September 2, 2015
Commissioner Farah Jimenez
School Reform Commission
440 North Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19130
Dear Ms. Jimenez:
The members of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools (APPS) request that you immediately address a number of issues concerning possible ethics violations in your capacity as a member of the School Reform Commission.
You have recused yourself from votes concerning Mastery and KIPP charter schools because your husband is a member of the law firm which represents them. However, there are indications that you have taken part in decisions on these matters. In fact, you admitted that you took part in the decision which gave Mastery control of Frederick Douglass Elementary School this past May. The Commission, under your leadership as Interim Chair due to Ms. Neff’s absence that evening, voted on a resolution, added just days before the SRC Action Meeting, to transfer control of Douglass from Young Scholars to Mastery rather than go through the planned non-renewal process. This was done without the SRC’s holding any of the required public hearings. When I questioned you on this, you stated that the one meeting of parents held at the school “satisfies our requirement for a public meeting”. At a subsequent SRC Strategic Policy and Planning Meeting you told the audience that the SRC does not meet behind closed doors to discuss matters, but that “we did have to adjudicate” the matter of the transfer of Douglass from Young Scholars to Mastery. Your recusal from that vote, therefore, created the false impression that you took no part in that decision.
According to your LinkedIn profile, one of your duties as Commissioner is “Lead oversight of the Charter Schools office, which reports directly to the SRC and is responsible for authorizing, evaluating, contracting, and recommending renewal or closure of charter schools within Philadelphia.” Given your admitted conflict, this is entirely inappropriate. Mastery and KIPP schools constitute a large portion on the district’s charter network. In addition, none of this information is posted on the School District website.
Your LinkedIn profile also states that you oversaw the SRC’s processing of the 39 charter applications: “Within a heated political environment, guided staff through first charter school application process in seven years, requiring the review and adjudication of more than 40 applications.” Mastery and Kipp both submitted applications during this process.
At the August 20, 2015 SRC meeting, you took part in the vote to approve acceptance of a $300,000 grant from Mastery Schools for “…school-based coaching services valued at approximately $300,000.00, from Mastery Charter School, for the period commencing August 21, 2015 through June 30, 2016.” This program permits Mastery personnel to administer professional development in three district schools. It allows for Mastery to “compile all progress data and work with the School District team to access and analyze data from the District at the teacher and school level to gauge impact of the program” and to “work with the School District’s Office of Teacher Effectiveness to create central leadership for the program so that the District will be able to run the program internally…” This represents a significant expansion of the Mastery’s influence within the district. You did not abstain from this vote.
In a recent opinion piece published in the Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer, you acted as a de facto spokesperson for the Republican Party, urging the city’s voters to vote for candidates of that party.
You identified yourself in that article as “Chair of Terry Tracy for Council-at-Large”. Mr. Tracy is a Republican party-backed candidate for city office. Subsection 696 (b)(6) of the Pennsylvania School Code of 1949, as amended, states: “No commission member may, while in the service of the School Reform Commission, seek or hold a position as any other public official within this Commonwealth or as an officer of a political party.”
The Alliance requests that you respond by September 9, 2015.
Lisa Haver, Co-founder
Karel Kilimnik, Co-founder
cc: Marjorie Neff, Chair, School Reform Commission