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.
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.
APPS members and others, both in person and via written testimony, objected to the Board’s plan to hold small in-person meetings for a select few to meet the next superintendent finalists. Before the public speakers had finished, Vice President Leticia Egea-Hinton, who is spearheading the search process, stated on the record that those raising objections were wrong. Her rationale was that this meeting would be live streamed and they were holding a hybrid town hall open to the public. APPS members in the auditorium spoke up to say that holding one public meeting doesn’t erase the fact that the meeting in question was only open to a certain number of people, chosen in a private process, and that the qualifications for admission ruled out any community member. Egea-Hinton’s defensive response was not an honest effort to try to understand the objections, just to rationalize the Board’s actions. None of the other Board members objected to holding a select meeting to meet the candidates. The Philadelphia community is shut out on almost every front. We are the only District in the Commonwealth that doesn’t have an elected school board. One person–the current mayor–selects Board members in a secret process not open to the public. The Board shuts down its committees and imposes speaker suppression. If the Board is going to claim that the superintendent search process includes public participation, that must be more than window-dressing. APPS calls on the Board to make both town halls open to the public. Do not bar anyone from attending. Take steps to insure cross representation of stakeholders and let the public have both in-person and hybrid options for attending both open townhalls.
With all District schools and offices open, the Board again held a meeting in which almost half of its members stayed home. They declined, without explanation, to attend in person, including Maria McColgan, a vocal supporter of the “open schools no matter what” faction. Throughout the major Omicron surge, the Board has ignored health and safety needs of students and staff in crowded and poorly ventilated buildings. Board President Joyce Wilkerson and Board Members Mallory Fix Lopez, Reginald Streater, Lisa Salley and Leticia Egea-Hinton attended in person, along with the Student Representatives and Dr. Hite. Three Board members–Maria McColgan, Julia Danzy, and Cecelia Thompson– opted for the safety of a remote location. Board member Thompson has chosen not only to be remote but to be invisible. When called upon she responds but there is no visible confirmation of her presence and engagement at any point in the meeting. Why?
APPS filed a formal objection, read during the meeting, to the Board’s violation of the PA Sunshine Act, this time for voting in secret on the charter renewal of Universal Audenried Charter High School. Why does the Board continue the legacy of the SRC by conducting all charter business in secret.
Since the dissolution of the state-imposed School Reform Commission, the hope of District staff, students, families, and community members for a more responsive school board have been dashed repeatedly by the members of the Board. They eliminated all of the Committees except one, eliminating an important venue for deliberation and dialogue. They recently reduced the Policy Committee meetings from quarterly to twice a year. A pattern of Board disenfranchisement continues with its violations of the PA Sunshine Act. The Board refuses to post the full text of any charter school item until after they vote. They post the full content the day after the vote, with no notice that it was previously not posted, thus falsifying the public record. The Board bars people from speaking before they vote on Action Items. At this meeting, the Board added to this list knowingly deliberating on public business in executive session.