Eyes on the BOE: November 15, 2018

by Karel Kilimnik

The nine members of the Board of Education, as government officials overseeing a $3 billion budget, have undertaken the enormous task of trying to understand the workings of the School District of Philadelphia.  The issue of equity remains a crucial one in their decision-making. Parents at Board Committee and Action meetings have expressed their frustrations at not being heard, both as members of their school’s SAC and their Home and School chapter.  One parent of a Northeast elementary school student reported that the principal at her child’s school unilaterally and unexpectedly ejected the Home & School group and ordered them to remove all of their supplies from the parent resource room. Lack of equity rears its head when some Home & Schools can raise large sums (see BOE-33 (Acceptance of Donation from the SLA Home & School Association) to pay for extra-curricular activities and supplies when schools in struggling areas cannot.  BOE-29 (Occupational Advisory Committee Members for 2018-19 School Year) omits Strawberry Mansion from the list of schools to benefit from the District’s newly re-established Culinary CTE Program. Why? The goal of the Hite administration’s Anchor Goal 2 is to have 100% of 8-year olds reading on or above grade level). Does BOE-30 (Acceptance of Grant from the William Penn Foundation – Support Classroom Modernization of Pre-K-3 Classrooms) include every K-3 classroom in the District? Let us not forget that both Mayor Kenney and Dr. Hite have said that they expect to close 2 to 3 neighborhood schools a year for at least the next 3-4 years.  In light of this, we need to be aware of all real estate transactions being proposed, such as BOE-20 (Cooperation Agreement with the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority for the Sale of Communication Tech and George Pepper Middle School). There are vacant District buildings across the city.  We continue to urge the Board to post either contracts with vendors or provide a link to the actual document so that the public can be aware of exactly what our tax dollars are buying. In August the Board posted a list of modifications to Summary Contracts. We supported that step towards greater transparency, and we need that to be part of all Board meeting materials.

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

Will District Listen to Parents and Community for Solutions at SGS Schools?

by Lisa Haver

For the third consecutive year, the Hite administration has placed several neighborhood schools into its “System of Great Schools” (SGS), to be redesigned according to a set of apparently predetermined outcomes.  The District once again went through the motions of providing community engagement in a series of poorly designed parent focus groups. These featured the simplistic questions asked of participants and the lack of informed District personnel to provide information or answer relevant questions about possible outcomes.

Although millions will be spent, the fate of three schools will be determined, and the future of the children and staff at the schools may change significantly, there has been no press coverage.

APPS members have attended 15 of the 16 focus group meetings at Locke, Harrington and Lamberton, all elementary schools in West Philadelphia. [See links to the individual reports below.] APPS members also attended all three of the SGS kickoff meetings. Despite pronouncements from District officials about changes this year as a result of “lessons learned”, the process so far has been a replication of the last two:  the same rationale, the same power-point presentation, the same misrepresentation of the process and possible outcomes. What remains to be seen: whether there will be the same disregard for the stated wishes of the parents and community members. Unfortunately, none of the members of the Board of Education came to any of the 15 meetings. Although they might see the reports, they did not hear firsthand from parents and community members.

Click here to read the rest of the post.

Defenders of Public Education Speak Before the Board of Education, October 18, 2018

SB 7-9-18

Click on the individual’s name to read the transcript of his or her testimony.  You can watch their testimony at the video of the October Board of Education meeting here.

 

 

Home and School Association

Katrina Clark

Shakeda Gaines

 

APPS and Community Members

Catherine Blunt

Eileen Duffey

Jesse Gottschalk

Karel Kilimnik

Ilene Poses

 

Ears on the Board of Education: October 18, 2018

SB 7-9-18

by Lynda Rubin

Eight of the nine Board members and the two student Board representatives were present. Leticia Egea-Hinton was absent. The meeting began with a beautiful performance by the Central High School String Quartet, with string specialist Matt Roberts, under the direction of Ben Blazer.

General Counsel Lynn Rauch announced that the Board met in executive session on October16 and October18 to discuss the following: “personnel and employment matters, purchase or lease of real property, investigations, quasi-judicial proceedings, privileged and confidential matters and information and strategy about litigations”.  She then cited the legal matters by name and docket number.

Superintendent’s Report Addresses Community Concerns

Superintendent William Hite’s report indirectly addressed concerns about barriers to parental involvement raised prior to the meeting by email and phone call and reflected in the number of speakers on the issue. He encouraged parents to join SACs but did not directly address parents’ specific concerns until later in the meeting. There is some contradictory and confusing language on the District website that implies that parents and community members have to provide clearance information in order to attend meetings at their schools.

Dr. Hite also addressed the District’s solution to the lack of full-time nurses and substitute nurses. He stated that three of the four vacancies had been filled and that the District was now using Kelly Services, the same company the District contracted with two years ago when it outsourced substitute teacher services. Dr. Hite said that his administration intended to hire additional companies to find substitute nurses. In fact, Action Item 16, later passed by the Board, contracts with Bayada Services to fill per diem and long-term nursing substitutes. In response to strong lobbying by nurses and parents, the District will now give access to the medical information of the students they are serving on any day, whether permanently appointed to one school or not.

Click here to read the rest of the report