Eyes on the Board of Education: October 22, 2020

by Karel Kilimnik

With rage over the devaluing of Black lives still simmering in the city and across the country, we should  look at the continued underfunding of the city’s schools, whose students are primarily Black and Brown. The pandemic has laid bare the inequities our students have experienced when they walked into crumbling, dirty buildings often with mold and sometimes asbestos; no toilet paper or hand soap; teachers having to purchase basic supplies; limited after-school activities. Now those students experience inequalities in technology and internet access; availability of school supplies and food; evictions amid housing uncertainty; loss of jobs ; cutting off of healthcare at a time when covid-19 remains active in our communities; and a general escalation of trauma and anxiety on every level.

The Hite administration has created an Equity Coalition, yet when an opportunity arises to actually pay participants the District overlooks those who have worked on these issues in favor of awarding contracts to consultants (Item 29) such as Steppingstone or creating an Equity Partners Fellowship (Item 2).  Dr Hite, a 2005 Broad Fellow, has instituted a welfare system for private entities seeking business opportunities in public education. 

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Joint Committee Meeting: October 8, 2020

by Lynda Rubin

At the combined meetings of the Student Achievement and Support Committee and the Finance and Facilities Committee, several Board members questioned the accuracy of reopening information District staff has presented. Their repeated follow-up questions to 440 staff struck a different tone than that of previous meetings.  It remains to be seen whether Board members will stand firm in their pursuit of in-depth answers and standards necessary for safety or continue to accept the vague answers given by the Hite administration. 

Board members Angela McGiver, Leticia Etea-Hinton, Julia Danzy, and Lee Huang attended both meetings in their entirety; Maria McColgan joined late. President Joyce Wilkerson appeared at the beginning of the first meeting, but was not seen for the remainder of the session, although she could be heard at times. The Board should display the images of all those in attendance. If that is not possible–if they are connected by phone or their camera is disabled–their names should be on screen for as long as they are actually present. The public has a right to know who is present and who is not. (The Board website page indicates that Ameen Akbar has not yet taken on a committee assignment.)

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Ears on the Board of Education: September 17, 2020

by Diane Payne

The Board managed to hit many lows during this September remote Action Meeting. Just hours before the meeting started, registered public speakers on action items received an email message with their zoom confirmation that stated “…the Board President will be interrupting the testimony of those individuals not speaking on the topic under which they registered and directing the host to mute their lines.”  [Bold added] The absolute control the Board has over the public process during the quarantine took a chilling turn with this threat. Board members Mallory Fix Lopez and Angela McIver spoke against the directive during the meeting, and Wilkerson seemed to relent; but several speakers were cut off when they attempted to speak on more than one topic. APPS members pointed out in their testimonies that this comes on the heels of the Board’s allowing unlimited time in several consecutive meetings to the Hilco, Inc. officials who lobbied the Board–successfully, as it turns out–for a major tax break.   

During Chief Financial Officer Uri Monson’s presentation on projected budget shortfalls, Lee Huang dropped his own bomb: suggesting the closure of public schools as a solution to a financial crisis. Several Board members spoke in agreement, using familiar buzz phrases like “tough decisions” and “difficult move”, forcing us to relive the trauma of 2013 when the SRC approved the Hite administration’s permanent closure of  23 neighborhood schools. This is disaster capitalism in action. Communities have not recovered from losing those schools, and this Board wants to impose more? If Black Lives really do matter in Philadelphia, the community needs to organize now to stop this.   

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