APPS letter to Governor Wolf asking for the removal of SRC member Farah Jimenez

Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools

October 8, 2015

Dear Governor Wolf:

For the following reasons, the members of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools believe that Ms. Farah Jimenez should resign or be removed from the School Reform Commission.

Since her appointment in February 2014, Ms. Jimenez has abstained from votes on resolutions which involve business with Mastery Schools and KIPP Schools because of her husband’s business relationship with them; his law firm represents both charter companies. This in itself creates a serious problem with her being able to perform the duties of a Commissioner, because these companies are involved with so many charter schools.

In recent SRC meetings, however, Ms. Jimenez has taken actions which raise additional problems with her continuing as a Commissioner.

  • We asked Ms. Jimenez, in a letter sent to her on September 2, 2015, to explain her statement, made at an SRC meeting, that she took part in discussions with other SRC members in Executive Session concerning the transfer of the management of Frederick Douglass Elementary School from Young Scholars to Mastery Schools in May 2015 (see attached).
  • We also asked that she explain her decision to vote to approve August 2015 SRC Resolution A-4 entering into a contract with Mastery Schools, valued by the district at $300,000.00, to have them conduct teacher training in district schools. The fact that the SRC attempted to rescind that resolution at its September 2015 so that Ms. Jimenez could then abstain indicates that she and the SRC were aware of that conflict.

In addition, we asked why the public was never informed that one of Ms. Jimenez’s duties is to oversee the district’s Charter Office, or that she oversaw the application process of thirty-nine new charters earlier this year, including those submitted by both Mastery and KIPP. Although this information was posted on Ms. Jimenez’s LinkedIn page, it was never announced at any SRC meeting or posted on the district’s web page.   This involvement by Ms. Jimenez creates a problem even if she recuses herself on every vote directly involving the above companies. This problem is created because Ms. Jimenez has a role in crafting policies that affect all charter schools and so will affect those companies as well.

Rather than respond to our concerns, Ms. Jimenez had her attorney send a letter accusing our members of attempting to defame her, although he cites no specific example of defamation (see attached).   We do not believe that the response of any public official to questions raised by citizens regarding public policy decisions should be an attempt to intimidate those citizens. We do not believe that a public official should engage in any attempt to silence members of the public who speak on matters of public concern and who are exercising their constitutional rights of freedom of speech and redress of grievances. It is our opinion that an attempt to chill the constitutional rights of citizens is in and of itself not proper for an SRC member, who should be welcoming public engagement and not trying to suppress the rights of the public.

For all of the above reasons, we believe that Ms. Jimenez cannot function properly and has not functioned properly as an SRC member and should resign or be removed.

Sincerely,

Lisa Haver
Karel Kilimnik

Co-founders, Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools

Cc: Pedro Rivera, Pennsylvania Secretary Education