Eyes on the Board of Education: December 15, 2022
by Lisa Haver
Irony, apparently, is not the Board of Education’s strong suit. After imposing a number of speaker suppression policies, with no notice or explanation to the public, the Board now proposes hiring a firm for $70,000 to expand the district’s “capacity to engage families, students, staff and the overall Philadelphia community in authentic two-way engagement efforts.” Are the Board’s action meetings not authentic enough? The Board clearly wants to hear from a very limited number of families, students, staff and community members, and only for two minutes at a time. The Board eliminated three of their four public committees, including the Parent and Community Engagement Committee, venues that were supposed to provide opportunities for more dialogue about issues of concern. The one remaining committee, the Policy Committee, now meets only twice a year. The Board’s Policy page does not even mention that there are meetings. Governance by invitation is not a substitute for true public engagement.
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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.
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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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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