Ears on the Board of Education: September 20, 2019

SB 7-9-18

by Diane Payne

Present

All nine members of the Board of Education (BOE) were present.  Eight members of APPS attended; five testified on behalf of public education.  Mayor Kenney came to welcome the students who were chosen as non-voting BOE representatives.  Of 54 applicants, two students were selected by a Board committee to serve as non-voting student representatives.  Julia Frank of Northeast High School and Alfredo Pratico of J.R. of Masterman High School were sworn in and seated.  They will alternate attendance at future meetings and will bring student voice to issues before the Board.

City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds-Brown spoke to welcome the Board and to advise them that City Council was there to support and monitor district operations.  She noted three main areas of concern: school health and safety, suspensions, and African-American studies in the district’s high school curriculum. Also in attendance for part of the meeting was Councilwoman Helen Gym.   Gym has been outspoken against the Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ) and was the only No vote on the issue earlier that day in Council. The Board’s agenda included a vote on the current list of KOZ properties (more on this below).

The meeting began with a  lovely musical performance by Universal Language, a group of Franklin Learning Center students.  It was inspiring to hear the beautiful voice and stellar musical accompaniment of these student musicians.

Superintendent’s Remarks

Superintendent William Hite addressed the District’s upcoming open enrollment process.  The timeline has been moved, but the total number of days to complete the application process is the same.  Applications can be submitted from September 21st through November 2nd. There was a question about counselors having a difficult time due to the new timeline conflicting with Early Admission College Applications (EACA).  Dr. Hite said that only 5 high schools were possibly affected but research indicated really only one school would be affected. They were assured by that school there was no problem with conflicts impacting the EACAs.

Board Reverts to Business as Usual                                                    

The official BOE agenda included an extensive visual presentation on the Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ) properties from First Deputy Director Sylvie Gallier Howard and Senior Deputy Director Duane Bumb of the City’s Commerce Department.  (The power-point can be viewed here.)  The PA General Assembly created KOZs in 1998 as a program designed to spark development in blighted, vacant, or underutilized properties that might not otherwise be developed. This program abates a long list of both state and city taxes as the lure for investment and the projected economic improvement, particularly job creation. The hook for the School District is that by law these properties must make Payments In Lieu of Taxes (PILOTS) that amount to 110% of the 55% that would come to the District in real estate taxes.  These PILOTS are paid annually and are based on the previous year’s property assessment. By law, both City Council and the BOE must approve the list of properties submitted by the Commerce Department before the applications can proceed to the state.  (These properties can be viewed on the above mentioned powerpoint.)

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Ears on the Board of Education: August 16, 2018

SB 7-9-18

by Diane Payne

Present

All nine board members were present for the second meeting of the new Board of Education (BOE). The Board consists of President Joyce Wilkerson, Vice-President Wayne Walker, Members Julia Danzy, Leticia Egea-Hinton, Mallory Fix-Lopez, Lee Huang, Maria McColgan, Chris McGinley, and Angela McIver. Six members of APPS were present, four of whom testified in support of public education. (To see the APPS members’ testimony, click here.)

This meeting began with a musical presentation by the Rush Arts Remixers Vocal Ensemble from the Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush High School. Their talent and presence were amazing and it was a delightful way to begin this meeting. Especially moving was their tribute to Aretha Franklin, who died earlier that day.

The Board has established four committees to guide their decision-making at monthly action meetings: Finance and Facilities (meeting monthly), Student Achievement and Support (meeting monthly), Policy (meeting quarterly), and District Partnerships and Community Engagement (meeting quarterly). President Wilkerson announced that the Finance and Facilities Committee will meet on September 6th, 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at 440 N. Broad Street in the BOE offices; this committee will meet the first Thursday of each month. The Student Achievement and Support Committee will meet on the second Thursday of each month; the first meeting will be held on September 13th, 5:00 to 6:30 p.m. at the BOE offices. President Wilkerson encouraged public participation at these meetings. (All BOE information can be found on the SDP website at https://www.philasd.org/schoolboard/.)

Superintendent’s Remarks

Superintendent Hite’s remarks were characteristically upbeat and optimistic. He cited facility readiness, 600 newly hired teachers, and improved academic prognosis for this school year. BOE members must hold Dr. Hite to his promises as the SRC did not, and students, families, and community members must make sure the BOE knows about what is and is not happening at their schools. New teachers stay, and students succeed, when facilities are safe and healthy and when supports, services, and supplies are available and consistent. What Dr. Hite touts has not been the reality in many buildings, Mayfair and Strawberry Mansion being the most recent examples.

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Ears on the Board of Education: July 9, 2018

SB 7-9-18

by Diane Payne

Local Control Returns!

All nine members of the newly appointed Board of Education were present for this meeting, as were many elected officials and union representatives who took the opportunity to both welcome the new board and to thank for taking on this difficult public service: Mayor James Kenney, Council President Darrell Clarke, Councilmembers Maria Quinones-Sanchez, Helen Gym, Jannie Blackwell, Derek Green, and CASA President Dr. Robin Cooper.

Seven of the nine APPS members in attendance spoke to welcome the board and to advise them that APPS’ mission of defending public education will continue. To see their testimonies, go to APPSPhilly.net.

The nine new board members are: Julia Danzy, Leticia Egea-Hinton, Mallory Fix Lopez, Lee Huang, Maria McColgan, Christopher McGinley, Angela McIver, Wayne Walker, and Joyce Wilkerson.

Election of Board Officers

In its first order of business, the board nominated and elected Chris McGinley to serve as president pro-tempore to manage the meeting until elections for president and vice president could be completed.  McGinley chaired the meeting through the public speakers and subsequent elections. The single nomination for President was Joyce Wilkerson; the subsequent vote was a unanimous “yes.” There were two nominations for Vice-president: Wayne Walker and Julia Danzy.  It was refreshing to see a public deliberation about each candidate prior to the vote. Walker was elected by a 5 to 4 vote. Joyce Wilkerson chaired the remainder of the meeting.

All of the board members took a turn at presenting their first public remarks about their duty to govern the School District of Philadelphia. Unfortunately, this was the first opportunity the public had to hear the views of their new representatives. The remarks all incorporated hope and optimism but were also embedded with the realism of the tough job ahead.  Chris McGinley’s emotional presentation included quotes from Tennyson. The audience responded to Angela McIver’s reminder of the importance of public schools in supporting democracy and embracing all of its sometimes loud and messy components.

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