APPS members have called on Governor Wolf to remove Commissioner Farah Jimenez from the SRC for cause 


On October 8, 2015, APPS sent a letter to Pennsylvania Governor Thomas Wolf asking him to remove Farah Jimenez from one of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission’s gubernatorial spots on the SRC.

After observing a number of irregularities by SRC member Jimenez, APPS sent a letter asking her to explain. We asked her to explain why she voted to approve a $300,00.00 contract with Mastery Schools for teacher training passed in August. We asked why she abstained from a vote to transfer management of Frederick Douglass elementary from Young Scholars to Mastery, and then admitted at a later SRC meeting that she took part in discussions on the transaction at SRC executive sessions. We asked her to explain her decision, and the SRC’s, not to disclose the fact that she oversees the district’s Charter Office or that she facilitated the application and approval process for 39 charter applicants last winter. These are all important questions due to the fact that her husband is on staff at a law firm that does extensive business with Mastery and KIPP schools.

Ms. Jimenez’s response was to have her lawyer send a letter, obviously intended to intimidate, accusing us of “defamation” and “malice” toward his client. We were shocked to see a public official, after being asked to respond to concerns regarding her actions as a public official, take steps to silence members of the public. If she does not resign, the Governor has more than enough reason to remove her.

 APPS letter to Governor Wolf

On October 15, 2015 the Daily News reported on the APPS letter to Governor Wolf.

Advocacy group to Gov. Wolf: Get rid of SRC member

A local group of education advocates has sent Gov. Wolf a letter asking for the removal of Farah Jimenez from the School Reform Commission because of her husband’s association with charter schools.

On October 16, 2015, Daily News columnist Christine Flowers wrote a column attacking APPS because of the letter and defending SRC Commissioner Jimenez.

SRC’s Jimenez the one who really cares | Philadelphia Daily News – October 16, 2015

This is APPS response to the Flowers’ column.

We wish to respond to Christine Flower’s column (“SRC’s Jimenez the one who really cares”, Friday, October 16) comparing members of the Alliance of Philadelphia Public Schools (APPS) to the Taliban because we asked SRC Commissioner Farah Jimenez to explain actions she has taken as a member of the SRC.

The column makes a number of false statements. APPS is not “run by union leaders”. We are an independent grass-roots organization of teachers, community members and parents who believe that a public school system should serve the interests of the community, not private investors. We receive no outside funding. We do speak out at SRC meetings on those issues, and have done so long before Ms. Jimenez’s appointment last year. We are puzzled by Ms. Flowers’ position that this constitutes “harassment”. Members of the SRC have a responsibility to explain their actions to the public they have been appointed to serve. Public officials are accountable to the public, not the other way around.

APPS made no “personal attacks” on Ms. Jimenez, nor did we engage in any “name-calling”. The questions we raised in our letters to Commissioner Jimenez and to Governor Wolf were based on public comments made and actions taken by her at SRC meetings. As reported in the Daily News, we questioned her decision to vote to approve a $300,000 contract with Mastery Schools in spite of the fact that Mastery is represented by the legal firm at which Ms. Jimenez’s husband is employed. We asked why she abstained on a vote to transfer management of Frederick Douglass Elementary to Mastery Schools, then stated publicly that she took part in discussions in Executive Session on that matter. We asked why neither she nor the SRC disclosed that she had taken on oversight of the district’s charter office or that she facilitated the charter application process earlier this year in which both Mastery and KIPP, who is also represented by Ms. Jimenez’s husband’s law firm, had submitted applications. Contrary to Ms. Flowers’ assertions, we made no allegations. We asked Ms. Jimenez to explain why these actions do not constitute a conflict of interest. We have yet to receive a reply.

Ms. Flowers fails to point out that Ms. Jimenez’s response to APPS’s letter was to have her lawyer send a letter, clearly meant to intimidate us into silence, which accuses us of maliciously seeking to defame his client without citing any example of that. Ms. Flowers, an attorney herself and a journalist, knows that members of the pubic must be protected from frivolous allegations of defamation by public officials if we are to maintain a free society. Nor does Ms. Flowers cite the impartial legal opinion of Rob Caruso, Executive Director of the State Ethics Commission, as quoted in the Daily News: “If the public official is sitting in on discussions, weighing in on a matter, that’s an attempt to influence.”

