Eyes on the Board of Education: May 27, 2021
by Karel Kilimnik
“Knowledge is the prime need of the hour.” Mary McLeod Bethune
The Board proclaims its commitment to public engagement, but its actions say otherwise. The Board ignores letters from elected officials, public testimony and even legal action, holding fast to its speaker suppression policies. They shut down all of their monthly committees. And every month, the Board subjects the public to 1 ½ to 2 hours of data analysis aka Goals and Guardrails, always on the agenda before the registered public speakers. For three years parents, students, teachers and staff, principals, and community members have told the Board what our students need to succeed: more support staff, toxin-free buildings, smaller class size, restoration of school libraries with Certified Teacher Librarians. How did the Board respond? Not by solving the most pressing academic and infrastructure problems, but by creating an elaborate, data-driven, test-score dependent maze.
Many of May’s Action Item descriptions are confusing and bereft of details. The Board voted to table last month’s Item for a $6.5 million contract with Renaissance and Illuminate Education, citing a lack of information from the Administration. This month, Item 19 has been revised to include that information. It is the Board’s responsibility to demand that all official Items have the necessary details. The SRC’s agendas had more comprehensive Resolution descriptions. The Board oversees the Administration, not the other way around.
Private entities play an ever-expanding role. The Hite Administration has contracted with KJR Consulting to provide professional development for three years. Item 17 proposes yet another contract extension for $550,000. GaileyMurrary, LLP offers brand-building (Item 20 Contract with GaileyMurray, LLP – Communications Consultant $100,000) at a time when teachers and students need more classroom supports.
The influence of the Neubauer family continues to grow, through both the Neubauer Family Foundation and the Philadelphia Academy of School Leaders (PASL). As Lynda Rubin explains, former Aramark CEO Joseph Neubauer has undertaken a campaign to influence public education through creating and funding pathways for developing District leadership (Item 70, MOU with PASL). Those leaders decide which resources and programs to use in their networks. This month the Neubauer Family Foundation funds a playground at Taylor School (Item 71, Contract with George Ely Associates, Inc).
Every school should have a playground. District COO Reggie McNeil stated at the Board’s May 20 hearing that equity is one factor in determining which school playgrounds will be rebuilt, but those words ring hollow. Item10 (Acceptance of Donation from The Fund for The School District of Philadelphia for Playground Improvements at Morton McMichael Elementary School $175,000),Item 12 (Acceptance of Donation from Philadelphia Eagles Annual Day of Service – Longstreth Elementary School $100,000) and 13 (Acceptance of Donation from Cloud Gehshan Associates – Playground Improvements -Morrison Elementary $35,000) illustrate the lack of equitable distribution of resources according to need.
KIPP continues its encroachment into the District as the charter company finalizes a deal with a real estate developer to purchase the Whittier School building (Item 45) with the intention of leasing it to KIPP. Whitter was one of the 23 neighborhood schools closed in 2013, now to be used as a city-wide charter school. KIPP’s 2016/17 application to open another charter school stated that “…“KIPP’s commitment is to go where it is needed most.” Has the community around Whittier School requested a KIPP school?
What if all those working to defend public education….
- Sign the petition urging the Board to rescind its repressive speaker procedures
- Call and email Mayor Kenney, petitioning him to have the Board rescind its repressive speaker procedures (215) 686-8686
- Call their City Council representative and urge them to speak out against Board suppression of Speakers. Talking points can be found here.
June 2021 Board Meetings
- Thursday June 3: Conversation with Parent and Community Advisory Council
- Thursday June 24: Action Meeting, 5 PM. Check District website for updated information on how to sign up to testify.
Action Items of Note
Find the full List of Action Items here
Schools Need More Teachers and Support Staff, Fewer Contracts with Outside Consultants
Action Item 17: Contract with KJR Consulting for Professional Development ($550,000
Purpose: To provide managerial and central office staff training to improve the ability of the District to achieve goals and objectives
Description:The purpose of this action item is to provide central office staff continued professional development to improve management and organizational skills. Proficiency in these skills are critical for District staff to manage staff and resources and to coordinate activities across a complex organization in pursuit of District goals and objectives. In addition, their services will include change management support for senior leaders as they adjust/adapt their teams to evolving constraints and demands.
