Ears on the October 15th SRC

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By Diane Payne

At the meeting of the School Reform Commission on October 15th the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools asked several questions. This post details answers (or lack thereof) to our questions and also comments on the remarks of Superintendent Hite and Commissioner Green at the end of the meeting.

Two of the unanswered questions:

Karel Kilimnik: Where can we find the salaries of all the recently hired administrative personnel?  No answer

Diane Payne: My question today on resolution A2….what evidence did you use to select Mastery Charter School teachers as coaches for our staff rather than using the expertise and knowledge of your own district teachers?  No answer

On resolution A2, the SRC approved unanimously the $300,000 grant from Mastery to “coach” our district teachers at 3 schools (Nebinger, Mayfair and McDaniel).  This was passed without answering any of the questions from this or previous SRC meetings on this very topic.  There was no offer of evidence, research, or discussion about why this is a good idea.  Instead, our own district teachers and their expertise was relegated to junk bin with no information forthcoming from the SRC about why exactly we need Mastery coaches in our buildings.  And, in fact, this resolution was passed AFTER the program’s start date.

And, when voting to approve this resolution, Mr. Green informed the audience that he visited Pastorius Mastery Charter School and has seen with his own eyes the magic of their success.  When comparing Pastorius Mastery to Pastorius Public School, could you fill in some blanks Mr. Green?

What is the population of children with disabilities?  What is the population of ELLs?  What is the discipline policy and how does it compare to the kinds of discipline policies public schools can enact? How many students have been counseled out? How do all the resources within the magic school compare to its public counterparts?  What is the measure of its success and at what cost?  Is there a cost analysis available to justify this major change and upheaval?  Let’s make sure when touting success you are comparing apples to apples and not apples to oranges.

Remarks by Dr. Hite

At the end of public testimony on October 15th, Dr. Hite took the opportunity to chastise the speakers who named the child whose medical emergency began in school when there was no nurse assigned for that day and later died.  He proceeded to lecture the audience that speakers were disrespectful to Laporsha Massey and her family and went on to say that the child’s asthma attack did not begin in school but at home….so, was Dr. Hite being disrespectful to the child and her family by deflecting blame from the school district’s responsibility and instead placing it on the family?  Is the naming of a child, whose medical emergency began in school when NO nurse was assigned and later died, more disrespectful than the district playing roulette with the lives of all our children?  Isn’t it more honorable to remember the name of a child whose medical emergency began on SD watch with the goal to try to avert this from happening to any child in the future??

Further, Dr. Hite failed to acknowledge or answer the questions and points brought up by a teacher from Francis Scott Key Elementary regarding the 2nd grader who went into cardiac arrest. A school nurse, who was not scheduled to be there but just happened to be in the building, recognized that the child hadn’t fainted but had gone into a cardiac event because of a malfunctioning pacemaker. If this child had had this event on Tuesday or Wednesday, when no nurse was present, this would have resulted in another life left to the irresponsible whims of the school district. As nurse Peg Devine testified, the district must “stop playing Russian Roulette” with the lives of our children.

Dr. Hite then attempted to justify his proposed handing off to corporate reform three elementary schools. His justification was that “even when we had resources those schools were performing poorly.” Dr. Hite, in case you didn’t know…we have never been resourced adequately. Just goes to show that starvation can be the new norm so we can reference the good old days of just plain meager resources as the luxury days. He further noted that in his proposal was the strengthening of district schools, as though that absolves him of selling out to corporate interests.

Lastly, he justified his plan by saying “poor and minority children deserve a chance at learning to read and write” and that we have not been providing this so handing them over to charters is the answer. Still no acknowledgement that the privation of economic, racial, employment, medical, and housing opportunities play any role nor the acknowledgement of school resource starvation playing any role….just the public school blame game. Isn’t Dr. Hite the highly paid overseer of this system? Why is he deferring his responsibility to corporate reform….we need to institute superintendent merit pay.

Remarks by Commissioner Green

Finally, there were Commissioner Green’s parting comments. He too used the ending of the public comments to chastise the audience. He informed us that the SRC is at the mercy of the state budget impasse and cannot control the fact that Harrisburg has not passed a budget. “Call Harrisburg”, Mr. Green urged. Mr. Green, please pay attention when the public is speaking. Then, you might hear speaker after speaker pointing out the various ways this SRC squanders what little resources we have on corporate reform agendas, frivolous law suits, outsourcing and failed initiatives.

The next SRC meeting is scheduled for November 19th. We encourage all to come and be witness to the ongoing assault on our public schools.