APPS News: April 2017

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 We have entered the season of two SRC Action Meetings a month. It’s a grueling schedule, but we aim to cover it all and share our findings and analyses.

One trend continues in recent SRC Resolutions: the outsourcing of services and resources. At the March 16 meeting alone, over $18 million went into the pockets of outside vendors. Professional development continues to be turned over to contractors.  What could that money have purchased for the schools? Eighty counselors or nurses, 150 Assistant  Principals,  or 428 school aides.

Estelle Richman, Governor Wolf’s appointee to the SRC, still awaits confirmation by the State Senate. She has attended recent meetings as an observer.

SRC Spending Priorities
The  SRC approved yet another contract for the uncertified Relay School of Education, this time to train  highly qualified teachers”.  Relay is the creation of three charter school supporters who sought to create a pool of teachers for their no excuses” charter schools.  Philadelphia teachers entering this program will receive their graduate degree from a college in another state because Relay is not certified in Pennsylvania. For decades, students aspiring to become teachers have attended Cheyney, Temple, West Chester, Penn, or any of the many colleges and universities in the area.  Why is it now necessary for the district to spend money on a non-certified program?

 Freedom of Speech?
Videos of APPS members and allies testifying at recent SRC meetings show the result of SRC interference in our reporting. For the past several years, APPS’ videographer has filmed from a discrete space where there was little movement. A couple of months ago, with no explanation, he was told he had to move—to a place which has more noise and more traffic. Now the videos can show little more than the backs of  heads.  Last month, he was told to move to yet another space, even farther back.  It is hard to see this as anything other than harassment.  Why is the SRC against members of the public reporting what the public has to say at its meetings? Despite repeated requests to speak with the person forcing his relocation, no one has been identified as the decision maker.

 New SRC Committee
SRC Chair Joyce Wilkerson announced a new SRC Policy Advisory Committee, to meet quarterly,  to be chaired by the lone educator on the Commission, Dr. Christopher McGinley. Wilkerson and Dr. Hite are also on the committee, but no announcement has been made about any other committee members. The first meeting is scheduled for Thursday April 6 at 9 AM.  Several APPS members have objected to holding a public” meeting at a time that precludes attendance by the very people district policy affects—students, educators, and most parents.  Whose voices will be heard?  The history of the Strategy, Policy, and Procedure meetings, as a forum for stakeholders to address concerns,  was addressed in testimony by APPS’ Lynda Rubin. These meetings ended abruptly last year.

 Teacher Recruitment Drive, 2017
Dr Hite introduced this year’s exciting recruiting campaign to hire up to 1,000 new teachers.”  He didn’t explain why the district has to embark on yet another recruitment campaign, at a cost of $160,000,  after a major drive just last year, when the district claimed it had more than the number they had aimed for.  Part of the reason, obviously, is the lack of a PFT contract and no step increases or raises for the past four years.

 Charter Issues
Two teachers from Aspira Olney High School testified about their frustration over management’s failure to bargain in good faith with union members seeking a fair contract. It has been over two years since Aspira Olney and Aspira Stetson came up for renewal. Despite a strong recommendation for non-renewal from the district’s Charter School Office, the SRC has taken no action. Thus, Aspira Olney and Aspira Stetson continue to operate with taxpayer funds. In addition, the SRC has delayed action for over one year, on renewals of three Mastery Charters—Shoemaker, Clymer, and Gratz, and two Universal charters—Audenried and Vare.

 More Sunshine Act Violations
Last year, after a protracted negotiation process, the SRC and APPS settled the legal suit brought by APPS about a number of SRC violations of the PA Sunshine Act. However, the SRC has failed to honor the stipulation that it post official resolutions two weeks prior to each meeting.  February 16 resolutions were still posted under Current Resolution Summary” after that meeting.  There was no full resolution posted prior to the March 23 meeting. That means that the SRC voted to approve a $2.9 billion lump-sum budget about 45 minutes after the summary was distributed at the meeting.  The power-point presented by CFO Uri Monson was not posted prior to the meeting. The SRC is a governmental body responsible for a $2.9 billion budget. As such, they need to post a summary description for each resolution so that the public can make informed comments, ask questions, and raise any concerns. That is not only their obligation, it is the law. 

