Eyes on the SRC: December 14, 2017

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by Karel Kilimnik

Alert: The SRC posted its resolution lists and summaries on Monday December 4. On Friday afternoon, they added three additional items: renewal votes on Aspira Olney and Aspira Stetson, and a vote on the revocation of Khepera Charter. These items are not formal resolutions, as they provide nothing other than the topic of the resolution—they do not state exactly what the SRC will be voting on. That is a clear violation of the PA Sunshine Act. After having postponed renewal votes on Aspira Olney and Aspira Stetson for a year and a half, the SRC is now poised to take a vote of some kind on these schools. The SRC’s Charter School Office, citing failure to meet academic, organizational and financial standards, recommended non-renewal for Aspira Olney and Aspira Stetson in April 2016. Stetson’s charter expired in June 2015, Olney’s in June 2016. APPS has asked the SRC several times in the past nineteen months for an update on these renewals; the SRC has refused to tell APPS or the public what its intentions were. We don’t believe that it is a coincidence that Aspira Inc. submitted applications for two new charters last month. Given the SRC’s history, we expect the SRC to rush through the votes on these schools without any explanation or deliberation. In fact, we fear that the SRC will be doing this on many issues in the six months before its official dissolution. It is crucial that parents, community members and elected officials keep a close watch on the SRC between now and July.

Last month we celebrated the beginning of the end of the 16-year reign of the state-appointed School Reform Commission. This month we continue to work with the communities of the six Priority Schools as Dr. Hite is expected to announce his decision on their fates in January or February. Both Mayor Kenney and Dr. Hite have said the district intends to close even more neighborhood schools. At the same time, nine charter companies, including Aspira and Mastery, have submitted applications to open new charters or expand existing campuses. Will these announcements occur during the busy holiday season?

The march of the Edu-vendors continues as more “partners” market their professional development and data collection wares. The board of the Philadelphia School Partnership has chosen to give more money to an SLA school; no question the SRC will approve without discussion of why private organizations have the power to decide which schools receive additional funding. Dr. Hite is making good on his 2013 promise to outsource Head Start services to private vendors. The district is proposing to sell the Beeber Wynnefield Annex for a song twenty years after its closure.

While keeping an eye on all of these issues, we await Dr. Hite’s announcement of which schools will be closed this year or next. Elementary schools Sheppard and EM Stanton were slated for closure in 2012 but remain open today. Why? Strong and sustained organizing of parents, students, community, and the school partners who showed that it is possible to fight back and win. Kenderton parents did not give up fighting for their school after Renaissance provider Young Scholars abandoned them. They came to the SRC, met with the superintendent and other administrators, and refused to stop fighting for their children and their school. This year Kenderton has additional faculty and staff, a veteran principal, and lower class size in k to 3rd grade. The district didn’t try to sell the idea—as they are to communities of this year’s Priority schools— that all the school needed was (yet another) outside company, like Jounce Partners or ISA, to “turn around” the school.

What If…?

…that $800,00 from PSP were used to restore extracurricular activities in schools? Is the Hite administration ever going to bring back the after-school activities, the interesting and innovative electives, the drama/journalism/art/photography clubs?

Next SRC meeting: Thursday December 14 at 4:30 PM. Please call 215-400-4180 before 3:30 PM Wednesday December 13 to register to speak.

Resolutions of Note

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Ears on the SRC: November 16, 2017

SRC demise celebration

by Diane Payne
November 27, 2017

Victory!

All five Commissioners were present for this historic meeting of the School Reform Commission. Resolution SRC-3— Recommendation of Dissolution of the School Reform Commission was passed at 7:35 p.m. with a 3-1-1 vote. Commissioners Wilkerson, Richardson, and McGinley voted in favor, Commissioner Green voted against, and Commissioner Jimenez abstained. This joyous occasion ended sixteen years of state-imposed control of our city’s schools. There were cheers, hugs, dances, and high-fives when the resolution passed. The tireless and persistent effort of the Our Cities Our Schools coalition of parents, teachers, students, unions, and community advocacy groups made this happen. [See APPS’ statement on the end of the SRC and what should come next.]

