Welcome to the 9th edition of Eyes on the SRC
By Karel Kilimnik
Please note that the April 28th Action meeting starts at 4 PM instead of the usual 5:30 due to the large number of speakers the SRC expects to register.
Also: There are two SRC Action meetings scheduled next month – Thursday May 19th at 5:30 and Thursday May 26th at 4:30. To register to speak call 215 400 4180 before 4:30 the day before each meeting.
We need our Eyes on the SRC more than ever as it continues to change speaker policies and to add resolutions at the last minute.
The April 28th Action meeting includes the issue of the possible renewal of eleven charters, including two run by Aspira. You may remember Daniel Denvir’s 2013 City Paper article in which he reported that Aspira Inc. of Pennsylvania owed large sums of money to four of its Philadelphia charter schools, according to an independent audit of the organization’s finances as of June 30, 2012.
The Charter Office, under the supervision of the SRC, has recommended Universal Audienried and Universal Vare as well as Aspira’s Olney and Stetson schools for non-renewal. We expect a large contingent of both Aspira and Universal supporters to attend the meeting.
You might also wonder at the scheduling of votes for a record number of charter renewals at the same meeting the SRC will vote on the Resolutions placing three more schools into the Renaissance Charter program, especially as controversy continues to swirl around these decisions.
Application for Charter Renewal – John B. Stetson Charter School; ASPIRA, Inc. of Pennsylvania
Application for Charter Renewal – Mastery Charter School Clymer Elementary
Application for Charter Renewal – Mastery Charter School Shoemaker Campus
Application for Charter Renewal – Mastery Charter School Simon Gratz Campus
Application for Charter Renewal – Olney Charter High School
Application for Charter Renewal – Universal Audenried Promise Neighborhood Partnership Charter School
Application for Charter Renewal – Universal Vare Promise Neighborhood Partnership Charter School
Application for Charter Renewal – YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School
Renaissance Schools Initiative: Renaissance Charter School – Global Leadership Academy Charter School Southwest at Huey
Renaissance Schools Initiative: Renaissance Charter School – Great Oaks Charter School at Cooke
Renaissance Schools Initiative: Renaissance Charter School – John Wister Mastery Charter School
APPS analysis: What a combustible mixing of Resolutions – charter renewals with the latest round of entries into the Renaissance Charter Program. Two years ago parents at Steel School and Munoz-Marin School were given the opportunity to vote on going charter or staying with the district. Both chose—overwhelmingly— to remain with the District. This time there was no voting. Dr. Hite promised “robust community involvement process.”
The Evaluation Committees (for Cooke, Huey,& Wister) composed of parents, community members, and district staff held no community meetings, did not make public the members of the Committee, and published no report. There has been widespread criticism of the handling of the Wister School pairing with Mastery. Why would all these charter renewals be placed on the same agenda with the Renaissance Charter pairings given the history of contention from previous SRC meetings?
In fact, State Auditor-General Eugene DePasquale just pronounced Pennsylvania has ” the worst charter school law in the United States,” at a news conference at Philadelphia’s district headquarters.
We should work to change the charter law instead of adding more charters to the district. However, four SRC commissioners consistently vote to approve charters despite the devastating impact on district managed schools.
Categorical Grant Fund: $99,000 Contract with Relay Graduate School of Education – National Principals Academy Fellowship
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 Relay Graduate School of Education, for two Assistant Superintendents and six principals to participate in the National Principals Fellowship Program, for an amount not to exceed $99,000, for the period commencing April 29, 2016 through June 30, 2017.
Description: Relay GSE has developed the National Principals Academy Fellowship (NAPF), a comprehensive program for school leaders. The School District of Philadelphia has identified a targeted group of 2 Assistant Superintendents and 6 principals to participate in NAFP. The recommended principals hold full-time school leadership positions. The National Principals Academy Fellowship is a 12-credit course focused on instructional and cultural school leadership. The program begins in July 2016 with a 10-day summer intensive in Philadelphia (July 11-22, 2016). Sessions during the summer intensive program will focus on the levers of instructional and cultural leadership, with a foundation of strong instructional pedagogy and content. During the 2016-2017 school year, there will be 4 weekend intersessions to spiral content, support implementation challenges and introduce new content.
APPS comment: Why is the District spending money on the unaccredited Relay Graduate School? Relay was created by the founders of KIPP charter schools to help supply them with principals and other administrators.
Who is in the “targeted group of 2 Assistant Superintendents and 6 principals”? How were they selected? Why aren’t they attending a real Graduate School of Education based at an actual university?
