Who–and What–Does the New School Board Represent?

Kenney and Hite
Mayor Kenney enters the press conference with Superintendent Hite to announce the new Philadelphia School Board.

By Deb Grill, Karel Kilimnik and Lisa Haver
April 4, 2018

APPS biographies of the nine members of the new Philadelphia School Board.

Unlike the other 500, Philadelphia is the only school district in Pennsylvania whose voters cannot elect a school board. We’ve had town halls, online surveys, and pronouncements from city politicians, but it all comes down to this:  The government officials who will decide the future of the city’s public schools, and who will control a $3 billion budget, have been chosen by one person, Mayor Kenney.  His decision has been based, in part, on the opinions of the thirteen people selected by him to be on the Nominating Panel. It has also been based on the wishes of the influential individuals, organizations and corporations who have lobbied him to represent their interests on the board. Two built-in lobbyists on the Nominating Panel, Stephanie Naidoff and Bonnie Camarda, are members of the board of the Philadelphia School Partnership, which funnels millions every year from private investors into schools of their choice for the programs of their choice, mostly charters.

All of the deliberations of the Panel were held in secret. None of the district’s stakeholders, or the city’s taxpayers, were able to express their opinions about any of the candidates, whether pro or con, or to raise concerns about possible conflicts of interest. APPS did everything we could, short of legal action, to open up this process. We sent letters to the Mayor and to the Panel, refuting the Mayor’s false assertion that the Panel could deliberate in Executive Session because it was discussing “personnel matters”, pointing out that the Panel was neither hiring nor appointing any personnel. We had several community groups sign a letter asking the mayor to obey the Sunshine Act. 

APPS members  Karel Kilimnik and Rich Migliore wrote an op-ed published in the  Philadelphia Inquirer decrying the lack of democracy and the mayor’s attempt to have the charter change include language that would allow him to remove school board members without any due process, which would have killed the possibility of having a truly independent board.

Lisa Haver also wrote an op-ed questioning whether trading in one unelected, unaccountable school board for another, under the banner of local control, could be considered progress.

APPS also researched all forty-five Panel nominees. Now that the final selection has been made, we are re-posting the profiles of those selected with updated information.  One thing that stands out in the Mayor’s selection: there are no known advocates for public education. Since no one could question the nominees, we have no idea whether, or how much, they are committed to defending public education. We don’t know whether they believe that privatization and charterization are solutions to the problem of under-resourced neighborhood schools. We don’t know what their stance is on using anonymous private donations to fund public and charter schools.


Also see:
Is the new school board diverse enough? | Philadelphia Public School Notebook – April 19, 2018


Following are some of the patterns and connections that we have observed, so far, among the board members:

District and Charter School Connections

Click here to see a preliminary analysis of the
District and Charter School Connections of the new School Board.

APPS sends a letter to Governor Wolf asking for the removal of Commissioner Green from the SRC for violation of the School Code

Wolf : Green

Last week, APPS co-founders Lisa Haver and Karel Kilimnik sent this letter to Governor Wolf. APPS asked the Governor to enforce the official school code, which clearly states that no sitting SRC commissioner may “seek or hold a position as any other public official”.  The Governor should enforce that law. He should ask Green to step down.  If Green does not, he should take steps to remove him.

All For Phila Public Schools
apps.phila@aol.com


Governor Tom Wolf
225 Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg, PA  17120

governor@state.pa.us

 Dear Governor Wolf:

 On March 3, 2018 SRC Commissioner Bill Green filed federal paperwork to challenge U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle in the 2018 Democratic primary, and he is currently circulating nominating petitions.

 Section(6) Section 696 (b)(6) of the Public School Code of 1949, as amended, states:

No commission member may, while in the service of the School Reform Commission, seek or hold a position as any other public official within this Commonwealth or as an officer of a political party.

 The law is clear: no one, including Mr. Green, can serve on the SRC while seeking public office. There is no question that a person serving in the US Congress is a public official.

 On behalf of the members of the Alliance for Philadelphia Schools, we ask that you immediately remove Commissioner Green from the SRC.

 Sincerely,
Lisa Haver
Karel Kilimnik
Co-founders, Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools


For Governor Wolf’s response to the APPS letter see

Gov. Wolf: Bill Green can’t run for Congress | Clout – The Philadelphia Inquirer

APPS Researches School Board Nominees

SB nominating panel
The Philadelphia School Board Nominating Panel

As APPS members and followers know, we have been fighting to open up the process for the selection of the new school board.