Our City Our Schools (OCOS) and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) organized a celebratory rally outside district headquarters just before the meeting. APPS co-founder Lisa Haver addressed the crowd, along with Councilwoman Helen Gym, State Senator Vincent Hughes, PFT leaders, parents and community members. There was much to celebrate on this new day, one that signaled the end of a state-imposed system that brought austerity and corporate reform for a perfect storm of devastation to the city’s public schools

Having worked for the preservation and improvement of public education for over five years as an organization, and for many years as individuals, APPS members know that this is not the end of challenges for our school system. We will continue to advocate for the what other districts in Pennsylvania have had for many years: schools that provide the education our children deserve governed by a democratically elected school board.

Some of the Philadelphia news outlets and their coverage of this important event:

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Supporters of public education celebrate the demise of the School Reform Commission

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Click on the picture to view the video of supporters of public education speaking before the SRC meeting of November 16, 2017. The SRC vote on dissolution is at the end.

Click on a timestamp to select a desired speaker. (If the timestamp does not work, move the slider at the bottom of the video to the time listed in the timestamp. It may be necessary to recheck the play button.)

Note: The SRC placed media on row 5 in the auditorium which allowed only filming speakers from the back and constant visual interruption from the audience in the first four rows. We have protested these filming conditions to no avail.

Click this picture to see the discussion and vote of the SRC to dissolve itself.

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Transcripts of testimony from APPS members in order of appearance.

Click the picture to read the transcript of Deborah Grill’s testimony.

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Click the picture to read the transcript of Lisa Haver’s testimony.

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Click the picture to read the transcript of Lynda Rubin’s testimony.

Lynda Rubin

Click the picture to read the transcript of Ilene Poses’s testimony.

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Click the picture to read the transcript of Karel Kilimnik’s testimony.

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Click the picture to read the transcript of Barbara Dowdall’s testimony.

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Click the picture to read the transcript of Diane Payne’s testimony.

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APPS Celebrates the End of the SRC, Calls for Elected School Board

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For immediate release                                                            November 2, 2017

Members of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools celebrate the impending dissolution of the School Reform Commission. We thank Mayor Kenney and Council President Clarke for their leadership in bringing this state-imposed body to an end.  State control of our schools has brought devastation to this city: precious funds have been diverted to non-public schools and over 30 neighborhoods have seen their schools closed permanently.

Since 2012, APPS members have attended every session of the SRC, including special meetings and Policy Committee meetings.  We have spent those five years fighting and organizing against the reckless spending, lack of transparency and disregard for the public exhibited by the many iterations of the SRC.  In 2014, APPS sued then-Chair Bill Green and the SRC in federal court for violating the public’s First Amendment rights when Green ordered the police to confiscate signs from members of the public—and won. The following year, we filed suit in Commonwealth Court to stop the SRC’s continual violations of the PA Sunshine Act.  Our settlement resulted in significant changes in SRC policy, including posting the resolutions to be voted on two weeks before the meeting instead of only 72 hours, and allowing the public to speak on resolutions posted just before or during the meeting.

We now have a unique opportunity to end the disenfranchisement of the people of Philadelphia.  The stakeholders in our public school system—that is, every person who benefits from a thriving public school system—should have the same rights as those in every other district in the commonwealth to elect the officials who will be entrusted to represent them in matters of school governance.

The dissolution of the SRC is not contingent on changing the City Charter.  The Charter now provides for mayoral control, as it did before SRC. The Mayor can select an interim school board for a year, during which time the city should hold community forums, as it is presently doing for the Rebuild initiative, to hear from the people whose voices were shut out during the reign of the SRC about how best to create a truly representative body for the critical task of educating our children.

Trading in one unelected, unaccountable board for another is not a progressive solution to the problems facing the district.