Various Funds: $750,000 Contracts with Various Vendors – Classroom Furniture
RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission Resolved, that the School Reform Commission authorizes The School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent or his designee, pursuant to various cooperative contracts, to execute, deliver, and perform contracts with Adelphia Steel, Hertz Furniture, Nickerson, PEMCO, Reed Associates, School Specialty and Virco, to purchase classroom furniture, for an aggregate amount not to exceed $750,000, subject to funding, for the period commencing April 29, 2016 through April 30, 2017.
Description: This contract establishes a source for classroom furniture for the 2016-2017 school year. In addition to regular furniture requests from schools, the district expects an increase in needs from schools that are growing a grade and/or adding sections of existing grades as a result of school program closures.
Furniture will be procured from the below listed companies using existing contracts to ensure competitive and best pricing.
APPS comment: What happened to all the furniture from the 24 schools that were closed? Where is the documentation to show distribution?
Lease Agreement with Caring People Alliance for use of the West Philadelphia Community Center; Temporary Location for the new Science Leadership Academy Middle School Students
RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission authorizes The School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent, or his designee, to execute, deliver and perform a Lease Agreement with Caring People Alliance, for the rental of the gymnasium in the West Philadelphia Community Center located at 3512 Haverford Avenue, Philadelphia Pa, to house the fifth grade students of the Science Leadership Academy Middle School, for an amount not to exceed $18,000, (rent is $30 per hour, to be paid monthly), for the period commencing July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017.
Description: The new Science Leadership Academy Middle School requires the fifth grade students be temporarily housed until a permanent building becomes available. The Premises at the West Philadelphia Community Center located at 3512 Haverford Avenue, adjacent to Dornsife Building, which has no gymnasium, was determined to best fit the temporary needs of the Science Leadership Academy Middle School students during this period, based on location and cost of the lease. The plan is to use the gymnasium for three hours each school day. The Philadelphia School Partnership awarded a $1.6 Million grant to Science Leadership Academy Middle School, a portion of which will be used to pay the rental expenses for this lease.
ABC Code/Funding Source $18,000.00
Lease Agreement with Drexel University – Temporary Location for the new Science Leadership Academy Middle School Students
RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission authorizes The School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent, or his designee, to execute, deliver and perform a two (2) year lease agreement with Drexel University, for the rental of approximately 5,643 rentable square feet, including 7 classrooms, office space and cafeteria in the Dornsife Building located at 3509 Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia PA, (the “Premises”). Drexel is allowing access to the entire space which is approximately 8,761 square feet to house the fifth grade students of the Science Leadership Academy Middle School in year one of the lease term and the fifth and sixth grade students in year two of the lease term. The annual rent for the first year of the term is $69,120 per year ($12.25 per rentable square foot) to be paid monthly commencing on July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017. The annual rent for the second year of the term is $75,888 per year ($14.45 per rentable square foot) to be paid monthly commencing on July 1, 2017, through June 30, 2018. All utilities are covered in the rental payments. The School District will be responsible for the cost of an on-site maintenance person and all cleaning expenses.
Description: The new Science Leadership Academy Middle School requires the fifth grade students be temporarily housed until a permanent building becomes available. The Premises at Ryan Hall at the Dornsife Building located at 3509 Spring Garden Street on the campus of Drexel University was determined to best fit the temporary needs of the Science Leadership Academy Middle School students during this period, based on classroom capacity, cost of the lease and its proximity to Powel Elementary (approximately .2 miles) which is the feeder elementary school to Science Leadership Academy Middle School. Transportation to the Dornsife Building will be provided per the School District’s standard transportation policy. The Philadelphia School Partnership awarded a $1.6 Million grant to Science Leadership Academy Middle School, a portion of which will be used to pay the rental expenses for this lease.
APPS comment: Both of these resolutions again raise the question of the SRC’s spending priorities. We have seen school closings and “consolidations”, massive cutbacks in staff and resources, and the continuation of the “Doomsday Budget”. The SRC now proposes the creation of a new special-admit middle school, although it has not at any public meeting shown the need for this. The SRC also proposes continuing to pay rent for Center City property rather than consider any of the many empty school buildings it still owns. Three SRC commissioners recently attended a special meeting at SLA to hear from parents about possibly moving the school to a less expensive location. None of the SRC commissioners attended any of the community meetings held at Cooke, Huey, Wister after their placement into the Renaissance program, nor have they attended any of the meetings at any of the schools targeted for “internal” turnarounds—Roosevelt, Rhodes, Mitchell or Munoz-Marin. Karel Kilimnik testimony to the SRC about this issue.
Categorical/Grant Fund: $60,000 Contract with Grand Isle Consulting
APPS comment: Who is Grand Isle Consulting? What do they do and why are they getting $60,000?
Operating Budget: $105,000 Contract with Growth River – Management Support Services
APPS comment: Once again, why is there no description as to what $105,000 is to be used for? Their website states “ Inspiring Business Leaders to Lead Change”. Bob Voss, PhD is the partner for their Nonprofit Practice. His PhD is in Insect Ecology.
