by Lisa Haver
“In addition to having ending points and ending dates for the interim guardrails, the Board has adopted interim guardrail ending points for each year leading up to the ending date.” From the Board of Education’s Goals and Guardrails
Three new Board members will be seated at this remote Action Meeting. Each will likely make a speech about their backgrounds, beliefs and positions on education issues. In a democracy, people should hear this before casting their vote for the candidates they want to represent them. But Philadelphians remain disenfranchised, in more ways than one. We cannot vote for our School Board members. The Mayor shuts the public out of the entire Nominating Process. City Council lobs softball questions at the nominees at its confirmation hearing. Who is listening to the parents, students, educators and community members?
At its January Action Meeting, the Board cut off almost every speaker mid-sentence. The Board, apparently in agreement with member Julia Danzy, caught on a hot mic last summer complaining about how many people had signed up to speak, got busy finding ways to shut out District parents, students, educators and community members. Without a public vote, and without any prior notice or explanation, the Board cut back every speaker’s time from three minutes to two. The Board also limited the number of speakers at every meeting, no matter the number of Items on the agenda. They voted, again without explanation or deliberation, to abolish two more of its Committees, thus eliminating the venues that they established with the promise of more dialogue with the community.
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by Lisa Haver
Three weeks from now, at its February 25 Action Meeting, the Board will vote to accept or reject applications for five new charter schools. APPS members, who have analyzed the applications and attended both rounds of hearings, call on the Board to deny all five.
The Board’s January Action Meeting did not include a presentation from the Charter Schools Office on the applications. The Board has abolished its committees. Thus, community members will have only two minutes to speak on the issue just minutes before the Board votes in February. Public speakers were given only two minutes each to be heard at the first hearing; no public testimony was heard at the second. In contrast, charter applicants have hours of time to sell their applications, not including private communications with the District. As in previous years, APPS had to file a formal Right to Know Request in order to see the attachments, which contains most of the budget, curriculum, and staffing information.
APPS’ analyses reveal serious deficiencies in all facets of the applications, many echoed by Charter Schools Office staff during the hearings. None of the applicants makes a strong case for approval. In addition, the surprising lack of preparation and knowledge about their own applications displayed in more than one of the hearings did little to instill confidence in their ability to operate schools and educate the children of Philadelphia.
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by Diane Payne
The Board set the tone for this remote Action Meeting by imposing more undemocratic, punitive measures on the defenders of public education. Disenfranchisement was carried out in a number of ways, all decided in secret. The Board, for the first time in District history, cut every speaker’s time from three minutes to two, and they limited the total number of speakers. In addition, the deadline for submitting written testimony went from 24 to 48 hours before the meeting. Violating not only the trust of the public but its own by-laws and the PA Sunshine Act, the Board amended an official policy without a public vote. Thus, when Dr. Hite called a press conference on Wednesday to announce his latest reopening plan, parents, teachers, students and principals had no chance to voice their opposition. The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers had been warning against the still unsafe conditions of school buildings, but the Board made sure that neither they nor the public would hear about them. The Board is taking advantage of a public health crisis to shut the public out even more.
The Board continued its punishment by subjecting the public to hours of verbosity camouflaged as action, topped off with another round of self-congratulation. It is disheartening to witness the hustle the Board perpetuates in addressing student achievement. With the passage of Item One, the Board implemented its alliterative Goals and Guardrails (G&G) campaign. How can Board members be so deaf to the actual needs of students and educators, expressed month after month in public testimony? G&G’s color-coded boxes bury issues in charts, graphs, education jargon, and interventions. Their own education experts–the teachers and staff of the District–entreat the Board month after month to be heard. Our city’s children have had countless “plans” imposed on them, year after year, in this administration alone.
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