by Lynda Rubin and Lisa Haver
April 13, 2017
On March 16, the SRC voted to approve Resolution SRC-4 which created a policy committee that will review policies that affect students and staff. SRC-4 was a walk-on resolution, posted just prior to the meeting. The district’s press release states that “…[T]he creation of this committee builds upon the work the SRC has done to increase the transparency and accessibility as a large number of policies are developed and reviewed…[T]he policy committee will create a space to hear from the public…”
Only those who attended this Action Meeting knew of its creation (and those who read very small legal notices in the classified section of the newspaper). SRC Joyce Wilkerson appointed Commissioner Chris McGinley chair of the committee and announced that the meeting would take place at 9 AM on April 6.
The agenda and the policies to be considered, which constituted over 75 pages, were posted Friday afternoon, March 31. There was no banner, as there always is for announcement of special meetings, on the district homepage. Anyone who knew about the meeting would also have to know exactly where to go, and when, to find the information about it.
The Committee met in a small conference room on the first floor of 440. Of the approximately 35-40 people in attendance, about 90% were district staff. APPS members Lynda Rubin, Lisa Haver, Diane Payne and Barbara Dowdall — in addition to Councilwoman Helen Gym and her Chief of Staff Jennifer Kates—appeared to be the only members of the public. Councilwoman Gym, Lynda and Lisa were the only public speakers. (SRC staff had called both Lynda and Lisa the day before the meeting to say they would not be able to speak as they had called after the deadline. They told the staff person that they would be attending and expected to be allowed to testify. Chair McGinley did circulate a sign-up sheet just prior to the meeting.)
Councilwoman Gym spoke about Policy 248, Unlawful Harassment of Students, a policy she helped to write as part of a civil rights agreement with the US Department of Justice after the highly publicized incidents of severe bullying and harassment of Asian students at South Philadelphia High School in 2010.
The testimony of both Lynda and Lisa focused on the purpose and publicizing of this “public” meeting. Lisa spoke of the district’s decision not to post a banner on the website, the fact that for some unexplained reason speakers must sign up two days before the meeting rather than the usual one day, and the difficulty in finding the materials to be reviewed at the meeting. She pointed out the obvious: that when the SRC schedules a meeting at 9 AM on a weekday, neither those who are affected by the policies nor those who must implement them are able to attend.