As we wrote In August 2015 on Resolution A30: Again, we need experienced principals who are educational leaders, not Growth River, a leadership training company whose motto is “Inspiring Business Leaders to Lead Change.” Why use a leadership training company that has no experience in education? Education is not a business.” As stated in Resolution A 30 Growth River’s services were paid for by “The Lenfest Foundation through the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia.” Lisa Haver’s Commentary illustrates how the Fund is being used to solicit money for our schools as if they are a charity and do not require a fair and equitable funding formula.
Categorical/Grant Fund: $10,000,000 Contracts with Catapult, Inc., CORA Services, Inc., Higher Instructional Services, Learn-It Systems, LLC., Elwyn, and A Plus Education, LLC., – Nonpublic School Program Services
RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission authorizes The School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent or his designee, to execute, deliver and perform contracts separately with Catapult Inc., CORA Services Inc., Higher Instructional Services, Learn-It Systems LLC., Elwyn and A Plus Education LLC., to provide federal Title I and Title II instructional, professional development, parental involvement and related services to non-public schools, as equitable share of The School District of Philadelphia’s Title I and Title II awards from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, for an aggregate amount not to exceed $10,000,000, for the period commencing July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017.
Description: Title IA of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the “No Child Left Behind Act of 2001” (NCLB), provides Federal financial assistance to local educational agencies (LEAs) to ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high- quality education and reach, at a minimum, proficiency on challenging academic standards. Accordingly, Title IA requires each participating LEA to provide Title I services to eligible non-public school children. These services must be equitable to those provided to public school children in each LEA. The target population is non-public school children identified as failing or most at risk of failing to meet challenging academic content and student academic achievement standards as adopted by each participating students’ non-public school, and who live in the City of Philadelphia and who are enrolled in participating non- public schools.
Title II, Part A provides assistance for preparing, training, recruiting, and retaining highly qualified teachers. The amount of funding available for services to private school personnel is governed by Section 9501(b)(3) of ESEA, which requires equitable participation of private school education personnel to the extent that the LEA uses its funds for professional development. The activities allowed under the law are summarized as follows: (1) Providing professional development activities that improve the knowledge of teachers, principals, and paraprofessionals; (2) Developing and implementing initiatives to promote retention of highly qualified teachers and principals, particularly within schools with a high percentage of low-achieving students, and initiatives, to improve the quality of teachers, principals, and superintendents; (3) Staff advancement initiatives that promote professional growth and emphasize multiple career and pay differentiation; and (4) Developing and implementing mechanisms and initiatives to assist in recruiting, hiring, and retaining highly qualified teachers for the purpose of reducing class sizes. Private schools can only participate in the first three activities above. In addition, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provides a yearly allotment to the School District of Philadelphia to provide Title II services to non-public school students in addition to the equitable share provision described above.
The School District of Philadelphia has typically provided Title I and Title II services to Philadelphia non-public school students through its teaching personnel. In many other large school districts, these services are outsourced to vendors. Given that the School District of Philadelphia’s cost structure is more expensive for most activities than the cost of vendors, the District was asked to issue an RFP to determine if vendors could provide qualified services at a lower cost. Given the District is required to provide a specific dollar amount of equitable share of services to non-public school students each year, a lower cost of service equates to more service to students than otherwise would be provided. The District issued a Request for Proposal (RFP #444) in the fall and winter of 2014 and 2015 to seek qualified vendors at competitive hourly rates for service. The RFP Review Committee comprised representatives of the School District of Philadelphia and representatives from non-public schools. Hourly rate quotes were requested and provided for instructional services, professional development, parental involvement, extended day, and summer programs. All vendor personnel must be state certified, Highly Qualified, and have all of the requisite background and health checks. In nearly all cases, the hourly rates of service proposed were less than the equivalent hourly rate of service cost incurred by the District. However, the hourly rate of service for extended day and summer program activities were less costly when provided by the District for all but one vendor. Many private schools only receive an equitable share allocation such that the only service received is for the District to pay their teachers to provide extended day learning opportunities. In addition, some schools have expressed a desire to retain District provided personnel. To allow schools the ability to maintain continuity of instruction and provide the greatest programming and cost options possible, the District is providing non-public schools a choice model. Six vendors are qualified to provide Title I and Title II services. In consultation with the District, non-public schools or associations of schools may choose vendors to provide those services, or retain existing District provided services. Therefore, it is not known at this time the dollar value of service each vendor will provide. The District seeks authorization to enter into contractual agreements with each proposer selected to provide services to non- public schools for an aggregate amount for the six vendors not to exceed $10 million.
