Defenders of public education testify at the July 6, 2017 SRC meeting.

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Click on the picture above to view the video of the testimony of defenders of public education testifying at the July 6, 2017 Philadelphia School Reform Commission meeting. Click on the time stamps to see selected speakers at the meeting.

The video concludes with the discussion and vote on a $10 million contract with outsourced private company Catalyst Learning for an Alternative Special Education program.


These are the transcripts of APPS members’ testimony at the SRC meeting in order of their appearance.

Click here to read the transcript of Deborah Grill’s testimony.

Click here to read the transcript of Tonya Bah’s testimony.

Click here to read the transcript of Lynda Rubin’s testimony.

Click here to read the transcript of Kristin Luebbert’s testimony.

Click here to read the transcript of Karel Kilimnik’s testimony.

Click here to read the transcript of Barbara Dowdall’s testimony.

Click here to read the transcript of Richard Migliore’s testimony.

Click here to read the transcript of Ilene Poses’s testimony.


Also see:

Over objections, SRC authorizes $10M new special ed program for Philly kids | Inquirer – Juyly 6, 2017

School Reform Commission approves new in-house special education program | The Notebook – July 6, 2017

APPS News: July 2017

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by Karel Kilimnik
July 5, 2017

SRC’s Tsunami of Resolutions

The SRC loaded over 140 resolutions onto its June 15 Action Meeting agenda. Commissioner Green voted No on the new PFT contract at the June 20 SRC meeting because he deemed it “fiscally irresponsible”, but he did not raise that concern about any of the programs or contracts, many to private businesses, which totaled over $200 million in one sitting. Familiar corporate education vendors Mindset Works, back selling more “leadership kits” (A-82); Catapault Inc., possible recipient of a 5-year, $54 million contract for a controversial facility for special-needs students (B-8 ); along with Teach for America, Relay Graduate training, and Foundations, Inc and Jounce Partners (B23) continue feeding at the trough of education dollars. The District’s overdrive to outsource jobs and services races along with far too many resolutions to list here. As usual, the SRC provides scant information, leaving out descriptions altogether for many items, then vote the resolutions in blocks of twenty or thirty at the meeting’s end with no discussion or questions raised. APPS continues to point out that the SRC prioritizes charter operators at closed door meetings.

The district continues to funnel money to private law firms—this time another $8.5 million (Resolution A-71, which passed 4-1, Estelle Richman voting against). The SRC spent millions with these private law firms to fight the PFT after illegally cancelling that contract, appealing at every opportunity. The district has its own Office of General Counsel with twenty-one attorneys plus support staff. How many librarians, art teachers, and music teachers could that $8.5 million buy?

Solution for Special Needs Students—or Bonanza for Private Company?

 Resolution IU-7 was posted just three days before the June 15 meeting, then was “withdrawn by staff” at the last minute. This original resolution proposed entering into a 3-year, $36 million with the for-profit Catapault Learning Company to create a segregated K to 12 school for special needs students due to open in September 2017 (with a possible extension to a 5-year, $54 million contract). Barely two months to find a location, hire staff, and have an operational school for 100 students in kindergarten through twelfth grades. This resolution came as a surprise to parents of special-needs children and the community; as a result, there has been tremendous pushback, including letters from the Public Interest Law Center and the Education Law Center on behalf of a coalition of advocacy organizations including APPS. IU-7 has a twisted tale of resurrection as Diane Payne documents in the June 15 Ears on the SRC. At the City Council meeting held earlier that same day Councilman Derek Green introduced a resolution for the SRC to reject I-U7. It passed unaminously.

Although he did not address the issues of the secrecy and hurriedness of his actions around IU-7, Dr. Hite’s explanation was that the district needed to find 100 placements for former Wordsworth Academy students. After the homicide of a student at Wordsworth last October, the District was pressured to terminate its contract. There have been persistent complaints of physical and sexual abuse of children placed at Wordsworth’s residential treatment center since it opened. However, the resolution also included space for special needs students who were not residents of Wordsworth. Rather than use the better part of a year planning how best to serve this vulnerable student population, the Hite administration is attempting to present a fait accompli to parents who should not be rushed into making this kind of decisions about their children’s futures.

