SRC vote on the PFT contract and APPS comment

SRC meeting 6-20-17
Click the picture to view the SRC discussion and vote on the PFT contract.

On June 20, 2017 the Philadelphia School Reform Commission met to vote on the contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

Click on the above picture to view the discussion and vote on the PFT contract.

Click on each of the pictures below to view individual videos of comments of APPS members before the SRC discussion and vote on the PFT contract.

Click here to see all four of the videos.

Note: The problem with the camera angle and interruptions in the field of view are due to placement of the camera. The SRC has confined our camera to a “press box” which is located in the middle of the audience thus the quality of the video.

Testimony of APPS member Lisa Haver at the June 20th SRC meeting.

Lisa Haver SRC 6-20-17
Click the picture to view the video.

Testimony of APPS member Rich Migliore at the June 20th SRC meeting.


Rich Migliore at SRC 6-20-17Click the picture to view the video.

Testimony of APPS member Lynda Rubin at the June 20th SRC meeting.

Lynda Rubin SRC 6-2017
Click on the picture to view the video.


Actions show District prioritizes charter operators


Closed-door meetings, postponed renewal votes and approvals of underperforming charters create questions about transparency.

The following commentary was published by the Philadelphia Public School Notebook on June 12, 2017

by Lisa Haver and Lynda Rubin

In September 2016, the School Reform Commission posted renewal resolutions that had been postponed for over a year for Mastery Gratz, Mastery Shoemaker, and Mastery Clymer; all three resolutions were withdrawn just before the meeting. They were re-posted in October and November and withdrawn before both meetings. Although test scores indicated that serious improvement was needed at two of the schools, Mastery objected to the conditions recommended by the Charter Schools Office.

In March 2017, the board of Russell Byers Charter School filed a request with the School Reform Commission for permission to relocate some students to an auxiliary location. The SRC approved the request at its May 1 action meeting.

During that time, the District was holding secret meetings with several charter operators and investors, including Laurada Byers, founder and board chair of Russell Byers Charter, and Scott Gordon, CEO of Mastery Charter Schools. According to Avi Wolfman-Arent’s story in NewsWorks, high-ranking District officials including Superintendent William Hite, Chief Financial Officer Uri Monson, and Charter Schools Office Executive Director DawnLynne Kacer met over a six-month period with representatives from several charter companies, along with charter supporter and investor Mark Gleason, executive director of the Philadelphia School Partnership.

The purpose of those meetings, according to District officials, was to formulate a replacement for the state’s existing charter law. Hite told NewsWorks, ironically: “We wanted whatever we came up with to be transparent and predictable.”

In fact, those closed-door meetings ran concurrent with both the charter renewal and new charter application processes. In February, the SRC voted on three new charter applications after reviewing reports presented by Kacer and her staff. That office also presents recommendations on whether existing charters should be renewed.

On May 1, with less than one week’s notice, the SRC voted to renew eight of the 23 charters due for renewal. Before the meeting, the SRC made a decision to postpone, apparently indefinitely, voting on the 11 schools whose managers refused to agree to what they characterized as unfair conditions by the District. Were some of those same charter operators present at the closed-door meetings?

Far from the District and charters having a relationship of “bickering,” as the article refers to, the SRC continues to prove that the interests of charter operators take precedence over those of District stakeholders.  At its last meeting, the SRC approved yet another new charter, denied just three months ago, despite Kacer’s statement that the CSO found “no substantive differences” between the original and revised applications. The SRC has allowed clearly substandard charters such as Aspira and Universal to continue to operate by simply kicking the can down the road for more than a year (in Aspira’s case, more than two years) and offering no explanation to the public.

Serious questions have arisen about how these private meetings between District officials and charter executives have influenced the District’s decisions over the last six months. Kacer sat across the table from managers and board chairs of the very schools for which she decides whether to recommend renewal.  At the May 1 SRC meeting, she referred several times to the “Mastery family of schools.”

District officials told NewsWorks that the purpose of the meetings was to form an alliance to stop Pennsylvania House Bill 97, a new charter bill that would have serious financial repercussions, from being passed. That bill, of course, would have to be palatable to the charter owners and investors including Mark Gleason, who in 2015 offered the SRC $35 million to approve 39 new charters. Offering government officials large sums of money to pass a resolution is the definition of a bribe, but the SRC actually considered it. This year alone, the SRC has approved five resolutions in as many months for PSP initiatives in public schools. Why were no independent education activists — no parents or educators —invited to the table?

When public officials meet with organizations that they have been entrusted to regulate, the people have a right to know exactly what they are doing and saying. Hite had many opportunities during those six months to inform the taxpayers who pay his salary what he and his staff were negotiating with charter operators.