The contract is for an amount not to exceed $550,000 and is split into two categories as outlined below.
Central Office Professional Development – $350,000
This portion of the contract will continue to provide all central office staff (approximately 700 employees) with access to training sessions on a range of topics designed to improve employee productivity including project management, supervisory skills, customer service essentials, and MS Office/Google Suite. A series of sessions (up to 100) lasting 2-4 hours primarily virtual and synchronous/live with up to 30 attendees in each. Specific sessions will be determined based on District need and attendee interest throughout the year. KJR has provided these training offerings to central office staff for the past 3 years and they have been well-attended and received high marks from attendees.
Change Management Support – $200,000
This portion of the contract provides consulting, coaching, and facilitation services to Chiefs and department leaders as they implement organizational and process changes to adapt to changing conditions (e.g., COVID-19 effects), improvement recommendations (e.g., curriculum audit), and performance expectations (e.g., Board Goals & Guardrails). During FY2021, KJR has provided these services to the Chief of Academic Supports, various Academic department leaders, the Chief Operating Officer, and the Office of General Counsel. The District hopes to continue offering these supports to District leaders in FY2022.
APPS Analysis: Scroll down the list of staff in leadership positions and ask: Why would professional development need to be outsourced? Is it because of the high turnover of central office staff? Dr Hite has been superintendent for almost ten years. Has he failed to bring in senior staff with good management and organizational skills? The Board’s Goals and Guardrails could be achieved by allocating funds for smaller class size, sufficient staffing in every school including Certified Teacher Librarians and sufficient counselors. Instead, the District continues to hire consultants such as KJR Consultants. KJR’s contract with the District began in March 2018 when they shared a $550,000 contract with Dale Carnegie Training and QBS,Inc.
Later that month they entered into a revised contract that netted them $ 1,275,000 in the area of Special Education, a field in which they did not advertise any experience. KJR has held contracts for three years–where is the data to show their success and expertise? This Item description states that their workshops “have been well-attended and received high marks from attendees.” This kind of unsubstantiated testimonial is insufficient for awarding KJR another contract. Why is the District’s IT department not leading professional development? Money is tight, as usual, and consultants with no proven track record should not be granted more contracts.
Action Item 20: Contract with GaileyMurray, LLP; Communications Consultant ($100,000)
- Renewal Options: Yes Number of Options: 3
- Duration of each option to extend: Years: 1
- Maximum compensation authorized per option period: $100,000
Description: GaileyMurray, LLP provides strategic counsel and tactical support for the District’s broad and increasing internal and external communications efforts. Tom Gailey, President of GaileyMurray, LLP, works directly with the District’s Communications team and the Chief of Staff’s Office, providing much-needed additional resources to support a range of communications activities designed to advance key District initiatives and strengthen public engagement in major annual campaigns. GailleyMurray continues to play a key role in annually developing, optimizing and implementing the following campaigns and marketing efforts: “Find Your Fit” school selection; “Thrive At Five” kindergarten registration; “Teach in Philly” teacher recruitment and other staff recruitment campaigns; Pre-K Headstart; and the “Ring The Bell” back-to-school campaign. GaileyMurray has also provided critical crisis management supports over the past several years, especially as we have navigated asbestos issues and the COVID-19 pandemic, and focused more intentionally on strategic brand building, advocacy and government relations, and media engagement efforts. Tom Gailey, President of GaileyMurray, continues to be an ideal partner to support the District, especially given the difficult work ahead to recover from the pandemic and rebuild trust across numerous stakeholder groups.
