Ears on the SRC – May 26, 2016

full SRC

In preparation for the SRC Meeting on June 16th, APPS looks back at the last SRC meeting.

by Diane Payne
June 14, 2016

APPS Presence

Five APPS members spoke at this SRC meeting bearing witness to the actions of the SRC and the Hite administration as they continue to fail the public schools of this city while holding up charters as the silver bullet to our urban education challenges. The APPS members who spoke were: Lynda Rubin, Coleman Poses, Rich Liuzzi, Diane Payne and Lisa Haver. To view the videos of their speech or read the text go to APPS website.

Special Note: Despite repeated requests for SRC commissioners to speak into the mic so that all dialogue can be heard clearly, this continues to be a problem. For example, when Commissioner Houston asked questions on SRC resolutions 5 and 6, the non-renewals of both Aspira Stetson Middle and Aspira Olney High schools, it was very difficult for those in the room to hear. These are critical issues, so we will again request that the SRC speak so the public can hear them.

Budget

A five year budget plan for fiscal years 2016 through 2021 was presented by Chief Financial Officer Uri Monson. The budget shows a slight positive fund balance in the first couple of years, which Monson acknowledged was created in large part by the district’s failure to fill dozens of teaching positions in the last two years. Monson said that this balance has enabled the district to restore staffing levels of nurses and counselors to a minimum of one per building even if state funding is reduced. However, a negative fund balance is predicted beginning FY 2019. Both SRC Chair Neff and Superintendent Hite called for continued advocacy for full funding. Hite also stated that the district is currently attempting to engage funders in discussions on how to adequately meet district needs.

Charter school costs, of course, are a large source of School District expenditures and rise equally along the lines of number of seats as well as per pupil rate.

Renaissance Charter Non-renewal Rigging

Three months ago, the SRC’s Charter School Office (CSO) recommended the non-renewal of four Renaissance charters, including Aspira Stetson Middle School and Aspira Olney High School. These resolutions have been on the SRC agenda for the last three meetings, and the game of finding ways to give Aspira, Inc. special consideration continues. At the May 26th meeting, SRC resolution 5 and 6 contained over twenty-five reasons for non-renewal for each school taken from the CSO reports, including academic, financial, and management violations. This time, it was Commissioner Houston who moved to postpone the Aspira votes, saying that there were “too many documents” for the SRC to read before voting. These must be new documents, as the CSO had already submitted those used for their assessment. Will these new documents, presumably submitted by Aspira representatives, be released to the public?

State law grants charter companies a lengthy appeal process if the SRC were to vote for non-renewal. But this is a new game. The SRC is apparently conducting a private appeals process. They are violating their own rules and procedures. Why are attorney Ken Trujillo and Aspira board chair Ramirez being given special access to the SRC and to district staff? Why is the public being shut out? The parents of Wister Elementary were never given this opportunity, nor were the parents of Cooke or Huey. In fact, none of the SRC commissioners showed up once at any of the meetings at these schools.

If the SRC is going to reject its CSO report, then they must give reasons why. If they are looking for any avenue to ignore the evidence and recommendations of that office, they must explain that in a presentation to the public at an SRC action meeting. Are charter schools to be saved at any cost, even as we sacrifice our public schools?

Universal Audenreid and Universal Vare were also recommended for non-renewal by the CSO. Those resolutions seem to be in limbo with the Aspira resolutions – they have not even been on the agenda for the last two meetings. Are private meetings with Universal officials also taking place?

Special Thank You

A special thank you to the two dedicated Philadelphia teachers who shared their story of how the lack of a fair PFT contract is directly affecting them. Catherine Khella and Jessica Way spoke of the struggle to remain in the city’s schools in the face of the disrespect shown by the district. The school professionals and members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers – teachers, nurses, secretaries, counselors, and librarians – have been without a contract for three years. We urge the School District of Philadelphia to bargain fairly, respectfully and in a timely manner with the professionals who care deeply about the children of this city.

Green Phones It In

Testimony written by Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT), was presented by PFT Communications Director George Jackson. Jordan addressed the personal and financial problems facing his members as they continue to negotiate for a fair contract. Although PFT members have now gone over 1,000 days without a new contract, and four years without a raise, they remain on the job and dedicated to the children of Philadelphia.

You can count on Commissioner Green to display his disdain for the district’s teachers and school professionals, and this meeting was no exception. The fact that he wasn’t present at the meeting except by telephone didn’t stop him. Green engages in that same “we love teachers, we just don’t like the union” line. He knows that teachers ARE the PFT. Making statements like: the PFT doesn’t care, PFT isn’t willing to make concessions, PFT only focuses on money is the same as saying: teachers don’t care, teachers aren’t willing to make concessions, teachers only focus on money. You have to wonder: if Commissioner Green walked in the shoes of those who work with our children, for more than a quick school visit (does he visit district schools or just charters?), would he still be trying to get in the last word on this subject?

Next SRC Meeting

The next SRC meeting is Thursday, June 16, 2016 at 5:30 p.m. in the 2nd floor auditorium at 440 N. Broad Street. To register to speak at a regularly scheduled or special meeting, call the Office of Parent, Community, and Family Engagement at 215-400-4180 no later than 4:30 PM on the business day immediately preceding the meeting. Only one member of an organization can register to speak so it is always safe to register as a community member. There is an additional SRC meeting this month scheduled for Thursday, June 30th.