by Karel Kilimnik
APPS has been keeping its collective eyes wide open for almost five years now, but this edition marks the first anniversary of our Eyes on the SRC. We believe the public has a right to know—and understand—what the SRC is voting on. This tumultuous year has brought more resolutions of outsourcing and privatization, recommendations from the Charter School Office (CSO) for non-renewals of underperforming charter schools, and skyrocketing legal fees as the SRC and district seek to overturn lower court rulings on the cancellation of the PFT contract and other matters. It’s been a year fraught with upheaval as over 5,000 students sat in classrooms without full-time teachers, a situation exacerbated by the district’s disastrous decision to approve a $34 million contract to outsource substitutes. Despite the too-little-too-late acknowledgment by Superintendent William Hite of the incompetence of Source4Teachers, the district chose to go with yet another private company rather than return to the use of union employees.
In May, the CSO recommended non-renewal of ASPIRA Stetson Middle School and ASPIRA Olney High School, as well as Universal Audenreid and Universal Vare. The SRC engaged in a seventeen minute discourse with lawyer Ken Trujillo at the May 19 SRC meeting (his mic wasn’t turned off after three minutes, as all other speakers are) during which he promised to fix all of the ASPIRA irregularities within weeks. However, we find not a whisper about ASPIRA or Universal in this present list of resolutions.
Although it says publicly that resolutions are posted two weeks before the meeting, that has not stopped the SRC from adding some at the last minute. Or will there be a resolution from the floor like the one introduced by Commissioner Sylvia Simms and approved by the SRC in January to hand Wister Elementary over to Mastery—which the public was not allowed to speak on?
And as we have seen almost every year at this time, there have been several changes in top-level staff at 440.
**Please note: as of August 18 the new time for SRC Action meetings is 4:30 PM.
Resolutions of Note
Categorical/Grant Fund: $105,000 Acceptance of Sub-Award from the Consortium for Policy Research in Education – Zoology One: Kindergarten Research Labs
RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission authorizes the School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent or his designee, to accept with appreciation a sub-award grant from the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) to support the implementation and evaluation of the Zoology One: Kindergarten Research Labs program being conducted by CPRE, for an amount not to exceed $105,000 for the period commencing August 19, 2016 through December 31, 2019.
Description: The School District of Philadelphia’s Office of Research and Evaluation (ORE) will receive a sub-award for up to $105,000 over the next three years in order to offset the expenses for staff support of program implementation and evaluation of Zoology One. Activities performed by ORE will include assisting with teacher recruitment, facilitating access to schools, data collection, cleaning, and processing, and dissemination of findings.
At the heart of Zoology One’s theory of change is a core assertion: that the effects of evidence-based literacy practice on young students’ learning are magnified through the integration of literacy and science instruction. The program is designed to provide the district with materials, teacher professional development, and useful information related to literacy learning in kindergarten. It is a full-year, whole- class curriculum centered around a daily 120-minute integrated literacy and science instructional block that replaces pre- existing literacy and science instruction.
Treatment classrooms will receive libraries of more than 500 high-quality student texts and teacher read- aloud books. Treatment teachers will receive 10 days of professional development, most of it delivered on-site in their own classrooms. Control classrooms and teachers will be offered these resources in the year after their participation in the project. The program will impact students in approximately 40 classrooms in each year of the project.
ABC Code/Funding Source $105,000.00
APPS Analysis: Certain phrases like “high quality student texts” and “data collection” sound alarm bells. Why would anyone use low quality materials? How is this data going to be used? Does this 120-minute integrated literacy and science instructional block include any play? Time to actually explore and experiment with materials? Two hours of instructional time is developmentally inappropriate if exploration is not included. CRPE funders include corporate education reformers including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Goldman Sachs Foundation.
The Zoology program was created by the American Reading Company which grew out of Jane Hileman’s “100 Book Challenge” literacy program developed in the 1990’s. Today the American Reading Company employs 200 people, works nationally, and offers curriculum resources as well as professional development. According to its website: “The [Zoology] program features code-focused instruction [jargon for “phonics”] high-volume print exposure, complex text exposure, and integrated science and literacy instruction. Specific components of the program include direct instruction via flexible grouping, formative assessments and progress monitoring, high-volume writing practices, accountable talk.”
What is “accountable talk”? This paragraph indicates a highly structured program with no mention of exploring materials. How will this enable kindergarten students to learn based on their innate developmental need to explore their environment? Is this an example of creating language that can only be explained by “trained consultants” from this company? How will kindergarten classes be selected for participation in this program? Will teachers be able to keep these materials or will they be turned over to the next cohort?
External Affairs : Executive
Operating Budget: $625,000 Contract with Foundations – Temporary Executive Support RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission authorizes The School District of Philadelphia, through its Superintendent or his designee, to execute, deliver and perform a contract with Foundations, Inc. to provide interim executive support, executive coaching and related executive level assistance to the School District on an ad-hoc basis, for an amount not to exceed $625,000, for the period commencing August 19, 2016 through June 30, 2017.
