Board Holds Student Achievement and Support Committee Meeting

by Diane Payne

The Board of Education’s Committee on Student Achievement and Support held its first meeting on Thursday September 13. Eight members of APPS attended this meeting; seven testified. There were several presentations by district officials: Superintendent William Hite, Head of Schools Shawn Bird, Director of Academic Support Dr. Malika Savoy-Brooks, Director of Early Education Diane Castlebuono, and Interim Director of the Charters Schools Office Christina Grant. (You can view all BOE committee meeting presentation materials at the SDP website.)

Angela McIver and Chris McGinley serve as co-chairs; Julia Danzy, Leticia Egea-Hinton, Mallory Fix Lopez, and Maria McColgan are members of the Committee. Also present for most of the meeting was BOE President Joyce Wilkerson.

The meeting was scheduled for an hour and a half, but adjourned after two hours due to the number and length of staff presentations. At meeting’s end, the Co-chairs acknowledged that the number and length of presentations will have to be reconsidered in an effort to be respectful of time and to allow for public discussion. The 3-minute speaker rule was invoked due to time constraints, and although some went over, no speaker’s mic was shut off.

Staff presentation topics included: Read by 4th literacy initiative, teacher recruitment and retention, System of Great Schools (SGS) procedure and public hearings, and multiple charter school organizations (MCSO). (As noted above, all power points can be viewed on the SDP website.) During the presentation, Committee members asked thoughtful questions that challenged the status quo. For example, in response to Shawn Bird’s presentation on SGS, McGinley told him that “there are elements of the model that I vehemently disagree with.” McGinley added that the Committee would be following up for more information as the hearings on the year’s cohort of targeted schools proceed. The SGS schools this year are all in West Philadelphia–Harrington, Lamberton, and Locke. In response to another presentation, Fix-Lopez asked what other indicators were used besides standardized tests to determine whether graduating seniors were “career and college ready.” McColgan, Fix-Lopez, and Wilkerson expressed concerns around equity in the administration of grants and donations.

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Board of Education Holds Finance and Facilities Committee Meeting

by Diane Payne

The new Board of Education held its first Committee meeting on Thursday September 6 as part of an effort to have more community engagement and information before the Board votes on Action Items. Three members of APPS attended the first meeting of the Facilities and Finance Committee; two testified. This Committee will meet on the first Thursday of every month, unfortunately the 10:00 AM meeting time is impossible for many parents and SDP staff. Several speakers asked the Committee to consider changing the time.

The meeting was co-chaired by BOE members Lee Huang and Leticia Egea-Hinton; Joyce Wilkerson and Wayne Walker are Committee members. Present in the audience were Board members Angela McIver and Chris McGinley. A representative from State Senator Vincent Hughes office was also in attendance.

The Co-chairs acknowledged that the Committee is a “work in progress.” For now, they are not setting a three-minute timer for speakers; they asked that speakers be mindful of time. The Action Items that pertain to Finance and Facilities will be available before Committee meetings in the future but they were not available before this meeting.

There were two staff presentations. Chief Financial Officer Uri Munson gave an overview of the budget process along with a manager’s report. Chief Operating Officer Danielle Floyd gave a facilities renovation and remediation report. In addition, Sylvie Gallier Howard, the City’s First Deputy Commerce Director, gave a presentation on Keystone Opportunity Zones. All of these power points are available on the SDP website under the BOE’s Committee menu.

Munson noted that all budget information can be accessed through the SDP website as well as every vendor who is paid $100,000 or more. In answer to a question from Ms. Egea-Hinton, Munson said a teacher vacancy update would be available by October or November after staff leveling is completed. Floyd’s presentation included information on: paint and plaster stabilization, renovation projects, environmental projects (asbestos abatement and mold remediation), and preparing buildings for school openings.

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