Board Must Hold Hite Accountable

Testimony by Lisa Haver to the Board of Education, September 23, 2021

PFT President Jerry Jordan writes in an op-ed today that the district is at the edge of a dangerous precipice.  We read stories about mountains of trash in schoolyards, buses that don’t pick up children and buses that leave small children off far from home, bell schedules that ignore the needs of parents. Mold at Frankford High, asbestos at Masterman.  President Jordan said it best here: 

District leadership is not responsible for national nursing or bus driver shortages, nor did they create the facilities crisis. But their lack of planning, ignoring issues, and refusal to implement common-sense interventions has perpetuated the conditions that are creating a perilous atmosphere that feels that we are approaching a very dangerous precipice.

I will add to that lack of community engagement and deliberate suppression of community speech. The Board finds new ways with every meeting to silence the very people they should be listening to. People who tried to sign up to speak just hours after the window opened found it already closed. The lack of leadership both here and in City Hall is shameful. The Board holds no one in the Hite administration accountable.  And no one in City Hall holds the Board accountable.

In my Inquirer op-ed published Tuesday, I say:

When the Board does not hold Superintendent Hite accountable, and Council, whose oversight of the board grew under the newly amended Home Rule Charter, does not hold the board accountable, we can only expect more incompetence and miscommunication from the district.

And it’s not just the lack of accountability.  The Board’s vision is conspicuous by its absence.  There is no talk of restoring librarians to schools or long-term plan to reduce class size.  The Board made one baby step toward a re-examination and possible reform of the Renaissance charter system, the most expensive failure in District history, before that was shut down. So for the remainder of my two minutes, of the total twelve minutes the Board allows me each month, I urge the Board to reject once again the application from Empowerment Charter, for the many reasons cited by the Charter School Office about its deficiencies in academic, organization, and financial areas. Philadelphia does not need and cannot afford any new charters. The Board must spend money on making public schools safe and healthy, not funding business opportunities that divert money from neighborhood public schools.