Eyes on the Board of Education: February 27, 2020

by Karel Kilimnik

If privatization and outsourcing are truly innovative, why don’t we see more of that in affluent suburbs like Lower Merion? As we review the list of Items the Board will consider at its next Action Meeting, there seems to be no end to the contracts with private vendors to take on work traditionally done by District staff. Companies that have been the lifeblood of the corporate disruption movement like Teach for America are now  joined by newer players Relay Graduate School of Education (which, as Board Member Chris McGinley reminds his colleagues, is not really a graduate school and is not accredited in Pennsylvania) and the District Management Group, hired to perform tasks formerly done by District Staff (Items 15, 16, 17). Dr Hite sent a letter to all District staff last week imploring District staff to aid in recruitment efforts under his “Teach Today. Change Tomorrow” initiative.  Why is he recommending spending $325,000 on TFA Recruitment if this campaign was just launched? Hundreds of thousands have been spent on teacher recruitment in the past three years–where are the results? Is the push for TFA an indication that that recruitment effort failed? The Board does not have to take on the rubber-stamp function of the SRC. The Board can take a stand and restore teacher recruitment and professional development to the District.

Dr Hite, a 2003 graduate of the business-oriented Broad Superintendents Academy, continues to outsource rather than build internal structures and capacity. The primary belief by the Billionaire Boys Club, of which Eli Broad is a member (note more details under #15,Contract with Teach for America to Support Teacher Hiring $325,000)), are described succinctly by Curmudgucation blogger Peter Greene “… Broad does not believe that schools have an education problem; he believes they have a management problem. School leadership does not need an infusion of educational leadership–they need business guys, leadership guys….there is no external governing or certifying board of any sort declaring that the Broad Superintendent’s Academy is a legitimate thing, and yet, it exists and thrives.”

The local funder of the corporate disruption of public schools, the Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP), is the primary sponsor of the High School of Health Sciences Charter application (Item 5). PSP representatives approached the principal and staff of Kensington Health Sciences Academy with the false promise of funding an unspecified “new opportunity”. KHSA welcomed them in, but after PSP observed the school’s innovative program, they incorporated what they saw into their application. After admitting why they came to the school, they actually told the KHSA principal her school “could learn from their charter model” . In fact, false statements were made about one alleged partner. A letter sent in December 2019 from Local 1199c leaders to PSP requested that PSP and the charter applicants  “cease and desist including the District 1199c Training and Upgrading Fund in any other applications, grants or similar writings…”  Sharifa Edwards, named as proposed principal in the HS2L application, currently serves as PSP’s Manager for School Investments. PSP  also partners with SchoolKit (# 45 Contract with Various Vendors – Professional Learning Support $2,000,000)).

Although the District Charter Schools Office no longer recommends approval or denial, the staff releases a comprehensive analysis of the application. Their reports for Items 5 (Application for New Charter School: High School of Health Sciences Leadership School ) and Item 6 (Application for New Charter School: Joan Myers Brown Academy – A String Theory Charter School)  find both applications lacking in several crucial areas. The APPS report provides additional analysis of academic, financial, and other areas.

The District is currently engaged in the four-year Comprehensive School Planning Review (CSPR) process to “right-size” the district’s facilities. Item 32 (License Agreement with Building Bok LP for Gymnasium Use at the Bok Building)  allowing Southwark Elementary to use the gym at Bok provides an unfortunate reminder of the short-sightedness of the District’s planning processes. In 2013, as the SRC moved to close 23 neighborhood schools, speakers from Point Breeze testified as to the growing birth rate in that area,  urging the SRC Commissioners to keep Smith Elementary open–to no avail. As those speakers predicted, many schools in South Philly are bursting at the seams. We can only hope that the Board does not repeat those mistakes by continuing to shut the public out of the CSPR process. Its  Parent/Teacher/Community Disengagement only serves to further alienate the public and create distrust of the District.

March Board of Education Action Meeting: Thursday March 26, 5 PM at 440 N. Broad Street.  To register to speak, call 215.400.5959 by 3 PM Wednesday March 25, or fill out the speaker form on the Board’s webpage.

