Ears on the SRC: April 19, 2018

SRC #3

by Diane Payne
April 24, 2018


This was the first meeting of the hodgepodge SRC Commission.  The SRC is limping to extinction with a new chairwoman; Estelle Richman was appointed chair by Governor Wolf. Due to the resignation of Joyce Wilkerson and Chris McGinley, Mayor Kenney has appointed two commissioners, Fran Burns (who resigned as SDP Chief Operating Officer in June of 2017) and Marge Neff (who resigned as SRC Commissioner in October of 2016).  McGinley and Wilkerson have been selected by Kenney to join the new School Board beginning in July.  The SRC is working with only four commissioners because Governor Tom Wolf declined to appoint a new commissioner to replace Farah Jimenez when she abruptly resigned this past February. The SRC is poised to vote on countless resolutions, spending millions of dollars with a hodgepodge of four commissioners as opposed to the required five.  Taxpayers beware….98 resolutions will be dipping into the public’s pocket at the upcoming April 26th SRC meeting. To read APPS analysis of these resolutions please read Eyes on the SRC: April 26.

All four of the SRC Commissioners were present.  Six members of APPS testified on behalf of public education. Fourteen of the fifteen speakers argued against SRC policies that attack public education.

Strawberry Mansion  

Dr. Hite has not publicly identified any schools for closure this year.  But, don’t let that fool you into thinking no public schools are closing!  Instead, the district employs the “double speak” tactic. Strawberry Mansion High School (S.M.H.S.) is being “phased out.” There will be no 9th grade class at Strawberry Mansion in 2018 and the neighborhood’s high school will eventually disappear. There has been no community input for this. School District spokesman Lee Whack said, “…anytime a school and community go through change, things can be difficult.” Yes Mr. Whack!!  It is difficult when you’re conned, disrespected, and disenfranchised.

Nine of the 15 speakers at the SRC meeting addressed the “con” being perpetrated at S.M.H.S.  Members of the community eloquently slammed the SDP for failing to invest in S.M.H.S. and stripping them of resources, making the area a public school desert dotted with charter schools, then decrying the reduction of student population from a high of 1,600 students to just 292 students today. As Ken Derstine said in his testimony, “All of this chaos is to drive students from Strawberry Mansion in order to bring in outside contractors to provide these programs and transform Strawberry Mansion from a public school responsible to the community into a school contracted to corporate profit making interests for whom education is secondary.”

This district continues its quest to take neighborhood institutions that are anchors in their communities and toss them aside like so much refuse. The community is fighting back.  APPS supports the community’s efforts and will continue to post information on this ongoing fight.  If the district succeeds, Strawberry Mansion will be one more school buried in the graveyard of dead schools.

Budget Presentation

There were no resolutions at this meeting.  It was a meeting for the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Uri Munson and Dr. Hite to continue budget presentations.  The district will put the power point presentations for this SRC meeting on their website but this power point was not available as of the writing of this edition of Ears.

Because of some adjustments in figures that the city has provided to Munson, there was a slight change in the budget picture. However, the 5-year positive fund balance and the debt service below 10% are still intact.  Munson did say that due to declining state revenues by FY20 the state/local percentages are expected to be 50/50.  In the past, the state has always provided more than 50% of the district’s revenue.

Next SRC Meeting

The next SRC meeting is scheduled for Thursday, April 26th at 4:30 p.m.  There are 98 resolutions and a lot of money at stake on this agenda.  In addition, a denied charter application for Franklin Towne Charter Middle School has been re-submitted and is scheduled for a vote. It should not be forgotten that this charter school is overwhelmingly white, and has a CEO of 2 (yes that is two) schools who is making $260,000 per year.  This CEO has never been an educator. The school has been in the news for circular real estate dealings and a whistleblower lawsuit. Read APPS analysis of the FTCS applicaton.

This lame duck, short staffed, hodgepodge SRC is making decisions that will affect the SDP for years to come.

To speak before the SRC call the Office of Family and Community Engagement at 215-400-4180 by 4:30 on the day preceding the meeting.


Eyes on the SRC: April 26, 2018

SRC logo

by Karel Kilimnik
April 22, 2018

The continued adherence to outsourcing has been a mainstay of this administration. Many of these Resolutions either continue contracts or establish new ones instead of returning positions to the District.  The Philadelphia School District has hosted Broad-affiliated superintendents since 2008 when then-Superintendent Arlene Ackerman served on the board of the Broad Foundation. Dr. Hite, is a 2005 graduate of the uncertified Broad Superintendents Academy.  He avidly pursues many of the toxic notions promoted by both the Broad Foundation and Superintendent’s Academy. “They target urban school districts with the highest poverty by having graduates from their Broad Superintendents Academy appointed who are prepared to starve public schools in order to make charter schools appealing to parents. The hemorrhaging of students from public schools to charters has led to urban school districts closing public schools all over the country due to “under enrollment”.  Part of their strategy is implementing a market place approach to education ensuring that vendors help themselves to lucrative contracts thereby also eroding union membership. In the last days of the SRC we witness a plethora of contracts waiting their approval for moving funds into the private sector and away from public accountability.