APPS Analysis: The fact that the Administration needs another expensive contract with a “communications consultant” to “navigate” its response to recent crises represents an additional failure of the Hite administration to communicate with parents, educators, students and the community during his nine years as superintendent. Shouldn’t the Board be spending $100,000 to actually get rid of toxins in schools instead of a PR campaign to rationalize their failure to do so? The Administration’s request for this contract actually says more about its failure to handle the COVID crisis than anything said or written about it. “Navigating” a crisis is not the same as solving it. Dr. Hite mismanaged the Ben Franklin/SLA project and put students and staff in danger. The Board failed to hold him responsible. No PR campaign can erase that. This is the second contract provided to GaileyMurray Communications. In 2019 the same Description was provided but under Options only one was listed; there are now three. It appears this is becoming a regular contract for this marketing business.
Item 59: Contracts with EBS Healthcare, Progressus Therapy, Advanced Medical Personnel Services, and Therapy Source – Substitute Related Services ($6,327,363)
Description:The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates that school districts provide related services to all eligible students with disabilities when these services are required by their Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan. Related services include, but are not limited to, speech, language, hearing, vision, occupational, physical, orientation and mobility, and Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy. Related services must be provided by certified and licensed therapists. When school districts, due to limited supply of qualified professionals, are unable to recruit their own certified therapeutic staff to cover all required student related services needs, they must contract with outside agencies to ensure that all required therapeutic services are delivered on schedule to students.
The District has made and will continue to make robust efforts to recruit and employ full-time therapists to cover all projected student needs for the upcoming school year. Recruiting certified and experienced related services therapists to work with this vulnerable population in a large urban district is challenging due to the low supply of qualified candidates, and high annual turnover and resignation rates. In response to this situation, in addition to a thorough, expansive recruitment and marketing effort aimed at drawing certified and qualified related services therapists to the District, the District needs to be prepared to utilize contracted therapeutic staff to cover possible vacancies. It is estimated that 11,982 students, attending 215 District schools, will require speech, hearing, vision, occupational, physical, vision, and other therapeutic services during the 2021-2022 school year. At a minimum, the District will require 218 therapists to cover the legally mandated therapeutic needs of these students. This action item requests authorization to contract for up to 66 full-time equivalent therapists if needed to cover possible unfilled staffing requirements and other vacancies due to sabbaticals, maternity leaves, sick leaves, retirements, resignations, and terminations. Sixty-six full-time equivalent therapists would annually provide approximately 90,585 hours of services. At an average cost of $69.85 per hour, the District’s projected cost is $6,327,363.
The number and type of therapists that each contractor can recruit each year is not constant and typically changes. Fluctuation in the number and type of therapists that contractors can recruit each year is an unpredictable variable in the industry that can be subject to unexpected changes and wide variations from year to year. By not assigning specific contract amounts and vacancy-fill requirements to contractors in this action item, the District will have the ability to respond effectively to this uncontrollable variable, by contracting with the selected vendors based upon need and the number of therapists that each vendor can actually recruit throughout the school year. The District evaluates the effectiveness of the contracted therapists in collaboration with vendors and principals to ensure quality investment and services to students and schools.
APPS Analysis: We have written about EBS Healthcare Inc and Progressus Therapy, LLC since 2016, when they shared a $1,000,000 contract with other companies.
One concern about bringing in private vendors is the unexpected acquisitions and mergers with other entities. In March 2021 the Stepping Stones Group announced the acquisition of EBS Healthcare (EBS), a Pennsylvania-based therapeutic and behavioral company.
From the Stepping Stones website we learn they are “a portfolio company of Five Arrows Capital Partners, the North American corporate private equity business of Rothschild & Co. Merchant Banking.” Stepping Stones has been acquiring multiple companies since 2014. Our students need therapists with whom they can develop relationships. Over the past six months many Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, and Speech Therapists have spoken at both Board Hearings and Action Meetings decrying their huge caseloads and the need for additional full time staff, not substitutes on an assignment. What is the role of the District Office of Talent in recruiting and retaining service therapists?
