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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Eyes on the Board of Education: August 19, 2021

by Karel Kilimnik

The August Agenda continues the ten-year spending spree of the Hite administration that sends money out of the District and into the coffers of consultants and contractors. This agenda includes a $175,000 contract with Old Sow for a School Leader Coach (Item 43); a $371,000 contract with Partners in School Innovation (Item 40); and a $129, 870 contract with SupportEd, LLC. The services enumerated in Item 40–professional development, teacher coaching services, school leadership development—used to be provided by in-house staff.  Central office staff have been systematically diminished, along with knowledge of curriculum and ability to provide consistent, informed, and relevant support. In the past, people rose through the ranks into top administrative positions. Some started as parent volunteers and classroom assistants before gaining college degrees. Others rose from teacher to principal to regional supervisor but came up within the District, not imported from elsewhere. Teachers and other school staff spent decades in one school, forging bonds with families and each other. Today, increasing staff turnover, following the corporate model of disruption for disruption’s sake,  continues to destabilize school communities. Is this really what we want for our students and our District?  These two contracts for professional development may seem small,  but they represent the ongoing commitment by this administration to undermine the experiences, education, and knowledge of educators. Given what we continue to experience as we make our way through this pandemic, instability and erosion of trust undermines academic progress.  Years ago there was robust professional development in the District provided by teachers, principals, and other school staff familiar with both the District and the city. College credits were often granted, sometimes stipends given to purchase resources to be used in classrooms. Philadelphia is home to a wealth of museums, archives, libraries, environmental centers, and nature preserves. Decades ago, this helped to create the original Parkway School, a place where students engaged in hands-on learning.  Instead of nurturing educators to grow and share, there is now a full-fledged thriving business sector. One recent example: the District contracted with consultants eager to create financial opportunities instead of hiring local educators from the Melanated Educators Collective and the Racial Justice Organizing Committee who are already offering anti-racist work in schools. 

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Testimonies of APPS members at BOE Action Meetings, June 24, 2021 and July 15, 2021

Where Are the Checks and Balances on How District Money is Spent?

by Diane Payne, June 24, 2021

Resolution 70: New Charter Application Evaluation Report 2020-21

Philadelphia Collegiate Charter School for Boys

by Barbara McDowell Dowdall, June 24, 2021

Deny PHILADELPHIA Collegiate Charter school revised application

by Karel Kilimnik, June 24,2021

Vote no on Action Item 70 – No to Collegiate Charter!

by Ilene Poses, June 24, 2021

Is corruption just envelopes of money passed in secret to politicians?

by Lisa Haver, July 15, 2021

Eli Broad types believe school districts should be more like businesses

by Lynda Rubin, July 15,2021

Board Fails to Hold Hite Accountable

Ears on the Board of Education: July 15, 2021

by Diane Payne

President Wilkerson’s unexpected announcement of Board Member Angela McIver’s resignation, effective at the end of the meeting, took attendees by surprise.   Neither Wilkerson nor McIver gave any explanation, but McIver told the Inquirer later that she no longer has time for Board work as she must dedicate more time to her business, an extracurricular math program for elementary school students.  Wilkerson praised McIver, and McIver responded with praise for Board members, Dr. Hite and 440 staff.   McIver also thanked several advocacy organizations including  the Philadelphia Student Union, Urb Ed, and Racial Justice Organizing Committee and Melanated Educators.  McIver acknowledged APPS’ role as an “ever-present Board watchdog.” 

We now face another secret nominating process in which one person, not the electorate, will choose McIver’s replacement.  APPS has protested Mayor Kenney’s violations of the Sunshine Act as he directs his Nominating Committee, all of whom are chosen by him, to meet behind closed doors, shutting out the very people whose lives are affected by Board decisions.  We should sue, but grass-roots organizations don’t have deep pockets for lawyers, so we find ourselves shouting into the wind.  

Board members Leticia Egea-Hinton and Reginald Streeter were absent.  The two student Board representatives did not attend. 

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