Debbie Grill’s testimony transcript from before the SRC on May 25, 2017.

Debbie Grill SRC testimony pic 5-25-17
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Good evening. I am going to list some of the many reasons you should vote to deny Deep Roots’ amended charter application.

First of all, there was no public hearing on the revised application. Nor was the revised application published, only the CSO evaluation. The public had only two days notice that you were going to reconsider this application.

Jounce Partners has little experience managing a charter school. They only manage one, and it’s in its first year of existence. I would think it would be prudent to wait and see how that school performs.

At their original application hearing, it was clear that Deep Roots had a shallow understanding of the restorative practices model of establishing school climate. They really didn’t understand that it was incompatible with a no-excuses model. The revised application evaluation indicates that they still don’t understand it. I find it alarming that you would grant a charter to a organization that doesn’t understand the practices that they intend to follow.

Deep Roots intends to develop students’ values and non-cognitive skills using the cognitive behavior methods of Dave Levin which are based on the research by Martin Seligman and Angela Duckworth. There is an ongoing controversy whether Seligman’s theories have been used to perfect torture techniques, and questions have arisen concerning the validity of Duckworth’s findings on the importance of grit to academic success.

Deep Roots’ proposed intensive teacher training is based on a model with scripted and repetitive practices resulting in automatic actions as opposed to thoughtful educational practices and thoughtful learning experiences. I envision an army of Stepford teachers.

Proposed school leader, Logan Blyler, has had less than 5 years classroom teaching experience. He does not yet have a principal’s certificate, but is enrolled in a certification program. There is no indication that the Director of Operations, his second in command, has principal certification.

The revised application report finds most of the founding and board members have no clear connection to the community. They do, however, include a number of people with significant connections in the political and business communities including a Senior Manager for Philadelphia Sisters Cities Program, the Manager of Business Retention and Retail Attraction at the Center City District, a board member of the Philadelphia School Partnership, representatives from a Philadelphia law firm and a real estate group, the CEO of a New Orleans charter school, and Sophie Bryan, Program Director of the Reinvestment Fund and former legislative aide and Chief of Staff for Commissioner Green when he served on City Council.   She has also served in several high level positions at 440 including positions in the Charter School Office and the Office of the Superintendent.   This raises several questions:

Having known and worked with Ms. Bryan for several years, will Commissioners Green and Jimenez recuse themselves from the vote?

Why are officers of agencies that partner with the city working to bring more charters to the city, thus further undermining the financial viability of the School District?

How much influence does PSP have in this endeavor? And why is it supporting an organization that has so little experience in charter management?