Action Item 19: Contract with Renaissance and Illuminate Education – K-12 Assessments ($6,500,000)
Description:The Board of Education set guidelines to monitor progress toward achieving the Board’s Goals and Guardrails. Monitoring student progress requires the District to receive and track reliable, valid, consistent, standardized, and centrally-captured performance data for Math, English Language Arts (ELA)/Reading, and/or Social-Emotional and Behavior. Currently, the District uses Aimsweb (a product by Pearson) to determine the Math and ELA progress of students in grades K-5, and Star (a product by Renaissance) to assess students in grades 6-12. There is currently not a universally-used method to determine the social, emotional, or behavioral needs of students.
The current contracts and authorized contract extensions for both AimsWeb and STAR expire in June 2021. The Pennsylvania Public School Code requires school districts to use competitive bidding procedures when procuring certain goods and supplies. To ensure a reliable, consistent, standardized, and centrally captured method was fully operational and to prevent any delay in capturing student progress or, most importantly, serving the academic needs of students, a procurement process was conducted consistent with District policy and procurement regulations. Two vendors were identified as a result of the procurement process.
Renaissance Learning was selected to provide a comprehensive suite of assessment services for universal screening, progress monitoring, and diagnostics for Math and ELA in grades K-12. Universal screening is an evidence-based practice to identify students who need extra support. Diagnostic and progress monitoring tools, within the suite of assessment services, will identify specific skills that need to be addressed and quantify a student’s rate of improvement or responsiveness to instruction. The suite of services will establish students’ skills and abilities relative to grade level expectations; inform instruction and scaffold; support small groupings and the assignment of interventions; measure growth; and provide information on student knowledge of Common Core State Standards. Data from these assessments will be used multiple times during the year to monitor progress towards meeting the Board’s Goals for Math, ELA, and college and career readiness. Renaissance Learning does not offer a universal tool to determine the social, emotional, or behavioral needs and interventions students need.
Illuminate Education was selected to provide a universal screening method to identify students’ social, emotional, and behavioral needs. This universal screener is an evidenced-based tool that supports equitable delivery of services based on a student’s true needs. The screener is completed by the teacher and takes approximately one minute per student to complete. The screener will be administered three times per year.
DMulti-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) is the method of identifying and supporting the various academic and behavioral needs of students. School-based MTSS teams will use data collected from the social-emotional behavior and academic universal screeners to consider whether the student may need additional support, for example, tier II or tier III interventions and, if so, help teams identify the best interventions or support for an individual student.
APPS Analysis: At its April 2020 Action Meeting, in response to public testimony, the Board tabled this Item. Several Board members questioned Dr Hite’s reliance on assessments as principals and other educators expressed an urgent need for more teachers, not more data collection. That sketchy two-paragraph Description provided scant details on the need for this contract. APPS’ April 2020 Ears reported: “Dr. Hite replied that Star AimsWeb contracts are expiring, and that programs are being extended to all K-12 grades (with expansion into K-5) for Math, Reading and Social Emotional support”. The Item returns with more details. Illuminate Education illustrates the role of private equity firms in facilitating company mergers. In 2018 Illuminate Education merged with four other companies. The private sector’s commitment to its stockholders always takes precedence to its responsibility to the public. Last month’s Eyes pointed out that schools have always had SEL screening systems in place–teachers who monitor their students’ emotional well being on a daily basis. Our students don’t need more products sold by Renaissance and Illuminate Education–they need more teachers and support staff.
Another District Building Sold for a Song
Action Item 45: Ratification of the Second Amendment to the Agreement of Sale for Former Whittier Elementary School
Description: The School District entered into an Agreement of Sale with the Buyer dated January 27, 2020, pursuant to which the School District agreed to sell, and Buyer agreed to buy, all of that certain improved real estate known as 2600 West Clearfield Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (the “Property”). The School District then entered a certain First Amendment to Agreement of Sale dated April 27, 2020 (the “First Amendment”) to extend the Due Diligence Period due to the closure of buildings during the Covid-19 outbreak. As there was further delay in the court approval process due to Covid-19, the Second Amendment then became necessary to extend the time of the Agreement to allow for a closing on or before June 30, 2021, as the original authorization of the Board had expired. The Second Amendment was signed conditioned upon the ratification of this Second Amendment by the Board of Education. A ratification was necessary as the Buyer needed the signed Second Amendment for the financing of the sale. The Court approved the sale of this Property to Buyer on December 14, 2020, no other terms of the Agreement have changed, and Buyer still intends to use the Property as a location of KIPP Charter School. The Board’s authorization of the transfer of this Property is not intended to expire with the End Date of this Action Item, so long as the transfer of the Property occurs on or before the End Date.
