Hite Administration Escalates War on Public Schools in 2015

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Observations from APPS member Karel Kilimnik
about how privatization is being advanced in the School District of Philadelphia as 2015 ends.

December 24, 2015

Three Neighborhood Schools to Be Turned Over to Charter Operators

In early October Superintendent William Hite announced that three neighborhood schools would be turned into Renaissance Charter. Those schools are Cooke in Logan, Wister in East Germantown, and Huey in West Philadelphia. The school communities were given no say in this. They were told their only choice would be which charter provider would be chosen. Hite learned last year that when parents have a real choice, they will reject being charterized. Teachers, parents and students fought to keep Steele Elementary in Nicetown and Munoz-Marin in North Philadelphia public; the parent vote was overwhelmingly against going charter. This time, he decided to impose this on parents through what turned out to be a very murky process. Teachers were shut out of the process altogether. The district set up an Evaluation Committee at each school and chose five parents to participate. That committee would make its recommendation to the district and the SRC on the future of the school.

What the Hite administration actually did was set up meetings run by District staff to “inform” parents. Parents and teachers at all of the three schools were purposely misled as to the location and time of these meetings. For some reason, none of the meetings was held at the schools themselves. At Cooke, the parents had to become detectives to find the meeting. At Wister, community members showed up at the announced location only to find that the meeting was being held somewhere else. People piled into cars and raced over. Yes, seats were empty at the actual district location simply because they were deceived about the correct place. Are parents supposed to trust the people who deliberately lied to them about the location of a meeting to make an honest decision about the future of their children’s school?

The too-small room overflowed with participants. The District staff was there to sell this plan to parents. To do so they enlisted a parent from Cleveland Mastery charter school. Wister parents were respectful and listened to her story and when she finished questioned district staff for specifics. They had no answers. People saw through their manipulations and sales pitch. District staff seemed taken aback by the opposition to their “wonderful plan.”

See the article Lies, Lies, Lies: Wister School is Another Chapter in Privatization and Locking Out Parent, Teacher, and Community Voice

APPS member Coleman Poses presented testimony at the November School Reform Commission showing how inaccurate the District data was for Wister. An SRC staff member admitted to Coleman that they used the wrong school’s data for Wister. Despite being told about this mistaken data the District continues to sail ahead with turning Wister over to Mastery.

Mastery Marketing In Full Force at Wister

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Lies, Lies,Lies: Wister School is another Chapter in Privatization and Locking out Parent, Teacher, Community Voice

9-17-15 SRC

by Karel Kilimnik
October 8, 2015

Let me start by saying we now have more confirmation that this District is being led by snake oil salespeople. Wister is one of the three schools slated to be turned into Renaissance Charter Schools by the School Reform Commission. Wednesday night, October 7th was the first “Meeting with Wister Families”. It should have been “First sales pitch to Wister families”. District staff were there to sell, not listen.

Wister parents and school staff were informed that the meeting would be held at a location in the 6700 block of Germantown Avenue. I arrived to find parents, children, and school staff milling around waiting for District personnel to arrive. One of the District Charter School staff ambled up just as we learned that the meeting was being held at another location. He brushed me off when I asked if he knew about this bait and switch. People ran to their cars and took off.

We walked into a small meeting room that barely held everyone. Leading the sales pitch for the evening was Karen Kolsky, Assistant Superintendent of Neighborhood Network 6. Audience members allowed Kolsky to drone on until she introduced a parent from Mastery Cleveland Charter School. Exhibit Number One in the selling of Why Wister Parents Should Be Drooling Over The Possibility of Becoming A Renaissance Charter.

Parents were respectful to the speaker and then the frustration and anger spilled over. The Wister principal stepped up to say that her own children attended Cleveland way before it was taken over by Mastery. They had a great education. Her daughter is a doctor and her son works as a long-distance trucker.

Kolsky was peppered with concerns about special needs students, preschool children, loss of teachers, loss of their beloved Wister community. Questions about lack of transparency, lack of any real choice, the list went on. These parents were articulate, well informed, and had valid concerns that were brushed aside by Kolsky and her team.

At one point SRC spokesperson Evelyn Sample-Oates rose from the back to say that, “The recommendation is from the superintendent for what should happen to this school.” My eyes were rolling around in my head. Parents pushed back saying why are we here as the decision has already been made. The Charter School staff member tried to allay fears about continuation of Wister’s regional special education programs by saying that “they would be taken into consideration”. Someone pointed out that his statement was meaningless so he added that it would “be written into the contract”.

Principal Smith was totally amazing. She talked about how Wister made AYP from 2008-2011 when she had the resources. She encouraged parents to use their voices and be heard.  She and others raised the issue of charter operators getting more money that should be put into their school now!

Parents and Grandparents at the meeting spoke lovingly about teachers and other parents and how much love, care, and respect there was for their children. One parent said charter school teachers are all about the money. Our Wister teachers don’t make that much and they’re all about loving our children.

Kendra Brooks, who led the organizing at Steele School to defeat turning their school over to a charter operator, spoke briefly about how they’ve changed the rules this time around so that parents do not have a choice.

Kolsky reminded parents that they would be there (I asked in this same place or are you going to change it?) for weekly meetings until Nov. 24th. Charter management companies can apply for Request for Qualifications on Oct. 15th. The District is offering visits to other Renaissance charters starting the week of Oct. 12th. Parents were handed a schedule of visits that included – Birney Prep Academy (Oct. 13 ,20, 27 & 28) Mastery Pastorius (Oct. 14), Mastery Harrity (Oct. 16); Hite will announce the proposed school/charter provider on Dec. 14th and the SRC votes on Jan. 21.

I can’t write anymore. They are too disgusting. Sounds like Cooke parents had a similar experience and have pushed back and seems like Wister is pushing back too. They have a really solid principal who wants to fight back and keep their school. We shall see.

The next Wister Community Meeting is Wed. Oct. 14 at 6 to 7:30 at Center In The Park. Please come out and support the Wister School Community as they fight for their school.


The same games are being played at Jay Cooke Elementary:

Philadelphia School District Deceives Parents at Jay Cooke Charter School Hearing | Raging Chicken Press