Action Items of Note

Can the District Afford Two New Charter Schools?

Item 5:  Application for New Charter School: High School of Health Sciences Leadership School 

Action under consideration: The Board of Education received the new charter application for High School of Health Sciences Leadership Charter School on November 15, 2019.  Hearings on the application were held on December 20, 2019 and January 22, 2020. Pursuant to the Pennsylvania Charter School Law, the Board of Education will vote to approve the application or vote to deny the application and adopt an adjudication in support of the denial during its February 27, 2020 Action Meeting.  The Charter Schools Office’s evaluation report concerning the application is linked here.

APPS AnalysisIn the first paragraph of its evaluation, the Charter Schools Office Evaluation Report on the High School for Health Sciences states:  “The Applicant’s education plan lacks the necessary level of detail to demonstrate its potential effectiveness in supporting its health sciences mission.” Other deficiencies include:

  • The career pathways and internships are underdeveloped, despite being the centerpiece of the proposed Charter Schools’ approach.
  • The staffing model does not support the planning and implementation of the ambitious
  • Internship component, with no staff budgeted for this purpose until Year 3.
  • The Applicant’s academic and non-academic goals and assessment strategies lack quantifiable targets and are disconnected from the health sciences mission and Pennsylvania’s ESSA Consolidated Plan.

The APPS Report builds on the  Charter School Office Report where numerous shortcomings, exaggerations, and outright misrepresentations were cited both in the evaluation and during the District’s charter hearings.
Estimated cost to District over 5 years:  $40,636,317.14

Item 6:  Application for New Charter School: Joan Myers Brown Academy – A String Theory Charter School 

Action under consideration: The Board of Education received the new charter application for Joan Myers Brown Academy – A String Theory Charter School on November 15, 2019.  Hearings on the application were held on December 20, 2019 and January 22, 2020. Pursuant to the Pennsylvania Charter School Law, the Board of Education will vote to approve the application or vote to deny the application and adopt an adjudication in support of the denial during its February 27, 2020 Action Meeting.  The Charter Schools Office’s evaluation report concerning the application is linked here.

[The descriptions of Items 5 and 6 do not contain the full text of the Item.  APPS will continue to demand that all Items, including charter Items, contain full text.]

APPS Analysis:  The Board rejected this applicant twice last year, and there is no reason to approve it this year as it is, in essence, the  same application. Both the District Charter School Office and APPS have issued reports enumerating the many reasons why the JMB String Theory charter school should be denied.The APPS Report states: “String Theory Schools (STS) has been the subject of news articles detailing Corosanite’s use of previous charter schools granted to STS as a platform from which to build a real estate development business with attorneys at Sand & Saidel, P.C. and with financial consultants Santilli & Thomson, LLC.  Santilli & Thompson would act as JMBA’s business controller, using the per-pupil funding for each student to satisfy the bank’s collateral for additional building loans. The complicated legal agreements of the funding partners could leave the District and taxpayers on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars of debt if the real estate and/or banking market falls (as they did in 2008 crash) leaving STS, Sand & Saidel P.C. and Santilli & Thomson LLC underwater. This was laid out in several articles about String Theory’s real estate/business model, including the 2015 Inquirer article by Alex Wigglesworth and Ryan Briggs, Philly Charters Borrow $500 Million of Taxpayers’ Funds.” 
Estimated cost to District for first 5-year term: $49, 253, 959

Does Temporary Placement of TFA Recruits Mean More Highly Qualified Teachers?