APPS Analysis: As noted in APPS’ December 2019 Eyes, “One charter management sleight-of-hand is creating similarly named schools with fragments of grades, often housed in multiple locations. KIPP practically wrote the book on this.” KIPP schools employ the circular real estate dealing in the charterworld as they buy vacant school buildings to relocate their students from neighborhood to neighborhood without involving surrounding communities in these decisions. Whittier was one of twenty-four neighborhood schools closed in 2013. A local church involved with the school proposed using the empty building for subsidized housing. The minister lined up financing and toured the building with potential investors, but the District turned him down without explanation. Rather than support the move to use it for the benefit of the community, the Board voted in August 2019 to sell the Whittier building to MIS Capital LLC for $775, 000, with the understanding that the developer would lease the building to KIPP. This is a very low price for such a large building. Board Member Angela McIver, before voting against the sale, asked whether there was a provision in the agreement that if KIPP were to no longer operate a school in that building, the District would have first right to buy the building back. McIver expressed concern that five or ten years down the road, the private developer who owns the building could use the building for whatever they wanted. The Item passed with the following amendment: “Such Agreement of Sale and special warranty deed shall include a provision that the property shall be used for educational use; in the event that the educational use were to end, the School District will have a right of first refusal to repurchase the property at the appraised value as determined by the School District.” KIPP plans to relocate their middle school, KIPP Preparatory (5-8), into this building in order to move it closer to the KIPP Elementary (K-4). “Educational use” needs to be clearly defined. Does this mean anyone or institution in the education business such as Drexel, Strayer “University”, or even a business that trains people to brew beer or drive trucks would be eligible to purchase this building? Last month the Board was poised to approve a laundry-list amendment submitted by KIPP for name change, location change, and grade expansion. The lack of details didn’t stop the Charter Schools Office from approving the request. APPS sent a letter to the Board requesting the withdrawal of this Item. They did so. Will the Board face a deluge of requests from KIPP once this sale is approved?
“Play is the highest form of research.” Albert Einstein
Item 10: Acceptance of Donation from The Fund for The School District of Philadelphia for Playground Improvements at Morton McMichael Elementary School ($175,000)
Description: As a result of the generous donation of funds of $175,000 from Drexel University (Drexel) to The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia (The Fund, Drexel’s donation of architectural drawings and engineering services directly to the School District, University (Drexel), and the District’s contribution of $100,000 of approved FY21 capital funds, the District will be able to install new playground improvements at the Morton McMichael Elementary School that will include the installation of new playground equipment, a poured-in-place rubber playground safety surface, re-paving, planting gardens, installation of play equipment, basketball half-court, and painted games. The District expects that through the implementation of this project, students will have increased opportunities for high quality play and learning environments within the schoolyard.
Drexel has been involved with the Morton McMichael Elementary School for over a decade. Drexel began working with McMichael in the 2010-11 school year at the request of the Mantua Community. Drexel was asked to support the community’s school improvement plan and, through its School of Education, Drexel devoted staff and faculty resources to the development of the plan. Drexel included McMichael as one of the seven schools in its Promise Neighborhood grant, which aims to support public education in the high poverty West Philadelphia Promise Zone. Working closely with McMichael principals over the years, the University has invested over $1.5 million in funds raised from public and private sources to support improved instruction, school climate, afterschool programming and school beautification. The McMichael playground project began in 2012-13 with support from the principals, teachers and residents of the Mantua Community.
The District intends to enter into a Contribution Letter Agreement with Drexel and The Fund whereby Drexel will donate $175,000 to the Fund, which the Fund will then transfer to the School District for the McMichael playground project. Additionally, Drexel is donating completed architectural drawings for the project, as well as engineering services from KPM to oversee the construction of the project.
