Policy Committee Meeting: May 16, 2019

by Lisa Haver

In addition to the ongoing acoustic problems, the Policy Committee continues its practice of providing no copies of the policies under consideration to members of the public in attendance.  APPS members have told the Board, in both letters to them and in public testimony, that they cannot claim they practice “transparency” and “public engagement” when the public cannot see and participate fully in what they are doing.  There was one binder with all of the policies on the agenda—on a desk outside the Committee room.  When I testified, I asked the Committee what they meant when they announced at the outset of the meeting that the agenda materials were online—that we were supposed to memorize all of the policies and proposed changes before the meeting?  The SRC provided adequate copies of the public documents at every meeting. The Board has no excuse for not doing the same.

Present: Co-chairs Joyce Wilkerson and Maria McColgan, Members Lee Huang, Chris McGinley, and Julia Danzy.

Committee approved Minutes of previous meeting.

Naomi Wyatt, Chief of Staff in the Office of the Superintendent, gave a rapid presentation of 40 policies to be added, deleted or amended. The titles of the policies were projected on the wall, but not the text of the policies.

We suggest you watch the video and/or review the agenda for this meeting if you want to see the details of the changes recommended by the Committee at this meeting.

School Nurse Eileen Duffey came to the meeting on her lunch hour; the meeting is held at 1 PM. (Her school is not far away by public transportation.)  Duffey raised the same issue she has addressed at previous Action and Committee meetings: the District’s failure to comply with its own policies and the law in immunization matters.  She reiterated that this is an urgent matter, that students without necessary immunizations are being allowed to come to school, and that the decision not to exclude non-immunized students is being made by non-medical staff at 440. Recent records show that about 12,000 students lack those immunizations. Duffey suggested that the District place public service announcements (PSAs) on radio and TV over the summer in order to remind parents to take care of this before school starts; that would significantly decrease the number of students that would have to be excluded.

Parent Activist Cecelia Thompson also objected the lack of available public documents during Committee and Board meetings, reminding the Committee members that many families do not have internet access.

Parent Stephanie Kind addressed the issue of segregation in District schools. Her daughter attends Kearney Elementary in Northern Liberties. Kearney’s student body is 94% African-American; that does not reflect the demographics of the neighborhood. White parents are sending their children to schools outside the catchment area, and those schools have accommodated those parents. King wants the Committee to review any policy that allows this kind of segregation. Angela McIver thanked King for keeping this issue “front and center”.