Eyes on the SRC – March 16, 2017

SRC 2-16-17 $2

by Karel Kilimnik
March 13, 2017

 More Outsourcing
This month’s resolutions show the continued privatization and outsourcing for professional development and other services that historically have been provided by district employees. Instead of recruiting and supporting educators who are knowledgeable about their subject and able to provide support to all schools, Dr. Hite and the SRC continue to pay vendors with no ties to Philadelphia or any commitment to long-term service to the students or the community. Not only is this a questionable use of taxpayer dollars, it is insulting to the district’s teachers and school professionals. Look around and see the amazing things that teachers are doing without adequate resources. They nurture and support each other as collaborative projects are created for their students. Teachers are holding this district together with ingenuity and determination and yes, grit. We see so many stories in the local press about the remarkable work teachers are doing every day—yet the “cash-strapped” district’s dollars continue to flow to the private sector, depriving our students of the experience of dedicated district educators.

 SRC Delivers Public Assets to Private Interests
Resolution A-10 continues the selling of vacant school buildings. Rapid gentrification is taking place in many Philadelphia neighborhoods. Shuttered school buildings are prime targets of developers and realtors driving this gentrification. The W.S. Peirce School sits at the edge of one such area in South Philadelphia. The Alterra Company is listed as the buyer. Many questions go unanswered in this tersely worded resolution. What is the asking price? What has Alterra offered? What is the market value? Communities are seeing that these vacant properties can either be given the tools to strengthen their neighborhood or be priced out of current residents’ reach.

WHAT IF… ?
What if that $150,000 for Relay Graduate School of Education, $3 million for Carnegie Learning, and $15 million for the Children’s Literacy Initiative were spent in classrooms? Let’s look at what $18 million could buy instead of putting it into the pockets of private companies. After all, there have been no raises or steps increases for PFT members since 2014. With that $18,150,000, the district could hire 160 counselors or nurses, 105 assistant vice-principals, or 428 school aides. This would help to build a thriving school district where the focus is on meeting every child’s needs instead of the yearly piecemeal diversion of funds into a few selected schools.

Note: The next two SRC meetings are Thursday March 16 and Thursday March 23 at 4:30 PM. Call 215.400.4180 by 3:30 the day before to sign up to speak.

Click here to read selected resolutions for the March 16th SRC meeting and the APPS analysis.

 

 

Ears on the SRC – May 19, 2016

SRC 5-19-16

By Diane Payne

May 23, 2016

 APPS Presence

APPS members continue to bear witness to the actions of the state-imposed School Reform Commission.  Whether the meeting is crowded or sparsely attended, we testify every month on crucial issues, not the least of which is the SRC’s lack of transparency and public accountability. APPS members were present to call “shame” on the SRC when it convened its stealth meeting to cancel the PFT contract. This month APPS members Karel Kilimnik, Diane Payne and Robin Lowry spoke on a number of issues. To view their testimony, go to APPSphilly.net.

Among the public speakers was a dedicated group of Penrose School parents from Southwest Philadelphia. They voiced their anger and frustrations at both the district administration and the Penrose school administration’s failure to support their hard work toward redesign.  There is never a penalty for district’s failures but schools are labeled and then closed, turned over to charters, and subjected to the chaos and churn of the turn-around model.

SRC Rejects Charter Office Report, Changes Procedure to Hold Up Non-Renewal of Renaissance Schools

Click here to read the rest of the post.

Eyes on the SRC: May 19, 2016

full SRC

 By Karel Kilimnik

May 16, 2016

Welcome to the 9th edition of Eyes on the SRC. We continue to shine a light on the SRC resolutions more than ever as both charter school renewals and the Renaissance Charter Program expands. This is a relentless attack on district-run schools that are starved of the necessary resources. The District continues to outsource jobs and services and the SRC approves these transactions.

Last month the SRC voted to table resolutions to renew four charter schools. They do appear again this month. Despite Commissioner Green’s assertion that the District Charter School Office staff are experts, he moved to challenge their recommendations of non-renewal for Aspira’s Olney and Stetson and for Universal’s Audenreid and Vare. Green’s motion to table was based on his claim that the City Comptroller’s office was about to issue its own report on the city’s charter schools. The SRC voted to pass the motion even though the procedure for renewals of Renaissance schools does not, and never has, included any provision for considering any information from any body, internal or external, other than the SRC’s Charter Office. Will the SRC come up with some other excuse to prolong the non-renewal of these four schools at the next Action meeting?

This month’s first Action Meeting is Thursday, May 19th at 5:30 p.m.

Please note that there is a second Action meeting this month: Thursday, May 26 @ 4:30 PM

To register to speak at either meeting, call 215-400-4180 before 4:30 the day before the meeting.


 Click here to read selected May 19, 2016 SRC Resolution
and APPS comments about each.