Ears on the Board of Education: June 24, 2021

By Lynda Rubin

This last Board Action meeting of the 2020-21 school year should have been a time for the Board to reflect on the difficulties encountered during this past school year and the weaknesses of the Hite administration to provide a cohesive and well executed reaction to the pandemic. Yet  the meeting was mostly business as usual. One victory:  the board is now hearing all public speakers before the Goals and Guardrails data analysis that has gone on for up to two hours at each meeting. APPS pointed out to the Board that parents who must feed and put their children to bed and teachers preparing for the next day’s lessons cannot wait for hours to be heard.  When we fight, we win! 

All Board members were present: President Joyce Wilkerson, Vice President Leticia Etea-Hinton, Angela McIver, Mallory Fix Lopez, Julia Danzy, Reginald Streater, Cecelia Thompson, Lisa Salley and Maria McColgan, along with current Student Representatives Keylisha Diaz and Toluwanimi Olaleye. Both Student Reps have contributed insights and suggestions throughout the year. Among their recommendations: a hub on the District’s website for mental health concerns and services; separate counselors for academic and behavioral/mental health issues; at least two counselors in every school; more funding for after-school activities and programs; that Student Board members have the same voting rights as adult Board members. 

Click here to continue reading about the Board’s votes on outsourcing and a new charter application.

Board Must Act to Alleviate District Racism

Ears on the Board of Education: May 27, 2021

by Diane Payne

Just two days before this meeting, two more District students were felled by gunfire.  Several others had been killed in recent months. Yet the only acknowledgement made by President Joyce Wilkerson was one part of this sentence:  “Before we begin today, I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge the passing of two of our students yesterday due to gun violence and while we acknowledge this tragic event, I don’t want to lose sight though that we have things to celebrate within the district as well.”  She then went right into  graduating seniors’  accomplishments. Wilkerson failed to honor the slain students by name, and she failed to note that one of the slain students himself was a graduating senior. These students did not “pass”. They were murdered.  Why did Wilkerson spend so little time honoring these fallen students? Neither she nor Dr. Hite addressed the trauma of the surviving classmates, teachers, and families or what, if anything, the District is doing to help them. The rest of the Board remained silent. Board Action Meetings should open with a reading of the names of students we have lost and a moment of silence to remember them.  Say their names now: Nasir Marks.  Kanye Pittman.  Please give them a moment of your silent reflection.

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Ears on the Board of Education: April 22, 2021

by Lisa Haver and Lynda Rubin

The Board continued its repressive speaker policy by excluding four APPS members from speaking at this meeting. Their topics were also excluded. The sign-up window opened at 5 PM Monday and closed just a few hours later, so it is likely that many other members of the public were not heard.  Education activists who can only speak every other month are now limited to an average of one minute per month to speak before the Board votes on items representing hundreds of millions of dollars.  

APPS did achieve some victories.  The Board voted to withdraw the Item to grant KIPP Charters several amendments including enrollment expansion.  APPS had written a letter outlining the many issues, beginning with the various names of the school on different websites, asking that the Item be withdrawn until the facts were sorted out by the CSO and presented for public scrutiny, including the reasons why the CSO was recommending that KIPP’s entire request be granted. APPS had also communicated to the Board in written testimony, letters and research reports about why they should vote to proceed with the non-renewals of Universal Bluford and Daroff charter schools. The Board voted for non-renewal.  

To read more, click here.

Ears on the Board of Education: March 25, 2021

by Diane Payne

“I can’t believe what you say because I see what you do.” James Baldwin

For the second month in a row, the Board of Education denied some members the opportunity to speak on official items and matters of concern. Due to the Board’s arbitrary changes in public speaking policy, an unknown number of people have been silenced.  Without public announcement, debate, discussion, or vote, the Board instituted a speaker policy change that caps the number of student speakers at ten and adult speakers at thirty, and reduces speaking time from three minutes to two.  Even the School Reform Commission did not resort to outright silencing of the public. The PA Sunshine Act protects citizens’ right to meaningfully participate in their governments and to be heard on all official business.  Shocked reaction to this speaker suppression  has come from staff, Parents, students, community members, local politicians, the Education Law Center, and the ACLU. Those objections have fallen on the deaf ears of a Board that touts public engagement while silencing the public. APPS and UrbEd, represented by the ACLU, have filed suit to reverse the speaker policy changes in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.

Sign our petition here to tell the Board: Stop the Suppression of Public Speakers!

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