Eyes on the SRC:  March 15, 2018


by Karel Kilimnik
March 12, 2018

Reading about the many recent school shootings has been heartbreaking. School culture has changed so that students today have grown up with metal detectors, school police officers, and lockdowns. Resolution A-4 (Operating Budget: $500,000 Contracts with AstroPhysics, Autoclear, and Ceia – Weapons Screening Equipment and Supplies) tells a sad tale of what has become normal in so many of our schools. Veteran teacher Kristin Luebbert described a lockdown drill at her school in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Hearing the signal while in the hall with her students, she quickly shepherded them back into the room, plastered the windows with paper and sent the children to the back. Turning around she saw her students arming themselves with scissors, a heavy-duty stapler, and a bottle of Windex.  They told her they were prepared to defend themselves and her.

Edu-vendors continue to prosper at the expense of our students. Carnegie Learning (B-3) siphons off another $3 million as the District extends their contract to “provide professional development services to approximately 1500 K-8 and Algebra I teachers in support of the District’s annual summer mathematics initiative (2018 Summer Math Institute).”

Carnegie Learning traces its roots back to the 1980’s, when researchers at Carnegie Mellon University developed an “intelligent” math tutoring system. (Carnegie Learning spun out as an independent company in 1998, and its ownership has changed hands several times between private equity groups and other investors.)

Other investors, thereby blurring the lines of accountability and transparency, routinely gobble these private companies up. They are accountable to their investors—not the public.

In January, APPS members submitted questions to the SRC about the resolution approving the sale of the former Ada Lewis Middle School in East Germantown. This meeting’s Resolution A-10 reflects a modification to the sale. How this will affect the community is unknown. The January resolution description provided little information. In our analysis of that Resolution, we share the details we were given at that SRC meeting.  We need to keep in mind that Dr. Hite and Mayor Kenney are united in their intention to close more neighborhood schools.   District schools receive no dispensation and have no pathway to appeal any decision by the Superintendent or the SRC to close them down. Five years ago, students, parents, and teachers in twenty-four public schools found they had no standing in the fight to save their own schools. Their stories were heartbreaking but caused no change in the decision. The state’s charter law, on the other hand, guarantees an extensive legal process for any charter facing closure, effectively keeping the school open for many years.

Drexel University (A-18) was chosen to manage the federal ProSPER grant whose origins lie to the North in Harlem.  ProSPER represents the Obama Administration’s attempt to replicate the Harlem Children’s Zone, a private non-profit with several charter schools, preschool programs, health clinics, social service agencies, and parenting programs.  The Harlem Children’s Zone provides cradle-to-high school services provided by a private entity. Some of what they have done is worthy of duplication but not under private control where the accountability and transparency evaporate. The question is how much autonomy the District schools have in saying what their school needs.

What If…?

…instead of outsourcing almost $ 4 million services this month, that money was used to put a dent in the estimated $5 billion it will cost to repair our public school buildings—from leaky roofs to deficient electrical systems?

Register to speak at the March 15, 2018 meeting. Call 215-400-4180 before 3:30 PM Wednesday, March 14.

Next SRC meeting: Thursday March 22 at 4:30 PM. To register to speak, call 215-400-4180 before 3:30 PM Wednesday, March 21.

Click here to read Resolutions of Note
for the March 15th SRC meeting.