Defenders of public education speak before the December 14, 2017 SRC

SRC 12-14-17

Click on the picture to view the video of supporters of public education speaking before the SRC meeting of December 14, 2017. Speakers and transcripts are in the order of appearance before the SRC.

Also see:
School District says it did not handle incident a Solis-Cohen properly |Philadelphia Public School Notebook – December 28, 2017
See Isaac Gardners testimony at 13:17 in the video above.

Click on a timestamp to select a desired speaker. (You must start the video for timestamp to work.)

Note: The SRC placed media on row 2 in the auditorium which allowed only filming speakers from the side and frequent visual interruption from the audience. We have protested these filming conditions to no avail.

These are the transcripts of some of the testimony to the SRC. See the video above for all testimony of defenders of public eduction.

Click the picture to view Coleman Poses’s testimony. Coleman is at timestamp 0:00.

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

Click the picture to view Karel Kilimnik’s testimony. Karel is at timestamp 3:02.

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

Click the picture to see the video of Lynda Rubin’s testimony. Lynda is at timestamp 6:33

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

Click the picture to view Lisa Haver’s testimony. She is at timestamp 9:48.

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

Cheri Micheau's pic 3-23-17
Click Cheri Micheau’s picture to view her testimony. She is at timestamp 22:30.

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



Eyes on the SRC: December 14, 2017

SRC cropped

by Karel Kilimnik

Alert: The SRC posted its resolution lists and summaries on Monday December 4. On Friday afternoon, they added three additional items: renewal votes on Aspira Olney and Aspira Stetson, and a vote on the revocation of Khepera Charter. These items are not formal resolutions, as they provide nothing other than the topic of the resolution—they do not state exactly what the SRC will be voting on. That is a clear violation of the PA Sunshine Act. After having postponed renewal votes on Aspira Olney and Aspira Stetson for a year and a half, the SRC is now poised to take a vote of some kind on these schools. The SRC’s Charter School Office, citing failure to meet academic, organizational and financial standards, recommended non-renewal for Aspira Olney and Aspira Stetson in April 2016. Stetson’s charter expired in June 2015, Olney’s in June 2016. APPS has asked the SRC several times in the past nineteen months for an update on these renewals; the SRC has refused to tell APPS or the public what its intentions were. We don’t believe that it is a coincidence that Aspira Inc. submitted applications for two new charters last month. Given the SRC’s history, we expect the SRC to rush through the votes on these schools without any explanation or deliberation. In fact, we fear that the SRC will be doing this on many issues in the six months before its official dissolution. It is crucial that parents, community members and elected officials keep a close watch on the SRC between now and July.

Last month we celebrated the beginning of the end of the 16-year reign of the state-appointed School Reform Commission. This month we continue to work with the communities of the six Priority Schools as Dr. Hite is expected to announce his decision on their fates in January or February. Both Mayor Kenney and Dr. Hite have said the district intends to close even more neighborhood schools. At the same time, nine charter companies, including Aspira and Mastery, have submitted applications to open new charters or expand existing campuses. Will these announcements occur during the busy holiday season?

The march of the Edu-vendors continues as more “partners” market their professional development and data collection wares. The board of the Philadelphia School Partnership has chosen to give more money to an SLA school; no question the SRC will approve without discussion of why private organizations have the power to decide which schools receive additional funding. Dr. Hite is making good on his 2013 promise to outsource Head Start services to private vendors. The district is proposing to sell the Beeber Wynnefield Annex for a song twenty years after its closure.

While keeping an eye on all of these issues, we await Dr. Hite’s announcement of which schools will be closed this year or next. Elementary schools Sheppard and EM Stanton were slated for closure in 2012 but remain open today. Why? Strong and sustained organizing of parents, students, community, and the school partners who showed that it is possible to fight back and win. Kenderton parents did not give up fighting for their school after Renaissance provider Young Scholars abandoned them. They came to the SRC, met with the superintendent and other administrators, and refused to stop fighting for their children and their school. This year Kenderton has additional faculty and staff, a veteran principal, and lower class size in k to 3rd grade. The district didn’t try to sell the idea—as they are to communities of this year’s Priority schools— that all the school needed was (yet another) outside company, like Jounce Partners or ISA, to “turn around” the school.

What If…?

…that $800,00 from PSP were used to restore extracurricular activities in schools? Is the Hite administration ever going to bring back the after-school activities, the interesting and innovative electives, the drama/journalism/art/photography clubs?

Next SRC meeting: Thursday December 14 at 4:30 PM. Please call 215-400-4180 before 3:30 PM Wednesday December 13 to register to speak.