Item 15:  Contract with Teach for America to Support Teacher Hiring ($325,000)   

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:Teach for America, Inc.
Purpose: Contract will ensure the recruitment, onboarding, professional development, and certification support for up to 20 new corp members per school year, not to exceed a total of 35 corps members in any given year who are completing their two year commitment.
Start date: 7/1/2020         End date: 6/30/2022
Compensation not to exceed: $350,000
Location: District schools with persistent vacancies in hard to staff middle and secondary content areas. Principals will select corps members based on the needs of teaching positions and skill sets in their schools.
Renewal Options:  Yes Number of Options: 3
Duration of each option to extend: Years: 1
Maximum compensation authorized per option period:   $175,000

Description:The District’s partnership with Teach For America (TFA) is a critical part of the overall pathways utilized to identify the quality and diverse teacher candidates necessary to ensure that 100% of schools have great teachers. Teach For America specifically identifies and supports promising leaders to seek out positions in high-need schools and in high-need content areas. The District’s current contract authorizes up to 38 first year and second year teachers (corps members) teaching at District schools in networks 2, 4, and the Acceleration Network, primarily in North and West Philadelphia, as they have done for the last two school years — networks that historically have the highest number of teacher vacancies at the start of and during the school year.

TFA teachers undergo a rigorous selection process, pre-service training in the Teach For America Institute and provides ongoing support for the in-classroom experience to Teach For America corps members.  Corps members earn their teaching certification through an alternative route to certification program, receive ongoing professional support from a coach to rapidly improve their pedagogical, cultural competence, and content skills, and have the option to earn their Master’s degree in Education while they are teaching. Teach For America corps members teach for a minimum of two years, and Teach For America-Greater Philadelphia works with their alumni to encourage them to stay in the classroom and directly serve students in the District beyond their two year commitment.

Teach For America teachers are some of the most racially diverse in the nation, with an average of 45% of corps members in Philadelphia over the last seven years identifying as teachers of color (compared to 30-35% of the district’s new teachers). Additionally, over 50% of the corps members in Philadelphia come from a low-income background.

Teach For America began placing teachers in Philadelphia in 2003, and has worked closely with the School District of Philadelphia since that time. Since 2003, over 1,000 corps members have served as teachers in a School District of Philadelphia-led school.

Anchor Goal(s) Supported: Anchor Goal 3 – 100% of positions are filled by great principals, teachers and employees
Related resolution(s)/approval(s): June 16, 2016; A-3
Funding Source(s): FY 20-22 Title II

APPS AnalysisTeach For America (TFA) has become the billionaire-financed army for privatizing public education. It is the number one source of charter school teachers and its alumni are carrying a neoliberal ideology into education leadership at all levels. TFA undermines education professionalism and exacerbates teacher turnover. Its teachers are totally unqualified to run a classroom yet their political support caused the US Congress to label them as highly qualified teachers. Big money and its political power have elevated TFA to being the nation’s most effective force driving the privatization of public education.” From “TFA Is Bad for America”,  by education writer Tom Ultican.

TFA leaders have built a vast network for supplying recent college graduates with no education background, providing them with five weeks of summer training, and placing them in “hard to fill” schools. TFA recruits commit to a brief two-year stint and can leverage that short time  into other fields such as law or public service with a claim to having taught. TFA alum often move into administrative positions in school districts or even state-level posts. Some have entered TFA Capitol Hill Internship Program, working in Congress to bring the perspective of the pro-choice to lawmakers. While the TFA summer training program has begun to adapt more traditional education methods, the organization still advances the philosophy of educational entrepreneurship. Philadelphia is home to a wealth of institutions of higher learning with renowned education programs. Why would the District have to resort to TFA recruits?  Teacher recruitment and retention is an ongoing concern. If diversity is really an issue, one answer would be to build strong connections with Historically Black Colleges and Universities. There are educators and community members already engaged in creating a more diversified workforce such as the Melanated Educators Collective. Too often District leadership bypasses local efforts to award contracts to entities with nothing but a monetary attachment to Philadelphia.

TFA Greater Philadelphia Executive Director Anna Shurak left the District  to take the reins at Philadelphia TFA (after a stint in the Camden District advancing the privatization plan imposed by Governor Chris Christie and one at  Relay GSE). Is this who should be recruiting teachers for the District? The District’s own data shows that certified teachers who complete accredited 4-year programs stay longer than TFA recruits. 

