Eyes on the SRC: September 14, 2017

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by Karel Kilimnik
September 10, 2017

As students flock back to school this September we see a more modest list of resolutions. The list may be small but the implications loom large. How does a large district ensure that every school has what it needs? These resolutions illustrate the chasm of inequality among the city’s schools. Some are chosen to benefit from private funders such as the Philadelphia School Partnership while others still lack the basics of a stable workforce of teachers and principals. This is in no small part due to a Broad-graduate led administration that promotes a portfolio of options instead of ensuring every school has what it needs.

Please keep in mind that for the past five years, Dr. Hite has announced his latest transformation/turnaround plan in October. He has stated, at SRC meetings and in City Council, that he wants to close three schools a year over the next five years. A resolution usually pops up in October which indicates in some way, usually not in detail, his plans to close or “transform” a school. Internal turnarounds, however, do not have to be approved by the SRC; those always result in forced transfers of most faculty and often principals. That includes Transformation, Redesign, and others that are placed in the Turnaround Network. Last year Hite targeted eleven schools as “Priority Schools” causing much transition and confusion as teachers and principals were forced out of their school communities. The only resolution put before the SRC was one to approve a $200,000 contract with Cambridge Education for writing a report after holding meetings and performing nominal site visits. The previous year Hite placed three schools into the Renaissance Charter School program over the wishes of parents and community members. Three years ago, parents at Steel Elementary in Nicetown and Munoz-Marin in Fairhill voted down Hite’s move to give their schools over to charter providers. Who is on his hit list for the 2018-19 school year? APPS has prepared a tip sheet for how to protect your school. Start organizing now.

The New Teacher Project (TNTP – A3) continues to feed at the public trough. How much more money is going down this rabbit hole to support a private company using faulty data and flawed research ?

Artwork (B9 ) swiped from district schools over 10 years ago by then-CEO Paul Vallas is now on display at the Michener Art Museum in Doylestown through January 12, 2018. This artwork was bought decades ago for the students in this district, and it still belongs to them. The SRC should vote to return it to the district schools as soon as possible.

The Camelot company (A17) gets a really good deal on renting space at the former ES Miller School to operate a program for “over-aged middle school students”. According to community activist Alicia Dorsey, there was an effort to insert Camelot into Strawberry Mansion High School without any notification to the school community. At their request, APPS members attended a meeting called by Assistant Superintendent Eric Becoates at the school in August. Becoates refused to answer a question put to him several times: Is Camelot moving into Strawberry Mansion?

(See the August 17th Ears: Parent(Pseudo)Engagement) Former Strawberry Mansion High School principal Linda Cliatt Wayman, in her August 17 SRC testimony, thanked Dr. Hite for not putting Camelot into her former school. Hite made no response either confirming or denying. The question now: Is the program at ES Miller the one intended for Strawberry Mansion or is it simply a coincidence?

WHAT IF…?

The district stopped giving contracts to TNTP for unnecessary and redundant professional development and turnaround training and instead used that money to restore certified school librarians to the district?

Next SRC Action Meeting: Thursday, September 14, 4:30 PM. To testify, call 215-400-4180 before 3 PM the day before.

Click here to read the entire post.

Eyes on the SRC: August 17, 2017

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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.