Resolutions of Note

Click here to read the entire post.

APPS News: November 2017

APPS logo

by Karel Kilimnik

 Unofficial SRC Watchdogs Going Nowhere
For the past five years, APPS has acted as the unofficial watchdog of the School Reform Commission. Our members have attended every Action Meeting, as well as Policy Committee meetings and the Strategy, Policy, and Priorities (SPP) meetings (until they were abruptly discontinued without explanation two years ago). Our first edition of Eyes on the SRC debuted August 2015, and Ears on the SRC appeared in November 2015. We have written articles about many of the vendors hired by the district, including Relay Graduate School of Education, Cambridge Education, The New Teacher Project, and now Jounce Partners. We have questioned the SRC’s propensity to hastily approve contracts, with no public deliberation, including: a $10 million contract with Catapult Schools to take over the troubled Wordsworth Academy students; contracting out the highly valued Nutrition Educators who were PFT members, also given to Catapult; almost $1 million to Educational Testing Services for teacher training at the Priority/SGS Schools; the $8 million and counting to outside legal firms. This list is but a snapshot of how the District, with SRC oversight, spends its limited funds.

As a member of the Our Cities Our Schools Coalition, we joined forces with labor unions, faith-based groups and other public education advocates to lobby Mayor Kenney and Governor Wolf to return our School District to local control.

The research and writing posted on our website as observed, recorded, and analyzed decisions by the SRC proved to be invaluable in crafting our message. How did the people of the city know how destructive state control under the SRC has been? By hearing the testimonies of APPS members at SRC meetings, by reading our commentaries in the local media, by talking to our members at countless community forum first-person accounts on our website. This return to local control is a huge victory, but we will continue to fight to end the disenfranchisement of the people of Philadelphia until we have the right to vote for an elected school board—as all other Pennsylvanians do.

 Victory for Philadelphia: SRC Votes to Dissolve

Click here to read the entire post.

Priority School Updates


Do Communities Truly Have a Say in the Future of Priority Schools?

by Lisa Haver

In mid-September, just weeks after the start of the new school year, Superintendent William Hite announced this year’s list of schools targeted for some type of turnaround through his “System of Great Schools”: Rhoads Elementary, Steel Elementary, Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences, Penn Treaty Middle/High School, Gideon Elementary, and Wagner Middle School. This is the second year the district has engaged in a months-long process of data collection, choice of schools, community hearings, in-school focus groups, and determination of the fate of these schools. The district has again contracted with Cambridge Education for consulting services, this year for $100,000, to conduct focus groups with teachers and students. Temple University has been hired for $70,000 to conduct the public outreach and facilitate meetings.

Last year, eleven schools were designated Priority Schools. After the hearing and focus group period, three schools forced out principals and most faculty after being placed in the district Turnaround Network. Two other schools developed internal turnaround plans which mandated that teachers reapply for their jobs.

Some schools, including Harding Middle, have put into place an all-blended learning curriculum in which students spend a significant amount of time learning on the computer rather than interacting with the teacher and other students. The district hired ISA (Institute for Student Achievement) to be embedded year-round for intensive professional development and teacher coaching at Fels, Overbrook, and Kensington Health Sciences Academy high schools. [The resolution approves a contract with Education Testing Service (ETS) as ISA is now a subsidiary of ETS.]

The district also contracted with Jounce Partners (see Resolution B23 at the bottom of the page) for similar intervention at McDaniel Elementary.

The plans implemented at many schools ignored the stated wishes of the parents who attended the community meetings. At both Blankenburg and KHSA, principals were removed over the objection of the parents and educators. At none of the hearings we attended did parents call for the reconstitution of faculty. No district representative mentioned the contracting of outside consulting companies.

Community members who attended last year’s meetings are experiencing a strong sense of déjà vu at this year’s meetings. The district is using the same Power Point presentation, with the same disclaimer that the schools are not performing “despite investments” made in them. Again, the district does not explain what the options involve unless specifically asked by community members. The district has attempted to place the onus on the public to give them information without any explanation of what could happen to the school.

As defenders of public education, APPS members are attending community meetings and posting reports from each school.

These are updates (at the end of each report) of previously posted reports on Priority School meetings. We will be updating information on the Priority Schools as some meetings continue and when Dr. Hite makes his decision.

APPS reports on Priority School meetings
(To read the updates scroll to the end of each school post.)

The Growing Influence of Jounce Partners

Gideon Elementary School

Penn Treaty Middle/High School

Rhoads Elementary School

Wagner Middle School

Steel School