December 7, 2020
Dear Mayor Kenney,
On behalf of the members of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools and the member organizations of the Our City, Our Schools Coalition, we are writing to ask that the community no longer be shut out of the selection process for the three current Board of Education vacancies.
The Nominating Panel you appointed has held no public meetings and has none scheduled. The Panel’s 22-minute remote event of November 17 included no opportunity for hearing public testimony. The public has been denied any knowledge of who has applied and how the Panel is weighing those applications.
At this time, we are asking: that all applications for this public position be released to the public; that you delay the December 15 deadline for the Panel’s submission of their recommended candidates to your office; that you direct the Panel to conduct all deliberations in public; that you direct the Panel to include interactive public testimony at its next public convening.
The people of Philadelphia, unlike other Pennsylvanians, continue to be disenfranchised in choosing those who represent them in the governance of their public schools. Board of Education members make decisions on the future of the city’s schoolchildren, and they oversee spending of a $3 billion budget. This selection process should be as transparent as possible. The people of Philadelphia, particularly those with a direct stake in the District—students, parents, community members, educators—have a right to be heard. Having the Panel meet in executive session is a clear violation of the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act, which enumerates the reasons that any official body may go into executive session. None of those reasons applies to the business conducted by the Nominating Panel.
Section 12-206 of the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter mandates that all members of the Panel be “registered voters of the City.” Our research indicates not all Panelists meet that requirement. At this time, we request that you release the information confirming that all Panelists are registered Philadelphia voters and have their primary residence in the city. We ask also that you release the statements of financial interest that all Panelists were required to file.
Lisa Haver, Coordinator, Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools
Pep Marie, Coordinator, Our City Our Schools Coalition