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? 

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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. 

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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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Board Must Change Its Spending Priorities

Budget Hearing: April 21, 2022

by Lynda Rubin

The Board of Education scheduled its annual budget hearing just one hour before its April action meeting. With a lengthy presentation from Chief Financial Officer Uri Monson on the agenda, followed by questions from the Board and testimony from nine public speakers, there was not much time for careful deliberation about the Board’s own spending priorities. It seemed at times that the tail once again was wagging the dog, with Board members’ comments and questions reflecting Board compliance rather than Board leadership.

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