Eyes on the SRC: August 17, 2017

SRC May 18

by Karel Kilimnik
August 14, 2017

The August resolutions include contracts and grants for over $14 million in district spending. A regular feature of Eyes is showing the history of spending on one program or company. The public’s ability to know about these issues has been compromised by the district’s decision to erase the history of SRC resolutions, minutes, amendments and actions on charters prior to last year. For reasons yet to be explained, the Communications Office put up a new website with missing information, but has not kept the previous website up (and since the Director and Assistant Director of that office went on vacation just after the change, answers have been in short supply). This is a simple technological matter. The City of Philadelphia has done exactly that so that the public still has access to public information. We do wonder whether the replacement of the previous website with an incomplete one signals a decision by the SRC to limit public access to district information. The SRC must rectify this matter and make sure that the people of the district can find all of the information they need.

Since his arrival five years ago, Superintendent William Hite has been implementing many of the corporate reforms taught at the unaccredited Broad Academy where he received his training. He has overseen the consistent shift of public positions to private companies, along with the requisite union-busting policies. The local media rarely holds him responsible for the shortcomings of the district he leads, even after disasters such as last year’s outsourcing of substitutes.

This Resolution Summary (83 as of August 10) exemplifies the rush to turn the district over to vendors whose primary purpose is not the education of all of our students but the expanding of their bottom lines. This flood of money into outside pockets only stops when there is enough pushback from stakeholders, politicians, and the media. We have a lot of work to do to reclaim our district.

Just some of the devastating actions of the Hite administration:

  • Shutter 23 neighborhood schools in 2013 (with plans to close 12-15 more)
  • Designate WD Kelley and Blaine elementary schools “Transformation Schools”, forcing all teachers to reapply for their positions, among other changes dictated by a grant from the Philadelphia School Partnership (2014)
  • Attempt in 2015 to turn two district schools over to Mastery Charters and Aspira, Inc; his efforts were thwarted by organized opposition from parents, teachers and community members
  • Place three more elementary schools— Cooke, Huey and Wister—into the Renaissance program over the wishes of most parents in 2016
  • Place four schools into The Turnaround Plan, forcing both principals and teachers to reapply for their positions, so that children came back in September to an almost entirely reconstituted faculty
  • Target eleven neighborhood schools—elementary, middle, and high schools—as “Priority Schools” in 2017. After spending $200,000 on a contract with Cambridge Education which provided no data and little useful information, the district forced teachers and principals at some of these schools to reapply for their positions.

Hite’s policies create churn and destabilized school communities as both teachers and principals are forced to leave their schools and students behind, some after serving in these communities for many years. Hite has presented no research showing this destabilization improves academics or school climate. In fact, news reports have detailed the problems Blaine and Kelley continue to face.

Each attempt to destabilize schools has resulted in intense public pushback, but rather than reassess the wisdom of the policies, Hite just changes the name and tweaks some of the details—from Renaissance to Redesign to Transformation to Priority. Fierce resistance to placing Steel and Munoz-Marin Schools into the hands of charter operators caused him to simply place Cooke, Huey, and Wister into the Renaissance Charter Program rather than allowing parents and community members to vote on it. Hite had to back down from turning Cooke over to the Great Oaks Foundation after City Councilwoman Helen Gym published a scathing report which clearly showed the company’s inability to run an elementary school.

We have witnessed an endless outsourcing of district services and resources to private vendors. Professional Development has taken a hit as vendors line up to provide Blended Learning and other packaged PD; transportation services have gone into the hands of private companies resulting in numerous complaints from parents as to incompetent services.   Favored vendors include Cambridge Education, Catapult Learning, The New Teacher Project and Relay Graduate Education.

A proposed contract for $150,000 to Cambridge Education to “conduct high quality and objective third-party reviews of school quality in a number of schools that have been identified as under performing” was actually voted down 4-1 (Commissioner Jimenez voted Yes) at the June 15 SRC meeting. Earlier this year, the district paid Cambridge Education $200,000 to hold meetings and gather information on the eleven Priority Schools. APPS members reported on the woeful shortcomings of both the methodology used and the report itself. So why is Cambridge back just two months later with its hand out for another $100,000 (Resolution A-8)?

WHAT IF…?

Instead of spending this $14 million allocated to vendors for questionable experimental programs like blended learning or redundant teacher training from non-educators, the SRC spent this money on lower class size and more classroom aides?

Or instead of spending over $7 million in lawyers fees in one whistleblower case they should have settled years ago, the SRC had spent that money on preserving school libraries and bringing back certified school librarians?

Next SRC Meeting: Thursday, August 17, 4:30 PM at 440 No. Broad Street. Call 215-400-4010 before Wednesday 3:30 PM to sign up to testify.