Description: The School District of Philadelphia (“the District”) seeks to retain an educational services firm for the purpose of providing temporary executive staff to support the central office and/or schools on an as-needed basis.
In working with an educational services firm, the goal is to have access to highly qualified, experienced and skilled personnel that can quickly provide interim support, executive coaching and related assistance to the District on an interim, as-needed basis. The cost of these services will be based on the per-diem rate for four positions, i.e., Chief, Deputy Chief, Assistant Superintendent and Executive Coach, plus additional per diem costs for benefits and administration. The District will only incur costs for services rendered and in the case of interim executive placements due to vacancy, the funding allocated to the permanent position will fund the costs of an interim placement.
ABC Code/Funding Source $625,000.00 1100-055-9400-2831-3000 Operating
APPS Analysis: Change seems to be the name of the game, year after year, at the top level of 440. What causes this level of instability? If there was a stable workforce, there would be no need to employ an educational services firm that has a longstanding relationship with the district. In 2001, Foundations was one of the EMOs seeking to manage a group of district schools. In 2011 Martin Luther King High School became part of the Renaissance Program. After months of review, the MLK SAC voted unanimously to have the Atlanta-based charter operator Mosaica manage the school. But state Rep. Dwight Evans had other plans. Foundations had been supporting him for years with generous contributions, and he wanted them running this school; it didn’t matter what the parents or teachers wanted. Despite strong-arm tactics, his efforts failed, and King returned to the district as a Promise Academy. Now we find Foundations back in the funding loop with “Temporary Executive Support” services to market.
Capital Funds: $1,250,000 Contract with Inprocess Consulting LLC – Enterprise Analytics and Dashboard Solution
RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission authorizes the School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent or his designee, to execute, deliver and perform a contract with Inprocess Consulting LLC for an enterprise data analytics, reporting, and dashboard solution tool (Business Intelligence tool), for Phase 1 and 2 for an amount not to exceed $1,250,000, for the period commencing September 1, 2016 through August 31, 2018, with the option to renew for an additional year as a continuation of Phase 2, or an expansion to Phase 3 for an amount not to exceed $2,500,000, for the period commencing September 1, 2018 through August 31, 2019.
Description: The School District of Philadelphia District Performance Office (DPO) will partner with a qualified vendor, Inprocess Consulting LLC, for the purchase and implementation support of an enterprise data analytics, reporting, and dashboard solution tool (Business Intelligence tool). The contract term will be for two years for completion of Phase 1 (85 pilot users including Assistant Superintendents) and Phase 2 (expansion to 500 users including all school leaders) of the project, commencing September 1, 2016 through August 31, 2018, for an amount not to exceed $1,250,000 for the two-year term, with the option to renew for an additional year as a continuation of Phase 2 or an expansion to Phase 3 (expansion to 10,000 users including all teachers), pending the District’s assessment of the tool and need to scale. The latter option for an amount not to exceed $2,500,000 for the period commencing September 1, 2018 through August 31, 2019.
The District Performance Office (DPO) works to provide timely, relevant, and actionable information on the state of the city’s students, the city’s schools, and the wide spectrum of central office services aimed to promote student outcomes. DPO aims to improve data access and establish a consistent and systematic way to assess progress against performance targets aligned to the Superintendent’s Action Plan 3.0, and provide key leaders, administrators, and principals with timely and actionable reports and dashboards.
In support of these efforts, the new Business Intelligence tool will increase the District’s capacity in four key areas:
– the ability to access and aggregate data from multiple systems to create a comprehensive District view, that can also be disaggregated in a variety of ways;
– the ability for business users to nimbly develop reports and multi-level dashboards without technical support;
– the ability for District and school leaders to access, analyze and use reliable data in both reports and dashboards to inform timely decision-making; and
– the ability to disseminate data through view-only access to a broader audience of District staff, partners, and the community.
The new Business Intelligence tool will assist the District’s goal of driving continuous improvement through the use of high-quality data, aligned accountability systems, strategic analytics, and cross-system data integration and access. Currently, multiple data systems/sources, as well as, data storage in disconnected repositories, inhibit the District’s ability to view an overall snapshot of cross-functional data in actionable time. District leaders, school leaders, teachers, and staff must manually aggregate reports from across multiple systems to inform decision making. This manual aggregation is inefficient, time consuming, and provides the potential for human error, resulting in lost productivity and delayed responses to school and student needs.
The Business Intelligence tool currently in use for reporting and dashboarding is limited and unable to access data from systems external to the existing data warehouse, including, but not limited to, Talent, Transportation, Facilities, and Finance. Additionally, the tool requires strong technical knowledge to develop new reports and dashboards and to implement changes. A comprehensive enterprise analytics, reporting, and dashboard solution tool that can access data from the District’s multiple data systems/sources, that enables non-technical users to access and analyze data, and a tool that has the ability to grow and adapt to new data systems and user requirements, is essential to empowering District employees to be responsive to school and student needs in real time.
