Eyes On The SRC – December 15, 2016

 

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Eyes on the SRC:  December 15, 2016

by Karel Kilimnik

As 2016 draws to a close and we contemplate what the next four years may bring, we need to pay close attention to the ways in which the public continues to be shut out of decision-making at the SRC. The SRC is a governmental body overseeing a $2.8 billion budget. This is our tax money at work. Although we successfully negotiated a resolution to our lawsuit charging the SRC with violating the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act, there remain many hurdles with transparency.

APPS members are proud to have achieved what no individual or organization has done in the fifteen years since the SRC was imposed on the city: making that body more transparent and accountable through a court agreement. Highlights of the settlement include provisions to publish official resolutions two weeks in advance of the monthly Action Meeting and ensuring that the public has a reasonable opportunity to speak on every resolution, whether posted just before the meeting or during. Thus, anyone attending the meeting will be able to sign up at the meeting on “walk-on” resolutions, which are those posted within 48 hours of the meeting, and resolutions “from the floor” which may be introduced during the meeting by an SRC commissioner (as Sylvia Simms did in January, thus clearing the way for Mastery to take over Wister Elementary).

Of course, issues of accountability still remain.   The SRC now fails to include any text with an increasing number of resolutions deemed “quasi-judicial”  (e.g., Resolutions SRC-5 and -6). Those resolutions are blank except for the title. How can anyone make a comment, or even ask a question, about a resolution that doesn’t say anything?  The SRC has never publicly explained what “quasi-judicial” means or why charter renewals have been classified as such. The dictionary gives this meaning:  “noting, pertaining to, or exercising powers or functions that resemble those of a court or a judge”.  Renaissance charter schools are actually contract schools: they agree to provide services in exchange for payment. Does a judge get involved when a contract is signed between two parties? If not, then why is the SRC hiding these contracts behind a wall of secrecy and refusing to allow the public to view them?

Something new this month: Resolutions SRC-1 and SRC-2 are “For Review”. By whom—the people attending the meeting or just the six people at the table? How can anyone ask questions when no information is provided? The only testimony the public can give is to query the SRC Commissioners who routinely fail to answer.

The resolution to hand over $23 million to Big Picture Inc. to reopen Vaux High School and operate it as a “contract school” for six years has reappeared. Again we must ask: why is this huge sum necessary to reopen one high school? Where is the money coming from? What is a contract school? We hear that the district is too broke to have a full support staff in every school, then we hear that it has a surplus.  Teachers are told that they must “face reality” when they ask for a fair contract, then the SRC allots $23 million for one school. When will the SRC give the public some straight answers?

In October, Dr. Hite announced his newest turnaround category, “Priority Schools”, but we are still waiting for him to make a public presentation at an SRC meeting on what that might mean for the future of those schools, as well as what this will cost the district.

Renewal resolutions for Mastery schools Gratz, Clymer, and Shoemaker are MIA once again. We can only assume that Mastery does not want to agree to the conditions which the Charter School Office recommended. Again, the SRC has a responsibility to update the public on what has been happening for the past eight months.  These resolutions have been appearing and disappearing since April.  Mastery Gratz and Mastery Clymer were to have been renewed in 2016. Does this mean they receive an extra year for their next contract?

Renewal resolutions for Universal’s Audenried and Vare have not been seen, or even mentioned, since April. Those for Aspira, Inc.’s Olney and Stetson also come and go without explanation.  The SRC apparently feels no obligation to the community to tell us what is going on with these schools.

Next SRC meeting:  Thursday December 15 2016, 4:30 PM at 440 N. Broad Street.  Do you want to testify? Call 215.400.4180 before 3 PM Wednesday to ensure that your voice will be heard.