Item 16: Contract Extension for Teacher Residency Program.  Providers: Drexel University, Relay Graduate School of Education, Temple University and University of Pennsylvania   

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 an amendment of a contract, subject to funding, as follows:

With:Drexel University Relay Graduate School of Education ,Temple University ,
Trustees of University of Pennsylvania
Purpose: For tuition and fees for up to 75 Teacher Residents, and payment to mentor teachers
Original Start Date:  4/27/2018 Original End Date:  6/30/2020
Amended End Date:  6/30/2021
Currently Authorized Compensation:  $1,062,500
Additional Compensation:All entities will be paid out of an additional aggregate not to exceed amount of $637,500 in FY2021.
Total New Compensation:  $1,700,000
Location: All Schools
Renewal Options:  No

Description:The District contracts with four partners to recruit, onboard [sic] and train a cohort of Teacher Residents who will ultimately become content certified teachers in the District. Teacher Residents are asked to commit to teaching for three years past their residency in hard-to-fill content areas. Residency program partners provide courses required for certification as well as on-site teacher training through a mentor teacher or university-based advisor. The District’s Teacher Residency program has provided a pipeline for approximately 125 certified teacher hires to date, starting with approximately 20 Teacher Residents, working with one partner, Relay Graduate School of Education (GSE), in SY2018, and expanding to university partners in SY2019 and SY2020, as approved by the School Reform Commission and the Board of Education.  As part of the effort to continue to build a quality teacher pipeline, the District seeks to extend its agreements with Teacher Residency Programs through SY2021, with an option to extend to SY2022, pending a review of performance and funding.

The District aims to provide residents with a variety of training options, to maintain four partners whose approaches to the Residency model align to common standards, but whose course structures and cost vary.  Relay GSE has been a strong pipeline for recruiting and certifying diverse Teacher Residents in a range of content areas (ELA, Science, Math). Relay GSE enrolled a higher number of Teacher Residents who identify as people of color than the other Teacher Residency partners. Of the first cohort, 60% of Teacher Residents who were enrolled at Relay GSE were people of color; of the second cohort, 30% of Teacher Residents who were enrolled at Relay GSE were people of color; and of the third cohort, 64% of Teacher Residents identify as a person of color. There are no out-of-pocket costs associated with enrollment at Relay GSE, which is appealing to candidates. Drexel University and Temple University have trained Teacher Residents to teach in high-needs science and math content areas. 100% of Teacher Residents who are currently enrolled at Drexel University and Temple University will earn science or math content certification.  The University of Pennsylvania has focused both on English language arts and STEM certifications as well, with a goal of focusing more heavily on STEM moving forward.

To date, 68 former Teacher Residents are teachers of record across the District. Residents were either retained in the host schools or site selected for science, mathematics and English language arts positions in schools across the city. The current cohort of 57 residents will be engaged in SY2021 Site Selection beginning in April 2020.

Anchor Goal(s) Supported: Anchor Goal 1 – 100% of students will graduate ready for college or career, Anchor Goal 3 – 100% of positions are filled by great principals, teachers and employees
Related resolution(s)/approval(s):
May 30, 2019; No. 18
April 26, 2018; A-2
March 16, 2017; A-2
Funding Source(s): Title II
Office Originating Request: Talent

APPS AnalysisAs the neoliberal business model of education continues to wrap its tentacles around the pillars of public education, this item affords a glimpse into the forces advancing it. The Billionaire Boys Club (a term coined by Historian of Education Diane Ravitch)  looms large as they throw their money behind corporate education disrupters like Relay. The big money from the Gates Foundation, the Eli Broad Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation opens the doors for the rich to impose their free-market model of education, while making it more difficult for grass-roots education activists to be heard.  The foundation funding that underwrites much of Relay’s costs allows them to offer financial packages that other traditional colleges of education cannot. What would happen if these wealthy funders provided money directly to the District to make Teacher Ed programs more affordable and yet still professionally managed? Four years ago APPS posted an article describing Relay  In 2007 three charter school chain operators (KIPP, Uncommon Schools, and Achievement First) decided to supply their  charter schools and others with high-quality teachers, which they deemed as scarce, and they created Teacher U. After receiving $30 million from the Robin Hood Foundation and the founder of a hedge fund, they partnered with Hunter College in New York to start their own teacher pipeline. In 2011, it was renamed Relay Graduate School of Education and was granted a charter by the New York State Board of Regents. This created a corporate education-fueled teacher prep program, still uncertified in many states including Pennsylvania.

In 2017, the University of Pennsylvania lost a contract to educate new teachers when the money went to Relay. As the lone educator on the SRC, Temple administrator Christopher McGinley expressed confusion over the ultimate decision to choose Relay. As the dissenting vote, he could not explain “why the [other SRC members] voted in favor of the contract with an unaccredited institution.” And now there is a contract extension including Relay. If the Board approves this contract with another unqualified vendor, it would raise the question again of how the Board has changed direction from the SRC. 

This Month’s Outsourcing 

Item 17: Contract with District Management Group for Breakthrough Team Coaching ($150,000)   
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: District Management Group, LLC
Purpose: Coaching and professional development for operations department teams.
Start date: 2/28/2020 End date: 6/30/2020
Compensation not to exceed: $150,000
Location: Administrative Offices
Renewal Options:  No

Description:The District Management Group will work with members of the Operations team across multiple functions in order to help them improve the effectiveness of their services. The primary deliverable is professional development and coaching on District Management Group’s Breakthrough Team approach which is a rapid cycle of innovation, prototyping, and implementation that creates momentum and urgency to produce positive results.  District Management Group will guide Operations team members through execution of ten concurrent Breakthrough projects across several Operations functions. Potential Breakthrough projects include initiatives to improve timeliness of work order completion, school cleanliness ratings, and on-time rates of bus routes. The Breakthrough Team approach will also prepare members of the Operations team to be agile and responsive to process improvements and priorities identified in the Operations Department Strategic Plan.

Item 42: Ratification of Memorandum of Understanding with District Management Group, LLC   

Action under consideration-The Administration recommends that the Board of Education ratify the execution and performance of a Memorandum of Understanding by The School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent or his designee, as follows:

With:District Management Group, LLC
Purpose:To review and recommend improvements to the School District’s attendance strategies, policies and procedures.
Start Date: 1/8/2020    End Date: 9/30/2020
Value of Services not to exceed: $197,000

Locations:William Cramp Elementary School, Murrell Dobbins High School, South Philadelphia High School, Disston Elementary School, Richard R Wright Elementary School, John H.Webster Elementary School, Edward Gideon Elementary School, George Washington High School, William C. Bryant Elementary School, Jules Mastbaum High School, Randolph Technical High School, Sayre High School, Strawberry Mansion High School, Tanner Duckrey Elementary School, Vaux Big Picture High School, Edward Heston Elementary, John Bartram High School, Overbrook High School, James Rhoads Elementary School, Building 21 High School.

Description:The City of Philadelphia in consultation with the School District of Philadelphia, engaged in the RFP process for an organization to support 20 schools in attendance strategies, protocols and procedures. The District Management Group LLC (DMG), was awarded the city contract. DMG proposes a scope of work that includes 4 distinct milestones: 1. Review and develop evidence-based, school-wide approaches that target Tier 1 and Tier 2 activities as identified in the SDP’s attendance logic model. 2. Review the  current role of community partners in supporting attendance and provide recommended, evidence-based strategies or system-level changes to strengthen and clarify their roles. 3. Provide support (e.g. workshops and other forms of engagement) to attendance teams and other appropriate stakeholders (such as community school coordinators and community partners) to help them improve their practice. 4. Provide implementation support and progress monitoring of the new approaches. DMG will gather and synthesize quantitative and qualitative data, confirm our understanding and assumptions with school and SDP leadership, and provide recommendations and feedback to increase evidence-based attendance practices and strengthen the role of community partners in supporting these practices at no cost to the district. We aim to shift our focus beyond data-gathering, analysis, and decision-making to implementing changes in practice. DMG will develop a refined, sustainable training plan, and working with District, schools, and community leaders, share implementation and progress monitoring best practices. With SDP and school leaders aligned on methods to develop milestones, establish action plans and definitions of success, and defining metrics and data sources for tracking progress, DMG will set up a regular cadence for checking in and tracking completion of important steps. Establishing a broad understanding and system to monitor progress will be key to determine the broader impact of attendance related activities and identify promising practices that could be potentially implemented at scale.  A combination of community schools and non-community schools were selected based on attendance data. A ratification is requested since this urgent work needed to begin early January, which did not allow enough time to put forth an action item.

