Eyes on the Board of Education: May 28, 2020

by Karel Kilimnik

For years, APPS members urged the SRC to take a more public role in advocating for Philadelphia’s public school students. We told them we would help fill the buses for any trip they organized to Harrisburg.  Unfortunately, to no avail.   We are happy to say that the Board of Education has stepped up to become vocal advocates for the students and families they have been entrusted to represent.  The Board has created a prominent “Fund Our Schools” page on its website.The website provides guidance in ten languages for contacting elected officials, including a template for letters. The message: We cannot repeat the devastation caused by the massive budget cuts of the past from which we have still not recovered. We cannot carry out the layoffs and elimination of necessary resources which will cause untold harm to our students. It will take a village to keep our District whole as the economic crisis unfolds.

Countries across the globe struggle to deal with the coronavirus. Unemployment soars as businesses fail. Tax revenue supporting our schools has declined, for example, the liquor-by-the-drink tax. But, as Councilmember Helen Gym reminded fellow Councilmembers and District officials during last week’s hearings on the City budget, “Austerity is a choice.”  City and District officials must work to find more revenue sources before talking about cutting educational and recreational services necessary for the well-being of our children. Collection of the city’s tax on unearned income has been inconsistent. Nonprofits must pay PILOTS. Real estate abatements must be phased out.  APPS reiterates our long-held position that the Board must end the renewal of substandard charters, many operated by CEOs making exorbitant salaries. The District cannot afford any more charter expansion. Nor can it afford the outsourcing of services, which often ends up costing, not saving, money. The Board has rejected new charter applications for two consecutive years, but we need a moratorium on new charter schools. The District closed 23 neighborhood schools in 2013 with the promise of saving $22 million, but we never saw proof of savings, particularly after relocation and moving costs. We should not allow any crisis to be the justification for the loss of more neighborhood schools.

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Joint Board Committee Meeting: May 14, 2020

By Diane Payne and Lisa Haver

Student Achievement Committee

Present via video:  All members of the Student Achievement Committee were present for this remote meeting: Co-Chair Angela McIver;  members Julia Danzy, Mallory Fix Lopez, and Maria McColgan. District Chief of Staff Naomi Wyatt gave a presentation. District Counsel Lynn Rauch attended via phone. McIver read an objection to the proceeding under the PA Sunshine Act raised by community member Michael Burke. McIver did not specify which part of the Act Burke was citing, but she stated that the written objection would be part of the official record and further noted that the Board’s position is that following the State health guidelines does not constitute a violation.  The Committee approved the Minutes from the April 23 joint Student Achievement and Finance and Facilities April committee meeting.  Four Members of APPS testified in defense of public education.  All Board Committee Meetings can be viewed on the Board website and meeting materials and agendas can be viewed on the Board Meeting Material page.

Staff Reports on Online Learning, Enforcement of Policy 252

Wyatt narrated a presentation on the Continuity of Education plan.  This Power-Point included information on distributed chromebooks, internet access, student participation in online learning, and efforts to locate and engage students not yet participating.  Wyatt stated that the District is working with City officials, including the Department of Human Services, to locate students who have had no school contact throughout the school closure in order to assure their well-being and attempt to re-engage them.

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Ears on the Board of Education: April 30, 2020

by Diane Payne

April brought the Board’s second remote Action Meeting.  There were moments of technical difficulty which took several tries to fix–a reminder of how difficult online learning is for everyone involved.  Online learning is the mask we need during this crisis. It is not the cure.

Tributes to Resigning Board Members

All nine Board members attended, as did the two student representatives and Superintendent Hite.  Minutes of the March Action Meeting were approved. President Joyce Wilkerson opened her remarks with a notice that Action Item 62 had been added to the agenda the day before. This Item calls on the state and federal governments to maintain school funding and not to use the Covid-19 crisis as justification for slashing funding to schools that have suffered for years from inadequate funding.  Per the 2016 legal settlement between APPS and the District regarding walk-on Items, anyone who wished to speak was invited to sign up before the voting began via email or phone. Wilkerson thanked the District’s principals in recognition of the May 1 Principal Appreciation Day, and she thanked teachers in anticipation of Teacher Appreciation Day the following week.  She noted the Board would appear at City Council hearings as Board of Education candidates on Friday, May 1. Wilkerson bid farewell to Wayne Walker and Chris McGinley, both attending their last meeting as Board members. Maria McColgan read a tribute to Walker, and Angela McIver read one to McGinley.  Both Walker and McGinley thanked the Board members and the public they served.   Wilkerson concluded her remarks by urging members of  the public to join the Board in advocating for all levels of government to maintain school funding.

[Video of this meeting can be viewed on the District website.  Agendas and PowerPoints can also be viewed by going to the Board’s meeting materials page.]

Seven members of APPS spoke in defense of public education.  Remarks can be viewed on the APPS website.   Several members of the East Falls community returned to testify against a proposal to allow Laboratory Charter School to move into that neighborhood.

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