Resolutions of Note


SRC-1   (PRESENTED FOR REVIEW NOVEMBER 15, 2016)

Proposed Adoption of Policy #200 Enrollment of Students/Adoption of Amendments to Policies #145 – Student and Staff Wellness, #201 – Admission of Students, #203 – Immunizations and Communicable Diseases, #249 – Bullying/Cyber-bullying, #918 – Title 1 Parent Involvement RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission hereby adopts the following SRC Policy, in the form attached, effective December 16, 2016:
Policy 200 – Enrollment of Students; and be it
FURTHER RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission hereby adopts amendments to the following SRC Policies, in the forms attached, effective December 16, 2016:
Policy 145 – Student and Staff Wellness
Policy 201 – Admission of Students
Policy 203 – Immunizations and Communicable Diseases Policy 249 – Bullying/Cyber-bullying
Policy 918 – Title 1 Parent Involvement
Description: The School Reform Commission establishes general parameters in which the daily operations of the School District are to be governed. As such, the policies (listed above and attached) have been revised and updated to align with current local, state and federal law.
These amendments to policies were developed with the support of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA), pursuant to a contract entered into with PSBA pursuant to Resolution SRC-5, approved by the SRC on May 19, 2016. PSBA offers a comprehensive Policy Development Service that updates the SRC’s Policy Manual. The policy development process consists of an in-depth analysis of the existing adopted policies maintained by the School District in relation to the requirements of federal and state laws and regulations; the impact of court and arbitration decisions and recommendations based on governance, liability and educational issues.
These polices were presented for public review and comment on November 15, 2016.


SRC-2   (NO ACTION TO BE TAKEN – PRESENTED FOR PUBLIC REVIEW AND COMMENT)

Proposed Review of Policies #105.1 – Curriculum Review by Parents/Guardians and Students, 107 – Adoption of Planned Instruction, 113 – Special Education, 113.1 – Discipline of Students with Disabilities, 113.2 – Behavior Support, 113.3 – Screening and Evaluations for Students with Disabilities, 113.4 – Confidentiality of Special Education Student Information, 122 – Extracurricular Activities, 123 – Interscholastic Athletics, 123.1 – Concussion Management, 123.2 – Sudden Cardiac Arrest, 805.1 – Relations with Law Enforcement Agencies
RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission hereby adopts the following SRC Policies, in the forms attached, effective January 20, 2017:
Policy 105.1 – Curriculum Review by Parents/Guardians and Students Policy 113.2 – Behavior Support
Policy 113.4 – Confidentiality of Special Education Student Information Policy 123.1 – Concussion Management
Policy 123.2 – Sudden Cardiac Arrest
Policy 805.1 – Relations with Law Enforcement Agencies; and be it
FURTHER RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission hereby adopts amendments to the following SRC Policies, in the forms attached, effective January 20, 2016:
Policy 107 – Adoption of Planned Instruction
Policy 113 – Special Education
Policy 113.1 – Discipline of Students with Disabilities
Policy 113.3 – Screening and Evaluations for Students with Disabilities Policy 122 – Extracurricular Activities
Policy 123 – Interscholastic Athletics
Description: The School Reform Commission establishes general parameters in which the daily operations of the School District are to be governed. As such, the policies (listed above and attached) have been revised and updated to align with current local, state and federal law.
These amendments to policies were developed with the support of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA), pursuant to a contract entered into with PSBA pursuant to Resolution SRC-5, approved by the SRC on May 19, 2016. PSBA offers a comprehensive Policy Development Service that updates the SRC’s Policy Manual. The policy development process consists of an in-depth analysis of the existing adopted policies maintained by the School District in relation to the requirements of federal and state laws and regulations; the impact of court and arbitration decisions and recommendations based on governance, liability and educational issues.
These polices are being presented for public review and comment on December 15, 2016, prior to action on January 19, 2017.
APPS Analysis:  If the public is to review this information, then links should be provided for the policies listed here on the district’s website. Where is the description for each item? The PA State Sunshine Act states that the public has the right to comment “on matters of concern”. The wording here may be an effort to provide more information but it falls short of providing enough background for the public to comment.


SRC-5    (Pending)

Proposed Action on Revised Charter Application – FACT 2 Charter School
Consideration of the Revised Charter Application by the School Reform Commission would be a quasi- judicial action.
APPS Analysis: Again, no text is provided. Where is a link to the Revised FACT 2 Charter School Application? New charter school applications are posted—where is this Revised Application? If “quasi-judicial” means   “confidential”, then why is the resolution even posted? The SRC needs to cite any law which exempts them from disclosing information about resolutions.


SRC-6    (Pending) Recommended Termination of Professional Employees
APPS Analysis:  No text for this resolution. Has the SRC decided that this is quasi-judicial also? This is a resolution which has been carried over from the November meeting, but there was text last month.  What has changed?


A-15    Operating Budget: $22,140,710 Contract with Temco Building Maintenance, Inc. – Janitorial and Custodial Services at 18 High Schools

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 Temco Building Maintenance, Inc. for janitorial and custodial services at eighteen high schools for an amount not to exceed $15,741,334 for the period commencing January 1, 2017 through June 30, 2019, with option for one-year renewal commencing July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020, for a total aggregate amount not to exceed $22,140,710.
Description: The District contracts out the custodial services at 18 high schools to an outside vendor. The decision was codified in a memorandum of understanding that currently exists with the relevant bargaining unit. We are going to continue this arrangement given the size of the buildings and our facility needs. Under this contract the professional cleaning services company is responsible for providing all manpower, cleaning supplies, and equipment as directed by the School District.
On 07/28/16, RFP – 498 was issued to solicit respondents to provide these services under an initial two and half year contract with one year renewal option. The bid was downloaded 47 times by vendors. The vendors who submitted their proposals are GCA Services (incumbent), Pritchard Industries, Temco Building Maintenance, TK Keystone Construction, and Team Clean.
All the five vendors were invited for oral presentations.
APPS Analysis:  Apparently, the district decided to outsource some of the jobs of its “labor partners” even after praising them for their “shared sacrifice” in the last contract negotiation.   The district needs to provide enough information here to show how much it is saving, if at all, by further outsourcing.


A-9 
  Donation: $35,000 Acceptance of Donation from the Greenfield Home and School Association; License and Right of Entry with Nucero Electrical Company, Inc. – Gymnasium Lighting at the Albert M. Greenfield School


RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission authorizes the School District of Philadelphia, by and through the Superintendent or his designee: (i) to accept the generous donation from the Greenfield Home and School Association for new gymnasium lighting with a total value of approximately $35,0000 (ii) to execute, deliver and perform a License and Right of Entry Agreement with Nucero Electrical Company Inc. for the removal of the existing ceiling mounted light fixtures and replacement with LED light fixtures in the gymnasium of the Albert M. Greenfield Elementary School for a period commencing on December 26, 2016 and ending on January 6, 2017; and (iii) to execute, deliver and perform such other documents necessary to further the intent of this Resolution. The design, installation and construction of the gymnasium lighting at Albert M. Greenfield Elementary School must be acceptable to the Office of Capital Programs, the Department of Facilities and Operations, the Office of Risk Management and the Office of General Counsel. [bold added]
Description: The Greenfield Home and School Association (“GHSA”) has been working with the school leadership and community of the Albert M. Greenfield Elementary School (“Greenfield”) on various improvements in the building and grounds. The GHSA completed a competitive Request for Proposal process and selected Nucero Electrical Company Inc. to remove and replace the six (6) original metal halide lighting fixtures original to the building’s construction above the center court in the gymnasium with energy efficient LED light fixtures. The proposed work also includes the relocation of twelve (12) fixtures to provide sufficient illumination levels at the perimeter of the gym.
B-3
   Donation: $23,600 Ratification of Acceptance of Donation from the Science Leadership Academy Home and School Association

RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission hereby ratifies the acceptance with appreciation by The School District of Philadelphia, through the superintendent, of the donation of $23,600 from the Science Leadership Academy Home and School Association to pay for 20 percent of the salary and benefits of a teacher position, for the period commencing July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017.   [bold added]
Description: This ratification is to obtain authorization to accept a donation of $23,600 from the Science Leadership Academy Home and School Association to be used to fund the 20 percent of a teacher position that would have been taken from our budget through leveling in October. This is a ratification because we needed to immediately use funds from our HSA in October to cover 20 percent of a current teacher’s salary and so we are seeking after the fact approval for the expenditure. The funds had previously been donated and were available to be spent and to wait for prior approval would mean that a teacher would not have been paid with available funds.
APPS Analysis:  These donations are wonderful gifts from parents involved in their children’s schools. But they do illustrate the growing economic divide between schools that have parents able to raise this kind of money and schools where parents are struggling to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads. We know that teachers pay for paper and supplies, but now we need parents to pay for lights? Funding a teacher’s salary should also be in the school budget and not a case of moving the chairs around and losing something else. Most schools in the district do not have the ability to raise such significant amounts— so they do without. Do we accept this kind of inequity in a district whose administration says it is committed to equity? The mission of Dr. Hite and the SRC must be to make every school a high-quality school, not just the ones who can come up with their own funding.