She states that APPS sued the city and demands to know where the settlement money went. The fact is that that the suit was filed by individual members of APPS whose First Amendment rights were violated, a fact that was admitted to by Ms. Jimenez herself at an SRC meeting. Although they were under no obligation to disclose it, those members actually testified that the money had been distributed to schools and student programs at an SRC meeting when Ms. Jimenez was present.

Ms. Flowers’ loyalty to her friend is admirable. It is not, however, an excuse to attack members of the public for expressing their opinions and demanding that public officials to be answerable to those they are entrusted to serve.

Want to do something?

Call Governor Wolf at 717-787-5825 and request that Farah Jimenez be removed from the School Reform Commission.

APPS testimony at the November 2, 2015 School Reform Commission meeting

On Monday morning, November 2, 2015 the Philadelphia School Reform Commission held a special meeting to vote to borrow $250 million to keep the schools open during the Pennsylvania budget crisis.

Phila. schools borrow $250M just to stay open | Philadelphia Inquirer – November 3, 2015

Cash-strapped Philly schools borrow $250 million as state budget impasse continues | Philadelphia Daily News – November 3, 2015

Only two members from the community testified at the quickly called meeting, APPS members Lisa Haver and Karel Kilimnik.

The meeting was reported by Channel 6 Action News with clips from the testimony of APPS members.

Below is their full testimony.

Lisa Haver - SRC Testimony - 9-17-15

Lisa Haver SRC Testimony

Today, I am delivering a letter today to Chair Neff and to the office of open records. APPS is requesting information on the payments to date to all of the law firms involved in just three of the district’s current cases: the cancellation of its contract with the PFT; the appeal to the arbitrator’s case on assigning counselors, during which they have had 9 lawyers in the courtroom; and the APPS complaint, now entering its second year, on violations of the Sunshine Act. Any public expenditure is public information, despite what we have been told by one SRC member. The public needs to know how the district which cannot afford to pay teachers a fair wage or fix crumbing buildings can afford exorbitant legal fees over many months, especially in relatively simple cases like the Sunshine Act complaint.


The children of this district are being robbed of their education because of the mismanagement of the Hite administration and the SRC. The beginning of the year, as any educator knows, is crucial and sets the tone for the entire school year. You get to know the children and they get to know you. The most important thing they need to know about their teacher is that she will be there when they need you. But when you are running around covering classes, you aren’t there. When you should be preparing interesting and engaging lessons, the ones you will be judged on, you are covering another class. When you should be calling parents because a child has a problem, or just to introduce yourself to let the parent know you are available, you are covering classes.

This administration and the SRC have moved this district into the corporate world in many ways: privatization, outsourcing, referring to parents as “customers” and talking about “customer service”, inordinate use of data. But in the corporate world, people resign or are fired for a screw-up of this magnitude. All of the people responsible for this debacle should do the decent thing and resign; that includes Dr. Hite and his administration, and it includes the SRC who voted to approve in its haste to find another way to get rid of union employees.

Karel Kiliminik

Karel Kilimnik SRC Testimony

First, I want to say that the state legislature taking a vacation without passing a budget is criminal.

There are so many ways you could save money. Eliminate hiring outside law firms. For instance, instead of settling our APPS lawsuit through the mediation process, someone sitting up there has chosen to drag it out thereby continuing payment to a high priced outside law firm. We are not asking for money. We are asking that the SRC comply with the state Sunshine Act. We want District money to be spent in classrooms not in legal wrangling.

Here’s another way to save money. Stop outsourcing. Look at the disaster created by Source4Teachers. Now the District is begging retired teachers to return as substitutes. Break the Source4Teachers contract and return to the previous system.

Dr. Hite , you claim to want to be responsive to parents so why are the parents at Cooke, Huey, and Wister not being given an opportunity to vote on whether they stay with the District or get turned over to a charter school operator. Are you saying that parents aren’t smart enough to make a decision about their child’s future? Where is their choice in this? You have stripped them of their choice by making this decision for them.

At the last Wister meeting the District staff told us “exciting news”. We were informed that 18 parents had submitted their names to be in the lottery for choosing a charter school operator. There will be 5 parents and 2 community members selected to serve on this panel. Almost 400 students and 18 parents turned in their names? When parents starting asking specific questions like where is the lottery being held and who is selecting the names there was a resounding silence punctuated by District staff saying “We don’t have the details now.” Really? Either someone is not telling the truth or it is another case of incompetence as we have seen in selecting Source4Teachers.

