Supporters of public education celebrate the demise of the School Reform Commission

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Click on the picture to view the video of supporters of public education speaking before the SRC meeting of November 16, 2017. The SRC vote on dissolution is at the end.

Click on a timestamp to select a desired speaker. (If the timestamp does not work, move the slider at the bottom of the video to the time listed in the timestamp. It may be necessary to recheck the play button.)

Note: The SRC placed media on row 5 in the auditorium which allowed only filming speakers from the back and constant visual interruption from the audience in the first four rows. We have protested these filming conditions to no avail.

Click this picture to see the discussion and vote of the SRC to dissolve itself.

SRC demise celebration


Transcripts of testimony from APPS members in order of appearance.

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

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Click the picture to read the transcript of Lisa Haver’s testimony.

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

Lynda Rubin

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

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

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

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Click the picture to read the transcript of Diane Payne’s testimony.

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Eyes on the SRC: November 16, 2017

SRC May 18

by Karel Kilimnik

 We Did It!

 On Thursday, November 2, Mayor James Kenney gave an address in City Council chambers in which he asked Council to support his decision to call for an end to the SRC. The response was overwhelming approval. Council Education Committee Chair Jannie Blackwell introduced a bill to place a referendum on the May 2018 ballot to amend the City Charter so that, for the first time, Council would have approval power over the Mayor’s choices for a 9-member school board.

APPS members have attended every School Reform Commission meeting for the last five years, including special meetings, emergency meetings and Policy Committee meetings. Some of us have attended since the first meeting of the state-imposed board in 2001. No one is happier than we are to witness the dissolution of the SRC and a return to local control. But let’s keep our eyes on the ball and examine the realities behind it.

APPS has documented the devastation wrought by the unelected, unaccountable SRC for the past five years: the rampant privatization of services and staffing; the attempted cancellation of the PFT contract; the outsourcing of Professional Development, transportation services, and Special Ed programs; the forcing out of teachers in schools deemed to be “underperforming”; the annual charter expansion while evidence of that model’s failure mounts; the permanent closure of almost thirty neighborhood schools. We have called out more than one Commissioner for conflicts of interest. The list goes on.

One year ago, several community groups and unions including APPS, POWER, NAACP, Parents United for Public Education, Reclaim Philadelphia, the WE caucus of the PFT, the 215 People’s Alliance, Media Mobilizing Project and a number of local unions formed the Our Cities, Our Schools Coalition (OCOS), calling for a return to local control. OCOS organized several rallies at City Hall and district headquarters at which City Council members and community leaders spoke. OCOS held a public forum to discuss the issue (all SRC commissioners were invited; none attended). OCOS collected thousands of signatures online calling for an end to the SRC.

Mayor Kenney campaigned two years ago on a promise to return the district to local control, but flipped after he took office. He said repeatedly that it wasn’t the right time, and claimed that the district would lose funding from Harrisburg if we gave up state control. OCOS kept up the pressure on the Mayor for a year—calling his office, challenging him at neighborhood town halls, and writing commentaries in local newspapers. Contrary to the story line in recent articles and editorials in the local media, the Mayor did not wake up one day and decide to end the SRC. Resolution SRC-3 is the culmination of strong grass-roots organizing. It is the first step on the path to creating an elected school board in Philadelphia. We applaud Mayor Kenney’s decision to accede to the will of the people. But the battle for true community control is far from over.

Click here to read the full Resolution Summary for the November 16th SRC meeting.

Local Universities Enable SRC Agenda

November’s resolutions reflect the growing influence of local universities in district business. Resolution B-5 accepts “the donation of services and resources” from Temple University for “Transforming School L.I.F.E. (Leadership, Instruction, and Family Engagement) for English Learners” resurfaces . This $2.7 million grant from the federal government appeared in the October Resolution List for approval, but had to be postponed due to the absence of Commissioner Bill Green. Commissioners McGinley and Wilkerson had to abstain as they are both employed by Temple. Will Commissioner Green be absent again (as he has been for all or most of five meetings this year) and delay the vote again? If this grant went directly to the district, this problem would not exist.

Drexel University’s role continues to expand with Resolutions A-12 Categorical/Grant Fund: $250,000 Ratification of Grant Acceptance from the Promise of Strong Partnership for Education Reform; and Resolutions B-3 and B-4 for the newest SLA addition –SLAMS. Last year, Drexel was authorized to administer a $6 million federal grant in the Mantua Empowerment Zone. This Zone seems to replicate the Harlem Children’s Zone created by Geoffrey Canada in NYC. At one point, the fifth grade scores in his charter school were so low that Canada simply removed the entire fifth grade class. When outside organizations, even universities, become “partners”, they make these kinds of decisions, not district stakeholders.