Requiem for Closed Philly Schools Vigil

We have listened to Dr Hite repeatedly state that he wants to close three schools a year over the next five years. We attended the neighborhood meetings in 2012 to allow public comment. We heard the anguish of students, parents, teachers, and community members as they desperately tried to save their schools from closure. We sat through numerous SRC meetings and listened to similar groups plead for their schools to remain open. Having heard the heartbreak of school closures and witnessed the devastation wrought upon those neighborhoods, we decided it was time to honor the closed schools as well as draw attention to Dr. Hite’s intentionsAPPS’ Requiem for Philly’s Closed Schools presented a beautiful yet mournful presence in the 29 tombstones created for each of the schools closed since 2011. We created three additional tombstones with a question mark as to who is next on the chopping block. Along with this video of the event there is an Action Sheet with ideas to help school communities organize.

Defenders of Public Education

 There were over 50 speakers on the June 15 list; several people whose names did not appear were allowed, without explanation, to speak during the meeting. One man, who did sign up to speak in advance, was omitted from the list. He sat through hours of testimony, then approached district and SRC staff requesting that they correct their admitted mistake and allow him to speak. Two APPS members approached both District and SRC staff requesting that he be allowed to speak. He even rose after the last speaker to request his turn only to be refused by Chair Wilkerson. The SRC’s capricious speakers policy was on full display at this meeting as some people were added to the list and others excluded.

The Our Cities Our Schools organization has developed a timeline that shows why the present commissioners must vote soon in order to return local control of the district to the people of Philadelphia. Several OCOS members spoke on this issue.

Also see:
SRC to vote Thursday on downsized proposal for new special education program | The Notebook – July 5. 2017

New, $10M special-ed school for Philly kids draws fire | Philadelphia Inquirer = July 5, 2017

Over objections, SRC authorizes$10M new special ed program for Philly kids | Inquirer – Juyly 6, 2017

School Reform Commission approves new in-house special education program | The Notebook – July 6, 2017

 

Eyes on the SRC: July 6, 2017

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by Karel Kilimnik
June 30, 2016

The SRC continues to violate the court-ordered settlement with APPS they signed only a year ago in which they agreed to post resolutions at least two weeks before each action meeting. As of the date of this publication of Eyes, there is no Resolution Summary, Resolution List, or agenda posted on the district website for the July 6 SRC meeting. When this meeting was announced at the June 20 special meeting held at 2 PM, there was no explanation of why it will be held at 11 AM instead of the usual 4:30 PM. It is hard to come to any conclusion other than times are chosen for the convenience of the commissioners. Clearly the unelected SRC—a government body overseeing a $2.9 billion budget—believes it does not have to consider the needs of the stakeholders of the district.

Dr. Hite said on June 20 that the purpose of the July 6 meeting was to consider, once again, a resolution to enter into a $54 million contract with the for-profit company Catapult to manage a separate facility for students with special needs. Since that resolution, IU-7, was withdrawn before both the June 15 and June 20 action meetings, that statement cannot be trusted.

There has been intense opposition to the district’s plan to segregate some students with special needs from parents and community members. (LINK TO EARS)

The next meeting of the SRC will be held July 6 at 11 a.m.

NOTE: The district website states that persons wishing to speak must call by Friday June 30. However, the legal notice placed by the SRC in the Inquirer instructs people to “cal1 215 400 4180 no later than 11 a.m. on the business day immediately preceding the day of the meeting”, which would be July 5.

We have emailed Chair Joyce Wilkerson and the commissioners asking for clarification and requesting that they adhere to the July 5 deadline. (See below.) We pointed out that they were requiring that people sign up to speak before the SRC told anyone what was on the agenda.


