Parents, Educators and Students Should Shape District Policies

Policy Committee Meeting: April 28, 2022

by Diane Payne and Lynda Rubin

Exactly one week after this meeting, District parents received an email notifying them that the District would be carrying out weapons searches in middle schools.

The email, signed by “The School District of Philadelphia”, told parents that their children would be subject to “periodic weapons screenings”. The anonymous author of the email wrote, “The District understands that this level of screening may feel intrusive and inconvenient.” Although Board Member Reginald Streater defended the District’s decision in the Inquirer, neither he nor any other Board member brought it up for discussion at this Policy meeting or at the April 21 action meeting. Did the Board not know about the District’s impending action? The Board makes policy on student safety, not the administration.  Why did the Board not give parents an opportunity to weigh in–either for or against–the heightened security measures? 

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Policy Committee Meeting: April 15, 2021

by Lynda Rubin

The Board of Education abolished its Parent and Community Engagement Committee one year after its inception, having held only two meetings.  Last year, the Board eliminated two more, the Finance and Facilities Committee and the Student Achievement and Support Committee. Only the Policy Committee remains, meeting not monthly, but quarterly. The Board had established the four committees with the promise of more transparency and dialogue with parents, educators, students and community members about proposed action items and general issues of concern. 

President Joyce Wilkerson and Maria McColgan co-chaired this meeting. Board members Reginald Streater, Mallory Fix Lopez, Cecelia Thompson, Angela McGiver, Julia Danzy, Leticia Egea-Hinton, and Lisa Salley attended, along with Student Representative Keylisha Diaz. 

The agenda included proposed revisions of Policy 105, Curriculum Development; Policy 206, Assignment of students within the District; Policy 614, Payroll Authorization; Policy 616, Payments; and Policy 704, Maintenance. Policy 705, Workplace and Construction Project Safety, was amended. New policies are Policy 708, Environmental Management and Policy, and Policy 800, Records Management. The elimination of Policy 909, Municipal Government Relations, was also on the agenda. McColgan announced that the Board would not vote on these actions until after the third reading, this meeting being the first.

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Board of Education Joint Committee: December 3, 2020

by Lynda Rubin

Only a few months ago, Board members discussed the possibility of closing more neighborhood schools in response to the projected budget crisis. Now they are considering layoffs and furloughs of teachers and support staff.  Their promise earlier this year only to approve essential contracts quickly went by the wayside. Their scheduling of a special Policy Committee meeting, billed as a first step in reassessing the 10-year old Renaissance charter initiative, didn’t even broach the subject of reform; its purpose apparently was to reassure charter operators that the public trough would remain filled. 

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Joint Committee Meeting: October 8, 2020

by Lynda Rubin

At the combined meetings of the Student Achievement and Support Committee and the Finance and Facilities Committee, several Board members questioned the accuracy of reopening information District staff has presented. Their repeated follow-up questions to 440 staff struck a different tone than that of previous meetings.  It remains to be seen whether Board members will stand firm in their pursuit of in-depth answers and standards necessary for safety or continue to accept the vague answers given by the Hite administration. 

Board members Angela McGiver, Leticia Etea-Hinton, Julia Danzy, and Lee Huang attended both meetings in their entirety; Maria McColgan joined late. President Joyce Wilkerson appeared at the beginning of the first meeting, but was not seen for the remainder of the session, although she could be heard at times. The Board should display the images of all those in attendance. If that is not possible–if they are connected by phone or their camera is disabled–their names should be on screen for as long as they are actually present. The public has a right to know who is present and who is not. (The Board website page indicates that Ameen Akbar has not yet taken on a committee assignment.)

Click here to read what transpired at each committee meeting.