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.

Philadelphia’s Proposed New Charter School Reports: February 22, 2018

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by Lisa Haver
February 14, 2018

On February 22, the  lame-duck School Reform Commission (SRC) will vote to accept or reject applications from seven charter companies: APM Community Charter School, Franklin Towne Charter Middle School, Mastery Charter Elementary, MaST Community Charter School,  Philadelphia Hebrew Charter School, Antonia Pantoja Preparatory Charter School and Eugenio Maria de Hostos Preparatory Charter School.  (Pennsylvania Institute Charter School withdrew its application at the hearing; Qor Charter withdrew its application subsequent to the hearing.)

APPS members have read and analyzed the applications, attended the hearings, researched the charter company and its officers, and examined the records of any existing schools the company operates in the district.

Those who scratch the surface of this process begin to realize the depth and breadth of the questions surrounding the funneling of tax dollars into institutions that are not “public” in the sense of serving the common good.  Dig further to discover highly paid top administration officials, cozy and complicated financial dealings, far from transparent or open organizational practices, and academics that are rarely superior to public schools.

In defense of a truly public education system that serves the common good as a cornerstone of democracy, APPS continues to delve into the facts and history of charters. Our tax dollars should be spent to improve the quality of education for all of our students and should not be spent on a wasteful, corrupt, two-tiered system made possible by those who benefit from the provisions in what PA Auditor General Anthony De Pasquale has called “the worst charter school law in the country”.

Following are the reports by APPS members along with written testimony submitted to the SRC.

APM Community Charter School

Aspira Inc: Antonia Pantoja Preparatory Charter School

Aspira Inc: Eugenio Maria de Hostos Charter School

Franklin Towne Middle Charter School

Philadelphia Hebrew Charter School

Mastery Charter Elementary School

MaST III Charter School

 

The School District of Philadelphia New Charter Applications


At its February 22, 2018 Charter Ratification meeting, the Philadelpia School Reform Commission denied six charters and approved one with conditions.

SRC denies six charters and approves one with conditions | Philadelphia Public School Notebook – February 22, 2018