Victory on Reopening Plan for District Parents and Educators

In a major victory for students, teachers, support staff, and principals, the Hite administration will present a reopening plan featuring a full virtual program for at least the first two months of school.    

“The health and safety of the children and adults must be the first consideration in any reopening plan,” said APPS co-founder Lisa Haver. “For now, those who feared returning to buildings without proper ventilation and adequate custodial services can focus on making sure children have the tools they need to learn, in particular reliable internet service.”  Haver added that any hybrid plan considered for future months must fully involve District stakeholders.   

Superintendent Hite had submitted a hybrid plan at last week’s remote Board of Education meeting. That plan was met by almost unanimous opposition by more than 100 people who testified over the 8-hour meeting.    Rather than vote to reject Hite’s plan, the Board took an unexpected vote to recess the meeting, taking no action on any of the Agenda Items. The Items totaled over $190 million in spending, including the estimated cost of the hybrid plan.  

“The Board recessed the meeting just after the speakers portion of the agenda. But they must allow speakers to weigh in on the new plan before taking a vote,” said Haver. “The public had months to be heard via surveys and online meetings. We now have just a couple of days to review an entirely new plan. That is not true public engagement. In addition, the public deserves a full explanation of what business may have transpired behind the scenes during the meeting.”    

The Board came under criticism from APPS members and others for apparent violations of the PA Sunshine Act.  Board President Joyce Wilkerson could be heard on an open mic asking someone whether the Board should recess before voting on anything.   Also, the Board also failed to take public comments when a motion was introduced during the meeting. 

APPS sends a letter to the SRC

SRC 5-24-18


June 18, 2018

Dear SRC Chair Richman, Commissioner Neff, Commissioner Burns, and Commissioner Green,

The SRC has scheduled a special meeting for 1 PM on June 21 for the purpose of voting on the 2017-18 cohort of charter renewals.  As yet, no resolutions have been posted for that meeting. Nor is there a resolution posted for the charter amendment requested by Discovery Charter.

A June 11 Philadelphia Public School Notebook/WHYY story about the new charter rating system, “Philadelphia School District Nears New Accountability for Charters”, reports that there have been ongoing negotiations with charter operators about the district’s rating system.

The Notebook quotes both district and charter officials who confirm that negotiations between them about revamping the rating system have taken place without any public notification or inclusion.

In that spirit, the standard charter agreement has undergone “more than 60 negotiated changes” over the past year, according to Estelle Richman, chair of the soon-to-be dissolved School Reform Commission.

“These charter agreements incorporate a revised performance framework which provides charter schools with transparent and predictable accountability and ensures charter schools are quality options for students and families,” she said in a statement.

… If charters accept the terms in this revamped rubric — known as the “charter school performance framework” — the District will have a clear and mutually agreeable road map for deciding whether a school should close when its term expires or remain open for another five years.

If charters blanch at the deal, the incoming school board will inherit a dispute fraught with political implications and real-world consequences for tens of thousands of children.

 There are a limited number of items the SRC is permitted to deliberate on in non-public meetings, including personnel and legal matters.  “Charter rating system” is not one of them.

We understand that the district has also held convenings with charter operators in recent years, without public notice or inclusion, to discuss issues including the district’s rating system.

We ask that you respond to the following questions:

  • When were the changes in the rating system negotiated by district and charter officials? How many meetings took place?
  • Who was present during these negotiations?
  • Why were these meetings, about a major policy change, kept secret from the public?
  • Charter operators maintain that charters are public schools. Why would policy changes about any public schools be conducted in private?
  • Why does the SRC allow the charter operators—the entities who are regulated—to determine how they will be regulated?

Could you please send the dates and minutes for all meetings or convenings held by the district for charter operators which were not posted as public meetings?

Lisa Haver
Karel Kilimnik

There has been no response from the SRC.

Resolutions were posted  June 19th after this letter was sent. If you want to speak on these resolutions you must call 215-400-4010 by Wednesday, June 20th before 1 PM.


APPS News: April 2018


by Karel Kilimnik
April 13, 2018

End of the Line

As the lame-duck SRC limps towards the finish line, millions  of taxpayer dollars continue to flow into the pockets of  private vendors. Case in point: Carnegie Learning contract to provide professional development services to approximately 1500 K-8 Algebra I teachers in support of the District’s annual summer mathematics initiative” received another $3 million at the March 15 SRC meeting  (B-3). Carnegie has pocketed $15 million from District contracts over the past two years. Carnegie has little investment in public schools other than increasing their own corporate footprint. Why can’t those funds be used to hire experienced Math teachers and coaches who work for the district and know the students, the schools and the curriculum?

Vacant school buildings are being sold for pennies on the dollar and converted to marketplace housing. Despite community efforts, Ada Lewis Middle School, once the largest middle school in the city, was closed almost twenty years ago; the District allowed it to become a neighborhood eyesore.  Developers eye school buildings as potential profitable housing projects. At the March 15 SRC meeting, it was revealed (Resolution A-10) that the developer added a contingency clause to the sale of this property for rezoning to include residential and mixed-use development”.

 SRC to Vote on Charter Do-Overs

Click here to read the entire post.

APPS Statement on Surprise Resignations and Replacements on SRC

SRC 3 3-15-18
The Philadelphia School Reform Commission: Chris McKinley, Bill Green, Estelle Richman, Joyce Wilkerson; Superintendent William Hite

The day after the schools closed for spring break, district stakeholders woke up to find out that major changes have taken place in the governance of the city’s public schools.

In a surprise move, two members of the SRC have resigned, and they have already been replaced by two people chosen by the mayor. The governor has already named the new chair. No mention of these changes was made at last week’s SRC meeting.These changes, planned and implemented without consultation of district stakeholders, serves to highlight the disenfranchisement of the people of the city when it comes to choosing those who make decisions on the future of the city’s public schools. The mayor expects the public to pay the bills, including another increase in property taxes, but to have no say in how the money is spent. The stakeholders and taxpayers, apparently, are expected to play the role of passive observers watching as the pieces are moved around the chessboard.

The SRC will be approving a $3 billion budget in the coming months just before its dissolution. This lame-duck Commission will be voting on that budget.

The mayor will be appointing a new school board next week. In violation of the PA Sunshine Act, there have been no public meetings at which the people of the city could weigh in, pro or con, on the candidates, or to raise concerns about possible conflicts.

Also see APPS in the news:
Two SRC members resign, opening path to a new board | Philadelpia Tribune – 3/29/18