Ears on the Board of Education: October 22, 2020

by Diane Payne

This month’s Board of Education Action Action Meeting featured administration PowerPoints that again failed to reflect the experiences and needs of those on the ground.  Many of the seventy-four registered speakers testified to this lack.  The Hite administration now requires Pre-K to Grade 2 staff to return to buildings on November 9th to prepare for the return of students on November 30th–in spite of still incomplete ventilation reports.  COVID’s main form of transmission is through the air.  People of color are statistically more likely to contract and to die from the illness.  Many older District buildings with asbestos, mold and lead were unsafe for children and adults  before COVID.  Now staff, students, families, and community members are being asked to trust that the District gets this right.  The neglect of the District has caused the illness and impending death of one teacher (that we know of) from mesothelioma.  Failure this time will have immediate and devastating consequences.

Present

The Board is down to six of the nine required members.  Chris McGinley resigned in April, 2020, but Mayor Kenney has yet to reconvene his Nominating Panel.

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Ears on the Board of Education, July 30, 2020 (Action Meeting, part 2)

by Diane Payne

When we organize and fight, we win. The students, parents, teachers, principals and community members told the Board on July 23 that Dr. Hite’s hybrid reopening plan would put children and adults in harm’s way. Hite and his staff presented an all-virtual plan to the Board one week later.

The Board reconvened the Action Meeting that they had recessed, after eight hours, on July 23.  All eight Board members were present.  [This meeting can be viewed on the Board website. Visit the APPS website to read our summary. Meeting materials can be viewed here]

Wilkerson Reiterates Plea for Fair Funding

Board President Joyce Wilkerson opened the meeting with another plea for funding advocacy.  Wilkerson noted that the state’s inequitable formula results in Philadelphia receiving the lowest per-pupil funding. The District webpage displays detailed information about how the public can engage their elected officials in demanding full and fair funding.  

Wilkerson then asked Superintendent Hite to present his revised reopening plan. She noted that there were working committees that assisted in this plan’s development, but she expressed no objection to the fact that the committees included administrators, principals, and parents–but no teachers.  

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Ears on the Board of Education: July 23, 2020 (Part 1)

By Diane Payne

In the first week of July, the Board placed a notice of an Action Meeting in its online calendar. The Board placed no banner on the District homepage, and the agenda was not posted until 72 hours before the meeting.  The obvious reason to add a special meeting was to discuss the District’s fall reopening plan, but the Agenda contained twenty-six Items.  All eight Board members were present.  Mayor Kenney has taken no steps to fill the ninth seat, vacant since Chris McGinley resigned in April. The Mayor’s Nominating Panel, which met earlier this year to fill Wayne Walker’s seat, could easily be reconvened to fill this one, and the Mayor could choose from the list of candidates already compiled. In both 2018 and 2020, the Mayor ordered the Panel to meet only in Executive Session, thus violating the state’s Sunshine Act and shutting out the public from the entire process.  The abolition of the state-controlled SRC did not result in true local control but in mayoral control.  

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Ears on the Board of Education: May 28, 2020

By Diane Payne

The Board held its sixth remote Action meeting on May 28 as the Covid-19 crisis continues to necessitate quarantine. The Board has taken a Shock Doctrine approach to leadership by arbitrarily, without explanation, changing the procedures for public speaking. These changes, obviously,  have no bearing on public safety.  In violation of its own policy, one approved by unanimous vote only 6 months ago, the Board has whittled down the public’s three minutes of speaking time to two. In another violation, the Board allowed only three speakers on a topic. The policy allows for four.  At the November 2019 Policy Committee meeting,  APPS co-founder Lisa Haver objected to the Board’s proposal to eliminate the public speakers’ provision of the meeting policy.  Her concern was that it would leave this important public process subject to capricious changes at the whim of the Board. Unfortunately,  Haver’s fears were prescient.  Again, there is no health and safety reason for reducing the number of public speakers.  APPS calls on the Board to cease violating its own policy and reinstate the public’s full three minutes to speak and the number of speakers on topics back to four.  

Board Officers Elected

The Board is operating with only eight members as Mayor Kenney has not replaced Chris McGinley.  For some reason, Mayor Kenney has said that his Nominating Panel must reconvene even though this panel submitted names of 27 candidates just months ago.  It is unclear why the panel must start all over.  The Board elected officers at this first meeting of the new term. Joyce Wilkerson was re-elected President, Leticia Egea-Hinton elected Vice-President.  The Mayor’s replacement for Wayne Walker, Akeem Akbar, participated in his first full Action Meeting.  The remaining Board members: Julia Danzy, Mallory Fix Lopez, Lee Huang, Maria McColgan, and Angela McIver were also all present for this remote platform meeting. Student representatives Imere Williamson and Doha Abrahim also attended. 

Minutes of the April meeting were approved.  

Seven APPS members spoke in defense of public education at this meeting; one member submitted written testimony.  This testimony can be viewed on the APPS website  

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