APPS Calls on Mayor Kenney to Investigate SRC Actions in Aspira Case

Full SRC 5-19-16

The SRC has been considering the status of the charters of two ASPIRA schools, Olney High School and Stetson Middle School, for almost two years. There have been several stories published in the Philadelphia Daily News and the Philadelphia Public School Notebook about ASPIRA’s failure to provide sufficient educational services to its students, along with serious issues about its questionable managerial and financial practices.  In April, the Charter School Office, which is under the domain of the SRC, presented detailed reports on both schools and recommended non-renewal for both. Rather than accept the findings of the CSO, the SRC has voted several times to postpone the vote.  APPS is requesting that the Mayor have his Chief Integrity officer investigate the actions of the SRC in the ASPIRA matter, in particular the private negotiations being conducted by two SRC members designed to make sure that ASPIRA retains control of the schools.
Rather than honestly answer the questions when interviewed by City and State Pennsylvania about the APPS letter, SRC Commissioner Bill Green launched a personal attack on APPS Co-founder Lisa Haver and questioned APPS independence.
APPS has previously questioned possible ethics violations due to conflicts of interest by SRC members relations with charter companies such as this letter to SRC Commissioner Farah Jimenez on September 2, 2015. In the letter, APPS stated: 
You identified yourself in that article as “Chair of Terry Tracy for Council-at-Large”. Mr. Tracy is a Republican party-backed candidate for city office. Subsection 696 (b)(6) of the Pennsylvania School Code of 1949, as amended, states: “No commission member may, while in the service of the School Reform Commission, seek or hold a position as any other public official within this Commonwealth or as an officer of a political party.”

Although no resolution has been posted regarding ASPIRA for Thursday’s (August 19th) SRC meeting, it is possible that the SRC will add a resolution for renewal at the last minute.

Below are the intros to the City and State Pennsylvania article and the letter to Mayor Kenney with links to the full text.

Education advocates call for investigation of Philly charter schools
City and State Pennsylvania – August 12, 2016

by Ryan Briggs

The Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, an educational advocacy group, has called for the city’s Inspector General and Chief Integrity Officer, Board of Ethics and the Mayor’s office to investigate the relationship between School Reform Commission members and the troubled ASPIRA charter school organization.

The charter operator has been flagged by the School District of Philadelphia’s charter office for repeated academic and financial failings, but has remained in operation for more than a year due to the repeated postponement of a charter renewal vote.

The letter accuses School Reform Commission members of engaging in a “private appeals process” to benefit the charter at the public’s expense.

APPS member Lisa Haver accused SRC members Bill Green and Sylvia Simms in particular  of colluding with school operators to keep the school in operation through “ex parte” negotiations held outside of SRC meetings

“The School District charter office’s own reports recommended nonrenewal,” she said. “They’re working it out behind closed doors. It’s a violation of public trust.”

Haver said that Green and Simms had formed “a voting bloc” bent on keeping ASPIRA running in spite of its failing record at Olney High School and Stetson Middle School, which the operator took over four and five years ago, respectively.

Click here to read the whole article published in City and State Pennsylvania

APPS letter to Mayor Kenney Calling for an Investigation into SRC Actions on Aspira

Dear Mayor Kenney,

On behalf of the members of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, we are writing to request that the City’s Chief Integrity Officer, Ellen Kaplan, conduct a full investigation into the actions of the School Reform Commission during its current renewal procedure of the charters for Aspira Stetson School and Aspira Olney School. We have attended all of the SRC meetings in April and May of this year when these resolutions were considered, and we have serious concerns that the public has been denied the right to a fair and impartial process in these matters.

Click here to read the entire letter to Mayor Kenney

Eyes on the SRC Action Meeting – August 18, 2016

Full SRC 5-19-16

by Karel Kilimnik

APPS has been keeping its collective eyes wide open for almost five years now, but this edition marks the first anniversary of our Eyes on the SRC. We believe the public has a right to know—and understand—what the SRC is voting on. This tumultuous year has brought more resolutions of outsourcing and privatization, recommendations from the Charter School Office (CSO) for non-renewals of underperforming charter schools, and skyrocketing legal fees as the SRC and district seek to overturn lower court rulings on the cancellation of the PFT contract and other matters. It’s been a year fraught with upheaval as over 5,000 students sat in classrooms without full-time teachers, a situation exacerbated by the district’s disastrous decision to approve a $34 million contract to outsource substitutes. Despite the too-little-too-late acknowledgment by Superintendent William Hite of the incompetence of Source4Teachers, the district chose to go with yet another private company rather than return to the use of union employees.

 In May, the CSO recommended non-renewal of ASPIRA Stetson Middle School and ASPIRA Olney High School, as well as Universal Audenreid and Universal Vare. The SRC engaged in a seventeen minute discourse with lawyer Ken Trujillo at the May 19 SRC meeting (his mic wasn’t turned off after three minutes, as all other speakers are) during which he promised to fix all of the ASPIRA irregularities within weeks.  However, we find not a whisper about ASPIRA or Universal in this present list of resolutions.

Although it says publicly that resolutions are posted two weeks before the meeting, that has not stopped the SRC from adding some at the last minute. Or will there be a resolution from the floor like the one introduced by Commissioner Sylvia Simms and approved by the SRC in January to hand Wister Elementary over to Mastery—which the public was not allowed to speak on?

 And as we have seen almost every year at this time, there have been several changes in top-level staff at 440.

**Please note: as of August 18 the new time for SRC Action meetings is 4:30 PM.

Click here to read selection resolutions and the APPS analysis.