Anchor Goal(s) Supported:Anchor Goal 1 – All students will graduate ready for college and career. Anchor Goal 2 – 100% of 8 year olds will read on or above grade level

APPS Analysis:  Instead of building infrastructure this administration continues to outsource positions. Item 42 deals with Absentee Strategies, while Item 17 proposes a contract for professional development:  “The primary deliverable is professional development and coaching on District Management Group’s Breakthrough Team approach which is a rapid cycle of innovation, prototyping, and implementation that creates momentum and urgency to produce positive results”.  What does this mean? It is not easy to translate the corporate jargon in many of these Items. In order to learn more about the DMG’s Breakthrough Team Approach Spotlight about “ the philosophy and key concepts of the Breakthrough Team Approach” on the company’s website,  you have to complete a form requiring your full name, email, and job title. In the December Eyes we dived into the background of CEO John J-H Kim, who previously worked at McKinsey & Co, and whose only experience in education is marketing products–as he is now doing with the District. In December the Board approved  a $325,000 contract; a couple of months later, the amount has grown to $347,000.

The District used to employ School Community Visitors as well as Truancy Officers. Both those positions were based in schools, often hiring community residents to bridge school and community. These staffers built relationships with students and families that supported attendance. Instead of hiring  consulting companies with little or no connection to the District reinstate school-based staff. 

APPS members continue to remind the Board that when the District’s CFO points to the comparatively low amount the District spends on administrative costs, that does not take into account how much administrative work is outsourced. 

District’s Lack of Foresight Results in More Overcrowding  

Item 32: License Agreement with Building Bok LP for Gymnasium Use at the Bok Building   

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 license agreement, subject to funding, as follows:

With: Building Bok LP
Purpose: To license the gymnasium of 1901 S. 19th Street (the “Bok Building”) for use by the students of Southwark Elementary School
Start Date:  2/28/2020 End Date:  6/30/2020
License Fee not to exceed:  $1.00
Location: The Bok Building, 1901 South 19th Street
Renewal Options:  Yes Number of Options: 1

The School District has identified a need to enter into a license agreement with Building Bok LP for use of the the West Gymnasium inside of the Bok Building.  Students of Southwark Elementary will use the West Gymnasium, as well as the hallways and bathrooms as necessary, of the Bok Building to participate in physical education classes from 10:45 a.m. to 1:45 p.m.,on Mondays through Fridays. Southwark Elementary does not have a gymnasium space inside of the school.  This supports the Operations goal of providing 100% of students with a safe, healthy learning environment.

Anchor Goal(s) Supported: Other   Provide 100% of students with a learning environment that is safe, healthy and welcoming
Office Originating Request: Operations – Facilities

APPS: In 2013 the SRC voted to close the Edward W Bok Technical High School. Students were dispersed to other schools, including South Philly High School.  “More of a limestone castle than an ivory tower” this imposing building was entirely financed and constructed by the Works Progress Administration in 1938. Bok served as a beacon for people in the surrounding neighborhoods. The listing on the National Register of Historic Places entitled whoever purchased the building to receive tax credits for renovation and reuse. Scout, Ltd, a development company headed by Lindsey Scannapieco, purchased Bok for $2.1 million in 2014. Over the years Scannapieco has turned the building into a maze of “maker spaces” and small businesses.  Southwark Elementary sits across the street and shares Bok’s  boiler.  Seven years ago parents and community members forecast the growing numbers of live births in South Philadelphia and urged the District to evaluate the future enrollment numbers before shuttering so many schools. The District turned a deaf ear to the data being presented as did the SRC. Today the District has created a four year plan–the Comprehensive School Planning Review. Their stated purpose is that” CSPR is a collaborative process that will assess the District’s neighborhood enrollment, school facilities, and educational program offerings, to help us plan for the future in a way that ensures our students have access to a great school close to where they live. “ So far the CSPR community engagement reflects the same level of disengagement seen six years ago. 

