Hite Administration Escalates War on Public Schools in 2015


Observations from APPS member Karel Kilimnik
about how privatization is being advanced in the School District of Philadelphia as 2015 ends.

December 24, 2015

Three Neighborhood Schools to Be Turned Over to Charter Operators

In early October Superintendent William Hite announced that three neighborhood schools would be turned into Renaissance Charter. Those schools are Cooke in Logan, Wister in East Germantown, and Huey in West Philadelphia. The school communities were given no say in this. They were told their only choice would be which charter provider would be chosen. Hite learned last year that when parents have a real choice, they will reject being charterized. Teachers, parents and students fought to keep Steele Elementary in Nicetown and Munoz-Marin in North Philadelphia public; the parent vote was overwhelmingly against going charter. This time, he decided to impose this on parents through what turned out to be a very murky process. Teachers were shut out of the process altogether. The district set up an Evaluation Committee at each school and chose five parents to participate. That committee would make its recommendation to the district and the SRC on the future of the school.

What the Hite administration actually did was set up meetings run by District staff to “inform” parents. Parents and teachers at all of the three schools were purposely misled as to the location and time of these meetings. For some reason, none of the meetings was held at the schools themselves. At Cooke, the parents had to become detectives to find the meeting. At Wister, community members showed up at the announced location only to find that the meeting was being held somewhere else. People piled into cars and raced over. Yes, seats were empty at the actual district location simply because they were deceived about the correct place. Are parents supposed to trust the people who deliberately lied to them about the location of a meeting to make an honest decision about the future of their children’s school?

The too-small room overflowed with participants. The District staff was there to sell this plan to parents. To do so they enlisted a parent from Cleveland Mastery charter school. Wister parents were respectful and listened to her story and when she finished questioned district staff for specifics. They had no answers. People saw through their manipulations and sales pitch. District staff seemed taken aback by the opposition to their “wonderful plan.”

See the article Lies, Lies, Lies: Wister School is Another Chapter in Privatization and Locking Out Parent, Teacher, and Community Voice

APPS member Coleman Poses presented testimony at the November School Reform Commission showing how inaccurate the District data was for Wister. An SRC staff member admitted to Coleman that they used the wrong school’s data for Wister. Despite being told about this mistaken data the District continues to sail ahead with turning Wister over to Mastery.

Mastery Marketing In Full Force at Wister

Click here to read the rest of this article.

SRC strategy a setup for failure

Lisa Haver with the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, reacts after the School Reform Commission voted to cancel the contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. October 6, 2014. ( MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer )
Lisa Haver with the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, reacts after the School Reform Commission voted to cancel the contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. October 6, 2014. ( MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer )
Lisa Haver is a co-founder of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools

Hite’s Action Plan 3.0 has established “specialized networks, each requiring distinct expertise, management, oversight, and resourcing.”
At George Washington High School, an already volatile situation escalated when a teacher was viciously attacked by students earlier this month. In schools across the district, many students have yet to be assigned a full-time teacher. The School Reform Commission approved a $34 million contract to outsource substitutes, and although the year began with an 11 percent fill rate and has yet to exceed 30 percent, the SRC has refused to cancel that contract. A recent Philadelphia Public School Notebook article told the story of one Northeast High student who carries a seven-subject roster but, as of last month, has only three full-time teachers. Students have been assigned report card grades for classes in which they have learned very little, if anything. Not surprisingly, disciplinary problems have increased significantly.

Teachers covering classes lose their daily preparation period and must use their own personal time to prepare lessons, mark papers, call parents and consult with staff. The bare-bones budget — once a crisis, now the new normal — has forced them to take on many roles including nurse, counselor and custodian. Yet the SRC continues to threaten them with the loss of their contract and with it all workplace protections.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

An Open Letter to SRC Chairwoman Neff about the extension of the contract of Superintendent Hite


Dear Chairwoman Neff:

The members of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools call on you and the members of the SRC to table your plans to renew the contract of Superintendent William Hite. There is no need to take this action at this time. Superintendents’ terms last five years; the time to assess the performance of the superintendent is at the end of those five years. The SRC should not be locking the district and its stakeholders into a seven-year contract.

The timing and speed of the proposed contract extension appears to be another attempt by the SRC to prevent the people of the city an opportunity to be heard on the policies and the direction of its public schools.

The people of Philadelphia have clearly expressed their views on education at the ballot box in the recent mayoral and gubernatorial elections.  The voters rejected the mayoral candidate whose platform called for more privatization, more charters and more school closures.  They voted out a governor whose education policies inflicted harm on our public schools.  It is wrong, therefore, to have the SRC members appointed by the former governor and the outgoing mayor act in opposition to those wishes.

