APPS reports on the final meetings on Priority Schools

Philadelphia School Reform Commission

Over the past two months, APPS members have attended meetings at six of the eleven schools selected by the school district to be “Priority Schools”. This initiative would affect the futures of these schools in a significant manner, but no presentation has been made by the Hite administration at any SRC meeting. The options presented to the schools have not been explained in detail; in fact, they were not mentioned at the final meetings unless APPS members asked about them. Neither Dr. Hite nor any member of the SRC has attended any of the focus group meetings at any of the eleven schools.

Again, there was no mention at the final meetings of the five options proposed at the initial meeting. Only because APPS members asked for an explanation was any given at the final meetings. At Benjamin Franklin High, however, neither district nor Cambridge representatives would answer that question. Parents attending these meetings are asked what would make learning better for their children, but they are not told how any of the five options would restore services.

Bartram High School

Benjamin Franklin High School

Blankenburg Elementary School

Harding Middle School

Hartranft Elementary Schools

Kensington Health and Sciences Academy

Click here to read APPS Reports for the initial Priority Schools meetings.

Shining a light on the SRC

Lisa Haver testifying before the SRC.

On December 22, 2016 The Philadelphia Public School Notebook published an article about APPS  scrutiny of the actions of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission. This is the article:

Shining a light on the SRC
by Darryl Murphy – The Philadelphia Public School Notebook
Picture by Darryl Murphy

Thanks to the School Reform Commission, Lisa Haver and other members of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools now have a daily habit: reading the newspaper’s classified section.

Haver and five other members of the advocacy group were among the few people present on the morning of Monday, Oct. 6, 2014, at a quietly announced SRC meeting. The announcement of the meeting was made only in an ad placed in the classified section of the previous day’s Philadelphia Inquirer.

The purpose of the proceeding, as many suspected, was to cancel the School District’s contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

Haver said she didn’t know about the meeting until another APPS member, Karel Kilimnik, called and asked her about it.

“Since then,” said Haver, “we have one member of APPS who, every single day, goes and looks at the classifieds to see if the SRC or the District is putting in these tiny notices that they don’t want people to know about.”

After a settlement with the SRC this fall, that kind of stealthy notice may be a thing of the past.

As a governing body for the city of Philadelphia, the SRC must adhere to the Sunshine Act of Pennsylvania, a law requiring “all meetings or hearings of every agency at which formal action is taken” to be open to the public with an opportunity for them to comment. This, according to lawmakers, is to create and maintain transparency in governing agencies for “increased public confidence.”

“If you don’t have an informed and active citizenry, government suffers for it,” said Melissa Melewsky, media law counsel for the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association.

“Ideally, government and the public they serve work together for the best interest of everyone. And the public can’t help government do that if they don’t know what’s going on.”

Click here to read the entire article.

APPS testimony before the School Reform Commission (with comment from Commissioner Bill Green) – December 15, 2016


On December 15th, 2016 the Philadelphia School Reform Commission met for its monthly Action Meeting.

This is testimony of members of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools and a comment by Commissioner Bill Green at this meeting.

Click here for all videos.

Click on the pictures below to view individual videos. Speakers are in order of appearance at the SRC meeting.

Video of APPS member Lisa Haver testifying before the Philadelphia School Reform Commission – December 15, 2016.


Video of APPS member Karel Kilimnik testifying before the Philadelphia School Reform Commission – December 15, 2016.


Click here to read the transcript of Karel’s testimony.

Video of APPS member Lynda Rubin testifying before the Philadelphia School Reform Commission – December 15, 2016.


Click here to read the transcript of Lynda’s testimony.

Video of APPS member Rich Migliore testifying before the Philadelphia School Reform Commission – December 15, 2016.


Video of APPS member Barbara Dowdall testifying before the Philadelphia School Reform Commission – December 15, 2016.


Click here to read the transcript of Barbara’s testimony.

Video of APPS member Robin Lowry testifying before the Philadelphia School Reform Commission – December 15, 2016.


