Eyes on the Board of Education: April 25, 2019

by Karel Kilimnik

Board Rolls Out Red Carpet to Charter Operators

Spring has arrived along with the annual crop of charter school amendments and renewals. Renewals come due when charters’  five-year terms are up. Amendments requests–for enrollment increases, name changes, relocation–can be submitted at any time, but often at the time of renewal.  Incredibly, charter schools who have refused to sign renewal agreements have still been granted amendment requests. First, let us deal with Renewals. Presently on the Charter School Office (CSO) website is the 2018/19 cohort of 12 schools–with no active link for any school, so no way to see the renewal evaluation report.

Of the 18 schools in the 2017/18 cohort, one link is not posted ( Mathematics, Civics, and Sciences Charter School). The April 25 Meeting Agenda lists two Charter Amendments under consideration. Laboratory Charter School is requesting a change of location (Item 3). Laboratory operates one school across three separate campuses in three different neighborhoods–a K-5, a 5-8 and a K-8.  Now Laboratory wants to consolidate all three into one location in East Falls at 3300 Henry Avenue. The District’s School Profiles page gives information on the Northern Liberties campus but not the other two; our written request for explanation has gone unanswered. The CSO Mid-Cycle Charter Amendment Evaluation Report specifically cites lack of community outreach about the relocation,  yet still recommends approval of their request.  The CSO page states that the Pennsylvania Charter School Law does not require districts to consider amendments: “The Pennsylvania Charter School Law does not provide for amendments to charters, and thus the Charter Schools Office (CSO) of the District is not required to review amendment requests from charter schools.”  This may provide a legal basis for denying this request. Why is the Board in such a rush to grant this charter school’s amendment?

The Board has made several pronouncements about making community engagement a key part of its mission. It has created a District Partnership & Community  Engagement Committee along with a Parent & Community Advisory Council. It is incomprehensible that they would consider approving this Action Item while excluding the community from the process.

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Student Achievement Committee Report: April 11, 2019

by Lynda Rubin

The Board of Education denied three new charter applications in February. The question now is whether they will continue the SRC’s practice of allowing back-door charter expansion through yearly amendment requests from charters and whether they will make this an open process for full public engagement.

Present: Committee members Chris McGinley, Angela McIver, Leticia Egea-Hinton, Maria McColgan and student representative Alfredo Praticò; Committee member Mallory Fix Lopez was absent. Board President Joyce Wilkerson sat in the audience.

Dr. McIver announced that Kindergarten registration begins May 31, 2019. The Board Budget Hearing will be held on April 25, 2019, 4:00 PM in the 2nd floor auditorium prior to the regularly scheduled Action Meeting at 5:00 pm.

The minutes for the March 14, 2019 Student Achievement Committee Meeting were approved.

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Finance & Facilities Committee Meeting: April 11, 2019

by Karel Kilimnik

Present: Co-chairs Lee Huang and Leticia Egea-Hinton and Committee member/Board President Joyce Wilkerson; Committee member Wayne Walker participated telephonically; Board member Chris McGinley attended; Board members Julia Danzy and Maria McColgan entered after the meeting began.

Huang began by thanking community members for their feedback. He invited the public to attend the District Budget meeting to be held on Thursday April 25 at 4 PM prior to the regularly scheduled Board Action Meeting. Huang stated that the Lump Sum Budget was posted on the website after being approved at the March 28 Action meeting. (APPS contends that that vote is not valid because it was taken in a private meeting from which the public was excluded following a disruption of the Action Meeting in the auditorium.)

Charter School Funding Overview

Chief Financial Officer Uri Monson presented his Overview of Charter School Financing. Highlights are listed below. (To listen to the entire meeting and see the Power-Point Presentations )

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APPS plans to challenge school board, alleging violation of the Sunshine Act

Board president Joyce Wilkerson says there are no plans to take new votes.

APPS plans to challenge school board, alleging violation of the Sunshine Act

Published in The Notebook

April 3, 2019

The Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools (APPS) plans to pursue its challenge, in court if necessary,  of how the Board of Education responded to a disruption during its March 28 meeting. The members recessed to a private room and continued the meeting there, and APPS members contend that this violated the state’s open meetings law, known as the Sunshine Act.

The board left the auditorium after students and adults who were furious at its 7-2 vote to adopt a policy requiring metal detectors in all schools shouted and chanted, making it very difficult to continue conducting business.

“If we have to, we will sue them,” said APPS co-founder Lisa Haver. “This is a bad precedent. We understand they were put in a bad position … but they’ll have to fix it.”

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