 Dear Chair Wilkerson,

The deadline for persons wishing to speak for the July 6 Special Meeting has been posted on the district website as Friday, June 30.  That change in policy was not announced when the SRC announced the special meeting on June 20.  There was also no explanation of why the meeting time was 11 AM instead of the usual 4:30 PM.

No Resolution List or Resolution Summary have been posted for the July 6 meeting. That is a violation of the Sunshine Act Settlement which states that resolutions will be posted two weeks prior to action meetings.

The SRC is not giving the public the information it needs about this meeting, as well as making it more difficult to have a say in what the SRC may be considering and/or voting on. In fact, it appears that the public’s opportunity to speak will be cut off before the SRC tells the public what is on the agenda.

District offices will be closed Monday and Tuesday.  However, persons wishing to register to speak would be able to leave messages which could be returned on Wednesday.  They could also call Wednesday by noon.  That would give staff adequate opportunity to contact those persons and to formulate the list before Thursday’s meeting.

We request that you change the deadline for public speakers to Wednesday at noon.

Sincerely,
Lisa Haver
Karel Kilimnik


Update

As of late Thursday, June 29th, the District website now says to call 215-400-4180 by Wednesday July 5th at 11 a.m to speak at the July 6th SRC meeting. Resolutions are still not posted.


Also see:
SRC to vote Thursday on downsized proposal for new special education program | The Notebook – July 5. 2017

ew, $10M special-ed school for Philly kids draws fire | Philadelphia Inquirer = July 5, 2017

Ears on the SRC: June 15, 2017

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by Diane Payne
June 24, 2017

AWOL Again

Four of the five commissioners were present for the entire meeting. Once again, Commissioner Bill Green was absent without explanation for most of the meeting, appearing near the end of the public speakers. He arrived at 8 PM for a meeting that began at 4:30. The fact that he missed all of the staff presentations, including those on charter renewal and amendments, did not stop him from voting on all resolutions. This same kind of unexplained absence occurred at the meetings of April 27th and May 1st when he again missed most of the meeting arriving in time to vote on resolutions.

The SRC by-laws do not specify the consequences of a commissioner missing most of an Action Meeting, then voting on resolutions. SRC Policy 006.1 states:

To attend a SRC meeting through electronic communications, a Commissioner shall comply with the following:

a. Submit such request to the SRC Chairperson or designee at least three (3) days prior to the meeting.

b. Ensure that the remote location is quiet and free from background noise and interruptions.

c. Participate in the entire SRC meeting

The question that must be addressed by Chair Wilkerson: should a commissioner who misses most of the meeting, who has little knowledge of the issues on the table, be permitted to vote?

 Defenders of Public Education

APPS members held a Requiem for Shuttered Schools at 440 before the SRC meeting. Malcolm Kenyatta spoke on behalf of State Rep. Curtis Thomas, who fought to save William Penn High School and Harrison Elementary. Members of Parents United for Public Education, Our City Our Schools, Save Smith School and a number of other community groups spoke against Hite’s plan to close three neighborhood schools each year for the next five years.

At the SRC meeting, in addition to ten APPS members, fourteen speakers including students, parents, district staff and community members from the Our City Our Schools Coalition (OCOS) called for the abolishment of the SRC in their testimonies. OCOS asked the SRC to commit to a timeline that would have them vote to abolish that body by Fall 2017. After a vote to abolish, it will take another 180 days before the PA Secretary of Education can approve this measure. There is a sense of urgency around this demand in light of the latest national election and the appointment of Betsy DeVos as head US Secretary of Education, in addition to fears of what the outcome of the next PA gubernatorial election might bring. Philadelphia is the only one of the state’s 499 districts that has imposed state control and which disenfranchises voters from choosing an elected school board.   We have had 16 years of SRC governance with nothing to show for it except a loss of democratic voice and services to our children.

SRC’s Willful, Continuous Violations of the Letter and Spirit of the Sunshine Act

Click here to read the rest of the post.