Mayor Kenney has taken control of the process, raising questions about how independent the Nominating Panel has been.

The Nominating Panel is a governmental body; its members are City officials. The Panel is obligated to follow all laws, including the PA Sunshine Act.

The Sunshine Act stipulates that citizens must be able to witness and have an opportunity to speak about actions taken by government officials, whether elected or appointed. Only two of the Panel’s meetings were held in public; all of the vetting of candidates was done behind closed doors.

The Mayor and the Nominating Panel, Chaired by former SRC Commissioner Wendell Pritchett, also ignored calls to release the applications. Thus, there was no way for the public to know who was being considered or to have anything to say about them. We believe that the public has a right to know who will be representing them as public officials. The school board will be overseeing a $3 billion budget and making decisions which will affect the future of our city and our schools.

What follows is the first installment of reports on the twenty-seven candidates chosen by the thirteen people on the Nominating Panel. The italicized paragraph is the official bio released by the Mayor’s office. What follows is what we were able to find by doing a basic Google/LinkdIn search. If you see any outdated or incorrect information, or you have additional information on any of the nominees, please contact us at philaapps@gmail.com.

Please follow our posts as we will be updating with information on other nominees.

–Lisa Haver and Deb Grill

Click here to read the first installment of nominee reports.

Click here to read the second installment of nominee reports.

Click here to read the third installment of nominee reports.


Our Researchers

Barbara Dowdall
Ken Derstine
Deborah Grill – editor
Lisa Haver – editor
Karel Kilimnik
Cheri Micheau
Rich Migliore
Diane Payne
Ilene Poses
Coleman Poses
Lynda Rubin

 

 

APPS News: March 2018

APPS-Facebook-Banner-8-18

by Karel Kilimnik
March 5, 2018

 Nominating Panel Meets Behind Closed Doors

This hectic season continues as APPS fights against ever more threats to public education. We challenged Mayor Kenney’s unexpected decision to shut the public out of almost all meetings of the Nominating Panel, whose members he selected last month. We did not anticipate this mayor placing the community on the sidelines, being given no voice in who will control a $3 billion budget and the future of education in the city. As a result of the steady organizing and political lobbying of the Our City, Our Schools coalition, Philadelphians won a huge victory in November when the SRC voted to dissolve, effective July 2018. Without APPS’ continual coverage of the questionable contracts and decisions in our Eyes and Ears on the SRC, the journey back from state to local control would have been a harder mountain to climb.

Unfortunately, the Mayor slammed the door shut on those who had fought for local control by announcing that the Nominating Panel would meet in closed executive sessions, claiming that the Panel would be deciding on “personnel matters”. The Mayor knows, as everyone does, that the Panel neither hires nor appoints anyone, so no personnel matters are considered. The job of the Panel is to make recommendations for nominees to the new board. School board members are government officials, not employees. The Panel was given just over a month to come up with a list of 27 nominees, from which the Mayor would select nine board members.

APPS sent several letters to the Nominating Panel and the Mayor, including one signed by several community and labor organizations, demanding that the public have a say in the selection of the new board.

A list of over 400 applicants, without any personal or professional information, was released by the Mayor’s office a couple of days before the Panel’s second and final meeting, which had been moved up from its original date. (The applications were never released.) Of course, parents, teachers, students and most community members cannot attend a meeting held during school and work hours.

The only time for public testimony before this body happened at the highly-scripted second and final Panel meeting when they voted on their list of 27 candidates. No agenda was distributed before the meeting; there was no list of public speakers. Mirroring the SRC the board will replace, there was no deliberation prior to the vote.   APPS members Lisa Haver, Diane Payne and I testified about these issues.

We could only comment on the process, as the nominees were announced just minutes before the public speakers. A district teacher took some personal time to come and testify; he suggested the creation of a Teacher Advisory Board in addition to the Student Advisory Board that had been suggested by other community members.

In reaction to the criticism from most of the public speakers, several of the Panel members defended their actions. We do not doubt that the Panelists carved out time in their busy lives to undertake this task, but was there not one person on the panel who objected to the Mayor’s heavy-handed tactics? Where is this ship of local control, in dry dock for 17 years, headed? Their list of 27 candidates includes several with charter school connections, two parents at Penn Alexander (no other district school was mentioned), a preponderance of lawyers as well as individuals with financial/banking/investment positions. Missing, along with teachers or retired teachers, are parents of Special Needs and English Language Learners students, as well as parents whose children attend a range of district schools. Where are their voices?