Dr. Hite, at the first Wister meeting parents were given an incorrect location resulting in a delay in starting the meeting. This was a deliberate act. All the District presenters were at the correct location except for a Charter School staff member who casually joined us and then turned out to be a major presenter at the session. Coincidence? I think not. At Huey this game is still being played. Parents are not given the correct location for the District-led meeting. Why is this still going on? Why would anyone trust you and the District to be truthful when you are misleading them on informational meetings?

Dr. Hite, it is time for you to go. SRC commissioners, your time is up. Vote to dissolve.

Opt Out Action Alert


Please take a minute to send an email to the House Education Committee in support of HB 1634 – a bill that would allow parents to opt their children out of taking the Keystone Exams, and would remove the test as a graduation requirement. All you have to do is copy and paste the email addresses below, and fill in your information in the form letter below.

Dear Representative,

I am a parent/student in _____________ school district, in ___________ county. I urge you to support removing the Keystone graduation requirement. HB1634 allows parents to opt their children out of the Keystone exams for any reason and students would not be compelled to take the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement. This bill would allow teachers and students to gain more instructional time to prepare for college or employment.

HB1634 is urgent – this unfunded and burdensome graduation mandate is creating havoc in every Pennsylvania school district.


[Your Name]

Emails of House Education Committee (just copy and paste into an email):,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Find Your Pennsylvania Legislator

Branch Libraries are not School Libraries


On October 29, 2015, the Philadelphia Public School Notebook published the article READ! by 4th director explains goals of campaign, which includes an interview with Jenny Bogoni of the Philadelphia Free Library and READ! by 4th’s Executive Director. She explains the mission of the campaign to ensure that all children are reading on grade level by the time they enter 4th grade.

The article raises issues about where, and by whom, Philadelphia’s schoolchildren should be taught to read. While the campaign is laudable in its recognition that children are not receiving the needed reading instruction, APPS is disturbed at the acceptance of the starvation of the public schools of resources such as libraries due to lack of funding. We have concerns that the public/private partnership of the “Read by 4th campaign does nothing to address the loss of almost all school libraries staffed by a certified librarian. If a political fight is not waged to change this situation, this could become a permanent condition that will defeat the very goal that READ! by 4th is trying to address.

On April 29, 2014, one of our members, Barbara McDowell Dowdall, had a letter published in the Philadelphia Daily News that addresses this concern:

Branch libraries are not school libraries

I totally agree with your editorial, “No Mere Words,” that libraries are important and that every school child in Philadelphia should have and utilize a library card. As the proud holder of four Vacation Reading Club certificates from the Free Library of Philadelphia (1956-1959), as the daughter of a decade-long head of the Falls of Schuylkill branch, as a retired English teacher who walked entire classes across the parking lot from Rush Middle School to the Katharine Drexel branch, as a retired English department head at A. Philip Randolph Technical High School who regularly invited the local branch librarian to freshman orientation to sign up students for cards, and as now a board member of the Friends of the Free Library, I would, under normal conditions, applaud the motive and action of awarding member cards to every student in the city.

Your acknowledgment, however, that “the school budget cuts have led to a decimation of school libraries, with few school librarians left in the system,” and the news that “[Superintendent] Hite and library president Siobhan Reardon are working to see how the Free Library can help fill the void” fills me with renewed sadness and even alarm.

Branch libraries, wonderful as they are, are not school libraries. Public libraries cannot, and should not, be asked to serve the essential and unique function of a fully-supplied and certified teacher/librarian-staffed school library, where materials are selected and suited to students and the curriculum, where librarian and teachers can collaborate in developing student research skills, where students are able to access the full attention of their librarian in lessons attuned to their grade level and where utilization is certain and woven into the school day. Rather than assume, somehow, that every one of the newly-equipped 98,000 student card holders will now be regularly reporting to her or his local branch library for leisure-reading materials and individualized guidance in research projects, we should instead be intent on restoring the cruelly-excised school libraries and librarians that no suburban or private school has been asked to do without.

Let us remember the words of Dr. Harold Howe, U.S. Commissioner of Education in the Johnson administration: “What a school thinks about its library is a measure of what it feels about education.”

Tolerating one hundred eighty-seven schools devoid of libraries speaks volumes about what Philadelphia thinks.

Barbara McDowell Dowdall

Member of the Alliance for

Philadelphia Public Schools (APPS)