Letter to the Board of Education Regarding a Violation of the Sunshine Act and the Board’s Response

After a disruption of the March 28, 2019 Action Meeting of the Board of Education, the Board members left the public auditorium and continued the meeting in a private room to vote on Agenda Items – a clear violation of the Sunshine Act. Below is our letter to the Board calling for them to reconvene to take a public vote on those Action Items.

 

April 1, 2019

Dear President Wilkerson and Members of the Board,

We write to you regarding the Board’s decision to hold a private meeting during its scheduled Action Meeting last Thursday.

After the meeting was interrupted by protestors, the Board voted to recess. Only four of the Action Items had been voted on. Over thirty public speakers had not yet been called. I left the auditorium after the recess was called and went down to the front desk to try to find out what was going on when I saw Board members walking toward the Board offices. I asked where the Board was going- twice- but received no response.

While waiting for the meeting to reconvene, we found out from someone in the audience, not from any District staff, that the Board was meeting in the Committee Room. A group of about ten to fifteen attendees, including APPS members came to that room and asked to be admitted. We were barred from entering by several school police officers who told us they had been directed not to let any member of the public in. We told them that no one in our group had taken part in the disruption of the meeting in the auditorium.

Click here to read the rest of the letter and the Board’s response

How many lawyers does it take to shut down a failing charter school? | Opinion

How many lawyers does it take to shut down a failing charter school? | Opinion

When the School District of Philadelphia targeted Germantown High School for closure just one year before its 100th anniversary, there was no legal recourse for students or families. No law required the district to conduct an inquiry or call witnesses in order to hear testimony from those fighting to save the school. While the administration of Superintendent William Hite did hold an informal meeting at the school, the community’s pleas fell on deaf ears. Germantown High, along with 23 other neighborhood schools that had served generations of Philadelphians, was closed by vote of the School Reform Commission in a matter of months.

Closing a charter school is a very different story. The Pennsylvania Charter Law mandates a lengthy legal process, beginning with weeks of hearings at the district level. Thousands of pages of documents are entered into evidence. Should the hearing examiner rule in the district’s favor, the charter school can appeal to the state’s Charter Appeal Board in the hope that the six-person board of political appointees, most of whom have ties to the charter sector, will overrule the decision of the local board. Should that fail, the school can appeal to Commonwealth Court.

A recent story by Inquirer reporter Maddie Hanna detailed the costs involved in current efforts to shut down two city charters.

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Ears on the Board of Education: March 28, 2019

by Diane Payne

The Board of Education saw its first real pushback at this meeting.  Student protestors, upset at the vote on metal detector policy, took over the meeting.  The Board left the room and did not return, leaving the public participants wondering what was happening. The Board then took an unprecedented action which may have serious legal ramifications.  Democracy is not always neat and orderly. How the Board responds to the messiness of passionate voices will shed a light on how much “local control” really exists under a mayoral-appointed Board.  Details below.

Present

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

Ten APPS members were present, but only one had the opportunity to testify.  Seven others were unable to deliver their public remarks to the Board. The room was filled to capacity, and the energy of engagement was palpable.  A total of 48 speakers were registered to speak, but only 12 were able to deliver their remarks.

The meeting commenced with a beautiful student performance from the Central High Jazz Combo.  As usual, the talent and confidence of these student performers was inspiring and a stark reminder that the battle to preserve and improve PUBLIC education is a battle worth fighting.

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