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.

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.

Click here to read the rest of the post.

APPS Letter to the Board: Action Meetings Must Remain Public

March 24, 2020

Dear President Wilkerson and Members of the Board of Education,

We write to you concerning the protocols for the March 26, 2020 Action Meeting.

Holding a meeting that the public cannot attend in person violates the PA Sunshine Act, but of course the Board must heed the health warnings from city and state officials. The alternative is to hold a virtual meeting that the public can both observe and participate in. Current technology allows for both of these.

The Board has announced that it will live-stream the meeting at the scheduled time. Members of the public can send in testimony in writing or by phone no later than 24 hours before the meeting. Members of the Board will read summaries of those testimonies.

That is not a public meeting.  That is a live TV show.

We have been told that most Board members will be present via phone. That same technology could be used to have members of the public testify via phone. People could submit their numbers by calling in advance or emailing their phone numbers and topics before the meeting. Staff could call them at the appropriate time—before or after voting—and each person could give their own testimony, in full, in their own words.  Everyone watching would be able to hear the testimony.  In addition, some of the questions and comments sent via email and twitter could be answered during the meeting.

The Chief Financial Officer will be making a presentation on the lump sum budget.  Without real-time participation, no one would be able to ask a question about that presentation. Testimony sent in ahead of time could not be amended to include comments or questions about that or any other business taking place during the meeting.

We have also asked that all non-essential Items be withdrawn for now, and that each Item Description include a sentence explaining why it is essential and must be voted on this month. Thanks to the Board for already withdrawing Item 31.

In this difficult time, it is important that the public be able to participate in the democratic process.  The Board must make a good faith effort, using the technology available, to include the public in this week’s public meeting. We appreciate being part of the conversation. We look forward to your response.


Lisa Haver

Karel Kilimnik

Statement from APPS: How Will Public Be Able to Participate at March 26 Board of Education Action Meeting?

The COV-19 virus has turned our lives upside down. Class and race matter little to this germ, but we must work to get resources to those who most need them in the face of this potentially fatal disease. The District struggles to ensure that students are fed while schools are closed, for how long no one knows. Support from every level of government is crucial as we face a looming economic and social upheaval. The Philadelphia Board of Education is a governmental body that controls a $3.2 billion budget and whose decisions affect the lives and futures of thousands of children.

APPS members expect the Board of Education to inform its constituents of its actions and intentions. Schools will need resources when they open, but the contracts and funding for those resources have to be approved months in advance. Thus the Board will have to vote on essential items now or in the near future. When it does, the public must be able to observe and participate. That participation will take a different form, but the Board must make the best effort to make sure the public can be present, even if virtually. APPS has made a number of suggestions to the Board about how to have the public interact at its March 26 Action Meeting. And as steadfast observers and participants in all meetings and hearings held by the Board of Education, APPS has reviewed the current Board Agenda for the upcoming Action meeting on Thursday March 26.

Due to the governor’s restrictions on public gatherings, the public will not be present at the March 26 Action Meeting.  The Board has indicated that it is considering holding some type of online meeting. Because of the limited nature of virtual meetings, the Board should only vote on essential items. All other business should be tabled until the community can observe and comment in person. The current Item Summary includes a number of items that do not require immediate action by the Board.

We understand that the Board is in the process of figuring out  how to hold the meeting. Every Item on the agenda must include, along with the usual description, an explanation of why the Item must be voted on now and cannot be tabled. One example is Item 31, Contract with Various Vendors for Professional Learning Support $2,000,000.  This proposed contract with Schoolkit was tabled at the February Action meeting, with the promise of further discussion at the March Student Achievement and Support Committee meeting, now cancelled. This non-essential contract should be withdrawn until the public can weigh in at a fully public meeting.

Representative governments cannot, and should not, come to a halt, even in times of crisis. The Board needs to arrange a way for the public to not only view the meeting but present testimony as well. We have made these suggestions to the Board:

  • Only essential Items voted on this month. All other Items tabled.
  • Take questions via email or twitter during the livestreamed meeting. If the questions pertains to a specific Item, read the question or comment just prior to the meeting so that Board members can answer before voting.
  • Have staff members read the testimony of public participants. Testimony sent in to the Board should be considered oral testimony, not written testimony. Testimony of Items should be read before the Board commences voting.
  • The Board should inform the public of its decisions and actions by posting a banner on the homepage of the District website.

APPS members look forward to attending and participating in this Thursday’s meeting.