APPS Urges Board to Hold Hearings on Charter Renewals

During the 17-year reign of the SRC, charter renewals have been approved without any public review.  Charters failing to meet standards in academic, financial and organizational areas were routinely renewed without any opportunity for the public to review the Charter School Office evaluations and make meaningful comments.

We have written two letters to the Board asking for them to create a new process for charter renewal, one that is open to the public and is not simply a rubber-stamp for charters that have failed to educate their students.  We have also raised the issue in our testimony in Board committee meetings.

So far, we have received no answer to either of our letters.

March 19, 2019

Dear President Wilkerson and Members of the Board:

We write to you concerning the numerous charter renewals that have been postponed indefinitely by the School Reform Commission and the Board over the past three years.

The District has allowed several charters to operate past their 5-year terms. In most if not all cases, this is because the charters have refused to accept the remedies for deficiencies, referred to as “conditions”, that the District has recommended.  The Board should discontinue the SRC’s practice of allowing charter operators to use their own refusal to address their schools’ deficiencies as a means of extending their 5-year terms. Several of the schools in question failed to meet academic, organizational, and financial standards.  Because of the dearth of public information on these matters, we can only assume that the District has suspended all efforts to have these operators sign new charters. Thus, the idea of a 5-year term for charters becomes meaningless.

In 2016, Universal Audenried and Universal Vare were recommended for non-renewal by the Charter Schools Office. The SRC renewed Vare last year, but Audenried’s non-renewal remains on hold for three years now.

In 2017, twenty-three charter schools were up for renewal (see list below). The SRC voted to renew eight of them at its May 1 Action Meeting. No resolutions were posted for the fifteen who had refused to sign a new charter; thus, no pubic action was taken on them.

Click here to read the rest of the post.

Ears on the Board of Education: February 28, 2019

by Diane Payne

This Board meeting seems to have signaled a real change in direction by those in charge of the District. All new charter applications were denied, and Dr. Hite responded to concerns brought by teachers about oppressive administrative practices.

Present

All nine members of the Board of Education were present as well as student representative Alfredo Pratico. (Student representative Julia Frank was absent.)  All meeting agendas and materials can be viewed on the SDP website and videos of previous meetings can be viewed by scrolling down on the BOE home page and clicking on Watch Previous Board Meetings.

Five members of APPS testified in defense of Public Education.  You can read APPS members’ testimony (and reports on Philly Public Education issues) on the APPS website. The room was filled to capacity; some members of the public had to sit in the lobby overflow area.

The meeting opened with a beautiful student performance by The Franklin Learning Center’s singing group The Bobtones, directed by Michelle Frank.  These performances serve as a reminder of the importance of the Arts in our schools’ curricula. The Arts should never be considered an “extra.”

Committee Reports

Reports from the Student Achievement (S.A.) and Finance and Facilities (F&F) committees were presented by Co-chairs Chris McGinley (S.A.) and Lee Huang (F&F).  (See APPS’ reports of these committee meetings on our website.) Community Engagement Committee Co-chair Mallory Fix Lopez reported that the announcement on those selected (of 123 applicants) for the Parent Advisory Committee would be made next Thursday, March 7th.  She also reported that the next Community Engagement meeting will be held at the Blackwell Community Center in West Philadelphia on March 21st. Information and a request for RSVP (not mandatory, just for planning purposes for food and childcare) can be found on the Board website.  Policy Committee Co-chair Maria McColgan reported that nine policies have been on the agenda for review and will be voted on at the March Board Action Meeting: Policies 111, 123.3, 211, 217, 304, 617, 709, 804, and 805.

Click here to read the rest of the post.

Defenders of Public Education Speak Before the BOE, February 28, 2019

SB 7-9-18

Click on the individual’s name to read the transcript of his or her testimony.  You can view the video of the Board meeting and public testimony here.

APPS and Community Members

Susan DeJarnatt

Education Law Center

Deborah Grill

Lisa Haver

Karel Kilimnik

Diane Payne

Lynda Rubin

District’s System of Great Schools Decision Leaves Many Unanswered Questions

by Karel Kilimnik

After holding six community meetings at each of the three schools in the 2018 System of Great Schools (SGS) cohort, the District announced one more at each school during the week of February 4th in which the option for each school would be revealed.  APPS members attended meetings at all three SGS School last Fall. Our reports can be found here.

The two possible options for the schools were either placement in the Acceleration Network (formerly the Turnaround Network) or allowing each school to develop its own Academic Improvement Plan (AIP) . The main feature of the first option is the requirement that teachers and principals reapply for their positions in their school. Chief of Schools Shawn Bird told the Board’s Student Achievement Committee that teachers had to reapply so that the District would know whether they were willing to attend the additional monthly and summer professional development. If this is true, then the District changed its policy; it has not been true for the previous two years of this program. But why not just ask the teachers if they will attend the PD? Why would they have to go through a re-application and re-interview process just to answer one question? When questioned by the Committee about this, Bird said he wasn’t sure and would have to check.  Who would he be asking when he is in charge of the SGS process? Another last-minute policy change: this year, the AIP option could also include a requirement for teachers to reapply. This was not disclosed until the last meeting at Harrington in answer to a question from APPS. The other school communities, as far as we know, have not been informed of this.

Superintendent Hite waited until the 2017/18 SPR scores were reported until making the final decision on whether Harrington, Lamberton, and Locke Schools would enter the Acceleration Network or develop their own Plan. Ultimately, he decided to place all three schools into the AIP Option.  Each school would have a Planning Committee selected by the Principal. No criteria was provided as to how Planning Committee members would be selected, only that the Principal would choose them.

As part of the District’s stated plan to “gather information on school strengths, challenges, and ways to improve”, Temple University was awarded a contract to gather input from parents and community members about the strengths and weaknesses of each school. The “Parent. Family, & Community Input Report” (listed under Download Focus Group Report on the SGS website) noted the extremely limited involvement of families. Given that all three schools list student enrollment at over 400, there was paltry parent attendance at each school. The total for parents/community members for all six meetings came to 29 at Harrington, 23 at Lamberton, and 38 at Locke–fewer than ten at each meeting. Their report does not indicate whether Special Ed and/or English Language learners were part of their sample nor what grades were included.

Click here to read the rest of the report