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.