APPS Analysis: This is one confusing Description. What is “high quality play”? Is play now being evaluated and added as another data point to fatten the bottom line of data collectors? This Description states that Drexel will donate $175,000 to the Fund to then be transferred to the District for the McMichael playground project. This is the true purpose of the Fund: to make decisions on school funding in a private boardroom which can then be rubber-stamped by the Board. McMichael School community is fortunate to be included in the public-private federally funded West Philadelphia Promise Zone managed by Dexel. Will Drexel’s plans be available for other schools to use who are not part of this Zone? Drexel does not pay PILOTS that could be used to remedy some of the racial inequities across the District. How many school playgrounds could be built if Drexel paid its fair share?
Item 13: Acceptance of Donation from Cloud Gehshan Associates , Playground Improvements at Morrison Elementary ($35,000)
Description: In 2019, Morrison School went through a strategic planning process. As part of the process, families and community members were asked about what they believed was the biggest facilities issue and/or need for investment. Overwhelmingly, the response was the desire for an improved outdoor play space. The existing playground surface at Morrison School is faded, bumpy and in need of repair. There is a specific play space in the school yard for Kindergarten Students and for students who receive Autistic Support Services. Creating an inviting play environment for the students is aligned to the school’s program. The Kindergarten play space will be used for both playing as well as for academic purposes. The school has designed a section of this play space to include a Learning Nook that would include a place for outdoor class materials and nature-inspired seating, such as wooden planks for outdoor learning. Through close work with community organizations and school families, the school was able to share letters of support for the playground repair that ultimately led to our securing of financial support through Cloud Gehshan Associates. Cloud Gehshan will donate the costs of the equipment and related labor for all installations and repairs. Morrison School will enter a License and Right of Entry agreement with Urban Sign & Crane Inc. and Urban Manufacturing LLC to complete the installation.
Item 12: Acceptance of Donation from Philadelphia Eagles Annual Day of Service – Longstreth Elementary School ($100,000)
Description:The adopted Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) FY21 includes funding for site improvements at the William Longstreth Elementary School. The project scope of work includes a new playground and related improvements of two age appropriate play structures installed over a rubber safety surface, a basketball hoop, a synthetic turf field, and murals for the interior and exterior walls at Longstreth. The donation from the Philadelphia Eagles, valued at $220,000, includes all costs of purchasing and installation of the new playground equipment and interior improvements. The Capital Budget includes funding of $100,000 for Philadelphia Mural Arts to hire mural artists to work with the students and staff at Longstreth to design the murals and mosaics. Mural Arts will supervise the installation and creation of the murals and mosaics. The total value is $320,000 for the site improvement project.
The Philadelphia Eagles and The Philadelphia Mural Arts partnered with the District in January of 2020, on this project of which we are enormously grateful. The Philadelphia Eagles selection committee reviewed school sites and interviewed multiple administrators in various schools resulting in the selection of the Longstreth School as the 2021 playground build site. Their assessment for the final selection included: a previously expressed desire for a playground by the principal, lot size, school leadership tenure, greater than 80% economically disadvantaged, lack of functional playground equipment, and quality of exterior walls to accept murals. The kick off date for this project is planned for June 2021, in conjunction with the Philadelphia Eagles Annual Day of Service. The playground and related site improvements will be under the direction and supervision of George Ely and Associates, Inc. Teams of volunteers will support the installation of non-technical play equipment and painting projects.
APPS Analysis: Research shows that playgrounds are essential for childrens’ physical and mental health. Every elementary school should have a playground. These Items contain wonderful possibilities for the students in these four schools. However, there are 149 elementary schools in the District. The Board should conduct a review of school playgrounds to create an equitable distribution of resources. Some principals are more skilled (and perhaps have more staff) to develop partnerships and outside funding sources. Other schools are struggling to retain teachers and keep buildings free of toxic conditions. To ensure that every school has a suitable playground it is essential to provide resources and support from the central administration. A survey of every school playground should be done and posted on the District website.There are already existing playgrounds, outdoor learning spaces, and gardens that deserve to be documented on the District website. They are both inspirational and aspirational. Funding for playgrounds should not be a “Hunger Games” competition but a sharing of resources across the District to promote equity at the school level.