More Outsourcing

Resolution A-14 continues the trend of outsourcing services formerly performed by district employees to out-of-state vendors: providing professional development, decreasing truancy, and funding staff positions. Dr Hite is a graduate of the non-accredited Broad Superintendents Academy, which advances an ideology of outsourcing, privatization, and union-busting.

Please keep in mind that both Dr Hite and Mayor Kenney have said they intend to close two neighborhood schools per year for at least the next five years. School closing announcements are usually made around this time in the school year; perhaps the news of the SRC dissolution will push it back a month or two. Dr Hite will also be disclosing his decision on the fate of the six Priority/SGS Schools in February. New charter school applications submitted in the next month will be voted on by the SRC in February 2018. The next few months will be turbulent ones—stay tuned.

What If…?

…the Hite administration took the $522, 582 earmarked here for private vendors and spent it on bring back 20 Parent Ombudsmen? Or NTAs? Parents at Priority schools meetings have said that providing these services would provide an invaluable service to the children at those schools.

Resolutions of Note

Click here to read the entire post.

 

APPS Celebrates the End of the SRC, Calls for Elected School Board

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For immediate release                                                            November 2, 2017

Members of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools celebrate the impending dissolution of the School Reform Commission. We thank Mayor Kenney and Council President Clarke for their leadership in bringing this state-imposed body to an end.  State control of our schools has brought devastation to this city: precious funds have been diverted to non-public schools and over 30 neighborhoods have seen their schools closed permanently.

Since 2012, APPS members have attended every session of the SRC, including special meetings and Policy Committee meetings.  We have spent those five years fighting and organizing against the reckless spending, lack of transparency and disregard for the public exhibited by the many iterations of the SRC.  In 2014, APPS sued then-Chair Bill Green and the SRC in federal court for violating the public’s First Amendment rights when Green ordered the police to confiscate signs from members of the public—and won. The following year, we filed suit in Commonwealth Court to stop the SRC’s continual violations of the PA Sunshine Act.  Our settlement resulted in significant changes in SRC policy, including posting the resolutions to be voted on two weeks before the meeting instead of only 72 hours, and allowing the public to speak on resolutions posted just before or during the meeting.

We now have a unique opportunity to end the disenfranchisement of the people of Philadelphia.  The stakeholders in our public school system—that is, every person who benefits from a thriving public school system—should have the same rights as those in every other district in the commonwealth to elect the officials who will be entrusted to represent them in matters of school governance.

The dissolution of the SRC is not contingent on changing the City Charter.  The Charter now provides for mayoral control, as it did before SRC. The Mayor can select an interim school board for a year, during which time the city should hold community forums, as it is presently doing for the Rebuild initiative, to hear from the people whose voices were shut out during the reign of the SRC about how best to create a truly representative body for the critical task of educating our children.

Trading in one unelected, unaccountable board for another is not a progressive solution to the problems facing the district.

 

APPS News: October 2017

APPS logo

by Karel Kilimnik

Six More Schools Targeted for Possible Turnaround

 The 2017-18 school year started with a bang as Superintendent William Hite announced his second cohort of Priority Schools: Steele, Rhoads and Gideon elementary schools; Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences (FSAS) and Wagner middle schools; and Penn Treaty Middle/High School. Just as Kensington Health and Science Academy was targeted last year even after it had been designated a Community School by the City, so has Gideon this year. Following last year’s $200,000 payment to Cambridge Education, the SRC has paid the company an additional $100,000 to perform a “School Quality Review” at the six schools now designated part of the district’s “System of Great Schools (SGS)”. The SRC passed a resolution authorizing Cambridge Education, for $100,000 this year, “…to retain a consultant to conduct objective third party school quality reviews in a number of schools that have been identified as under- performing through the District’s SGS process. The consultant’s purpose will be to conduct an onsite review of school performance and to document and communicate the primary factors supporting and impeding learning at the school…”

APPS review of Cambridge’s 2016 report showed that it was so lacking in substantive data and anecdotal reporting that it could not be used to decide the fate of the eleven schools.

In the district’s September 19 press release, Dr. Hite stated that the Institute of Student Achievement (ISA), a subsidiary of the Educational Testing Service (ETS) has already been hired to perform coaching and professional development at Penn Treaty:

“Last year, the District launched a high school improvement cohort supported by a high-performing high school support organization – the Institute for Student Achievement. Penn Treaty will be joining this cohort of high schools, alongside Overbrook, Kensington Health Sciences Academy, and Fels. School Quality Reviews and community feedback will be used to inform priorities and focus for that work.”

Why has this decision been made before hearing from the Penn Treaty community? Why does the district have to hire one company to tell another company what to do?

Click here to read the entire APPS News