No one other than those in the room knows what was discussed or negotiated. After months of secrecy, the District cannot expect anyone to trust its word on this. We don’t know all of the players or the totality of what was discussed. The Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools has filed a right-to-know request asking for the names of all who attended, minutes of meetings, and all communications.

Parents, educators, and community members who advocate for public schools at SRC meetings know that their microphone will be turned off at exactly three minutes. But charter managers get all the time in the world.

Lisa Haver is a retired teacher and co-founder of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools (APPS).  Lynda Rubin is a retired school counselor and legislative liaison for APPS.




Ears on the SRC: May 25, 2017

SRC 5-25-17 edited

by Diane Payne
June 3, 2017

This regular Action Meeting of the SRC had been scheduled for the specific purpose of voting on the FY 2017-18 budget. In the three days before the meeting, however, several items were added, including the unannounced reconsideration of Deep Roots charter, whose application was rejected 3-1 in February. All five commissioners attended.

Eight APPS members gave testimony in defense of public education.

SRC’s Willful, Continuous Violations of the Letter and Spirit of the Sunshine Act

The 2016 Commonwealth Court-ordered settlement of the suit brought by APPS after SRC violations of the Sunshine Act stipulates that resolutions must be posted two weeks prior to each meeting.  Unfortunately, there have been repeated violations of this settlement agreement by the SRC. The resolution summary for May 18 was not posted in time. Some resolutions have only a title, but no description, which was the case for all of this meeting’s resolutions with one exception. In the case of the charter school resolutions, the SRC now designates every charter amendment—new applications, renewals, amendments—as “quasi-judicial’, then uses that unexplained designation as justification for 1) not providing full resolutions and 2) discussing charter business in executive session instead of in open meetings. APPS has repeatedly questioned the legality of hiding information from the public regarding the crucial actions on charter school applications, but the SRC continues to stonewall. This SRC changes policy on a whim (the number of speakers at the May 1st meeting was limited to 24 total, and half were from one school), breaks its own rules (conducting the April 27th and May 1st meetings after Commissioner Green left the meeting in violation of policy 006.1), and ignores the Sunshine Act—all the while paying lip service to transparency and community engagement.

The Deep Roots Charter Sham

This issue alone shows the depth of the corruption of the SRC. Their actions before and during the meeting on Deep Roots leave no doubt that it has, and will, put the interests of charter operators and investors before those of the students, parents and communities.

The SRC waited until three days before the meeting to post a resolution (with no text, just a title) to vote on a revised Deep Roots application—which has yet to be released by the district. There was no explanation of why this charter company was back only three months after it had been rejected. In fact, the Charter Office director acknowledged that there were “no substantive differences” between the first application and the revision.

APPS’ Deb Grill repeated many of the same points she made in February about the obvious inadequacy of Deep Roots’ curriculum, teacher recruitment, ELL resources, etc. She noted, again, that Logan Blyler, the school’s projected instructional leader, has only five years teaching experience, all in charters. He has no principal or administrative certification, although he is allegedly pursuing one at the “School Leader Fellow” program with Jounce Partners, a program comparable to that of Relay Graduate School. Jounce’s program is new, untried and lacks any evidence of success. Deb reminded the commissioners of the intense, scripted teacher coaching plan which can only result in high teacher attrition. Those teachers, in the revised application, would actually be paid less to work a 12-month year with only short breaks. Deep Roots’ mission statement says it will teach “motivated” students without addressing how to motivate the others.

The new proposal increases the allocation for nursing services by $30,000. Nursing services are outsourced with an unnamed health services provider to provide mandated health screening and other services in the Pennsylvania School Code. A nurse will be at the school several days a week. To pay for this, they reduced the salary of teachers from $50, 00 to $47,500. This includes an extended year for students and teachers of 188 days and 20 days of professional development for teachers.

The application actually invokes both Restorative Practices and No Excuses models without acknowledging that they are contradictory; this was cited by the hearing examiner in January as an indication that the application was a cut-and-paste from other charters, particularly KIPP. Deb asked whether those commissioners who had worked with Deep Roots board member Sophie Bryan would recuse themselves. Bryan served in several high-ranking positions in the district, including the Superintendent’s and Charter offices. She also served as Green’s chief of staff when he was in City Council. (No one abstained when the vote was taken.)

Karel Kilimnik told the SRC that Deep Roots’ application had “holes big enough to drive an 18-wheeler through”.

Click here to see the Charter Office’s reevaluation of Deep Roots.

SRC Perpetuates Expensive Farce

Click here to read the rest of the post.