Click here to read Resolutions of Note and the APPS analysis of them.

 

 

Eyes on the SRC: July 6, 2017

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by Karel Kilimnik
June 30, 2016

The SRC continues to violate the court-ordered settlement with APPS they signed only a year ago in which they agreed to post resolutions at least two weeks before each action meeting. As of the date of this publication of Eyes, there is no Resolution Summary, Resolution List, or agenda posted on the district website for the July 6 SRC meeting. When this meeting was announced at the June 20 special meeting held at 2 PM, there was no explanation of why it will be held at 11 AM instead of the usual 4:30 PM. It is hard to come to any conclusion other than times are chosen for the convenience of the commissioners. Clearly the unelected SRC—a government body overseeing a $2.9 billion budget—believes it does not have to consider the needs of the stakeholders of the district.

Dr. Hite said on June 20 that the purpose of the July 6 meeting was to consider, once again, a resolution to enter into a $54 million contract with the for-profit company Catapult to manage a separate facility for students with special needs. Since that resolution, IU-7, was withdrawn before both the June 15 and June 20 action meetings, that statement cannot be trusted.

There has been intense opposition to the district’s plan to segregate some students with special needs from parents and community members. (LINK TO EARS)

The next meeting of the SRC will be held July 6 at 11 a.m.

NOTE: The district website states that persons wishing to speak must call by Friday June 30. However, the legal notice placed by the SRC in the Inquirer instructs people to “cal1 215 400 4180 no later than 11 a.m. on the business day immediately preceding the day of the meeting”, which would be July 5.

We have emailed Chair Joyce Wilkerson and the commissioners asking for clarification and requesting that they adhere to the July 5 deadline. (See below.) We pointed out that they were requiring that people sign up to speak before the SRC told anyone what was on the agenda.


 Dear Chair Wilkerson,

The deadline for persons wishing to speak for the July 6 Special Meeting has been posted on the district website as Friday, June 30.  That change in policy was not announced when the SRC announced the special meeting on June 20.  There was also no explanation of why the meeting time was 11 AM instead of the usual 4:30 PM.

No Resolution List or Resolution Summary have been posted for the July 6 meeting. That is a violation of the Sunshine Act Settlement which states that resolutions will be posted two weeks prior to action meetings.

The SRC is not giving the public the information it needs about this meeting, as well as making it more difficult to have a say in what the SRC may be considering and/or voting on. In fact, it appears that the public’s opportunity to speak will be cut off before the SRC tells the public what is on the agenda.

District offices will be closed Monday and Tuesday.  However, persons wishing to register to speak would be able to leave messages which could be returned on Wednesday.  They could also call Wednesday by noon.  That would give staff adequate opportunity to contact those persons and to formulate the list before Thursday’s meeting.

We request that you change the deadline for public speakers to Wednesday at noon.

Sincerely,
Lisa Haver
Karel Kilimnik


Update

As of late Thursday, June 29th, the District website now says to call 215-400-4180 by Wednesday July 5th at 11 a.m to speak at the July 6th SRC meeting. Resolutions are still not posted.


Also see:
SRC to vote Thursday on downsized proposal for new special education program | The Notebook – July 5. 2017

ew, $10M special-ed school for Philly kids draws fire | Philadelphia Inquirer = July 5, 2017

Eyes on the SRC: June 15, 2017

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by Karel Kilimnik
June 11, 2017

The district continues to cry poor even as it accelerates the flow of money into the pockets of vendors, charter school operators, consultants, and pseudo-research entities like Cambridge Education, thus diverting funds which should be spent on services to our students. APPS has reported on this alarming escalation for the past two years of writing our Eyes on the SRC. Outside law firms continue to harvest public money. Who is really transforming education—entrepreneurs or educators?

Cambridge Education returns to drain more money from the District to conduct more “school quality reviews”. Their shoddy work provided the justification for the changes to 11 schools thrown into the Priority School category, Dr Hite’s latest plan for “transforming” schools” or to be more accurate forcing teachers out of their schools and destabilizing school communities.

Not only has the district failed to negotiate a contract with PFT, they continue to create chaotic conditions in our schools by forcing teachers to transfer from one school to another under the guise of “turning around” schools. The goal of the Hite administration appears to be destabilizing schools.

Dr Hite has announced his plan to close three neighborhood schools every year starting next year. This while the SRC approves more substandard charters. Where will the students and teachers of these schools go? Does Dr. Hite care?

We urge all of those who have been displaced by school closings—and those who will be—to come to APPS’ Requiem for Philly’s Closed Schools Thursday June 15th at 3:30 as we remember the 29 neighborhood schools shuttered since 2011—and stop the district from closing more.

What If…?

