Eyes on the Board of Education: January 30, 2020

by Karel Kilimnik

Almost one-fifth of January’s Action Items address the ongoing toxic schools crisis.  The Board will be voting on contracts to outside vendors totaling approximately $40 million– this month alone. Toxic conditions in the city’s schools are being discovered every week. Most district buildings were built when the dangers of lead and asbestos were not fully understood. But that does not excuse the years of inaction after those dangers became clear.  Essential reading includes the June 2019 Inquirer Series on Toxic Schools , in which a team of investigative reporters created three sections based on interviews and data:  Danger: Learn at your own risk;  Hidden Peril; and Botched Jobs. Since schools opened in September, lead and asbestos has been discovered in more schools, resulting in the growing demand from parents, students, teachers, and community members to fix them. Time and again the District has failed to listen to stakeholders. Contractors who performed shoddy and incomplete work are rehired; much of the construction takes place during school hours. Contractors have failed to safely dispose of contaminated materials or to adequately cordon off work areas, and their completed work does not pass environmental testing. On January 20, the PFT held a press conference  announcing its intent to seek a remedy through the courts as the District has failed to work with the union to correct the situation. This edition of Eyes focuses on the issues raised as seen by the many contracts awaiting approval.

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Student Achievement and Support Committee: January 16, 2020

By Lynda Rubin

The Student Achievement and Support Committee this month addressed a number of issues, including the problem of having too many teachers with emergency certifications and how the District supports hard-to-staff schools. Updates were given on the status of the School Progress Report (SPR) and school climate issues, if and how the number of special ed classes in any school affects a school’s status, and  how to include teacher contributions into the report process. The Charter School Office pointed out the time sensitive submission of written testimony on the two new applications: HS2L (Health and Science Leadership Charter School) and String Theory’s Joan Myers Brown Academy (JMB/ST). The Board’s notice about timing and method of submitting written testimony is included in this report. The Board has given conflicting information about whether previous testimony given at public Action or Committee meetings will be included as testimony about the two applications,  so it is advised that even if testimony was given at a previous meeting, it should be resubmitted per the information below.

Present: Co-Chairs Chris McGinley and Angela McGiver, Committee members Maria McColan, Mallory Fix Lopez. Pres. Joyce Wilkerson sat in.

Minutes from 12/12/19 Meeting were approved.

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Policy Committee Meeting: January 16, 2020

by Diane Payne

The Policy Committee has committed to review all School District policies, some decades old, and to revise, update or eliminate in order to reflect current needs and practices. Despite repeated requests over the past year,  copies of policies on the agenda were not available to members of the public in attendance. One binder with one set of the policies under consideration was placed on the desk outside the meeting room with instructions not to remove. There is no way to be in the meeting and review the policy revisions at the same time. APPS continues to ask the Board to provide copies of all meeting materials so that the “public engagement” they promise will be more than a slogan.

Present: Co-Chairs Maria McColgan and Joyce Wilkerson; Committee Members Julia Danzy, Chris McGinley, and Lee Huang. Board members Leticia Egea-Hinton and Angela McIver also attended.

Minutes of the November Policy Meeting were approved.

Continue reading here.

Defenders of Public Education speak at the New Charter Applications Hearing, December 20, 2019

Click on the individual’s name to read a transcript of his or her testimony

 Topic: High School of Health Sciences Leadership Charter School Application (HS2L)

Monique Adkins

Susan L. DeJarnatt

Lisa Haver

Angela Iovine

Maddie Luebbert

Erika McFadden

Bob Nelson

Sally O’Brien

Coleen Orr

Ilene Poses

Emanuel Ramos

Lynda Rubin

Topics: HS2L and Joan Myers Brown Academy

Karel Kilimnik

Stephanie King