Board Must Change Its Spending Priorities

Budget Hearing: April 21, 2022

by Lynda Rubin

The Board of Education scheduled its annual budget hearing just one hour before its April action meeting. With a lengthy presentation from Chief Financial Officer Uri Monson on the agenda, followed by questions from the Board and testimony from nine public speakers, there was not much time for careful deliberation about the Board’s own spending priorities. It seemed at times that the tail once again was wagging the dog, with Board members’ comments and questions reflecting Board compliance rather than Board leadership.

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Mayor’s Nominating Panel Shuts Out Public Again

by Lynda Rubin

Only people “in the know” knew about this meeting of Mayor Kenney’s Education Nominating Panel. The City’s Education Office put out no notice via email or social media. The Mayor didn’t mention the upcoming Panel convening when he appeared with the Board’s superintendent nominee last week, nor did Board President Joyce Wilkerson. APPS members are in the know because we attend all Board action and committee meetings. Because our members read the small-print legal notices in the newspaper every day, we knew that the Panel was to hold its opening meeting to select “one or more” persons, in the words of City Education Director Otis Hackney, to serve on the Board of Education. The Panel will meet in private for all meetings except the first and last. The people of Philadelphia will have nothing to say about who will represent them on the Board. In fact, neither the mayor or Wilkerson has disclosed how many vacancies the Panel will be filling. 

The Panel solicits candidates for the Board of Education, considers applicants, and provides recommendations to the mayor. The mayor selects from the recommendations.  City Council must then confirm the nominees. 

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Board Proposes Another Way to Silence District Educators

Policy Committee Report:  November 4, 2021

by Lisa Haver

About 4 hours before the Policy Committee  convened, APPS sounded the alarm on twitter: “New @PHLschoolboard Policy 911: “Staff members shall not give school information or interviews requested by news media representatives without prior approval of the Office of Communications.” We will ask whether that applies to all #PhlEd staff as that is clearly unconstitutional.  

District employees and union members responded, tagging members of the Board. Only one Board Member, Mallory Fix Lopez, echoed that alarm at the meeting, rightly calling the policy a “gag order”. 

Lisa Haver, the only public speaker who addressed Policy 911, told the Board that teachers and staff “do not surrender their Constitutional rights when they become employees of the School District of Philadelphia.” 

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Board Holds Special Meeting, Leaves Too Many Questions Unanswered

by Diane Payne

On August 24,2021, the Board called a special session to vote on one item: a resolution requiring vaccination mandates for all District staff. President Joyce Wilkerson announced this meeting at last week’s August Acion Meeting; she did not explain why this one item was not on that agenda.  This meeting was held one day after staff returned to school buildings and just one week before children return.  The Delta variant was first reported in the U.S. back in March of this year–5 months ago.  Why does the District again seem to be a day late and a dollar short?  Vaccines and other mandates are standard in school communities to protect children and the population at large from harm, yet the District plays brinkmanship with children and staff during a pandemic.  

The Board spun its speaker wheel and came up with 50 adults and 20 students permitted to testify–on one Action Item.  

Seven of the eight Board members attended, along with both student representatives and Dr. Hite.  Board member (and pediatrician) Maria McColgan was absent.  (No word on when Mayor Kenny will begin the replacement process for resigned Board Member Angela McIver.)  Added to the agenda just before the meeting was a presentation from Acting City Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole. District Medical Officer Barbara Klock attended but did not speak. 

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