Out of 98 Resolutions on the April 26 Agenda six (A-6,A-7,A-8, A-31, IU-4,IU5) extend contracts focusing on Special Needs Students. Resolution A-26 forks over money to a company for bus maintenance. Altogether there is $24 million going into the pockets of vendors to provide services formerly done by district employees. The district has become a cash cow for vendors selling their products and services.  We sincerely hope that the incoming Local Board does not pursue this outsourcing as ardently as their predecessors.

The SRC just posted Resolution SRC-4 to reconsider the Revised Charter Franklin Towne Charter Middle School Application. This Application was denied on February 22.  Commissioner Green suggested they submit a Revised Application and they are the first of six rejected applicants to do so. Closely following in their steps are Philadelphia Hebrew Charter and APM Community Charter. We will alert you when the last two come up for another vote. Please consider attending this SRC meetingon April 26 to urge the Commissioners to deny any charters. The District cannot afford to spend money on charters that should be going into classroom needs in District schools. They are also considering the Nonrenewal of Eastern Academy Charter School (SRC-3).

Once again the issue of artwork (A-13) removed in 2004 from schools in the middle of the night surfaces as it’s time to renew the storage contract. Many of these valuable pieces were donated to specific schools where they survived for decades without any damage.  Science Leadership Academy Middle School (SLAMS)(A-37) provides a strong education for its students but once again the District plans on renting space for this program instead of either locating it in a district building or getting Drexel to cover the rent. SLAMS received $1.8 million from PSP in its initial stages two years ago Why are some schools more equal than others?

What if?

The  $24 million slated for vendors could restore Certified School Librarians into all district schools. Students could experience a professional librarian housed in their own school sharing resources, books and online materials, along with a hearty dose of lifelong learning.

The next SRC meeting is Thursday May 17 at 4:30. Call 215 400 4180 before 4:30 to register to speak.

Click here to see discussion of Resolutions of Note out of the 98 proposed resolutions.

Also see:
Who is Eli Broad and why is he trying to destroy public education? | Defend Public Education
More on Broad in Philadelphia  |Defend Public Education

Supporters of Strawberry Mansion High School speak before the School Reform Commission April 19, 2018

Click on the picture above to view all supporters of Strawberry Mansion High School speaking before the SRC meeting of April 19, 2018. (Click on the arrowed square in the bottom right of the viewing window for full screen view.)

Move the slider to timestamps to view individual speakers.
Shyele Jones, student, Strawberry-Mansion  0:10
Tanya Parker, head of Strawberry-Mansion Home and School  3:15
Ruth Birchett, Heritage CDC and Strawberry Mansion  5:11
James Strong, community member, Strawberry Mansion  8:42
Pearline Sturdivant, community member, Strawberry Mansion  11:35
Ken Derstine, APPS  15:35
Sherry Brown, community member, Strawberry Mansion and Hite comment  18:42
Deborah Grill, APPS  26:15
Lynda Rubin, APPS  29:40
Barbara Dowdall, APPS  32:58
Novilette Jones, community member, Strawberry Mansion and school translation services    36:40
Karel Kilimnik, APPS  40:29
Ilene Poses, APPS  43:58

Note: The SRC places media on row 2 in the auditorium which allows only filming speakers from the side and frequent visual interruption from the audience. We have protested these filming conditions to no avail.

These are transcripts of some of the testimony to the SRC. Be sure to look at all testimony in the video above. Transcripts are listed in the order testimony was given at the SRC meeting.

Tanya Parker

Click the picture to read the transcript of Tanya Parker’s testimony. To watch her testimony move the slider in the video at the top of the page to 3:15.

Ruth Birchett

Click the picture to read the transcript of Ruth Birchett’s testimony. To watch her testimony move the slider in the video at the top of the page to 5:11.

Ken Derstine

Click the picture to read the transcript of Ken Derstine’s testimony. To watch his testimony move the slider the video at the top of the page to 15:35.

Debbie grill

Click the picture to read the transcript of Deborah Grill’s testimony. To watch her testimony move the slider in to video at to top of the page to 26:15.