Neubauer’s Influence Grows through More Grants
Item 71: Contract with George Ely Associates, Inc., Playground at Bayard Taylor School ($49,000)
Description:The Bayard Taylor School and Annex, located in the Hunting Park section of North Philadelphia, currently utilizes a blacktop for student recess and outdoor play. The Taylor School Annex houses approximately 160 1st and 2nd grade students, while Kindergarten and 3rd-5th grade classrooms are in the Main Building, all of whom come from economically disadvantaged families. The school is seeking to purchase and install playground equipment that will allow the students to have the same opportunities as their peers in more affluent neighborhoods. This playground will help students improve both gross and fine motor skills, as well as their social and emotional skills. Studies also show that physical activity improves academic performance and can enhance attention and memory.
Over the last two years, Taylor School received $12,500 from the Neubauer Family Foundation as part of their Academy for School Leaders Matching Community Grant program which was earmarked toward the cost of the playground, as well as, over $20,000 of donations collected in partnership with the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia. The majority of these funds came from the family and friends of a beloved Taylor School teacher who tragically passed away just over a year ago. The remaining $16,500 will be paid from Taylor School’s 2021-22 operating budget. The school has worked with the Office of Capital Programs to review and approve design and site plans before proceeding with construction. The District will enter into an agreement with George Ely & Associates to install the playground.
APPS Analysis: The Neubauer Family Foundation continues to expand its influence in the District. Privately managed Foundations such as William Penn and Neubauer have become essential players in providing funding for a range of projects in select schools. Their Board meetings are closed to the public, so there is no accountability or transparency. Two years ago, the Neubauer Family Foundation funded a Director of College & Career position at Ben Franklin High School, chosen via the unproven KIPP product College Match Strategies. This unsustainable foundation funding favors select schools. What happens to programs when the funding ends?
Item 70: Memorandum of Understanding with Philadelphia Academy of School Leaders, Leadership Development Programs
Number of Options: 2 Duration of each option to extend: Years: 3
Description: The Philadelphia Academy of School Leaders, Inc. (PASL) works to achieve educational equity in Philadelphia so every student attends an excellent school that prepares all students to attain their dreams. PASL develops, engages, and retains principals and system leaders who transform schools, dramatically improve student outcomes, and drive systemic change to prepare all Philadelphia students for college, career, and life. PASL’s approach to leadership development is results-driven and evidence based.
The Neubauer Fellowship in Educational Leadership is a transformative two-year leadership experience for principals with a proven track record of improving Philadelphia’s district, charter, and faith-based schools. The program develops critical leadership skills needed to elevate school performance and student outcomes in their schools and across the city.
Using a unique cross-sector, cohort-based approach, Fellows receive best-in-class professional development and build deep relationships with a network of outstanding peers who share expertise and resources. Local and national practitioners, authors, and researchers facilitate a curriculum that supports Fellows to produce measurable, meaningful results.
The Fellowship is competitive and selective: the rigorous competency-based selection process includes an application, interviews, instructional analysis, data reviews, and school visits. The two-year Neubauer Fellowship includes the following program components:
- An intensive six-day Summer Institute in Year 1
- Quarterly institutes to build capacity in personal, organizational, and instructional leadership
- Opportunities to host and visit other Fellows’ schools
- Engagement with prominent business, government, and nonprofit leaders who face enormous, unpredictable challenges as a format to learn leadership lessons from other fields
- A matching grant totaling $25,000 to support school-based projects that foster community partnerships
Anchored by the Neubauer Fellowship, PASL developed a continuum of leadership development programming for aspiring and Senior Neubauer Fellows to shepherd and support educational leaders from school to system leadership roles:
· The Leaders of Leaders Program: supports the success of Neubauer Senior Fellows (alumni) who are promoted to system leadership positions beyond the principalship (e.g., assistant superintendent, charter CEO). The program includes capacity building sessions focused on executive leadership, differentiated coaching, strategies to supervise and support managers of others, and consultancies around problems of practice. It also incorporates individual in-person and on-site coaching to improve others, and consultancies around problems of practice. It also incorporates individual in-person and on-site coaching to improve senior leader practice.
