Ears on the Board of Education: December 12, 2019

by Diane Payne

Once again APPS members stood in unison and exercised our legal right to object to the Board’s violation of the PA Sunshine Act under Section 710 (c). The Board fails to post in advance or to read the full text into the record at the time of the vote, in effect voting in secret. The full text, although dated 12/12/19,  did not appear on the District website until 12/14/19. That is a falsification of the public record, as is reporting in the official Minutes that the Board voted on the full resolution at the meeting.

District counsel Lynn Rauch had consulted with APPS co-founder Lisa Haver before the meeting about whether APPS would be objecting again and how.  Lisa told her that, as we had in the previous two Action Meetings, we would be making one objection before the votes on charter Items, that it would take about one minute, and that the objection had to be noted for the record and reported in the Minutes. For some reason, Board member Chris McGinley began to speak over us, moving to approve the first Mastery charter. President Wilkerson said nothing, but Rauch interrupted him to explain the procedure. For the third month in a row, not one member of  the Board addressed the objection. McGinley again moved to approve Mastery Charter High School (aka Mastery Lenfest Charter).

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Ears on the Board of Education, November 21, 2019

by Diane Payne

The eight APPS members in attendance, along with our supporters, stood and read in unison our legal objection to the Board’s ongoing violations of the PA Sunshine Act–this month the secret vote on the Boys Latin Charter School renewal.  This Board votes on all charter school issues (and only charter school issues) without providing the text of the Action Item or reading the text of the Item into the record. This is tantamount to voting in secret because the public has no information on the details on this item at the time of the vote.  President Wilkerson attempted to gavel and talk over us, thus failing to acknowledge the Board’s obligation to listen to members of the public formally objecting under Section 710(c) of the PA Sunshine Act.

About a dozen school nurses showed up to protest the mismanagement of Health Services in the District.  The eloquent and comprehensive testimonies of the nurses showed once again that Philadelphia school nurses are highly professional, credentialed, and competent.

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Board of Education Public Hearing: September 26, 2019

by Lynda Rubin

The recently amended Philadelphia Home Rule Charter mandates that the Board of Education hold at least two public hearings each school year for the sole purpose of giving parents, students, teachers, and community members the right and opportunity to address the Board with concerns, suggestions, complaints and questions. One purpose of making these hearings part of the City Charter was to underline that the Board is a public body that needs to engage with and be responsive to the public will. The Board may not always agree with members of the public, but they do have to consider the wishes of the people as they make decisions about spending tax dollars and formulating educational policy. The city’s populace successfully fought to have the School Reform Commission replaced with a Board precisely because the SRC ignored the people’s interests and inclusion in the process of running public schools for our city’s children. That this Board is appointed by the mayor and not elected by voters in no way diminishes the fact that its members are expected to be working on behalf of the public–that is, their constituents.

In light of that, it is inexplicable that the Board did not publicized this meeting commensurate with its importance, resulting in a disappointingly under-attended meeting. Board members were informed by staff that robo-calls were made to parents, and that notice was posted on the District’s website. But this notice  required a more descriptive and inviting name than the two-word “Public Hearing” in a small box in the Board calendar, which requires several page clicks to find. As community activist Mama Gail Clouden pointed out in her testimony, students’ home and cell phone numbers are changed too often to be a reliable means of contact. At the very least, a banner with the meeting information should have been prominently placed on the Home Page of the District’s website where anyone who goes to the website for any reason will see it. The Board should explore such ideas as using PSAs (Public Service Announcements) on TV and radio stations which are often provided free as a service to public schools.

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Ears on the Board of Education: September 19, 2019

By Diane Payne

Seven Mastery Charter Schools and KIPP West Philadelphia Preparatory Charter School were voted on for renewal.  Three of these schools were from the 2015/16 school year. All Charter School negotiations are conducted out of the public view.  Unspecified conditions were originally attached to the school’s renewal by the Charter School Office (CSO) but all conditions were dropped for the renewals on this agenda.  The public has no way of knowing what those conditions were or why those unknown conditions were dropped.

Many staff, parents, and administrators spoke on the toxic conditions found in many of our school buildings advocating for a systemic fix.

Present

President Joyce Wilkerson, Vice-president Wayne Walker, Julia Danzy, Mallory Fix Lopez, Lee Huang, Maria McColgan, Angela McIver, and Chris McGinley were present.  Board member Leticia Egea-Hinton was absent. Nine members of APPS were present; five members spoke in defense of public education and one member submitted written testimony.

Video of the entire Board meeting is posted on the District website and can be found by going to the District website, clicking on Board of Education, scrolling down to “watch previous Board meetings.”

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