Lopez, Lee Huang, Maria McColgan, Christopher McGinley, Angela McIver, Wayne Walker, and Joyce Wilkerson.

Election of Board Officers

In its first order of business, the board nominated and elected Chris McGinley to serve as president pro-tempore to manage the meeting until elections for president and vice president could be completed.  McGinley chaired the meeting through the public speakers and subsequent elections. The single nomination for President was Joyce Wilkerson; the subsequent vote was a unanimous “yes.” There were two nominations for Vice-president: Wayne Walker and Julia Danzy.  It was refreshing to see a public deliberation about each candidate prior to the vote. Walker was elected by a 5 to 4 vote. Joyce Wilkerson chaired the remainder of the meeting.

All of the board members took a turn at presenting their first public remarks about their duty to govern the School District of Philadelphia. Unfortunately, this was the first opportunity the public had to hear the views of their new representatives. The remarks all incorporated hope and optimism but were also embedded with the realism of the tough job ahead.  Chris McGinley’s emotional presentation included quotes from Tennyson. The audience responded to Angela McIver’s reminder of the importance of public schools in supporting democracy and embracing all of its sometimes loud and messy components.

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Defenders of public education speak before the Philadelphia School Board July 9, 2018

SB 7-9-18

Defenders of public education speak before the School Board July 9, 2018
Click the picture.

Transcripts of some of the speakers at the School Board meeting:

Supporters of Strawberry Mansion High School

Catherine Blunt’s testimony transcript

Sherri Brown’s testimony transcript

Supporters of Mayfair Elementary School

Maria Barowski’s testimony transcript

East Mt Airy Community Members

Beth Young’s testimony transcript

APPS and Community Members

Rich Migliore’s testimony transcript

Krisin Luebbert’s testimony transcript

Barbara Dowdall’s testimony transcript

Karel Kilimnik’s testimony transcript

Lisa Haver’s testimony transcript

Heather Marcus’s testimony transcript

Lynda Rubin’s testimony transcript

Deborah Grill’s testimony transcript

Tonya Bah’s testimony transcript

Robin Robert’s testimony transcript

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Ears on the SRC: June 21, 2018

SRC 1

by Diane Payne

 1:00 PM Action Meeting:  Charters

 Present for Final SRC Meeting

How fitting that the SRC ended on the Summer Solstice, which many cultures celebrate with festivals and rituals. Philadelphians now celebrate the sunset of the SRC.  This state-imposed governance operated outside the democratic system with little interference from elected officials or objections from the media.  But we as Philadelphians must insure that the incoming appointed school board remains transparent and accountable to the public. Full democratic voice will not be restored until disenfranchisement ends and Philadelphians vote for its school board–just as all other 499 school districts in Pennsylvania do.

 A special meeting of the SRC was held at 1:00 p.m. to consider and vote on charter school issues and the regular Action Meeting was held at the normal time of 4:30 p.m.  All four SRC Commissioners were present for both meetings.  Seven members of APPS were present; four members testified on behalf of public education at the 1:00 p.m. meeting.  Nine members of APPS were present and five APPS members spoke in defense of public education at the 4:30 p.m. meeting.  (The SRC will reconvene next Thursday, June 28th,  only to approve the minutes for the official record.)

 There was a large and vocal group of parents from Mayfair Elementary demanding safe conditions for their kindergarten and first grade students, along with another vocal and persistent contingent from Strawberry Mansion High School (SMHS) fighting for their school’s survival. (Details about both struggles follow.)

 Charter School Onslaught

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