Supporters of public education speak before the School Board Nominating Panel – February 26, 2018

This video is supporters of public education speaking before the School Board Nominating Committee on February 26, 2018.
Timestamps for speakers
Barbara Dowdall, APPS 0:00
Lisa Haver, APPS 2:25
Karel Kilimnik, APPS 4:17
Alan Foo, teacher 6:52
Diane Payne, APPS 9:20
Maureen DiStefano 11:20

APPS members have an Op Ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer protesting lack of transparency in Mayoral selection of a new school board

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Integrity of Philly’s new school board needs protection | Philadelphia Inquirer – February 22, 2018

by Rich Migilore and Karel Kilimnik

Unlike those in every other school district in the state, and in almost every district in the nation, we the people of Philadelphia continue to be disenfranchised in the governance of our public schools. To make matters worse, the return to local control, after the 17-year reign of the state-imposed School Reform Commission, will devolve into one-person control unless our elected officials take steps to guarantee the independence of the new school board.

 Following the mandates of the current City Charter, Mayor Kenney appointed a 13-member nominating panel, which is scheduled to hold a public meeting Monday and vote on a list of names that Kenney will draw from to select a nine-person school board. The mayor had directed the panel to hold previous meetings in executive session, effectively barring members of the public from witnessing or taking part in the process in any way.

This absolute control by the mayor can be mitigated in several ways. First, the nominating panel, under the leadership of Chair Wendell Pritchett, should have opened all of its meetings to the public. As city officials, members of the panel are obligated to obey all laws, including the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act, which codifies the right of the people to witness the actions of all government officials, whether elected or appointed.

 Checks and balances must be instituted. City Council has proposed an amendment to the charter which, if approved by the voters in a referendum on the May ballot, will provide for Council confirmation of all future nominees. In addition, Council President Darrell Clarke has proposed language in the referendum to stipulate that members of the board of education can only be removed “for cause.” That is an essential provision to protect the independence and integrity of the board and should be adopted.

Kenney has voiced his opposition to the for-cause provision and wants board members to serve at the pleasure of the mayor. That is inconsistent with the principles of democracy that underpin the governance of our public school system.

Clarke explained in a response letter to Kenney that the board of education, under the Educational Home Rule Supplement to the City Charter, is a “separate and independent body” from the office of the mayor. State law makes school districts separate and distinct local educational agencies.

 Clarke is correct when he says, “The key idea here is independence: the for-cause requirement will provide some assurance that the members of the Board of Education can make independent decisions that they believe are in the best interests of our City’s children – even if the Mayor or Council disagree.” The for-cause provision protects school board members from being removed for political reasons or for speaking out in opposition to the Mayor or City Council.

Council should scrutinize every aspect of the appointment process and make every amendment necessary to protect the integrity of the democratic process. That includes the present lack of transparency and secrecy of the mayor’s nominating panel and its violations of the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act.

 These are all constitutional issues as well as legislative issues.  The right to procedural due process is guaranteed by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Democracy matters and our state and federal constitutions cannot be nullified at the schoolhouse door.

Rich Migliore, Esq. is a former Philadelphia teacher and administrator and the author of “Whose School Is It: the Democratic Imperative for Our Schools.”

Karel Kilimnik is a retired Philadelphia early childhood educator and co-founder of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools. Email:  philaapps@gmail.com

Community Organizations Demand Open Meetings for School Board Nominating Panel

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Two weeks ago, APPS members sent a letter to the officers and members of the Nominating Panel appointed by Mayor Kenney to choose candidates for the new school board, demanding that the Panel open its meetings to the public.

The letter, reprinted in its entirety here, was signed by fourteen others representing student, labor and community organizations.

The Nominating Panel had announced that it would hold only two public meetings: its opening meeting and its second and final one, at which it would announce the names to be sent to Mayor Kenney. All other meetings would be closed to the public. No students, educators, parents or community members would have the opportunity to weigh in on any part of the process or to raise concerns about any candidate.

APPS sent the letter along with a press release to several news media outlets. None of them covered it.We were told that it wasn’t a significant event and didn’t rate a separate story. However, when the media covered the dispute between the Mayor and City Council over language in the resolution to change language in the City Charter amendment on selection of the new school board, the community’s demand for an open selection was ignored once again.

APPS continues the fight to make sure that the community has a say in who represents us in the governance of our schools.We will fight until the disenfranchisement of the people of Philadelphia ends and we have the same rights as every other Pennsylvanian to elect our school board.

APPS decries the lack of transparency in the appointment of a Philadelphia School Board

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from City and State
Philly School board appointment legislation stalls in City Council | City and State – January 25, 2018

Even traditional public school advocates, who had long sought to eliminate the SRC, expressed concerns about the transition process. Lisa Haver, of the Alliance For Philadelphia Public Schools, said her group had authored a recent op-ed expressing similar dissatisfaction with the lack of transparency within the nominating panel and issued a call for a directly elected school board.

“We’re calling for some transparency because there’s none right now. It’s a whole question of, why is the mayor being so secretive,” said Haver. “If someone ran a charter school that closed and they’re applying to be on the school board, I want to know about that. I think people who don’t believe in traditional public schools shouldn’t be on the new school board. And we really believe we should have a locally elected school board like every other county.”

One City Council staffer described the current situation as “a mess.” Others said that the Mayor’s Office and City Council were not on the same page regarding a timeline for the creation of the new local school board.