APPS 2015 Overview

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by Karel Kilimnik

February 22, 2016

This year’s overview has been delayed due to the increasing trauma inflicted on our public schools and our intense fight to save public education. What a year! You think it can’t get any worse…and then it does. We began the year pursuing our lawsuit against the SRC for violations of the PA Sunshine Act after their illegal termination of the PFT contract without any public comment and ended it supporting the Wister school community’s fight to stop being charterized and stay a real public school.

Now the SRC has overruled Superintendent Hite’s recommendation about which schools should go into the Renaissance Charter School program…without any public comment.


January

APPS members and attorneys appear in Common Pleas Court to begin the long road of settling our Lawsuit charging the SRC with violating the state Sunshine Act on Oct. 6, 2014 when they abruptly cancelled the PFT contract and allowed no public comment before their vote.


February/March

Three members of APPS settled a lawsuit, filed in Federal Court in Philadelphia, against the School District of Philadelphia and the City of Philadelphia. Poses was the victim of police brutality when she was dragged from district headquarters by Philadelphia police after refusing to remove a sign she was wearing around her neck. Barbara Dowdall and Lisa Haver had signs confiscated and bags searched, their contents seized and destroyed, by district security staff. With that settlement money of over $30,000, we have been able to contribute to student programs. The donations made in 2015 include:

Philadelphia High School for Girls: 50 seniors to attend live performance at Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre

Philadelphia High School for Girls: Art Department supplies

Philip Randolph Technical High School: Student Activity Fund Graduation Awards

C. W. Henry Elementary School: Astral Artists classical musician instrument presentation and performance at the school

Philadelphia  High  School for Girls: 50 seniors to attend live performance at Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre

Philadelphia High School for Girls: Art Department supplies

Philip Randolph Technical High School: Student Activity Fund Graduation Awards

C. W. Henry Elementary School: Playworks Program

C. W. Henry Elementary School: Astral Artists classical musician instrument presentation and performance at the school Wissahickon Boys and Girls Club

B. Kelly School: Kelly Green Community Garden

Teachers Institute of Philadelphia

Horticulture Program at Lincoln High School

Philadelphia Young Playwrights

Arden for All at Arden Theatre

History Hunters Program

C. W. Henry School PTA

Philadelphia Student Union


May

APPS members take part in the rally outside the Bala Cynwyd headquarters of the Susquehanna Investment Group. This group of investment bankers have been investors in corporate education reform and made very large contributions to the unsuccessful mayoral and gubernatorial campaigns of State Senator Anthony Williams.


June

APPS member Eileen Duffey pens a powerful letter to the Philadelphia Inquirer as the district considers outsourcing school nurses.


July

In response to a Daily News editorial praising Superintendent Hite, APPS co-founder Karel Kilimnik wrote this letter, Hype over Hite makes not sense, about the real trauma that has resulted from Dr. Hite’s decisions. Instead of praising Hite, the media should recognize that he is Broad Foundation-trained, and as such, has brought chaos, turmoil, and uncertainty to a district already reeling from continual underfunding.


August

August was a busy month for APPS writers and researchers. We started a monthly edition of Eyes on the SRC that provides analysis and commentary on resolutions to be voted on at the monthly SRC Action meeting. The Philadelphia Daily News published an op-ed by APPS member Alison McDowell : PSSA state tests are failing Pennsylvania’s children.

 APPS member Coleman Poses’ article, An Analysis of How Philadelphia School Partnership Has Implemented Its Mission, is the first of several pieces to be published on our website examining the history and practices of PSP.


September

APPS co-founder Lisa Haver, a regular contributor to the Philadelphia Daily News, has another op-ed published. This article shows how the corporate education agenda has failed our public schools.

APPS members participate in the rally at Comcast headquarters demanding that the massive telecommunications corporation pay its fair share of taxes.


October

Lisa Haver’s Daily News Op-Ed “Rushed Reforms Fail Our Students” decries the Hite administration’s determination to charterize neighborhood schools: Lisa’s piece was in response to Dr. Hite’s placement of three more neighborhood schools into the “Renaissance” program.

Karel Kilimnik testifies before City Council hearings on Universal Pre-K.

Superintendent Hite announces the targeting of three more neighborhood schools to be placed in the Renaissance program: Wister Elementary in Germantown, Samuel Huey Elementary in West Philadelphia, and Jay Cooke Elementary in Logan.


November

APPS called on Governor Wolf to remove SRC Commissioner Farah Jimenez after her failure to address a number of possible conflicts of interest with regard to her votes and secret discussions about district dealings with Mastery Charter Schools. Jimenez has recused herself over twenty-five times since her appointment because her husband’s law firm represents Mastery. Commissioner Jimenez’s reaction to APPS’ request for an explanation was equally disturbing—she had her own lawyer send a threatening letter insinuating that members of the public have no right to question public officials about matters of public concern. Lisa spoke with Solomon Jones on WURD radio about Jimenez’s conflicts and her refusal to give any kind of public accounting. This issue shows again that the SRC is accountable to no one.

Deb Grill, using information compiled by the APPS Research Committee, delves into the origins of the Philadelphia School Partnership.

APPS filed a Right to Know request in order to find out how much the district and the SRC has spent on attorney’s fees in two recent cases: the cancellation of the PFT contract, now before the PA Supreme Court, and the district’s appeal to an arbitrator’s ruling which agreed with the PFT’s claim that the contract provides for a minimum of one counselor per school, to be assigned under existing seniority rules. Lisa Haver reported this information at the next SRC meeting as part of her testimony.

APPS member Barbara Dowdall’s letter Branch Libraries Are Not School Libraries appears in the Daily News.


December

Lisa Haver closes the year with another truth-telling Daily News Op Ed SRC Strategy A Setup for Failure.

 APPS sent a letter to SRC Chair Marjorie Neff asking her to table her surprise decision, which she announced to the press instead of at an SRC meeting where people could comment, to preemptively extend Dr. Hite’s contract until 2022. In fact, the SRC members did not deliberate at all before the vote at the SRC meeting. Ms. Neff never responded to APPS’ letter.

APPS members continue to support the Wister School Community in its struggle to remain a district-run school. APPS member Coleman Poses again testified to the SRC showing that faulty data used by the District to put Wister School into the Renaissance Charter School Program.