Eyes on the Board of Education: February 25, 2021

by Lisa Haver

“In addition to having ending points and ending dates for the interim guardrails, the Board has adopted interim guardrail ending points for each year leading up to the ending date.” From the Board of Education’s Goals and Guardrails

Three new Board members will be seated at this remote Action Meeting.  Each will likely make a speech about their backgrounds, beliefs and positions on education issues.  In a democracy, people should hear this before casting their vote for the candidates they want to represent them.  But Philadelphians remain disenfranchised, in more ways than one. We cannot vote for our School Board members. The Mayor shuts the public out of the entire Nominating Process. City Council lobs softball questions at the nominees at its confirmation hearing.  Who is listening to the parents, students, educators and community members?

At its January Action Meeting, the Board cut off almost every speaker mid-sentence. The Board, apparently in agreement with member Julia Danzy, caught on a hot mic last summer complaining about how many people had signed up to speak, got busy finding ways to shut out District parents, students, educators and community members. Without a public vote, and without any prior notice or explanation, the Board cut back every speaker’s time from three minutes to two. The Board also limited the number of speakers at every meeting, no matter the number of Items on the agenda. They voted, again without explanation or deliberation, to abolish two more of its Committees, thus eliminating the venues that they established with the promise of more dialogue with the community.

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Eyes on the Board of Education: December 10, 2020

by Karel Kilimnik 

Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” Nelson Mandela

This December edition of Eyes brings the deja vu that comes with seeing the same business interests circle back. Of this month’s twenty-seven Action Items, almost half are for contract extensions or  amendments–and for whose benefit?   We see the expansion of grants from non-profits  and the perennial flow of money to Relay GSE  “to  build a quality teacher pipeline” (Item 14). Former Board member Chris McGinley referred to the organization as “the Relay Fake Graduate School of Education.” 

The Hite administration now wants to add a fourth partner to their Teaching Fellows cohort of Temple and Drexel (neither of whom will  be paying PILOTS nor making a substantial donation as Penn just did) and Relay.   

At a time when life-and-death decisions are being made about whether to send students and staff back into buildings, transparency becomes even more important. But it is still  hard to find crucial information, one example being the inadequate Item descriptions.  Last week, Chief Financial Uri Monson described the District’s financial picture as “fluid”. What happened to the Board’s promise of only considering “essential” business? Why is basic charter reform still not on the table–but layoffs and school closings are?  

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Eyes on the Board of Education: November 19, 2020

by Karel Kilimnik

”The movement is a testament to the fact that courage is contagious.”  Opal Tometi, Black Lives Matter Organizer

The Board of Education has issued a brief agenda this month. APPS members again urge the Board to listen to teachers and parents, particularly in its compliance with the Hite administration on its proposed reopening plan. The Hite administration continues to implement corporate education practices, even more so behind the Covid Curtain.

As Covid cases surge in Philadelphia,  we see again the racial inequities inherent in our society. Unemployment, sickness and death have devastated Black and Brown communities. District leadership must be held accountable for decisions that affect those communities. Educators know that in-person learning works best for students, but the health and safety of students and staff are not negotiable. 

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