Ears on the SRC: November 16, 2017

SRC demise celebration

by Diane Payne
November 27, 2017

Victory!

All five Commissioners were present for this historic meeting of the School Reform Commission. Resolution SRC-3— Recommendation of Dissolution of the School Reform Commission was passed at 7:35 p.m. with a 3-1-1 vote. Commissioners Wilkerson, Richardson, and McGinley voted in favor, Commissioner Green voted against, and Commissioner Jimenez abstained. This joyous occasion ended sixteen years of state-imposed control of our city’s schools. There were cheers, hugs, dances, and high-fives when the resolution passed. The tireless and persistent effort of the Our Cities Our Schools coalition of parents, teachers, students, unions, and community advocacy groups made this happen. [See APPS’ statement on the end of the SRC and what should come next.]

Our City Our Schools (OCOS) and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) organized a celebratory rally outside district headquarters just before the meeting. APPS co-founder Lisa Haver addressed the crowd, along with Councilwoman Helen Gym, State Senator Vincent Hughes, PFT leaders, parents and community members. There was much to celebrate on this new day, one that signaled the end of a state-imposed system that brought austerity and corporate reform for a perfect storm of devastation to the city’s public schools

Having worked for the preservation and improvement of public education for over five years as an organization, and for many years as individuals, APPS members know that this is not the end of challenges for our school system. We will continue to advocate for the what other districts in Pennsylvania have had for many years: schools that provide the education our children deserve governed by a democratically elected school board.

Some of the Philadelphia news outlets and their coverage of this important event:

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Ears on the SRC: October 19, 2017

Ocy 19 2017 src

by Diane Payne

 Chair Joyce Wilkerson and Commissioners Estelle Richmond, Chris McGinley and Farah Jimenez were present for the entire meeting. Missing in action once again was Commissioner Bill Green. Green has been exhibiting a disdain for his position by failing to be present for part or all of five meetings since April. No other commissioner has had such an abysmal attendance record. Green has come in at the tail end of two meetings this year, after staff presentations and public speakers, but was still permitted to vote. He has left two other meetings early only to call in by phone much later, again, just in time to vote. This time he never showed, and no explanation was given by the Chair.   Resolution B-1 Donation: $2,700,000 Ratification of Acceptance of Donation of Services and Resources from Temple University had to be withdrawn by staff because McGinley and Wilkerson abstained due to their Temple employment. That left the vote an unpassable tie of 2-2. This resolution was to accept “the donation of professional development services from Temple University to improve leadership, instruction and parent engagement of English Learners valued at $2,700,000 for the period commencing September 1, 2016 through August 31, 2021

APPS once again calls on Chair Wilkerson to address the issue of the disappearing commissioner. If Green cannot or will not perform his duties, he should resign.

Eleven members of APPS attended the October meeting; two addressed the Commission on matters of defending public education. A number of other speakers called on the SRC to vote to dissolve itself now. When the first speaker, student speaker Samuel Dennis, requested the SRC introduce a resolution to abolish, Chair Wilkerson denied his request. The Our City Our Schools (OCOS) coalition members, bearing signs, stood in solidarity. When Wilkerson refused, the members of OCOS loudly chanted “tick – tick – tick…” for the remainder of Samuel’s three allotted minutes, (during which Wilkerson tried to bring up the next speaker) symbolizing time running out for the undemocratic, unelected SRC.

Conduct Unbecoming to a Public Figure

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Ears on the SRC: September 14, 2017

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by Diane Payne
September 25, 2017

Chair Joyce Wilkerson and Commissioners Farah Jimenez, Chris McGinley and Estelle Richman were present for the entire meeting.  Commissioner Green was absent for the first two hours; he arrived at 6:45 for a meeting that started at 4:30, without explanation, when there were four speakers left. Green was absent during the testimony of forty-two speakers,  Superintendent Hite’s remarks,  the Policy Committee report from Dr. McGinley, and the presentation from Student Services Director Karen Lynch on the school selection process. He did, however, vote on all of the resolutions.

Before the vote on resolutions, APPS’ Lisa Haver stood and approached the front table, asking Chair Wilkerson:  Can you please read the rules concerning Commissioners voting after missing most of the meeting?  How can Commissioner Green miss the entire proceeding, arrive at the conclusion of the meeting, and be allowed to vote?  Although those questions were addressed to the Chair,  Green asked Miles Shore, Interim Chief of the district’s Office of General Counsel, to cite the rules about when Commissioners can vote on resolutions.  Shore stated that since Green was present he was entitled to vote.  Shore did not cite any policy number when giving this opinion.

Green also missed most of the SRC Action Meetings on April 20 and May 1 of this year.  He did not hear the majority of the public speakers, the staff presentations or Superintendent Hite’s remarks–yet he still voted.  As Haver said, Green personifies the SRC’s disregard for the public they are entrusted to serve. Green missed most of the April 27 2017 and May 1 2017 meetings also.

APPS again calls on Chair Wilkerson to address this issue. (See timestamp 1:58:00 in this link.) If Green cannot serve in a responsible manner, he should resign.

Sixteen members of APPS were present for this meeting; fourteen testified.

[To view their testimony, please go to APPSphilly.net.]

Our City Our Schools: SRC Must Go

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Ears on the SRC: August 17, 2017

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by Diane Payne
August 24, 2017

Commissioners Bill Green, Estelle Richman, Chris McGinley and Farah Jimenez were present; Chair Joyce Wilkerson was absent, so Jimenez acted as Interim Chair. Eight members of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools (APPS) were present; six testified in defense of public education. [See APPSPhilly.net to view their testimony and read their transcripts.]   APPS members continue to call out the waste of public tax dollars, the ongoing privatization of district resources and services, and the corporate policy agenda reflected in numerous resolutions that appear monthly on the SRC agenda.

Block Voting

The SRC voted on a total of 83 resolutions that set the priorities of the Hite administration. The commissioners spent money on district needs, much of that to private contractors. The 83 resolutions were voted on in only 4 blocks; one vote by Commissioners approved 42 resolutions. There was no discussion about the merits or worth of even a single resolution. All but two passed unanimously. This governmental body spends millions of tax dollars every month even though it is not accountable to the taxpayers of the city or the state. As a state-controlled body, it operates outside the system of checks and balances that is basic to our democratic system.

Our City Our Schools (OCOS): SRC Must Go

The OCOS coalition, of which APPS is a member, is publicly advocating for a return to local control of the School District of Philadelphia. In 2001, Harrisburg imposed the SRC governance structure on Philadelphia, stripping the city of local control of the city’s schools. The justification for this was the promise of increased financial stability and improved academics. Not only has the district achieved neither of these goals, it has been forced to operate under a “Doomsday Budget” as a result of budget cuts from Harrisburg. In the Trump/DeVos education agenda, public schools continue to find themselves under siege. Looming elections in 2020 create an uncertain future at both the state and city level.

The SRC can only be dissolved by our state legislature voting to abolish or the SRC commissioners voting at an SRC meeting to abolish. Should either of those things happen, it would still take another 180 days before the Secretary of Education (Pedro Rivera under Governor Tom Wolf) can approve the vote. That timeline pushes us to just before the next election. There is a sense of urgency around abolishing the SRC before this next election. Our children are living every day with the fallout from SRC spending priorities; our tax dollars are spent on questionable and unnecessary programs. Yet, out of 499 school districts in the Commonwealth, Philadelphia is the only school district with no form of local control! In the birthplace of American democracy, our voice is silenced.

Deaf Ears

 

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