The vendor will be selected through an ongoing competitive formal Request for Proposal (RFP) process. The RFP process will be completed the week of July 24 and a vendor will be selected prior to the August 18 SRC meeting.
ABC Code/Funding Source $1,250,000.00
APPS: This Resolution raises fundamental questions about student privacy. Why is big data being collected, how will it be used, how secure will it be, and who has access? Who is actually going to do the work—will it be subcontracted out? What controls are in place to ensure parental control of student information, and what security measures have been established?
We ask, as we often do: would this money serve students better if it went directly into the classroom?
Operating Budget: $12,000 License Agreement with SEPTA for use of a portion of the John Whittier Elementary School site for Parking
RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission authorizes The School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent or his designee, to execute, deliver and perform a license agreement with SEPTA for the use of a portion of the parking lot and paved play area at the former John Whittier Elementary School located at 2600 W. Clearfield Street (the “Premises”), for a six (6) month term commencing on September 1, 2016, with a monthly holdover at a rate of $2,000.00 per month, payable monthly, under mutually agreed upon terms and conditions. In addition, SEPTA will be solely responsible for any and all taxes assessed and imposed upon the Premises and/or on the income received by the School District by virtue of the license. SEPTA will also be required, at its own expense, to obtain and maintain in effect for the term of the license adequate insurance coverage, including insurance for its vehicles and materials, naming the School District as an additional insured. The license shall be terminable by either party upon 30 days advance written notice. The other terms of the license must be acceptable to the School District’s Office of Real Property Management, Office of General Counsel and the Office of Risk Management.
Description: SEPTA would like to utilize the former Whittier Elementary school lot for temporary vehicle parking for their employees at the Allegheny Depot located across the street.
ABC Code/Funding Source $12,000.00
APPS Analysis: Whittier School was one of the 24 schools shuttered in 2013. There has been no accounting of how those students fared in their new placements. What impact has closing Whittier had on the surrounding neighborhood? Where is the data to show the impact of closing 24 schools?
The district should take this opportunity to prove that consolidating schools has a positive impact on academic improvement. If the district can’t do this, then it needs to stop the practice and start to actually strengthen neighborhood schools. We don’t want our neighborhood schools turned into parking lots for buses.
Operating Budget: $10,725 License Agreement with Kelly Educational Staffing for use of a portion of the Administration Building at 440 North Broad Street
RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission authorizes the School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent or his designee, to execute, deliver and perform a license agreement with the Kelly Educational Staffing for approximately 650 square feet of space on the first floor of the School District of Philadelphia’s Education Center, 440 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, in “as is” condition to be used for office space for staff members to perform a contract with the School District authorized by SRC Resolution A-35, approved by the School Reform Commission on May 19, 2016 (the “Contract”), to provide substitute teaching staffing. Kelly Educational Staffing will pay license fees to the School District in the amount of $10,725.00 annually ($16.50 per square foot), payable on a monthly basis, which license fees includes the School District’s operating costs associated with the premises, including all utilities, building engineer, maintenance, cleaning, security and trash removal, for the period commencing September 1, 2016 through August 31, 2017, with an automatic renewal for one year, commencing September 1, 2017 through August 31, 2018 with a 2% increase in the license fees, unless terminated by either party with no fewer than 60 days written notice to the other party, provided that the Contract is still in effect and Kelly Educational Staffing is not in default beyond all applicable grace periods thereunder. Under no circumstances will the license agreement continue beyond the terms of the contract. The other terms of the license agreement must be acceptable to the School District’s Office of Real Property Management, Office of General Counsel and the Office of Risk Management.
Description: On May 19, 2016, the School Reform Commission approved SRC Resolution A-35, “Contract with Kelly Educational Staffing”. The contract with Kelly Educational Staffing eliminates the daily administrative tasks of hiring, credentialing, training, managing, evaluating and retaining skilled teachers. Providing space in the Administrative Building for Kelly Educational Staffing to perform their Contract will provide a more efficient delivery of their services to the schools, improve communication, accessibility and accountability and utilize vacant space in the delivery of needed services to the School District.
ABC Code/Funding Source $10,725.00
APPS Analysis: How long will this experiment of privatizing substitute services continue at the expense of our students and teachers?
Resolution B-22 (Pending)
Operating Budget: $1,000,000 Contracts with ACS Consultants, Inc., Delta-T Group, Inc., EBS, and Progressus Therapy, LLC. – Substitute Special Education Teachers and One to One Aides
APPS Analysis: In February 2016, Resolution B6 sent $1,000,000 to ACS Consultants Inc., Delta-T Group,Inc., and Progressus Therapy, LLC. There is no description for this resolution, so we have no idea whether it is an extension or a totally new amount going to these private companies. In the February resolution, the reason given was to “fill 24 special education” vacancies. Dr. Hite claims to have already filled 99% of teacher vacancies. He has engaged Kelly Education Services to provide substitute services—why is there a need for another million dollar contract for substitute services?
Education advocates call for investigation of Philly charter schools
City & State – August 12, 2016