The Board Should Withdraw Action Item 4: KIPP Amendment Proposal

April 20, 2021

Dear President Wilkerson and Board Members of the Board, 

We are writing in reference to Item 4 on the April 22 2021 Action Item agenda, the amendment request from KIPP charter schools. KIPP is requesting numerous changes, including name, location, grade and enrollment expansion, recruitment area expansion, and the official beginning and end dates for the 5-year term of “KIPP Parkside Charter School”. There are a number of inconsistencies in the Item’s description along with a number of issues that should be addressed before the Board considers this Item. 

First, the District’s webpage lists no KIPP Parkside Charter School.  There is a KIPP West Philadelphia and a KIPP West Philadelphia Preparatory. The address of the first is 5070 Parkside, so we assume that the Item refers to that school. 

The District website lists KIPP West Philadelphia Charter as a K-3 schools. However, the 2017 SRC resolution linked in Item 4 states that this school would not include Grade 3 until the 2021-22 school year.  When was KIPP granted an amendment for grade expansion after its initial approval? 

The SRC resolution also indicates that “KIPP Parkside…shall not open until the 2019-20 school year.”  Why would a school in its second year of operation need to move?  KIPP’s operators told the SRC that the Parkside community needed a KIPP charter school.  Item 4 gives no explanation of why KIPP’s operators changed their mind so quickly or whether they had actually intended to stay in that community. 

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City Council and Mayor Kenney Must Direct Board to Rescind Regressive Speaker Policies

This week, APPS sent the following letters regarding the Board of Education’s speaker policy to mayor Kenney and each member of Philadelphia City Council:

April 14, 2021  

Dear Councilmember,   

On behalf of the members of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, we are writing to ask that you take a stand against the Board of Education’s silencing of the public at its public meetings.  

Over the past three months, the Board has imposed a succession of changes in their official speaker policy designed to silence their critics. The Board has, for the first time in District history, implemented an arbitrary cap of thirty adult speakers and ten student speakers.  No matter how many official items are on the agenda, or which urgent issues arise—closing of schools for lead and asbestos toxicity, reopening schools during the COVID crisis, for example—the number of speakers will remain capped, preventing members of the public from being heard.

  The Board has also imposed a two-minute limit on all speakers. No other governmental body, including City Council, cuts speakers off after two minutes. This new policy makes it difficult to present a coherent argument for or against any official item.  It also reduces the number of issues any one speaker can address.    

The Board has also made it more difficult for people to submit written testimony and to have that testimony heard during Board meetings.

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Open letter to Board of Education: APPS Demands Reversal of Speaker Rules

February 1, 2021  

Dear President Wilkerson and Members of the Board,  

On behalf of the members of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, we call on you reverse the changes to the Board’s official speaker policy imposed at the January 28 Action Meeting.   

For decades, from previous Boards through the School Reform Commission, members of the public have had three minutes in which to be heard on an issue—or issues. The Board, without warning or explanation, cut speakers’ time to two minutes and limited the number of speakers at every meeting. The Board did this without any public vote, violating not only the public trust but the PA Sunshine Act, by voting in secret and preventing any public comment.   

Earlier this year, President Wilkerson warned speakers that if they attempted to speak on any topic other than the one designated on their sign-up form, she would have their mics cut off.   

In contrast, charter operators were given hours-long hearings last week in which to sell their new charter applications, including a 15-minute period at the end of each hearing for closing remarks. When the Board votes on these applications, members of any affected communities will have only two minutes to argue for their denial.   

The reasons for this silencing became clear with Dr. Hite’s announcement, the day before the meeting, of his plan to send students and staff back into school buildings. In July 2020, parents, teachers, principals and students spoke for hours in opposition to Dr. Hite’s  plan. The Board clearly did not want a repeat. Anyone who tried to sign up Wednesday to speak on the plan found themselves blocked.   

Another reason emerged as we witnessed the Board’s 2 ½ hour discussion about the details of its new Goals and Guardrails.  The Board replaced public voices with their own. The first public speaker was not heard until almost three hours into the meeting. There was no consideration for parents who must feed children and help them with homework or for teachers trying to prepare lessons for the next day.   

The Board should not be using this time of public isolation to shut the public out even more.  

We demand that the Board reverse the changes in the Speakers Policy before the February 25 Action Meeting. Restore speaker time to three minutes. Remove the cap on the number of speakers.  Conduct all official business and hear from all public speakers before you embark on the next marathon Goals and Guardrails session.   

Parents, educators, students and members of the community should be seen by the Board as partners in advancing and improving public education, not obstacles.   

Sincerely,

Lisa Haver

Karel Kilimnik

Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools Calls on Board to Reject Hite Reopening Plan

Members of the grass-roots Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools have called on the Board of Education to reject the reopening plan presented by Superintendent William Hite Wednesday. The Board, which approved a version of the plan months ago, would have to place the Item on Thursday’s Action Meeting agenda. 

“Dr. Hite’s plan is not based on current data or evidence, or even the District’s own information,” said APPS Coordinator Lisa Haver. “The updates presented monthly to the Board of Education from Dr. Hite and the Chief Operations Officer still do not say that District buildings are ready for reopening. Inadequate ventilation remains an issue, and in many buildings, windows do not open at all.”

“Solicited testimonials from school officials who serve under Dr. Hite or from representatives of the business community are not a substitute for facts and data”, said Haver. “The Board must fulfill its obligation to the families and educators of the District by rejecting this plan and considering reopening only when buildings are adequately ventilated and all personnel are vaccinated. The Board cannot sit by while the health and safety of children and adults are given less than full consideration by the Hite administration.”