by Karel Kilimnik
September 13, 2016
As the school year begins, we witness another disappearing act by the SRC and the Hite administration. Now you see the resolutions, now you don’t. And when we asked for copies of resolutions already posted and distributed, but for some reason deleted from the district website, we were told by SRC staff that we had to file a Right to Know request. The SRC has made resolutions concerning ASPIRA, Olney High and Stetson Middle schools, along with Universal Audenreid High and Vare Middle schools, vanish into thin air—until they decided to make them reappear. The last time they were seen was at the April 28, 2016 SRC Action Meeting, when the Charter School Office strongly recommended non-renewal. Attorney and former mayoral candidate Kenneth Trujillo presented himself at the May 19 meeting as “Oversight Counsel” for ASPIRA, Inc; he admitted that ASPIRA had funneled money designated for Olney and Stetson into their other enterprises, but promised to correct that “cross-collateralization”. Trujillo told the SRC commissioners that ASPIRA Inc. had engaged William Blair and Company, one of the largest investment banks in the country. If ASPIRA wants to clean up its financial problems why are they spending money hiring William Blair & Company, “ a privately held financial services firm that provides investment banking, equity research, brokerage, asset management and private capital services.” What does this have to do with getting Aspira’s finances in order? Commissioner Bill Green made it clear that the SRC would be meeting with Aspira representatives to ensure that the company maintained control of these two schools.
APPS has been active in the five months since April to ensure that the public knows how the SRC is spending public money. We have written to the Mayor and the city’s Chief Integrity Officer, along with the Inspector General appointed to oversee the district. Negotiations with charter companies should not take place in private.
Also pulled from the bag of tricks is the reappearance of renewal resolutions for three Mastery charters—Clymer, Gratz Middle and High, and Shoemaker middle—also originally posted April 28. Despite low test scores, the Charter office recommended renewal. Why did the SRC postpone these for five months? Have SRC commissioners also been negotiating with Mastery? Originally they were posted but then they disappeared from the website. There is also a proposed charter amendment for KIPP Philadelphia Charter. This proposal was denied twice before. Why is the SRC allowing KIPP to submit the same amendment? Why so many do-overs for charters but none for public schools like Wister?
In April 2013, the SRC voted to close Vaux High School as part of the Hite administration’s massive closure campaign. The reason: under-enrollment. Fast forward to the present: the SRC, with no presentation or discussion, will vote to re-open Vaux—not as the public school it was, but as something called a “contract school”. The district, apparently, has been in negotiations with a company called Big Picture. Instead of supporting the school community to provide resources for all of their students, the district chose to scatter those students, disperse the staff, and leave a hole in the neighborhood. Is this the beginning of a new pattern, as more and more people see what a disaster charters have become? Close a school for a couple of years and then allow a non-profit to open it as a “contract” school? Public education dollars are the modern day gold rush for carpetbagger corporations.
Past practice shows us that these charter school operators will be out in full force at the September 15th SRC Meeting. We need for everyone to show up, ask questions either through testimony or by holding signs. We need to show that the community has questions and concerns about the direction the unelected SRC commissioners are taking.
The School Reform Commission is a governmental body. They control the over $2 billion dollar budget for the District and as public officials they must include public input. It’s difficult to comment on issues when Resolutions pop up and then disappear until a Resolution announcing the decision appears.
WE REALLY NEED YOU TO JOIN US AT THE SRC MEETING ON THURSDAY SEPTEMEBER 15th. Judging from the nature of the Resolutions and past practice, the charter operators will be out in full force. In order to get upstairs and into the auditorium call to register to speak by Wednesday September 14 at 4:00 p.m. The phone is 215 400 4180. The meeting starts at 4:30.
Click here to read APPS Analysis of selected resolutions on which the SRC will vote on September 15th.