Board Puts Another Brick in the Wall

Ears on the Board of Education: January 27, 2022

by Diane Payne

With all District schools and offices open, the Board again held a meeting in which almost half of its members stayed home. They declined, without explanation, to attend in person, including Maria McColgan, a vocal supporter of the “open schools no matter what” faction. Throughout the major Omicron surge, the Board has ignored health and safety needs of students and staff in crowded and poorly ventilated buildings.  Board President Joyce Wilkerson and Board Members Mallory Fix Lopez, Reginald Streater, Lisa Salley and Leticia Egea-Hinton attended in person, along with the Student Representatives and Dr. Hite. Three Board members–Maria McColgan, Julia Danzy, and Cecelia Thompson– opted for the safety of a remote location. Board member Thompson has chosen not only to be remote but to be invisible.  When called upon she responds but there is no visible confirmation of her presence and engagement at any point in the meeting.  Why?

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Board Caves to Political Pressure, Renews Failing Charter

Ears on the Board of Education: December 9, 2021

by Diane Payne

APPS filed a formal objection, read during the meeting, to the Board’s violation of the PA Sunshine Act, this time for voting in secret on the charter renewal of Universal Audenried Charter High School. Why does the Board continue the legacy of the SRC by conducting all charter business in secret.

Since the dissolution of the state-imposed School Reform Commission, the hope of District staff, students, families, and community members for a more responsive school board have been dashed repeatedly by the members of the Board. They eliminated all of the Committees except one, eliminating an important venue for deliberation and dialogue. They recently reduced the Policy Committee meetings from quarterly to twice a year. A pattern of Board disenfranchisement continues with its violations of the PA Sunshine Act. The Board refuses to post the full text of any charter school item until after they vote. They post the full content the day after the vote, with no notice that it was previously not posted, thus falsifying the public record. The Board bars people from speaking before they vote on Action Items. At this meeting, the Board added to this list knowingly deliberating on public business in executive session.

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Secret Deals and Speaker Suppression

Ears on the Board of Education: November 18, 2021

by Diane Payne

The Board practices speaker suppression in many ways. They abolished the committees that offered the school community a way to engage in real dialogue and deliberation. They gutted the official speaker policy, changing the rules from month to month and meeting to meeting. Those are obvious methods. But there are other ways to silence people. One is to add official items to the agenda after the sign-up window has closed, such as the charter renewals, so that only charter company representatives have a chance to be heard. Another is to add staff presentations to the agenda the day of the meeting, making it impossible for people to have a chance to comment or question. The Board does not post staff presentations before or even during the meeting, with the same results. And with only two minutes to speak, it is difficult if not impossible for people to address their issue and also ask a question about information presented during the meeting.  Of the thirty speakers allowed to sign up, eleven did not show up. That meant the Board only had to listen to nineteen adult speakers, silencing an unknown number of speakers (including three APPS members who were barred this month), disenfranchising the public, undermining democracy, and shielding themselves from accountability.  

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Board Fails to Respond to Crises

Ears on the Board of Education: October 28, 2021

by Diane Payne

Three days before a possible SEPTA strike, Superintendent Hite announced that schools would be open as they have been this year — that is, there would be no alternative virtual instruction. Hite presented no plan to help parents get students to school. Fortunately, SEPTA operators have tentatively agreed to a new contract, and a strike has been averted. Was Hite’s non-plan designed to put more pressure on SEPTA or its unions to settle? Fortunately, we don’t have to find out — this time. But the Board and  Hite must develop a plan for alternative education in the case of transportation strikes, natural disasters, weather emergencies, and of course, a spike in COVID cases. 

President Joyce Wilkerson, Vice-president Leticia Egea-Hinton, Board Members Mallory Fix Lopez and Lisa Salley attended in person.  Attending virtually were Julia Danzy, Reginald Streater, Cecelia Thompson and Maria McColgan — who, despite being an outspoken advocate since last year for a return to in-person learning for students and staff, has yet to attend a hybrid Board meeting in person.   (Mayor Kenney has not begun the process of filling the seat left vacant when Angela McIver resigned in July.) 

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