by Karel Kilimnik
“I can’t believe what you say, because I see what you do.” James Baldwin
As educators and students across the nation begin a new year, many enduring issues of inequity and racism generate discussion. We need to go beyond the clouds of words and promises of task forces and advisory committees. Educators, parents, students, advocates and school staff need a seat at the decision-making table. Better funded districts with newer facilities are able to provide both in-school and virtual instruction, while we in Philadelphia continue the fight to detoxify schools. The District’s own Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a scathing report on the Hite administration’s mishandling of the construction and the ensuing environmental crisis at Ben Franklin High School. Dr. Hite and his team, in hurrying the project so that Science Leadership Academy could relocate, endangered the health and safety of students and staff. The Board expressed its disappointment, then moved on with a shameful promise simply to include the years-long display of incompetence and malfeasance in Dr. Hite’s annual performance review.
The OIG Report not only laid bare what happened during the eighteen months of construction at Ben Franklin (although omitting all names of those responsible seems designed to preclude accountability), it gave important insight into the policy and practice of the Hite administration on outsourcing and the resulting erosion of institutional memory at 440, an issue raised by APPS members for years: