by Karel Kilimnik

Welcome to the start of the 2019-29 school year. Judging from this month’s Action Items, the welcome mat has been rolled out for the many branches of the Broad Foundation. We need to understand the history of privatization in Philadelphia to see how the unaccredited Broad Academy has been able to bring the outsourcing of services and the subsequent depletion of union membership to this and other school districts across the country.

In 2002 the District recruited businessman and politician Paul Vallas, who took the title of CEO as a statement of the change of direction toward a business model–and because he had no qualifications to take the position of superintendent. Vallas left just a few years later, leaving a $73 million deficit. Vallas opened the door for the tsunami of privatization to come, much of it carried out by administrators trained at the Broad Superintendents Academy.

In 2007, the Broad Academy created a special position for Dr. Arlene Ackerman as the first “Broad Superintendent in Residence” while she served as Superintendent of the San Francisco School District. Not long after her 2008 appointment here as Superintendent, she released her signature program, “Imagine 2014”, most of it based on a plan to have existing charters or other outside management companies take over struggling public schools. In 2009 Ackerman joined the Board of the Broad Foundation. She was forced to resign  as the District’s Superintendent in 2011 after a number of controversies, the last one involving a public dispute with the mayor over full-day kindergarten. In 2012 Dr. William Hite, a 2005 graduate of the Broad Academy, was selected to succeed Ackerman.  Hite’s even temperament and low-key management style, the antithesis of Ackerman’s, has made him a favorite of the city’s politicians and business leaders. On the other hand, his implementation of the Broad privatization ideology has carried on Ackerman’s legacy. Hite has downsized staff at 440 and cut support staff in schools. One of his first tasks was overseeing the closing of 24 neighborhood schools. Hite has outsourced several positions, most notably substitute teachers and other staff.

Two Items, 16 (Grant Purpose:  To partially fund the salaries and benefits of three Broad Resident positions) and 17 (To partially fund the salaries and benefits of one Broad Resident position), continue this open-door policy for the Broad Foundation ideology.

Item 13 is the latest example of the ease in which the Philadelphia School Partnership (here identified as the Philadelphia School Project)  has gotten its programs placed before the SRC and now the Board, passed, funded and implemented. There is rarely if ever any discussion of these items before passage; all are negotiated with District officials in private meetings before the public meeting.  PSP now takes on a new role as “Fiscal Agent” (Acceptance of Grant from Spring Point Partners LLC – Hill-Freedman World Academy Middle School Music Technology Expansion), although there is no explanation of what a fiscal agent’s role is or how PSP came to be chosen as such.

Outsourcing yet more professional development, leadership training, and nutrition education  appear in Item 47 ((Contract with Catapult Learning, LLC – Nutrition Education Services) and Item 54 with a company new to the District, Cambiar Education. We again note the trend in which a vendor applying for a small grant and returns later for increasingly larger slices of the public pie.

As we have asked many times before, why are Broad Urban Education Residency Fellows (or Cambiar or TNTP or any other vendor) needed to  provide professional development and coaching? Why do we continue to bring in outside vendors to provide these resources?The city has numerous nationally recognized universities with schools of Education. Just recently, the Board spoke of having more professional development provided in-house.

What If…

 …the Board decided to instruct the District to handle professional development in-house, using the experience and expertise of the District’s teachers and staff, instead of contracting with vendors? How much money could we save? How much better would that instruction be?

September Board of Education Action Meeting: Thursday September 19 at 5 PM at 440 N. Broad Street.  To register to speak, call 215.400.4010 by Wednesday September 18 at 3, or fill out the form on the Board’s webpage.

Resolutions of Note

PSP’s Influence Continues to Grow Under Board of Education

Action Item 13: Acceptance of Grant from Spring Point Partners LLC – Hill-Freedman World Academy Middle School Music Technology Expansion

Action under consideration: The Administration recommends that the Board of Education authorize The School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent or his designee, to accept a Grant as follows:

From: Spring Point Partners LLC
Purpose: The grant will be utilized to purchase music equipment and technology to support the expansion of Hill-Freedman World Academy’s (HFWA’s) music technology program.
Grant Start Date:  8/16/2019 Grant End Date:  6/30/2019 [sic]
Amount up to: $105,913
Location:  Hill-Freedman World Academy
Renewal Options:  No

Description: The Hill-Freedman World Academy Middle School Music Technology Expansion grant will be utilized to backwards map the existing high school music technology program into the middle school, which does not exist currently. The grant will assist Hill-Freedman World Academy in fulfilling the requirements for the Middle Years International Baccalaureate Program. It will also serve to promote and support the retention of middle school students for our high school program.

Philadelphia School Project will serve as a fiscal agent.

APPS Analysis:  What exactly is the role and responsibilities of a “fiscal agent”? Why is a private group handling grant money for  a public school ? PSP continues using the money of its wealthy corporate contributors to further embed itself in the policies and practices of the  District. PSP’s Board meets in private to make decisions about funding and curriculum in public schools. Its members are not accountable to the District. Their actions over the past few years illustrate how their power has grown. This Item expands that power. Below is an abbreviated list of PSP’s  actions over the past five years.

  • In 2018 Dr. Hite appeared with PSP Executive Director Mark Gleason at a press conference, held in the Mayor’s reception room, to present PSP’s new website to recruit and retain teachers. Isn’t this the task of the District’s Office of Talent Support Services? 
  • In 2015, PSP offered the SRC $35 million to approve 35 new charter schools. APPS members testified that this amounted to a bribe; the money was not accepted. 
  • In 2014 PSP Executive Director Mark  Gleason spoke about the advantages of school choice at a public conference on education, in a quote that became infamous: “ That’s the portfolio model–you keep dumping the losers”. 
  • In 2013, PSP lobbied then-Governor Corbett to withhold funds from the School District unless PFT members took a substantial pay cut and surrendered long-held collective bargaining rights.

Broad Academy Expands Role in District

Action Item16:  Ratification of Grant Acceptance from The Broad Center – Broad Resident positions

The Administration recommends that the Board of Education ratify the acceptance of a grant by The School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent or his designee, as follows:

From:  The Broad Center
Grant Purpose:  To partially fund the salaries and benefits of three Broad Resident positions
Grant Start Date: 7/1/2019  Grant End Date: 8/31/2021
Amount up to:  $108,000
Location:  Administration

Office of originating request:  Superintendent

Description:  The Chief Academic Officer and Chief Operating Officer identified several high priority projects in key functional areas needing project leadership. Partnering with The Broad Center, the District conducted a rigorous screening process to select three highly qualified Broad Residents to lead/manage these critical projects for the Chief Academic Officer and the Chief Operations Officer. In addition to the grant funds, The Broad Center will provide professional development, coaching, and peer supports to the Broad Residents which will further enhance their value to the District.

A ratifying action item is requested because the grant agreement details were finalized in July and the Broad Residents started working for the District in July/August which was in between the June and August Board meetings.  Funding for these positions is available and is included in the approved FY2020 budgets of both offices.

Action Item17: Ratification of Grant Acceptance from The Broad Center – Broad Resident position

Action under consideration:  The Administration recommends that the Board of Education ratify the acceptance of a Grant by The School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent or his designee, as follows:

From:  The Broad Center
Grant Purpose:  To partially fund the salaries and benefits of one Broad Resident position for the period commencing August 20, 2018 through August 18, 2020
Grant Start Date: 8/20/2019  Grant End Date: 8/18/2020
Amount up to:  $59,400
Location:  Administration

Office of Originating Request:  Superintendent

Description:  The Chief Operating Officer had a critical need for strategic planning and project management support in her division. Partnering with The Broad Center, the District conducted a rigorous screening process to select a highly qualified Broad Resident to fill that role. In addition to the grant funds, The Broad Center is providing professional development, coaching, and peer supports to the Broad Resident which further enhances her value to the District.

A ratifying action item is requested because the grant funds were accepted and the Broad Resident started working for the District in August 2018 but no corresponding Board action item was approved.  Funding for this position was available and included in the approved FY2019 budget and is available and included in the approved FY2020 budget.

Anchor Goal(s) Supported:
Anchor Goal 1 – 100% of students will graduate ready for college or career
Anchor Goal 2 – 100% of 8-year olds will read on or above grade level
Anchor Goal 3 – 100% of positions are filled by great principals, teachers and employees

Office of Originating Request:  Superintendent

APPS Analysis: Broad Residents come to districts with a perspective that essentially, education is a business, a transaction between providers and consumers. Education is a human right, not a commodity.

For 15 years, billionaire Eli Broad has sought domination in privatizing public schools through the Broad Foundation, Broad Superintendents Academy and their Urban Education Residency Program. Dr Hite is a 2005 Broad Superintendent Academy graduate.

On its website are well placed materials extolling both KIPP Charters and Teach for America. In 2015 Eli Broad, who made his fortune in real estate and insurance, issued a 44-page proposal to replace half of  the Los Angeles United School District (LAUSD) with charter schools. Broad is a member of what education writer Diane Ravitch designated “The Billionaire’s Boys Club”–rich men such as Broad, Gates, and the Waltons, with no knowledge or experience in education who want to remake education as a marketplace for the benefit of themselves and their associates. 

From Ken Derstine’s 2013 article analyzing the role of wealthy individuals in corporate education reform: 

“The historically unprecedented explosion of wealth in recent decades for the top one percent of the American populace is leading to a reshaping of the American economy in the interests of this one percent. Having more wealth than they know what to do with, many of the corporate leaders, hedge fund managers, and bankers are putting their wealth into ‘venture philanthropies’. They hope to advance an unregulated, free market economy which requires the destruction of the advances towards social equality made in American society during the 20th century due to the struggles of the civil rights movement in the sixties and the labor movement in the thirties. Incubated in the economic Wild West days of the G. W. Bush administration until the financial crisis of 2008, these venture philanthropies continue to seek to bring the business practices of the banking, corporate, and hedge fund manager world to all sectors of the U.S. economy through privatization.”

More Outsourcing of District Positions

Action Item 47:  Contract with Catapult Learning, LLC – Nutrition Education Services

Action under consideration: The Administration recommends that the Board of Education authorize the School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent or his designee, to execute and perform a contract, subject to funding, as follows:

With: Catapult Learning, LLC
Purpose: To provide staffing for nutrition education services
Start date: 10/1/2019   End date: 9/30/2020
Compensation not to exceed: $870,000

Location: Harrington, Avery D. School; Jenks, Abram S. School; Academy at Palumbo; Anderson, Add B. School; Fitzpatrick, A. L. School; Greenfield, Albert M. School; Stearne, Allen M. School; Academy for the Middle Years (AMY) at Northwest; Morrison, Andrew J. School; Jackson, Andrew School; Frank, Anne School; Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush; Baldi Middle School; Barton, Clara School; Bridesburg School; Central High School; Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) High School; Fell, D. Newlin School; McDaniel, Delaplaine School; Allen, Dr. Ethel School; Duckrey, Tanner G. School; Heston, Edward School; Allen, Ethan School; Bregy, F. Amedee School; Feltonville Intermediate School; Fitler Academics Plus School; Fox Chase School; Hopkinson, Francis School; Edmonds, Franklin S. School; Meade, General George G. School; Sharswood, George W. School; Girard Academic Music Program (GAMP); Disston, Hamilton School; Houston, Henry H. School; Blaine, James G. School; Ludlow, James R. School; Cooke, Jay School; Greenberg, Joseph School; Barry, John Elementary School; Taggart, John H. School; Webster, John H. School; Patterson, John M. School; Marshall, John School; Carnell, Laura H. School; Cassidy, Lewis C. Academics Plus School; Farrell, Louis H. School; Moore, J. Hampton School; Olney School; Overbrook Elementary School; Dunbar, Paul L. School; Penn Alexander School; Philadelphia Military Academy (PMA); Rhawnhurst School; Rhodes, E. Washington Elementary School; Wright, Richard R. School; Richmond School; Pollock, Robert B. School; Lamberton, Robert E. School; Morris, Robert School; Shawmont School; Southwark School; Girard, Stephen School; Morton, Thomas G. School; Holme, Thomas School; Finletter, Thomas K. School; Peirce, Thomas M. School; Mifflin, Thomas School; Kelley, William D. School; Dick, William School; Meredith, William M. School; Administrative Office(s);

Non-District Location(s):

PA School for the Deaf, 100 W. School House Lane, Philadelphia, PA 19144
Abbotsford Homes PHA Development, 3226 McMichael St, Philadelphia, PA 19129
Norris Apartments, 2013 N 11th St, Philadelphia, PA 19122
Free Library of Philadelphia – Widener Library, 2808 W. Lehigh Ave, Philadelphia,  PA 19132
Free Library of Philadelphia – Cecil B. Moore, 2320 Cecil B. Moore Ave,
Philadelphia, PA  19121
Feltonville Recreation Center, 231-37 E. Wyoming Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19120

Renewal Options:  No

Description: Hunger and lack of proper nutrition, which is prevalent in Philadelphia, is associated with lower grades, higher rates of absenteeism, and an inability to focus. Therefore, the Eat Right Philly team utilizes a multi-level program approach that provides nutrition education, as well as policy, system, and environmental interventions during, and outside the school day and building. In order to meet program goals as well as the grant’s federal guidelines, nutrition and wellness staff have been outsourced, allowing more flexible scheduling and to maximize grant funds and program impact. Catapult Learning, LLC was selected through a formal selection process to provide staffing. District administrative staff set program goals, schedules, and fully supervise Catapult staff so that Eat Right Philly meets grant and District outcomes. Since the District is a recipient of the USDA’s  National School Lunch Program and utilizes the Community Eligibility Provision reimbursement option to offer free meals to children in high poverty schools, all schools qualify for Eat Right Philly programming. The District’s Eat Right Philly team coordinates the assignment of schools and level of programming based on need, readiness, and capacity of school staff to support and partner with Eat Right Philly program staff. Additionally, six community partners administer Eat Right Philly programming in order to maximize school, student, and caregiver reach across the entire District.

