Board of Education Hears Demands from Educators and Community: March 18, 2021

by Lynda Rubin

The fact that one hundred thirty-three speakers signed up to speak at this special meeting shows the need for parents, teachers, principals, parents, and community members to be heard by the Board every month. The Board has arbitrarily, without public vote or notice, decided to cap the speaker list at all action meetings to ten students and thirty adults–whether there are thirty action items or sixty. The Board will choose who makes the cut and who is barred,  and President Wilkerson has actually threatened to cut off the mic of anyone whose testimony she deems “irrelevant”. With only two minutes to testify, most speakers have been cut off mid-sentence. 

All Board members and Dr. Hite were present for this remote meeting. Because the Board gutted its official speaker policy, deciding before each meeting who they wish to hear from, they imposed no cap at this special hearing and all speakers were allotted three minutes. Many of those testifying demanded that the Board restore the previous speaker policy. Last week, APPS and UrbEd, represented by the ACLU,  filed a complaint in the Court of Common Pleas, asking that the Board’s violations of the PA Sunshine Act be reversed before the March 25 action meeting.

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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