Eyes on the Board of Education: August 20, 2020

by Karel Kilimnik

Reading Board of Education agendas invoke feelings similar to that of Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day: will we be trapped in this cycle forever?  Is there a future in which we don’t see the same items for consulting contracts, outsourcing of professional services, and growing the legal firm slush fund? We have seen little independence from the Board, which conducts business in the same way the SRC did–rubber-stamping administrative requests. 

The COVID pandemic provides an opportunity to right the priorities for the district by involving stakeholders in decision making; eliminating outsourcing and rebuilding infrastructure; using the already existing resources of educators instead of hiring outside consultants who return like cicadas; supporting Black Lives Matter and  Student Voter Registration.

We need actions to back the speeches. We need equity to guide funding so that it gets to schools with the highest needs and fewest resources. The August Agenda Items in particular keep us in that Groundhog Day cycle of privatization, outsourcing, and sending precious dollars to out-of-town consultants: Item 1, $700, 000.00 Contract with KJR Consulting for Central Office Professional Development, Anti-racism training and Change Management Support;  Item 24, Contract with the Urban Affairs Coalition at Philadelphia High School for Girls, giving non-profits the power to decide on how project money is spent at a public high school; Item 10, Ratification of Supplemental Outside Counsel, growing stable of outside law firms; Item 13, Contract with Various Vendors for Furniture and Equipment at PSLAMS, a new public school configuration brought about by the private funding of the Philadelphia School Partnership. Extensive anti-Racist training had been conducted by District educators who were told that they must do so only as volunteers; the District would not pay them–but have found $700,000 to pay KJR.  District Chief of Staff Naomi Wyatt told the Board at last week’s Joint Committee meeting that the Hite administration’s central office staff had a good relationship with KJR, who had been the recipient of previous District contracts. Wyatt did not explain what “Change Management Support” is.  The criteria for choosing leaders of anti-racism should be who can provide the best education on the subject, not being on good terms with a consulting company that has no experience in the subject. 

Click here to read the rest of The Eyes.

Ears on the Board of Education, July 30, 2020 (Action Meeting, part 2)

by Diane Payne

When we organize and fight, we win. The students, parents, teachers, principals and community members told the Board on July 23 that Dr. Hite’s hybrid reopening plan would put children and adults in harm’s way. Hite and his staff presented an all-virtual plan to the Board one week later.

The Board reconvened the Action Meeting that they had recessed, after eight hours, on July 23.  All eight Board members were present.  [This meeting can be viewed on the Board website. Visit the APPS website to read our summary. Meeting materials can be viewed here]

Wilkerson Reiterates Plea for Fair Funding

Board President Joyce Wilkerson opened the meeting with another plea for funding advocacy.  Wilkerson noted that the state’s inequitable formula results in Philadelphia receiving the lowest per-pupil funding. The District webpage displays detailed information about how the public can engage their elected officials in demanding full and fair funding.  

Wilkerson then asked Superintendent Hite to present his revised reopening plan. She noted that there were working committees that assisted in this plan’s development, but she expressed no objection to the fact that the committees included administrators, principals, and parents–but no teachers.  

Click here to read the rest of the report.

Defenders of Public Education Speak before the BOE, July 23, 2020


Click on the individual’s name to read their testimony.

Dr. Robin Cooper, President of CASA

Dana Carter

Barbara McDowell Dowdall

Lisa Haver

Karel Kilimnik

Stephanie King

Robin Lowry

Maddie Luebbert

Charlie McGeehan

Cheri Micheau

Diane Payne

Zoe Rooney

Dr. Sonia Rosen

Lynda Rubin