APPS members have weighed in on these issues publicly.

Lisa Haver addressed the closing of the selection of the new board in the Inquirer/Daily/philly.com

Rich Migilore and Karel Kilimnik explained that one-person rule is undemocratic and that the Mayor should not be able to remove board members for political reasons.

APPS continues to challenge this undemocratic process. We have filed a Right to Know requesting extensive information on the process to select these 27 individuals.

SRC Denies Applications for Six New Charters

APPS members attended and testified at the first round of hearings on new charter applicants in December; we attended the second round at which public testimony was not on the agenda. Hearings for individual applications occurred through January; the SRC heard final testimony, then voted, at the February meeting. (Pennsylvania Institute Academy Charter School and Qor Charter School withdrew their applications before this final session.) Questioning by Hearing Examiner Allison Petersen, and the information provided by the Charter Schools Office, showed that there were serious issues—whether academic, financial, or organizational—in every application.

See the APPS reports on new charter applications here.

The SRC voted to reject all but one applicant. They voted unanimously to approve MaST III, despite significant concerns about enrollment, capacity, and governance. Conditions involving transportation for kindergarten students in zip codes 19120,19124, 19140, and 19141 (Olney, Logan, Hunting Park as well as a section of North Philadelphia) to enable them to diversify their potential student body as well as cutting their projected enrollment from 2600 to 1300 were mentioned. We are still waiting for the district to send us the conditions the SRC has imposed. Denying Philadelphia Hebrew Charter School resulted in commissioner Green advising them to re-apply. Mastery, APM, Franklin Towne, and two Aspira charters were also denied. Five APPS members along with two teachers, and two community members presented testimony decrying approval of any new charter applications

The February 22 Ears on the SRC notes the twisted connections of real estate ventures with charter schools along with the SRC’s categorizing of charter school topics as “quasi-judicial”. This categorization conceals these transactions behind a stone- wall the public is unable to penetrate.

APPS Keeps Our Eyes and Ears on SRC In Its Final Days

As the seventeen-year reign of the SRC comes to an end, we have to think about how to end their devastating policies, not the least is the reckless spending on edu-vendors. The same SRC that says we can’t afford to pay teachers and staff at a professional rate doesn’t blink when approving contracts for unproven programs including online learning, data collection and outsourced professional development. At its February 15 meeting, the SRC approved $114 million in new spending. Almost $20 million of that went to various vendors, including Pearson Inc; that means children will spend more time in front of computers rather than with teachers and support staff. Several parents and community members spoke against the resolutions. As one speaker reminded us “Technology is a tool, not a teacher.”

The SRC received so many questions about Resolutions A-7 (sending $9.5 million to the testing conglomerate Pearson Inc for “instructional management” with a side of data collection) and B-12( $10 million for online courses) that Dr Hite addressed these issues in his initial comments.

Dr Hite is a graduate of the unaccredited Broad Superintendent’s Academy, where free-market policies are advanced as part of the substitution of ideology for knowledge. Unions are to be broken, and their work contracted to private companies and non-profits. Part of this process depends on destabilizing the workforce and creating insecurity among teachers, principals, and other school staff, thus heading off potential resistance as people fear for their jobs. Struggling schools don’t get needed resources, they are targeted for some kind of transformation. That could mean being placed into the Turnaround Network with the requisite loss of principal and most teachers. It could mean being chosen for the “System of Great Schools”, which increasingly results in being “partnered” with consulting companies like Jounce Partners or ISA without the knowledge or agreement of the school community.

Upcoming Events

  • Wednesday March 7: Oral Argument on School Funding Lawsuit in Commonwealth Court, Widener Building, 1339 Chestnut Street, 9th Floor, 9:30 AM.
  • Thursday March 8: SRC Policy Committee Meeting, 11:00 AM at 440 North Broad Street.
  • Wednesday March 14: Sign up to speak at SRC Meeting, call before 3:30 PM, 215 400 4180.
  • Thursday March 15: SRC Action Meeting, 4:30 PM at 440 North Broad Street.
  • Thursday March 22: SRC Action Meeting, 4:30 PM at 440 North Broad Street. (Call before 3:30 PM the day before)