A grass-roots organization of parents, community members, and school staff, fighting to defend public education. We work together to provide analysis and demand accountability from the School District of Philadelphia to provide students with a high-quality education.
The following commentary was written by APPS co-founder Lisa Haver and published by Billy Penn on September 19, 2022
Students and families at two Philadelphia schools thrown into chaos just before the academic year have yet to hear those who could have prevented it take any responsibility.
Instead of providing explanations for what happened at Bluford and Daroff — the latter was shut down, and the former will close at the end of the year — Universal Companies, awarded charter contracts for the two West Philly elementary schools over a decade ago, has stonewalled those school communities.
Photo credit: Tyger Williams, Philadelphia Inquirer
The following commentary was written by APPS co-founder Lisa Haver and published by The Inquireron March 8, 2022.
The Philadelphia Board of Education is winding down its search for a new superintendent as the 10-year tenure of Superintendent William Hite nears its end. The people of Philadelphia, naturally, are pinning their hopes on the promise of new leadership at the School District. But we face a dearth of leadership right now.
In meetings over the past few months, parents, students, educators, and community members have told the Board what the priorities of the next administration must be: safe school buildings free of lead and asbestos; more counselors and behavior specialists to help students traumatized by gun violence and poverty; equitable funding and resources for all District schools; more support for teachers and staff in the aftermath of COVID-19; a fair high school admissions process.
But the next superintendent won’t take over until next August. Those who teach and learn in public schools should not have to wait another six months for safe and healthy schools and for more equitable resources.
The following commentary was written by APPS co-founder Lisa Haver and published by The Inquireron April 12, 2021.
In February 2015, School Reform Commission (SRC) chair William Green made a unilateral decision, with no public vote or notification, to have police search the bags and confiscate the signs of parents and community members who came to be heard on the issue of impending charter expansion. Several members of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools (APPS), a grassroots education group that I cofounded, refused to submit to searches and were detained and had their signs confiscated.
It wasn’t the first time the SRC tried to silence members of the public, and it wouldn’t be the last. Members of grassroots organizations including APPS often found themselves placed at the end of the speaker list despite having signed up first. But the SRC never barred me or other APPS members from speaking.
Things have changed under the current school board. Before the March 25 meeting, three APPS members were notified that although they signed up on time, they would not be placed on the speaker list.
Over the past three months, the board has rolled out several changes in official board policy designed to silence regular critics of district leadership, including an arbitrary cap of 10 students and 30 adults. Speakers who signed up to speak at the Dec. 6 charter hearing saw that the notice now said two minutes, instead of the usual three. When APPS members asked when the board voted on these changes, we were told that these were not policy changes — they were procedural changes — so the board didn’t have to hold a public vote or give public notification.
Even if it were true that decades of precedence could be ignored, what does it say about the board that secrecy is the best policy? Are they turning decades-long policy and precedent on its head to shield themselves and the Hite administration from criticism?
During the coronavirus crisis, staff and administration in the Philadelphia School District have been understandably concerned about equitable access to online/virtual instruction for all students, including those with special needs. I am sure that the public applauds its plan, in this rapidly changing and unpredictable situation, to buy and distribute Chromebooks, work with service providers to ensure that all students have internet connections, and produce educational packets and online resources.
Instructional approaches will inevitably evolve, and the outbreak provides an opportunity to consider how, and how well, the District has been addressing the learning needs of English learners (ELs) and how it will meet their instructional requirements online. This attention could pay off in more appropriate instructional approaches and policies, both now and in the long term.
I have long advocated, from both inside and outside the District, for high-quality, thoughtful English learner education. It has been clear to me that the needs of English learners have been poorly understood and only superficially addressed by the District for decades.