In addition, because the SRC is an appointed body and not an elected one, you and the other commissioners should make every effort to make sure the public has ample opportunity to be heard on such an important decision.  The SRC’s announcement, which comes just six days before it intends to vote on the resolution to extend, does not give the public ample opportunity to consider the merits or to be involved in this vital public policy.  And unlike all other Pennsylvanians, Philadelphians do not have the ability to vote out of office the SRC members who appear to be attempting to undermine the democratic process.

Before Dr. Hite’s contract was approved three years ago, the SRC held public hearings.  While we believe it is inappropriate, at this time, to consider a contract extension for Dr. Hite, the very least the SRC should do is to hold public hearings to allow Philadelphians to participate in this critical decision.


Lisa Haver, Co-founder

Karel Kilimnik, Co-founder


Hite deserves extension
Philadelphia Inquirer – December 14, 2015
SRC Chairwoman Neff doubles-down on her support of Hite. (Scroll down to  the last letter. Read the comments.)


Rushed reforms fail our schools

This column by APPS co-founder Lisa Haver was published by the Philadelphia Daily News on Wednesday, October 21, 2015.

Lisa Haver

The school formerly known as Roosevelt Middle School in East Germantown landed at the bottom of the list of Philadelphia schools’ Pennsylvania System of School Assessment reading-proficiency scores this year. Math-proficiency scores are 0.3 percent. It pains me to say that, because I taught there for four years in the ’90s. It wasn’t a bad school then. We had a good principal who respected teachers, many of whom had been there almost 20 years. There was a full-time librarian, a full-time nurse and two full-time counselors. A committee of teachers developed a series of innovative project-based curricula.

Roosevelt has made it through serial budget cuts and district neglect. But the most recent, perhaps fatal, wound was inflicted by the School Reform Commission’s decision two years ago to convert it to a K-8. When community members protested that three schools in the same area – Germantown High School, Fulton Elementary and Roosevelt – were on the list of 24 neighborhood schools to be closed in 2013, the SRC came up with a last-minute scheme to add six lower grades in a matter of months. The district provided little support during the transition.

It appears, though, that disruption and failure are not a deterrent to repeating mistakes in the School District of Philadelphia. Superintendent William Hite unveiled a plan earlier this month to reform 15 district schools at an estimated cost of $15 million to $20 million. Some will be part of the Hite-created Transformation Program, in which curricular and personnel changes, including forcing out the entire faculty, can be imposed with no public hearings or vote by the SRC. Others will be placed into the Renaissance Network, which is the administration’s way of giving up on a school it has done little to improve and kicking it to the curb for a private company to pick up. Some will have several grades added at once, as Roosevelt did, changing its mission and climate overnight. Contrary to promises made by Hite at public meetings, two schools will be closed permanently. Enrollment and class size in nearby schools will almost certainly increase.

The hurried approval process will give parents little chance to have any say in the future of their children’s schools. Teachers and staff have been shut out of the process altogether, even though many will be forced out of schools whose communities they have been part of for years. But since the decisions about which schools will be overhauled, and how, have already been made at the top, what purpose do these meetings serve other than window-dressing – until the inevitable rubber-stamping by the SRC?

 Are these radical changes worth the financial and emotional costs to be extracted from those school communities? Looking at the latest standardized-test scores clearly shows that these rushed overhauls do not work.

Hite cites reading and math proficiency scores, which hover around 30 percent, as justification for placing three more schools into the Renaissance program. But the latest PSSA scores show that none of the 21 current elementary or middle Renaissance schools achieved a math score over 20 percent; only eight topped 30 percent in reading. Three have come up for nonrenewal proceedings in the past year alone. The School Performance Rating of Audenried High School, placed in the Renaissance program in 2011, was among the lowest in the state.

If Hite’s plan represented real reforms, maybe it would be worth the $20 million price tag. But the facts show they are not. Overnight expansion has been a disaster for Roosevelt and other schools. Transformation schools, so far, show little more than cosmetic changes. Data on Renaissance schools clearly show that the whole program should be scrapped. Hite is a lifelong educator, and he knows what real reform entails: smaller class size; one-on-one reading interventions; a library in every school; full support staff including classroom aides for students with special needs, English language learners and kindergarten. They have always been worth investing in.

Lisa Haver is a retired Philadelphia teacher and co-founder of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools.

Email: philaapps@gmail.com