Mayor’s Nominating Panel Turns Its Back on the Public

by Ilene Poses

On November 17, Mayor Kenney’s 13-member Nominating Panel convened to open proceedings on filling  three vacancies on the Philadelphia School Board. They billed the event as a “public hearing”,  but it was actually a live television show. No public testimony or interaction of any kind was permitted.  The Panel, reading quickly from their scripts, wrapped up the TV show  in just over 30 minutes. Chair Wendell Pritichett, former School Reform Commissioner, gave little information on the selection process and did not give the date of the next Panel meeting.  He and the Panelists did take time to congratulate each other for their service.  

Pritchett mentioned in passing that the Nominating Panel would again be conducting all deliberations in executive session. Pritchett, a Penn law professor, failed to cite the specific reason for moving the Panel out of the public eye–probably because there is none. APPS members protested this same violation of the PA Sunshine Act when the Panel convened in 2018. Did the people of Philadelphia fight so hard for local control just to be shut out of all discussions about our representatives on the School Board?  The Panel — itself chosen without any public input — has sent nine semi-finalists, from whom the Mayor will choose his three nominees. The Mayor can ask for more candidates if he is not satisfied with the Panel’s choices; he has until December 26 to ask for more names.  City Council must confirm those nominees. In the past, however, Council has done little more than rubber-stamp the Mayor’s choices.

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Board Must Be Fully Present at Meetings

Dear President Wilkerson and Members of the Board, 

At every remote meeting held by the Board, a significant portion of the meeting displays only a full-screen digital clock. Public viewers are not able to see any member of the Board or the administration. The public did not see the Board for over seven hours at the first session of the July Action Meeting. 

A meeting at which the public is not able to see the Board, especially for hours at a time, cannot be considered a true public meeting. 

We request that you make the screen include all members of the Board and Dr. Hite, along with any administrator speaking, for the entirety of the meeting. The digital clock, during public speaking, can take up one square on the screen. 

If you convene the second session of the Action Meeting with the same format, we request that you explain at the outset of the session why the present technology prevents you from being seen. 

Sincerely, 

Lisa Haver

Karel Kilimnik

APPS Calls on Board of Education to Vote on District Reopening Plan

Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools  

For immediate release:  July 16, 2020  

Members of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, a grass-roots advocacy organization, has called on the Board of Education to vote on the District’s re-opening plan at its special July 23 Action Meeting.  

“The plan presented yesterday—during a remote press conference—raises crucial questions about the health and safety of students and staff when they return to in-person classes”, said APPS co-founders Lisa Haver and Karel Kilimnik in a letter to the Board today. “Those questions must be heard and deliberated on by the Board in a public meeting, and the Board, as the governing body of the city’s public schools, must take a vote to approve or reject the Administration’s plan.”

APPS members attended all of last week’s online meetings, billed by the District as “Town Halls” but actually sessions in which members of the public submitted questions. No questions were answered during the sessions, and the District has not yet posted any on its website.

Questions and concerns—about logistics, students receiving special education services, protection for medically vulnerable students and staff, lack of space in common areas, flexibility for working parents, transportation, and more—raised by reporters at the press conference, and by members of the public afterwards, must be answered in more detail at the Board’s meeting next week, for which an agenda has yet to be posted.

APPS is also calling on the Board to mandate re-opening plans from all charter school operators.

“The Board is responsible for the health and safety of all District students, including those attending the District’s 87 charter schools”, said Haver. “The Board must require the same type of detailed re-opening plan from those administrations.”

Dear President Wilkerson and Members of the Board, 
 
APPS members call on the Members of the Board of Education to vote to approve or reject the Administration’s proposed reopening plan at the July 23, 2020 Special Action Meeting. That meeting’s agenda should include consideration of the Advancing Education Safety Plan as an official item. 
 
The AES plan presented yesterday—during a remote press conference—raises crucial questions about the health and safety of students and staff when they return to in-person classes. Those questions must be heard and deliberated on by the Board in a public meeting, and the Board, as the governing body of the city’s public schools, must take a vote to approve or reject the Administration’s plan.
 
Concerns raised but not answered at last week’s online sessions—about logistics, students receiving special education services, protection for medically vulnerable students and staff, lack of space in common areas, flexibility for working parents, transportation, and more—must be answered by District staff at the meeting.  
 
In addition, the Board must require all charter school operators to submit the same type of detailed reopening plan for each of the 87 District charters. The Board is responsible to assure the health and safety of all of the District’s students, whether they attend District- or charter-managed schools. 
 
We appreciate your attention to these matters and would appreciate a timely response.

 
Sincerely,
Lisa Haver
Karel Kilimnik

APPS Members Question Board Member Angela McIver’s Possible Conflict of Interest

by Lisa Haver

On Wednesday, June 24, APPS sent an email to Board of Education member Angela McIver, copied to Board President Joyce Wilkerson, about possible conflicts of interest arising from McIver’s math curriculum business Trapezium.  District parent and teacher Zoe Rooney, active with APPS and Parents United for Public Education, had posted a thread on social media after she discovered recent interviews with McIver on Good Morning America and in a business magazine in which McIver spoke about her business and the struggle to maintain it during the quarantine. APPS members attend all Board Action and Committee meetings, and none of us could recall her ever publicly mentioning, since her appointment two years ago, that she operated any type of education business. In our letter, we asked that McIver respond to questions not about the social media postings but about comments made by her in those interviews. (See the letter below. As of this posting on June 29, we have received no reply.)

Before giving her report Thursday as Chair of the Student Achievement Committee, McIver read a prepared statement (time stamp 1:21:58) in which she described a social media thread about her business activities as “incredibly misleading” and “highly inaccurate”.  

Without naming Rooney, McIver stated that the “author” of the thread conveniently leaves out one piece of critical information–”that I am Black.” McIver went on to say, “She erased my blackness.” Actually, Rooney’s social media posts included links to both the video segment in which McIver appeared and the news article which prominently featured her picture. McIver accused Rooney, who identifies as biracial, of perpetrating “an insidious form of racism” with “the unspoken belief that our children are not capable of achieving.” She attributed motives to Rooney, saying that her posts were “deliberately designed to advance an agenda that will keep students from achieving at the highest levels.” McIver did not mention that parents pay almost $600 to participate for one day each week in her semester-long after school program. She did not explain how this is not a conflict or why she never mentioned it in her two years on the Board.

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