ABC Code/Funding Source $10,000,000.00 201X-G10-9610-1495-3291 Title 1
APPS comment: This money is to be used for nonpublic schools but we should be aware of who and what these companies represent. Catapult is a service Association Management Company (AMC) based in Richmond, Virginia. They have offices in both Philadelphia and Camden. Its website states: “Our credentialed, committed, masters level counselors can supplement your counseling staff.” Catapult received part of a $ 5 million contract in August 2015 through Resolution A 29 “EducationWorks, Inc, Delta-T Group, Inc and Catapult Learning, LLC, to perform certain school-based services including socialized recess, in-school suspension programs, math tutoring, reading and language arts tutoring, library support, accommodation room support and attendance support, for an aggregate amount not to exceed $5,000,000, for the period commencing September 1, 2015 through August 31, 2018.
The founder and CEO of Learn It Systems (as well as other leadership personnel) Michael Maloney has years of experience with Catapult Learning, a division of Sylvan Learning. A large section of their website shows how it accesses funding opportunities from the Federal Government. We need to be aware of who is getting our tax dollars through the District.
Categorical/Grant Fund: $11,400,000 Contract with Children’s Literacy Initiative – Early Literacy Specialists
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 Children’s Literacy Initiative to identify, recruit and provide qualified Early Literacy Specialists to deliver early literacy professional development and related programming for eligible elementary schools that have participated in the District’s Early Literacy Summer Workshop Series, for an amount not to exceed $11,400,000, for the period commencing July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017.
Description: The purpose of this resolution is to seek authorization to contract with Children’s Literacy Initiative (CLI), a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, to recruit and hire up to 94 Early Literacy Specialists who will have the responsibility of working directly with the school leader and the teachers and instructional professionals serving preK through Grade 3 in designated schools to support and improve early literacy instruction. The 2016-17 school year will represent the second full school year of these supports, which have been designed to support the District’s overall work towards meeting Anchor Goal 2, ensuring all students are reading on grade level by age 8.
Each of the designated schools will be staffed with one full-time Early Literacy Specialist (ELS). The ongoing content, structure and deployment of the ELSs’ work with schools will be managed through the Early Literacy Directors who report to the Deputy of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, with support and input from the Deputy of Early Learning as appropriate. The ELSs will provide direct training and professional development as well as job-embedded coaching with individual teachers to enhance teacher knowledge of early literacy content and practice. ELSs will also work with teachers, teacher teams and grade groups on a regular basis to track and measure the impact of early literacy professional development and inform future programming needs by generating and reviewing student progress data, including but not limited to AIMSweb and Developmental Reading Assessment results.
Required skills, knowledge and abilities of the ELSs include:
– Thorough knowledge of standards and current curriculum frameworks
– Thorough knowledge of literacy development
– Demonstrated ability to differentiate instructional practices for a full spectrum of learners – Familiarity with academic coaching methodology and practices
– Ability to support training and analysis of early literacy assessments
– Clear and succinct written and verbal communication for targeted audiences
– Effective presentation skills in various settings, both formal and informal
The contract being proposed through this resolution will enable the continued placement of ELSs in the 40 schools who completed the 2015 Summer Early Literacy Summer Workshop Series (known as Cohort 1), as well as the additional 52 schools who will complete the 2016 Summer Early Literacy Summer Workshop Series (known as Cohort 2), plus 1-2 additional ELSs to provide coverage when any ELSs are absent and to provide additional support to larger schools. The remaining 59 District elementary schools will become the third and final cohort, and will receive ELS supports in the 2017-18 school year.
In order to be eligible to participate in the Early Literacy Summer Workshop Series and receive ELS support, schools had to apply and commit to ensuring that the school principals and at least 65% of their K-3 teachers would attend the entire weeklong Early Literacy Summer Workshop Series. For Cohort 1, 77 elementary schools submitted applications, and 40 were selected for participation in this first year, with priority given to the schools with large proportions of third graders scoring below grade level in reading on the PSSA. For Cohort 2, 62 elementary schools submitted applications, and available funding permitted the District to select 52 of those schools for participation in this second year.
ABC Code/Funding Source $11,400,000.00 334X-G52-9440-226D-3291 Title IIA ($10,422,730.00)
6zqx-g01-9ce0-2296-3191 William Penn Foundation ($977,270.00)
APPS comment: As an early childhood teacher I envied those enrolled in the CLI Model Classroom Project. They not only received professional development but actual resources for their classrooms. The William Penn Foundation is underwriting a fraction of the cost. How long will they continue to do this? For a long-term solution, why not provide training for District Early Childhood teachers to become Early Learning Specialists who can work in their own schools as well as provide turnaround training?
The full resolutions list for April 28, 2016 from the Philadelphia School Reform Commission.