Item 44: Amendment of Contract with Catapult Learning, LLC – Nutrition Education Services ($927,000)   

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 an amendment of a contract, subject to funding, as follows:

With: Catapult Learning, LLC
Purpose: To extend contract providing staffing for nutrition education services
Original Start Date:  10/1/2019 Original End Date:  9/30/2020
Amended End Date:  9/30/2021
Currently Authorized Compensation:  $870,000
Additional Compensation:  $927,000
Total New Compensation:  $1,797,000

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; Building 21; 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 Learning Academy North (PLAN); Philadelphia Learning Academy South (PLAS); 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; The U School; Vaux High School – Big Picture; 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
Free Library of Philadelphia – Widener Library, 2808 W. Lehigh Ave, Philadelphia,  PA 19132
Renewal Options:  Yes
Number of Options: 1
Duration of each option to extend: Years: 1

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. By contracting with Catapult, the District is able to cover a larger segment of our target population across all program levels, a task we are unable to achieve within the current staffing structure. This relationship allows the District to offer programming with more flexible scheduling, and to optimize both grant funds and program impact.

The initial contract with Catapult was established for the 2017-18 school year. The District has been partnering with Catapult on this work for three school years. Catapult provides staffing support for the District-led Eat Right Philly program which is funded through PA SNAP-Ed and housed in the Office of Curriculum, Instruction, & Assessment. District staff supervise, observe, plan, and monitor all activities carried out by Catapult staff. Past successes of the Eat Right Philly program, which Catapult staff contributes to, can be found in our Eat Right Philly Outcome Report for 2017-18 and 2018-19. For example, Eat the Alphabet curriculum (merges literacy with healthy eating) was delivered to Kindergarten students in 17 schools; hands-on cooking lessons (combines math, science and healthy eating) was delivered in 30 schools; various system-change efforts including healthy fundraising, rewards and celebrations and movement breaks were provided to support schools with better implementation of the Student and Staff Wellness Policy (#145); and healthy food access for our families was addressed through partnerships with Share Food Program and Philabudance to provide over 50 schools with school-based farmers markets and backpack/weekend food provisions for students. The District will continue to monitor success as identified through our Outcomes Report. Additionally, the Office of Research and Evaluation is utilized for various nutrition, physical activity, and wellness initiatives that include Eat Right Philly programming.

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
Related resolution(s)/approval(s):
August 15, 2019; No. 47
Funding Source(s):
FY20 PA SNAP-Ed Grant
FY21 PA SNAP-Ed Grant
Office Originating Request: Academic Support

APPS AnalysisThe SRC eliminated the unionized District Nutrition Educators three years ago and outsourced those positions to Catapult, whose business with the District has increased ever since. The Nutrition Educators were not cited for failing to do their jobs, they were undercut by a company offering a lower price for taking over their responsibilities. Catapult continues to expand its foothold in the District. From the June 15,  2017 Eyes:

“ Here is an overview of their tangled ownership changes over the years posted in the June 15, 2017 Eyes on the SRC Catapult Learning CEO. Jeffrey Cohen was the former President and CEO of Sylvan Learning, described as one of the most recognized brands in education.” The entrepreneurs are increasingly setting the agenda for education policy and services—not the educators. From Wikipedia: “Catapult Learning was founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1976 under the name READS as an educational services business for private and religious schools. The company was co-founded by Stephen K. Freeman, who was the Executive Director. and later be President and CEO, serving in that role until 2011. READS was acquired in 1995 by Sylvan Learning Systems, Inc., and the company’s name was changed to Sylvan Education Solutions. In 2003, Sylvan sold its K−12 businesses to Apollo Management LP, which formed Educate Inc.

