Watlington Launches Administration with Questionable Contract

Ears on the Board of Education: June 23, 2022

by Diane Payne

Dr. Tony Watlington’s tenure as superintendent got off to an inauspicious start with his request to the Board, made before he was sworn in and granted by the Board without deliberation at its last meeting, for a major contract with Tennessee-based Joseph and Associates that came with a $450,000 price tag. The three-phase consulting project begins with the firm focusing on the “development and execution of a 100-day entry plan” for the new superintendent.  When the Board conducted its months-long superintendent search, with members of the community devoting significant time and effort, did they make their final choice with a caveat from the Board that Dr. Watlington was not prepared to take on the job as soon as he got here? Is this the message the Board and Dr. Watlington want to send the school communities—that their priority is not funding classrooms but outside consultants?  That a new superintendent wants to conduct business as usual? 

Continue reading

What Did Board Accomplish in Eight-hour Meeting?

Ears on the Board of Education: May 26, 2022

by Diane Payne

For Dr. Hite’s last meeting as superintendent, Board President Joyce Wilkerson introduced a slideshow of his accomplishments through the decade.  (Those viewing remotely couldn’t hear so it may have had an audio component.) Mayor Kenney appeared in person to honor Hite.  Going-away tributes accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. Hite achieve some success on the surface, and in the interest of those holding the seats of political and financial power.   The budget, at least for now, is in  better shape.  But the people on the front lines can attest that those successes came at a price to students, staff, and families. 

Continue reading

Will Board Cancel Contracts without Explanation?

Ears on the Board of Education: April 21, 2022

by Diane Payne

Over the years, APPS members and others have testified about the barriers to finding basic information on the District website, for content as well as for technical reasons. There is too often a lack of straightforward and honest presentations. The agenda for this action meeting is another such example. Omitted from the agenda posted online and distributed at the meeting, again, were the legislative update given by Board Member Fix Lopez, the Parent and Community Advisory presentation given by Board Member Thompson, and the Student Representative presentation given by Rebecca Allen. None of these were about issues that had just arisen. The agenda also failed to include dollar amounts for Item 8, Item 9 and Item 28. This may lead observers to think these are no-cost items. In fact, Action Item 8 totalled $15 million and Item 9 totaled $16.9 million. Item 28, a 5-year renewal for Mastery Shoemaker, will cost the District a minimum of $50 million. The Board has a duty to inform the public of how they are spending public funds.

Continue reading

Principals and Community Rally to Stop “Budget Massacre”

Ears on the Board of Education: March 24, 2022

by

Diane Payne

The District principals’ union Teamsters 502 CASA, supported by the PFT, POWER, APPS and other member organizations of OCOS, held a rally on the steps of 440 to tell the Board of Education, as it convened its action meeting, that we will fight against the District’s proposed budget cuts for next school year. That same message was delivered by those who waited for hours to testify, including principals, teachers, and parents. As we have seen in the past, the administration’s budget presentation did not align with the reality of the educators whose resources will be slashed. 

It is heartening to see the increasing number of community members attending in person. There is no better way to hold our  government officials accountable than to show up to cheer, jeer, hold signs, and clap in support of our public schools.  The Board has used the pandemic to elude accountability and increase speaker suppression. Voters in 499 districts in Pennsylvania elect their school board but Philadelphians remain disenfranchised.  APPS members will continue to attend in person, and we  encourage all defenders of public education to join us. 

Continue reading