Defenders of Public Education Speak at the April 20th SRC Meeting

SRC pic 4-20-17

On April 20th, 2017 the Philadelphia School Reform Commission met for its bimonthly Budget Meeting..

This is testimony of parents, teachers and members of the  Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools at the meeting

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

Click here to see all of the videos.

Video of APPS member Lynda Rubin testifying at the April 20, 2017 SRC meeting.

Lynda Rubin pic
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Click here to see the transcript of Lynda’s testimony.

Video of teacher George Benzanis testifying at the April 20, 2017 SRC meeting.

George Bazanis pic
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Video of APPS member Diane Payne testifying at the April 20, 2017 SRC meeting.

Diane Payne pic
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Click here for the transcript of Diane’s testimony.

Video of APPS member Lisa Haver testifying at the April 20, 2017 SRC meeting.

Lisa Haver SRC ;pic
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Video of teacher Alan Foo testifying at the April 20, 2017 SRC meeting.

Alan Foo pic
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Click here to read the transcript of Alan’s testimony.

Video of parent Robin Roberts testifying at the April 20, 2017 SRC meeting.

Robin Roberts pic 4-20-17
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Video of APPS member Karel Kilimnik testifying at the April 20, 2017 SRC meeting.

Karel Kilimnik SRC 4-20-17
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Click here to read the transcript of Karel’s testimony.

Video of teacher Nichole Lepore-Jackson testifying at the April 20th SRC meeting.

Nichole Lapore-Jackson
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Click here to read the transcript of Nicole’s testimony.

Video of APPS member Barbara Dowdall testifying at the April 20th SRC meeting.

Barbara Dowdall SRC testimony 4-20-17
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Click here to read the transcript of Barbara’s testimony.

Comment by SRC Commissioner Bill Green about testimonies and the budget.

Bill Green

Ears on the SRC April 6th Policy Committee Meeting

Chris McGinley
SRC Commissioner Chris McGinley

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.

Click here to read the entire article.

APPS News: April 2017


 We have entered the season of two SRC Action Meetings a month. It’s a grueling schedule, but we aim to cover it all and share our findings and analyses.

One trend continues in recent SRC Resolutions: the outsourcing of services and resources. At the March 16 meeting alone, over $18 million went into the pockets of outside vendors. Professional development continues to be turned over to contractors.  What could that money have purchased for the schools? Eighty counselors or nurses, 150 Assistant  Principals,  or 428 school aides.

Estelle Richman, Governor Wolf’s appointee to the SRC, still awaits confirmation by the State Senate. She has attended recent meetings as an observer.

SRC Spending Priorities
The  SRC approved yet another contract for the uncertified Relay School of Education, this time to train  highly qualified teachers”.  Relay is the creation of three charter school supporters who sought to create a pool of teachers for their no excuses” charter schools.  Philadelphia teachers entering this program will receive their graduate degree from a college in another state because Relay is not certified in Pennsylvania. For decades, students aspiring to become teachers have attended Cheyney, Temple, West Chester, Penn, or any of the many colleges and universities in the area.  Why is it now necessary for the district to spend money on a non-certified program?

 Freedom of Speech?
Videos of APPS members and allies testifying at recent SRC meetings show the result of SRC interference in our reporting. For the past several years, APPS’ videographer has filmed from a discrete space where there was little movement. A couple of months ago, with no explanation, he was told he had to move—to a place which has more noise and more traffic. Now the videos can show little more than the backs of  heads.  Last month, he was told to move to yet another space, even farther back.  It is hard to see this as anything other than harassment.  Why is the SRC against members of the public reporting what the public has to say at its meetings? Despite repeated requests to speak with the person forcing his relocation, no one has been identified as the decision maker.

 New SRC Committee
SRC Chair Joyce Wilkerson announced a new SRC Policy Advisory Committee, to meet quarterly,  to be chaired by the lone educator on the Commission, Dr. Christopher McGinley. Wilkerson and Dr. Hite are also on the committee, but no announcement has been made about any other committee members. The first meeting is scheduled for Thursday April 6 at 9 AM.  Several APPS members have objected to holding a public” meeting at a time that precludes attendance by the very people district policy affects—students, educators, and most parents.  Whose voices will be heard?  The history of the Strategy, Policy, and Procedure meetings, as a forum for stakeholders to address concerns,  was addressed in testimony by APPS’ Lynda Rubin. These meetings ended abruptly last year.

 Teacher Recruitment Drive, 2017
Dr Hite introduced this year’s exciting recruiting campaign to hire up to 1,000 new teachers.”  He didn’t explain why the district has to embark on yet another recruitment campaign, at a cost of $160,000,  after a major drive just last year, when the district claimed it had more than the number they had aimed for.  Part of the reason, obviously, is the lack of a PFT contract and no step increases or raises for the past four years.

 Charter Issues
Two teachers from Aspira Olney High School testified about their frustration over management’s failure to bargain in good faith with union members seeking a fair contract. It has been over two years since Aspira Olney and Aspira Stetson came up for renewal. Despite a strong recommendation for non-renewal from the district’s Charter School Office, the SRC has taken no action. Thus, Aspira Olney and Aspira Stetson continue to operate with taxpayer funds. In addition, the SRC has delayed action for over one year, on renewals of three Mastery Charters—Shoemaker, Clymer, and Gratz, and two Universal charters—Audenried and Vare.

 More Sunshine Act Violations
Last year, after a protracted negotiation process, the SRC and APPS settled the legal suit brought by APPS about a number of SRC violations of the PA Sunshine Act. However, the SRC has failed to honor the stipulation that it post official resolutions two weeks prior to each meeting.  February 16 resolutions were still posted under Current Resolution Summary” after that meeting.  There was no full resolution posted prior to the March 23 meeting. That means that the SRC voted to approve a $2.9 billion lump-sum budget about 45 minutes after the summary was distributed at the meeting.  The power-point presented by CFO Uri Monson was not posted prior to the meeting. The SRC is a governmental body responsible for a $2.9 billion budget. As such, they need to post a summary description for each resolution so that the public can make informed comments, ask questions, and raise any concerns. That is not only their obligation, it is the law.