What if the $19 million in contracts to vendors for the purpose of outsourcing district services were funneled back to the schools? CFO Uri Monson, in answer to a question from Commissioner Green, stated that it would cost $24 million to replace the librarians in every public school. $19 million would cover 75% of that. The priority of the SRC is to enrich private vendors by outsourcing and redundant “research” reports, not to enrich the education of our students.

If the SRC approves all resolutions, as it usually does, they will spend $205 million at this one meeting.

Next SRC Action Meeting: Thursday, June 15, 4:30 PM. The SRC has also scheduled one for Friday, June 30 at 4:30 PM. No explanation of why they need to hold a meeting on Friday of the 4th of July holiday weekend. To testify, call 215 400 4180 before 3 PM the day before the meeting.

 Note: After the completion of this edition of Eyes, the SRC posted additional charter renewal resolutions late Friday afternoon. We will try to keep you updated on this. See KIPP resolution at the end of the resolution list.


 Click here to see Resolutions of Note and the APPS analysis.

 

Eyes on the SRC: Thursday, March 25, 2017

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Eyes on the SRC: May 25, 2017
by Lisa Haver

SCHOOL REFORM COMMISSION PUBLIC MEETING RESOLUTION LIST : As of 5/23/2017

SCHOOL REFORM COMMISSION

  1. SRC-1  Adopts an amended Operating Budget for 2016/2017 and an Operating Budget for 2017/2018
  2. SRC-2  Adopts an amended Capital Budget for 2016/2017 and an amended Capital Program for 2017-

2022 and Adopts a Capital Budget for 2017/2018 and a Capital Program for 2018-2023

  1. SRC-3  Approves an agreement with the Philadelphia Intermediate Unit to provide an educational program and auxiliary services to nonpublic school students for 2017/2018
  2. SRC-4* Proposed Action on Revised Charter Application – Deep Roots Charter School
  3. SRC-5** Proposed Adoption of Adjudication – Laboratory Charter School of Communication and Languages (Added 5.23.17)
  4. EDUCATION SUPPORT SERVICES
  5. A-1  Operating Budget: Amendment of Lease Agreement with 18 South Seventh Street Associates, L.P. – Constitution High School (Added 5.23.17)
  6. A-2  Operating Budget: Amendment of Lease Agreement with 2130Arch Street Associates, L.P. – Science Leadership Academy (Added 5.23.17)

III. EDUCATION SERVICES
None Submitted

  1. INTERMEDIATE UNIT
  2. IU-1  Adopts an amended Philadelphia Intermediate Unit Budget for 2016/2017 and a Philadelphia Intermediate Unit Budget for 2017-2018
  3. IU-2  Approves an Agreement with the Philadelphia School District to provide an educational program and auxiliary services to nonpublic school students for 2017-2018

*Consideration of the Revised Charter Application (SRC-4) by the School Reform Commission would be a quasi-judicial action. Please refer to the Charter Schools Office Renewal Recommendation Report available on the Charter Office website.

**Consideration of the Adoption of the Charter Adjudication (SRC-5) by the School Reform Commission would be a quasi-judicial action. Please refer to the Charter Schools Office Amendment Evaluation Report available on the Charter Office website.

***Please refer to currently available Budget Documents here.


Above is the Current Resolution List for the Thursday, May 25 SRC Action Meeting. It is the only information that the SRC has posted on its website for that meeting. As we searched in vain over the past two days for a Resolution Summary, we saw that items were added to the list almost hourly.

Up until Tuesday afternoon, the only items listed were the first three on the budget. As of Wednesday morning, there are ten. No information is given for any of them.

Two different listings are posted (Upcoming Resolution List, May 25 and Current Resolution List, May 25) with different information on each. This is not just confusing, but it seems to be a deliberate tactic to withhold information from the public.

The SRC continues to give lip service to transparency and community engagement. But it is clear that they will continue to vote on crucial issues with no regard to their responsibility—as government officials— to the stakeholders of the district.

APPS sent the following letter to the SRC Wednesday morning:

Dear Chair Wilkerson and Commissioners:

On February 8, 2017, after a lengthy public hearing process, the SRC voted to deny the new charter application submitted by Deep Roots Charter. The Resolution List for May 25, just posted today, indicates that the SRC will vote on a revised application from Deep Roots. No Resolution Summary has been posted, in violation of the Sunshine Act settlement agreement between the school district, the SRC and the Alliance. Thus, no details of the revised application have been provided to the public.

The district website indicates that the Charter Schools Office evaluation of the new application was posted yesterday, May 22, just three days before the SRC vote.  There has been no hearing process at which the public could be apprised of the contents of any new application or any opportunity for the public to comment on it.

We request that the SRC withdraw the resolution and schedule at least one hearing at which concerned members of the public will have an opportunity to speak on this major expenditure of district funds.

Sincerely,

Lisa Haver
Karel Kilimnik