by Diane Payne
April 24, 2018
This was the first meeting of the hodgepodge SRC Commission. The SRC is limping to extinction with a new chairwoman; Estelle Richman was appointed chair by Governor Wolf. Due to the resignation of Joyce Wilkerson and Chris McGinley, Mayor Kenney has appointed two commissioners, Fran Burns (who resigned as SDP Chief Operating Officer in June of 2017) and Marge Neff (who resigned as SRC Commissioner in October of 2016). McGinley and Wilkerson have been selected by Kenney to join the new School Board beginning in July. The SRC is working with only four commissioners because Governor Tom Wolf declined to appoint a new commissioner to replace Farah Jimenez when she abruptly resigned this past February. The SRC is poised to vote on countless resolutions, spending millions of dollars with a hodgepodge of four commissioners as opposed to the required five. Taxpayers beware….98 resolutions will be dipping into the public’s pocket at the upcoming April 26th SRC meeting. To read APPS analysis of these resolutions please read Eyes on the SRC: April 26.
All four of the SRC Commissioners were present. Six members of APPS testified on behalf of public education. Fourteen of the fifteen speakers argued against SRC policies that attack public education.
Dr. Hite has not publicly identified any schools for closure this year. But, don’t let that fool you into thinking no public schools are closing! Instead, the district employs the “double speak” tactic. Strawberry Mansion High School (S.M.H.S.) is being “phased out.” There will be no 9th grade class at Strawberry Mansion in 2018 and the neighborhood’s high school will eventually disappear. There has been no community input for this. School District spokesman Lee Whack said, “…anytime a school and community go through change, things can be difficult.” Yes Mr. Whack!! It is difficult when you’re conned, disrespected, and disenfranchised.
Nine of the 15 speakers at the SRC meeting addressed the “con” being perpetrated at S.M.H.S. Members of the community eloquently slammed the SDP for failing to invest in S.M.H.S. and stripping them of resources, making the area a public school desert dotted with charter schools, then decrying the reduction of student population from a high of 1,600 students to just 292 students today. As Ken Derstine said in his testimony, “All of this chaos is to drive students from Strawberry Mansion in order to bring in outside contractors to provide these programs and transform Strawberry Mansion from a public school responsible to the community into a school contracted to corporate profit making interests for whom education is secondary.”
This district continues its quest to take neighborhood institutions that are anchors in their communities and toss them aside like so much refuse. The community is fighting back. APPS supports the community’s efforts and will continue to post information on this ongoing fight. If the district succeeds, Strawberry Mansion will be one more school buried in the graveyard of dead schools.
There were no resolutions at this meeting. It was a meeting for the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Uri Munson and Dr. Hite to continue budget presentations. The district will put the power point presentations for this SRC meeting on their website but this power point was not available as of the writing of this edition of Ears.
Because of some adjustments in figures that the city has provided to Munson, there was a slight change in the budget picture. However, the 5-year positive fund balance and the debt service below 10% are still intact. Munson did say that due to declining state revenues by FY20 the state/local percentages are expected to be 50/50. In the past, the state has always provided more than 50% of the district’s revenue.
Next SRC Meeting
The next SRC meeting is scheduled for Thursday, April 26th at 4:30 p.m. There are 98 resolutions and a lot of money at stake on this agenda. In addition, a denied charter application for Franklin Towne Charter Middle School has been re-submitted and is scheduled for a vote. It should not be forgotten that this charter school is overwhelmingly white, and has a CEO of 2 (yes that is two) schools who is making $260,000 per year. This CEO has never been an educator. The school has been in the news for circular real estate dealings and a whistleblower lawsuit. Read APPS analysis of the FTCS applicaton.
This lame duck, short staffed, hodgepodge SRC is making decisions that will affect the SDP for years to come.
To speak before the SRC call the Office of Family and Community Engagement at 215-400-4180 by 4:30 on the day preceding the meeting.