by Karel Kilimnik
June 7, 2017
Fighting the Normalization of Turmoil
Every year, Dr Hite introduces his latest “turnaround” plan. Over the past four years, we’ve seen the Transformation Plan, the Renaissance Plan, the Redesign Plan, the Innovation Plan. This year: Priority Schools. And with that the instability resulting from forcing the transfer, without cause or due process, of most teachers and some principals.
In addition, Dr Hite has said, in SRC meetings and before City Council, that he intends to close three schools a year for at least the next five years.
Fifteen more schools to be shuttered, thousands of students relocated, relationships disrupted, and vacant buildings becoming eyesores in our neighborhoods—or sold to developers to turn into private housing/commercial spaces or handed over to charter school operators.
We must stop the dismantling of public education in Philadelphia.
To that end, we want to honor the 29 schools closed since 2011. These neighborhoods are still reeling from the loss of long-established neighborhood schools. It’s time to stand up for our neighborhood schools. Linked is our flyer for the Requiem for Philly Schools Vigil to be held before the June 15 SRC meeting. We are ask people to wear black as we mourn these losses. There will be a display of tombstones (one for each school) displayed in front of the administration building. We are asking people to tell their stories at the SRC meeting about losing their neighborhood school. Call 215 400 4180 by 3 on Wednesday, June 14, to sign up to speak.
Changing Speaker Policies to Stifle Public Voices
APPS members attended and testified at three SRC meetings in May: two regularly scheduled action meetings, plus one called with less than a week’s notice to rush through several charter renewals. At its April 27 meeting, the SRC passed a resolution to limit the number of speakers to 24 at its next meeting.
Turns out that they meant 24 speakers from the community. A separate group of charter operators (no limit) was able to speak at the beginning of the meeting. The SRC also violated its own speakers policy by allowing one school, Laboratory Charter, to sign up for 14 of the 24 slots. Two of the five commissioners took pains to inform Laboratory Charter School supporters (recommended for non-renewal by the Charter School Office) of how they can get their charter renewed. Where was this support for Wister School parents faced with their school being turned over to Mastery Charter School last year?
New Idea for City Council
APPS members Lynda Rubin, Barbara Dowdall and Lisa Haver testified at City Council’s May 17 hearing on the school district’s budget. Lynda urged Council members to pay closer attention to the questionable spending priorities of the SRC. APPS members will be urging every member of Council’s Education Committee to send a staffer to observe and report on all SRC meetings.
District Losing More Qualified Teachers
One thing we can count on at every SRC meeting? Funds will flow into the pockets of consultants, corporate non-profits, faux teacher training programs, and various other vendors. Dr. Hite has announced his intent to recruit 1,000 new teachers. District teachers have been working for over 1,300 days without a new contract. Several have testified that they simply can no longer afford to work in the district and have been forced to leave for economic reasons. Dr. Hite’s highly promoted campaign to recruit teachers reflects this exiting from the district. Meanwhile, professional development that was done in-house is now being outsourced for millions, and the unaccredited Relay School continues to win contracts from the District.
Speaking Out Sometimes Gets Results
At the April 20 Budget Meeting APPS member Lisa Haver raised the issue of the public needing help understanding the district’s multi-page budget. CFO Uri Monson, after several conversations with Lisa, issued a “Budget 101” so that the layperson can understand where the money comes from and how it is spent. This multi-page, graphic tutorial is available on the district website.
The newest SRC Commissioner, Estelle Richman, attended this session sitting at the official table instead of watching from the audience.
APPS members continue to testify at all SRC meetings. We are joined by activist parents and community members who cannot remain silent during this assault on our public schools. See testimonies from May 18th and May 25th.
Where Oh Where are the May 25 SRC Resolutions?
For days the only thing to be found when looking for the resolutions was one word: PENDING. Two days before the meeting, only three budget items were posted. Wednesday morning (the day before the meeting) saw an additional seven items listed, including one to approve a revised application for Deep Roots Charter School. This application was denied at the February SRC special charter meeting, but not before the applicants were encouraged by commissioners to reapply. For the result, see APPS Ears on the SRC: May 25, 2017. You might ask yourself where this supportive advice is when neighborhood schools are slated to be “transformed” or shuttered.
June 6: PSN fundraiser
June 7: Our Cities/Our Schools Forum on Abolishing the SRC
6 to 8 at Berean Institute 19th & Girard Avenue
June 15: Requiem for Philly Schools Vigil @ 3:30 PM before SRC meeting
June 30: SRC Action Meeting @ 4:30 PM