· The Performance Partners Program: matches a highly effective Neubauer Senior Fellow to serve as a coach for a principal who demonstrates strong potential to be selected for a future Neubauer Fellowship cohort. The program helps principals build coaching skills to give feedback that improves teacher practice and student outcomes. Participants work individually with Senior Neubauer Fellows over the course of a year who provide coaching and support using Skyrocket Educator Training’s approach. Simultaneously, coaches receive training on effective coaching practices that they can apply with both their Performance Partner and their own staff.
School Leadership is one of the single most impactful levers impacting student achievement and outcomes. According to the Wallace Foundation’s recent report: How Principals Affect Students and Schools: A Systematic Synthesis of Two Decades of Research, effective principals have positive impacts on student achievement and attendance as well as teacher satisfaction and retention. Principal effects are nearly as large as estimates of teacher effects summarized in other research; however, principal effects on student achievement are larger in scope as they impact whole schools as opposed to an individual classroom. By investing in school principals, principal supervisors, and those in system leadership roles who impact conditions for school success, School Leaders’ Performance Partners, Leaders of Leaders and Senior Fellow Programs develop, engage, support, and retain school leaders at all levels of experience in order to improve student outcomes.
The programmatic goals are as follows:
- Schools or networks led by program participants and Neubauer Fellow alumni will outperform and outpace other schools and Networks in the city in terms of: a) student performance, b) student growth, and c) gains among Black and Latinx students, thus preparing students for college, career, and life. We measure our progress towards this goal by tracking student outcome data, including but not limited to: graduation rates, PSSA and Keystone proficiency rates, and AGI.
- Over 95% of program participants and alumni will remain as school and system leaders in Philadelphia, impacting the city’s students for the long-term. Our newly launched Senior Fellow program will be especially important in ensuring that the talent we have invested in to date will remain engaged and committed to Philadelphia.
APPS Analysis: Lynda Rubin has become APPS’ resident expert on the Neubauer Family Foundation. This is her analysis of Item 70: This Item reads like other MOUs that appears to support the District, but is in fact an arrangement to finalize the corporate takeover of the District’s leadership training and selection from principals to senior level administrators. PASL was founded in 2014 by the multi-millionaire former Aramark CEO Joseph Neubauer. Despite having no experience or expertise in education, Neubauer has expressed his plan to train principals and leadership in his ideology and methods. Neubauer understands takeovers; it is what he did when he eliminated competition for leadership at Aramark. Neubauer has said that the way to change public education is to train principals in his organizational beliefs. After almost ten years of implementation during the Hite administration, Neubauer’s campaign is just now coming out into the open. Items 4 and 5 of the Fellowship outline advances the introduction of leadership fellows to “ business, government and nonprofit leaders, including those organizations that include many privatizers such as PSP and KIPP.” This MOU commits the district to a matching grant totaling $25,000 to support school-based projects. Left unsaid is whether this $25,000 is the total District cost or the cost for each fellow in the program. There are currently eighty-two Neubauer Fellows as principals in the District, eleven of those moving up to top administration. About twenty Fellows are named each year, so this could quickly become a major expenditure. The length of this MOU is 9 years (3-year terms with two possible additional 3 year terms), so the total cost per year must be considered. APPS reports: “The [Neubauer] Foundation, with over $50 million in annual revenue and $395 million in assets, has placed itself at the nexus of the school privatization movement, concentrating its efforts in Philadelphia.” The Description states that participants will be mentored by Senior Neubauer Fellows who will provide “ coaching and support using Skyrocket Educator Training’s approach.” Skyrocket Educator Training was created by a former Mastery Charter School staffer. Mastery established itself as a “No Excuses” charter but has since moved away from that branding.