APPS testimony at the November 2, 2015 School Reform Commission meeting

On Monday morning, November 2, 2015 the Philadelphia School Reform Commission held a special meeting to vote to borrow $250 million to keep the schools open during the Pennsylvania budget crisis.

Phila. schools borrow $250M just to stay open | Philadelphia Inquirer – November 3, 2015

Cash-strapped Philly schools borrow $250 million as state budget impasse continues | Philadelphia Daily News – November 3, 2015

Only two members from the community testified at the quickly called meeting, APPS members Lisa Haver and Karel Kilimnik.

The meeting was reported by Channel 6 Action News with clips from the testimony of APPS members.

Below is their full testimony.

Lisa Haver - SRC Testimony - 9-17-15

Lisa Haver SRC Testimony

Today, I am delivering a letter today to Chair Neff and to the office of open records. APPS is requesting information on the payments to date to all of the law firms involved in just three of the district’s current cases: the cancellation of its contract with the PFT; the appeal to the arbitrator’s case on assigning counselors, during which they have had 9 lawyers in the courtroom; and the APPS complaint, now entering its second year, on violations of the Sunshine Act. Any public expenditure is public information, despite what we have been told by one SRC member. The public needs to know how the district which cannot afford to pay teachers a fair wage or fix crumbing buildings can afford exorbitant legal fees over many months, especially in relatively simple cases like the Sunshine Act complaint.

Second

The children of this district are being robbed of their education because of the mismanagement of the Hite administration and the SRC. The beginning of the year, as any educator knows, is crucial and sets the tone for the entire school year. You get to know the children and they get to know you. The most important thing they need to know about their teacher is that she will be there when they need you. But when you are running around covering classes, you aren’t there. When you should be preparing interesting and engaging lessons, the ones you will be judged on, you are covering another class. When you should be calling parents because a child has a problem, or just to introduce yourself to let the parent know you are available, you are covering classes.

This administration and the SRC have moved this district into the corporate world in many ways: privatization, outsourcing, referring to parents as “customers” and talking about “customer service”, inordinate use of data. But in the corporate world, people resign or are fired for a screw-up of this magnitude. All of the people responsible for this debacle should do the decent thing and resign; that includes Dr. Hite and his administration, and it includes the SRC who voted to approve in its haste to find another way to get rid of union employees.

Karel Kiliminik

Karel Kilimnik SRC Testimony

First, I want to say that the state legislature taking a vacation without passing a budget is criminal.

There are so many ways you could save money. Eliminate hiring outside law firms. For instance, instead of settling our APPS lawsuit through the mediation process, someone sitting up there has chosen to drag it out thereby continuing payment to a high priced outside law firm. We are not asking for money. We are asking that the SRC comply with the state Sunshine Act. We want District money to be spent in classrooms not in legal wrangling.

Here’s another way to save money. Stop outsourcing. Look at the disaster created by Source4Teachers. Now the District is begging retired teachers to return as substitutes. Break the Source4Teachers contract and return to the previous system.

Dr. Hite , you claim to want to be responsive to parents so why are the parents at Cooke, Huey, and Wister not being given an opportunity to vote on whether they stay with the District or get turned over to a charter school operator. Are you saying that parents aren’t smart enough to make a decision about their child’s future? Where is their choice in this? You have stripped them of their choice by making this decision for them.

At the last Wister meeting the District staff told us “exciting news”. We were informed that 18 parents had submitted their names to be in the lottery for choosing a charter school operator. There will be 5 parents and 2 community members selected to serve on this panel. Almost 400 students and 18 parents turned in their names? When parents starting asking specific questions like where is the lottery being held and who is selecting the names there was a resounding silence punctuated by District staff saying “We don’t have the details now.” Really? Either someone is not telling the truth or it is another case of incompetence as we have seen in selecting Source4Teachers.

Dr. Hite, at the first Wister meeting parents were given an incorrect location resulting in a delay in starting the meeting. This was a deliberate act. All the District presenters were at the correct location except for a Charter School staff member who casually joined us and then turned out to be a major presenter at the session. Coincidence? I think not. At Huey this game is still being played. Parents are not given the correct location for the District-led meeting. Why is this still going on? Why would anyone trust you and the District to be truthful when you are misleading them on informational meetings?

Dr. Hite, it is time for you to go. SRC commissioners, your time is up. Vote to dissolve.