In 2004, Educate Inc. renamed the Sylvan Education Solutions division Catapult Learning in order to distinguish the in-school unit from Sylvan’s retail unit, Sylvan Learning Centers. In 2008, the Catapult Learning division was sold to private investors, making Catapult Learning a private, independent company. In 2010, the firm began a series of acquisitions— including Literacy First(2011), Nonpublic Education Services, Inc. (NESI)(2012), Newton Alliance, LLC (2014), and Drop Back in Academy (2014) —and in 2015, the company merged with Specialized Education Services, Inc. (SESI).”

One glimpse into the education-industrial complex with a series of mergers and acquisitions and a $1,200,000 contract to outsource Nutrition Education. The former district nutrition educators built the program by fostering relationships with students and their families, and they were widely respected by district teachers and administrators. 

PSP Expands Influence in District  

Item 45: Contract with Various Vendors – Professional Learning Support ($2,000,000)

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: SchoolKit,American Council on Teaching Foreign Language
Purpose: Support with co-creation and co-facilitation of professional learning opportunities for District staff
Start date: 2/28/2020 End date: 9/30/2020
Compensation not to exceed: $2,000,000
Separate Compensation by Vendor:All entities will be paid out of the aggregate amount not to exceed $2,000,000
Location: All Schools; Administrative Office(s)
Renewal Options:  Yes Number of Options: 3
Duration of each option to extend: Years: 1  Months:
Maximum compensation authorized per option period:   All entities will be paid out of the aggregate amount not to exceed $2,000,000.

Description:The Office of Academic Supports is working to ensure that all District and school-based employees who lead and support instruction are provided high-quality, meaningful and relevant professional development designed to extend and deepen their knowledge and skills to support District-wide goals and priorities. This intensive coordinated approach to professional development kicks off in June 2020 with a Leadership Summit. The purpose of this large-scale summit is to prepare over 1,000 leaders (school, network, central office), teacher leaders, and SY 2020-2021 SuperSite PD day facilitators for the professional learning focus areas for the upcoming school year: K-3 literacy and 4-12 mathematics. Professional development aligned to the content in the June Leadership Summit will be delivered to teachers in August and reinforced throughout the school year during professional development days.

The purpose of this action item is to authorize contracts with selected vendors, through RFQ-218, to support this work by providing assistance with co-creating and co-facilitating professional development to address the District’s immediate need, while also building the capacity and expertise of current employees to drive this work going forward.  This intentional focus on professional learning is the vehicle for implementing a broader curriculum equity initiative designed to raise the level of the content that students are taught, deepen and extend the skills and knowledge that teachers bring to the teaching of that content, and increase the level of students’ active learning and application of the content. The Office of Academic Supports is working to ensure educators have a decisive voice at every stage of planning, implementation, and evaluation of these and future professional learning experiences.

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.


APPS Analysis: SchoolKit epitomizes corporate education. Their website  offers business-like phrases with no specific information: “We help you manage organizational change to improve student outcomes. Together, we set data-driven goals, build stakeholder buy-in, and monitor progress.”  It is difficult to find any indication of knowledge of pedagogy behind promises of improvement. Of eleven Team Members, two have TFA connections and four worked for charter schools. Their partners include the Philadelphia School Partnership, a Brooklyn charter school, and Independence Mission Schools. Why is SchoolKit being offered a contract for professional development? What criteria were used?  How many turnaround trainings and building capacity of current staff needs to happen? There are already offices at 440 whose mission is to provide professional development. Is this administration saying their staff is not capable of doing this? Compare SchoolKit’s website with that of American Council on Teaching Foreign Languages (ACTFL) and there is a huge chasm. ACTFL presents concrete evidence of their Professional Development. They note specific services along with demonstrated understanding of pedagogy. Their website does not espouse lofty goals nor throw around catchy phrases as SchoolKit’s website does. Pedagogy is the underpinning they base their work on not trying to sell a product.