Transition Team Offers Familiar Promises

Ears on the Board of Education: October 20, 2022

by Diane Payne

The Transition Team appointed by Superintendent Tony Watlington and the consulting firm of Shawn Joseph and Associates presented its findings, compiled in a 29-page, multi-color pamphlet. Some of Watlington’s actions during his heralded “First 100 Days”  have raised concerns rather than hope for many, especially his failure to embrace a plan rooted in education research of the whole child in favor of retaining the status quo of privatization, outsourcing and standardized testing. Most jarring is Watlington’s demotion of parents and community members from that of stakeholders in the common good of public education to “customers”.  Watlington has even created a new administrative position, “Chief of Communications and Customer Service”; he hired Alexandra Coppadge to fill it.  This disrespectful action reveals Watlington’s lack of understanding of the role of parents, educators, students and community members as members of school communities advocating for safe and healthy schools; he sees them as consumers buying a product, which relegates educators to the status of store managers and students to commodities.

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Board Accepts No Responsibility for Charter Debacle

Special Meeting of the Board of Education: August 26, 2022

by Diane Payne

The August 28, 2022 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer, on the emergency at Daroff and Bluford charter schools previously managed by Universal Education Companies, reported:  “School board officials said the schools’ demise resulted from repeated instances of adults failing children.”  The Board made clear at this meeting that those adults don’t include them.  

Universal Companies Abandons Two Charter Schools
The Board called this special meeting, with the legally required minimal notice buried the day before in the Inquirer and a brief notice on their website, to approve agreements with the individual boards of Bluford and Daroff charter schools.  President Joyce Wilkerson and Board Members Mallory Fix Lopez, Lisa Salley, Reginald Streater and Sarah-Ashley Andrews attended in person; Leticia Egea-Hinton, Julia Danzy, Chau Wing Lam and Cecelia Thompson  remotely. Superintendent Tony Watlington, after answering the initial roll call, stated he is “still in a learning phase”, then remained silent for the duration of the meeting. 

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Board Allows Questionable New Covid Protocols

Ears on the Board of Education:  August 18, 2022

by Lynda Rubin and Deborah Grill

Parents, students, educators and community members who came to the Board’s August action meeting found themselves relegated to seats halfway back in the auditorium. The Board had set up two rows of long tables, covered with blue cloth and stretching the entire width of the room, to seat 440 staff and assistant superintendents, who in previous meetings sat in the first few rows of public seating.  Members of the public, separated by this moat of blue tables, found it even more difficult to see and hear the Board members. 

Seven Board members attended in person:  President Joyce Wilkerson, Vice-President Letticia Egea-Hinton, Julia Danzy, Mallory Fix Lopez, Lisa Salley, Reginald Streater, and Sarah Ashley-Andrews.  Cecelia Thompson and Chau Wing Lam attended remotely. Wilkerson congratulated Streater for being appointed one of eleven USA Justice Fellows by the Eisenhower Fellowship; he will travel the U S and abroad to study racial disparities in education. 

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Board Laments Deficit, Fails to Mention Its Own Spending Priorities

Ears on the Board of Education: July 14, 2022

by Diane Payne

With only one item on the agenda and six public speakers, this should have been a quick meeting. But the 2-hour Goals and Guardrails session took up almost half of this 4 ½ hour session.  Eight of the nine Board members attended in person; Cecelia Thompson again attended virtually. 

President Joyce Wilkerson thanked Governor Wolf and the Pennsylvania legislative delegation for passing a state budget that contains historic education funding increases. Unfortunately, the charter reforms that had been hammered out in bipartisan negotiations for years were killed at the last minute. Board Member Mallory Fix Lopez reported that the state legislature has passed HB1642 which will increase recruitment opportunities for new teachers in Philadelphia and also creates opportunities for high school student graduates from the District to receive credits toward a teaching certificate.

BM Thompson gave the Parent and Community Advisory Council (PCAC) report (not on the agenda) with the usual lack of detail and with no indication of the actual impact of this Council.  She noted that PCAC members were on the Superintendent’s transition team, although she didn’t mention that only seven of the eight-seven members of the entire transition team are parents. Thompson also reported that one PCAC member has volunteered to help analyze the 11,000 work order backlog for Philadelphia school buildings.  Giving this kind of responsibility to a parent volunteer of unknown qualifications should have raised questions, but none of the other  Board members asked why this kind of work was not being done by a qualified District employee from the Office of Operations. 

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