Lynda Rubin

Click the picture to read the transcript of Lynda Rubin’s testimony. To watch her testimony move the slider in the video at the top of the page to 29:40.

Barbara Dowdall

Click the picture to read the transcript of  Barbara Dowdall’s testimony. To watch her testimony move the slider in the video at the top of the page to  32:58.

.Karel Kilimnik

Click the picture to read the transcript of Karel Kilimnik’s testimony. To watch her testimony move the slider in the video at the top of the page to 40:29.


Click the picture to read the transcript of Ilene Poses’ testimony. To watch her testimony move the slider in the video at the top of the page to 43:38.

Also see:
Eyes on the SRC: April 26, 2018 | Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools
Who is Eli Broad and why is he trying to destroy public education? | Defend Public Education
More on Broad in Philadelphia  |Defend Public Education

Should the rich rule the schools in Philadelphia and beyond?

rich high school

The following column appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on April 20, 2018.

The story of how one wealthy man engaged in secret negotiations with officials to impose his will on one suburban high school became front-page news for days. Commentaries expressed outrage about the district’s rushed vote to rename Abington Senior High School in exchange for a $25 million gift from billionaire businessman Stephen Schwarzman, along with several other conditions,  including changes in curriculum and technology.  “Someone coming in with a lot of money can have a whole lot of influence over a public school,” warned one parent at a subsequent school board meeting. One Inquirer columnist expressed uneasiness  “that public schools could become beggars at the table of the uber-rich.”

To these suburban parents and pundits, we say: Welcome to our world.

In November 2011, the state-imposed School Reform Commission (SRC), absent any public deliberation, approved a multimillion-dollar grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In return, the SRC agreed to several conditions, including yearly charter expansion, implementation of Common Core standards, more school “choice” and testing, and permanent school closures. No one elected Bill Gates, typically portrayed in the media as just a very generous rich guy, to make decisions about Philadelphia’s public schools. But his mandates have had devastating and lasting effects on the district, much more than renaming one school.

Abington residents were shocked to learn of the district’s covert establishment of a foundation that would make decisions, rather than the elected school board, about how to spend money from donors. Here in Philadelphia, the Gates Compact conferred authority upon the Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP) “to provide funding …to low-performing or developing schools.” PSP has since raised tens of millions from a stable of wealthy donors; most has gone to charter schools, in keeping with Gates’ pro-privatization ideology.

Read more: Public Eduction shouldn’t have to rely on private money

PSP’s influence has grown in the last seven years: the group now funds and operates teacher and principal training programs, oversees a website rating all Philadelphia schools, and holds the district’s yearly high school fair. PSP’s money, like Schwarzman’s, always comes with strings attached, whether that means changing a school’s curriculum or a complete overhaul of faculty and staff, as its 2014 grant to two North Philadelphia schools mandated.

Meetings of the PSP board, where decisions about funding, curriculum, and staff training of public schools are made, are closed to the public.   This board, composed mostly of wealthy suburban businesspeople, often has more influence over city public schools than the residents do.

This practice of ceding public decisions to private investors on a large scale first reared its head in 2001, when Philadelphia came dangerously close to privatizing the entire district and handing over the reins to the for-profit Edison Schools founded by media mogul Chris Whittle.

>> Read more: Many public institutions, like libraries, are funded by private money, but caution is key 

Gates, whose Compact has been adopted in several other cities, including Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Nashville, and New Orleans, is just one member of what education writer Diane Ravitch calls the “Billionaires Boys Club” of corporate education reformers. Real estate developer Eli Broad is using his wealth and political power to stave off community opposition to his push to charter-ize half of Los Angeles’ public schools. The family of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, heirs to the Amway fortune, have used their billions to privatize public education through the unregulated proliferation of for-profit charters in Detroit and other cities throughout Michigan. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg gave $100 million toward then-Gov. Chris Christie’s 2010 plan to transfer Newark students from neighborhood schools to charters. Newark residents, who learned about this massive cash infusion when it was announced on Oprah, had never been consulted about what they wanted in the “One Newark” plan.

Abington residents were justifiably angry about the board’s intention to rush through a vote without full public disclosure.

Like the opioid crisis, it seems to have taken a less urban and more middle-class population to alter the media’s perspective on the damage inflicted. This appears to be a brushfire in Abington, while rule by the rich has been a fact of life for almost two decades in Philadelphia, where the less affluent, mostly minority community continues to be disenfranchised in matters of school governance.

Lisa Haver is a retired Philadelphia teacher and cofounder of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools. Deborah Grill is a retired teacher and school librarian and a research coordinator for the alliance. appsphilly.net.