Commissioner Bill Green responds to some of the testimony by APPS members.


Community members speak truth to the Philadelphia School Reform Commission. Tomika Anglin,  Leroy Warner and  Alison Stohr

Eyes On The SRC – December 15, 2016


Eyes on the SRC:  December 15, 2016

by Karel Kilimnik

As 2016 draws to a close and we contemplate what the next four years may bring, we need to pay close attention to the ways in which the public continues to be shut out of decision-making at the SRC. The SRC is a governmental body overseeing a $2.8 billion budget. This is our tax money at work. Although we successfully negotiated a resolution to our lawsuit charging the SRC with violating the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act, there remain many hurdles with transparency.

APPS members are proud to have achieved what no individual or organization has done in the fifteen years since the SRC was imposed on the city: making that body more transparent and accountable through a court agreement. Highlights of the settlement include provisions to publish official resolutions two weeks in advance of the monthly Action Meeting and ensuring that the public has a reasonable opportunity to speak on every resolution, whether posted just before the meeting or during. Thus, anyone attending the meeting will be able to sign up at the meeting on “walk-on” resolutions, which are those posted within 48 hours of the meeting, and resolutions “from the floor” which may be introduced during the meeting by an SRC commissioner (as Sylvia Simms did in January, thus clearing the way for Mastery to take over Wister Elementary).

Of course, issues of accountability still remain.   The SRC now fails to include any text with an increasing number of resolutions deemed “quasi-judicial”  (e.g., Resolutions SRC-5 and -6). Those resolutions are blank except for the title. How can anyone make a comment, or even ask a question, about a resolution that doesn’t say anything?  The SRC has never publicly explained what “quasi-judicial” means or why charter renewals have been classified as such. The dictionary gives this meaning:  “noting, pertaining to, or exercising powers or functions that resemble those of a court or a judge”.  Renaissance charter schools are actually contract schools: they agree to provide services in exchange for payment. Does a judge get involved when a contract is signed between two parties? If not, then why is the SRC hiding these contracts behind a wall of secrecy and refusing to allow the public to view them?

Something new this month: Resolutions SRC-1 and SRC-2 are “For Review”. By whom—the people attending the meeting or just the six people at the table? How can anyone ask questions when no information is provided? The only testimony the public can give is to query the SRC Commissioners who routinely fail to answer.

The resolution to hand over $23 million to Big Picture Inc. to reopen Vaux High School and operate it as a “contract school” for six years has reappeared. Again we must ask: why is this huge sum necessary to reopen one high school? Where is the money coming from? What is a contract school? We hear that the district is too broke to have a full support staff in every school, then we hear that it has a surplus.  Teachers are told that they must “face reality” when they ask for a fair contract, then the SRC allots $23 million for one school. When will the SRC give the public some straight answers?

In October, Dr. Hite announced his newest turnaround category, “Priority Schools”, but we are still waiting for him to make a public presentation at an SRC meeting on what that might mean for the future of those schools, as well as what this will cost the district.

Renewal resolutions for Mastery schools Gratz, Clymer, and Shoemaker are MIA once again. We can only assume that Mastery does not want to agree to the conditions which the Charter School Office recommended. Again, the SRC has a responsibility to update the public on what has been happening for the past eight months.  These resolutions have been appearing and disappearing since April.  Mastery Gratz and Mastery Clymer were to have been renewed in 2016. Does this mean they receive an extra year for their next contract?

Renewal resolutions for Universal’s Audenried and Vare have not been seen, or even mentioned, since April. Those for Aspira, Inc.’s Olney and Stetson also come and go without explanation.  The SRC apparently feels no obligation to the community to tell us what is going on with these schools.

Next SRC meeting:  Thursday December 15 2016, 4:30 PM at 440 N. Broad Street.  Do you want to testify? Call 215.400.4180 before 3 PM Wednesday to ensure that your voice will be heard.

Click here to read selected resolutions relating to policy changes, revised charter applications, the reopening of Vaux and more.