APPS AnalysisCatapult has been successful in doing business with the District. Since 2015 the company  shared in contracts totaling over $60 million for servicing high-needs students. In 2017, the District proposed awarding Catapult a $54 million contract to run a stand-alone school for former Wordsworth Academy students; the District had to withdraw students from Wordsworth after the murder of a student at the facility. After strong pushback from The Coalition of Special Education Advocates, that amount was reduced to $10 million with mixed reviews of those Catapult-run programs.  In 2017 the District outsourced its Nutrition Education Program, which had been staffed by PFT members, to Catapult. Catapult is a private company managing public resources. Their ownership can change, and has, as shown by the history we presented in the September 2018 Eyes. How committed to stability is the District when they keep outsourcing services previously staffed by unionized  district staff? Is this simply another thrust of the effort to destroy unions and destabilize much needed resources for our students?

Action Item 54: Contract with Cambiar Education – School Systems Leaders Fellowship

Action under consideration: The Administration recommends that the Board of Education authorize The School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent or his designee, to execute and perform a contract, subject to funding, as follows:

With:  Cambiar Education
Purpose: Professional Development
Start date: 8/16/2019    End date: 6/30/2020
Compensation not to exceed: $30,000
Renewal Options:  No

Description:  Cambiar Education is a nonprofit organization which helps leaders design, research, pilot, evaluate, iterate, and launch new ideas. Cambiar Education also assists leaders to design and develop the capabilities, structures, and systems to sustain change for the students and/or communities they serve.

The School Systems Leaders Fellowship (SSFL), a Cambiar program (formerly the TFA System Leaders Fellowship), is a selective yearlong program designed to prepare aspiring senior systems leaders “fellows” to assume systems leadership roles in which they can work to fundamentally improve academic and life outcomes for students, system-wide. The Fellowship will provide participants with the core instructional, managerial, innovation, political, and strategic skills needed to be an effective systems leader via a residency-based leadership development program.

The Fellowship aims to prepare fellows to assume a senior, instructionally focused, school systems leadership role (e.g. cabinet-level or chief position) within two to three years of completing the program. The program consists of four core components: (1) Placement in a full-time, high-impact systems role, (2) Individualized Executive Coaching, (3) Programming, and (4) Ongoing Career Support, to provide fellows with on-the-job training in school systems leadership, practical and individual skill development, immersion in an academic curriculum focused on transformational change, opportunities to interact with leaders in education and beyond, and exposure to the most promising practices in the field. The Fellows are current employees who applied and were accepted to the program. The District will provide funding support for two employees to attend this school year.

On average, it costs approximately $15,000 per School Systems Leaders Fellow for the one-year fellowship program. The School Systems Leaders Fellowship is used as a way to improve principal practice and retain leaders in our schools in support of Anchor Goal 3.

APPS Analysis:  Broad alumna and associates appear in this Item also. Prior to becoming the Founder and CEO of Cambiar, Christina Heitz was Managing Director of The Broad Academy for 9 years where she led all aspects of recruitment, selection, session design and training, and professional development.  She started her career as a brand manager with Ralston Purina. She follows in Eli Broad’s footsteps as a person with no known experience or background in education, but somehow able to lead a nonprofit organization “specializing in preparing aspiring senior systems leaders ‘fellows’ to assume systems leadership roles in which they can work to fundamentally improve academic and life outcomes for students, system-wide”.  Cambiar’s website contains the usual corporate ed jargon (“Cambiar Education partners with changemakers who dream big, create a plan, and build a team to make it all possible. We help leaders design, research, pilot, evaluate, iterate, and launch groundbreaking, game-changing ideas.” Also: “We laugh often and out loud”.) Missing are details on how they will actually achieve these lofty aspirations. Cambiar brings to mind the empty promises of Teach for America. The School Systems Leadership Fellows launched in 2012 at TFA;  the Fellowship is now a project of Cambiar Education. Again we ask why these vendors are needed to provide training to prepare aspiring senior systems leaders “fellows” to assume systems leadership roles in which they can work to fundamentally improve academic and life outcomes for students, system-wide” when we have well-established local universities with actual Colleges of Education. This can only be part of the ongoing administrative commitment to outsourcing and privatization.