A grass-roots organization of parents, community members, and school staff, fighting to defend public education. We work together to provide analysis and demand accountability from the School District of Philadelphia to provide students with a high-quality education.
Close to 200 students from Saul High School, Franklin Learning Center and several other special-admission schools rallied on the steps of district headquarters to fight against the devastating cuts in faculty and staff caused by the district’s faulty enrollment algorithm. Students and supporters held up signs saying “Save Our Teachers” and “I Am Not An Algorithm”. Parents, teachers, principals, and community members came to support the students and their schools at the rally and in their testimony to the Board. For the first time in a long time, the auditorium was packed, and many who came were diverted to the overflow section in the atrium.
The Philadelphia Board of Education’s first action at its January 26, 2023 action meeting was to exalt itself. The second was to curb its own power.
The meeting opened with a multi-part ceremony in honor of “Board Appreciation Month”. District administration staffers presented student artwork made for the occasion. Students from several schools appeared on the large screen in the front of the auditorium, literally singing the board’s praises. Finally, a member of Superintendent Tony Watlington’s cabinet read a statement expressing the administration’s appreciation for the board’s dedication and great work.
Before the vote on the three Charter School renewals appearing on this agenda, President Streater made a statement about his concerns surrounding the interrelatedness of Charter School Boards, Charter Management Operators, and attorneys. He made clear that overlapping Boards and attorneys do not provide the adequate protection needed to be good stewards of public funds. This is one of many aspects of charter operations that are never publicly discussed except by APPS. It is almost impossible to follow the money funneled into charter schools and know who is benefitting from public funds and whose pockets are being filled with the many interconnected groups. (More detail on this will appear in the voting section.)
Students, educators, parents and community members who attended this action meeting waited in vain for the Board to discuss solutions for problems that had been in the news in the past few weeks: unsafe conditions at district schools, in particular Dobbins High school. Neither Board President Wilkerson nor Superintendent Tony Watlington mentioned the developing crisis. The Board stayed silent on the Dobbins crisis at its November 17 meeting, even after a Philadelphia Inquirerstory published just the day before. A December 9 Inquirer article quoted several district teachers about the administration’s failure to keep them and their students safe. Why won’t Board members and the superintendent discuss these crises at public meetings?
This meeting saw a change in Board leadership, with Reginald Streater taking the reins as Board President. In addition, Deputy Superintendent Uri Monson, the district’s CFO for years, has been tapped by PA Governor-elect Josh Shapiro to serve as his Budget Director; this was his last Board meeting. Watlington has increased central administration staff to address “customer service” (a term steeped in a corporate, product-oriented mentality rather than public service). Maybe the Board and Watlington could begin to address improved communication with a “no-cost” effort to publicly address concerns like those mentioned here as a first step to engagement and transparency.