B-5  (Updated 12.1.16) 
Donation: $500,000 Acceptance of Donation from the Janet Fleisher Investment Corporation of Original Artworks of Purvis Young and Related Instructional Materials

RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission authorizes The School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent or his designee, to accept with appreciation the donation of original artworks created by Purvis Young, informational booklets, teaching materials, posters, framing and hardware valued in excess of $500,000 on behalf of the Janet Fleisher Investment Corporation to be used by the art departments in selected schools to foster the teaching of art in the schools in connection with the District Arts Curriculum, for the period commencing January 1, 2017 through December 31, 2018.
Description: On September 22, 2016 the School District’s Office of Arts Education was contacted by the CEO of The Fund for The School District of Philadelphia with a request to coordinate the distribution of a gift of original artworks created by Purvis Young to District schools along with educational materials by The Fund Board Chair Sheldon M. Bonovitz Esq. After meetings and correspondence with Mr. Bonovitz, Barbara Bassett, Education and Teacher Programs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and John Ollman, Ollman-Fleisher Gallery, a comprehensive plan regarding the gift was devised. The Janet Fleisher Investment Corporation, owned by two residents of Philadelphia, Jill F. Bonovitz and Nancy H. Blood, in honor of their mother, Janet Fleisher, wishes to contribute two to six works of art created by the artist Purvis Young in to up to one hundred schools in The School District of Philadelphia.
The donors stipulate that the gifts of art shall be used for the purpose of fostering the teaching of art in such schools in connection with the arts curriculum and will be hung in the schools in the locations that will provide a creative event for all students. Related educational materials will be created by the District’s Office of Arts Education, the education department of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and with School District art specialists.
All schools will be given the opportunity to apply to receive artwork, and will be given guidelines as to the placement of artwork, educational use and adding the work to the school personal property inventory. Philadelphia School District and each of the recipient schools shall acknowledge the respective gifts to the schools in writing. An informational packet containing a brief biography of Purvis Young, sample photographs of his artwork, guidelines for placement of work in schools and inclusion in the art and academic curriculum, and an application form requesting size requirements and number of pieces requested as well as how the artwork will enhance the learning environment will be sent to all K-12 schools through the Principal Information Board (PIB). Schools will be required to submit their applications to the Office of Arts and Academic Enrichment by December 30, 2016. Schools will be chosen based on their applications and will be distributed in the order that they are received and until all artwork has been placed in schools.
The artwork shall be hung in school locations that will provide a creative environment for all students. The School Reform Commission is not passing on the value of the gifts of artwork for any purpose and recognizes that the School District will execute a form as required by the Internal Revenue service for gifts valued in excess of $20,000, and that the School District is authorized to take all such action required to implement this gift of artwork.

APPS Analysis: What a wonderful gift! It is good to see the district working to restore art to schools.  But we do have to ask: what happened to all of the artwork—over 200 pieces, including work by Philadelphia artists Henry Ossawa Tanner and Walter Baum— that former CEO Paul Vallas surreptitiously removed from schools over ten years ago? A couple of years ago, the SRC did the right thing by voting not to sell that art off. Much of it came from Woodrow Wilson Middle School, whose walls were covered by paintings collected by a former principal.  That art hung on the walls for decades.  It belongs to the children of the district. The district continues to pay expensive storage fees every year. What procedures are being put into place to ensure that the art donated through this resolution remains in the schools and that no CEO or Superintendent can remove them?


B-13   (Added 12.2.16 – Pending)
 Operating Budget: $23,000,000 Contract with Big Picture Philadelphia – Vaux High School Project
APPS Analysis:  As we noted in last month’s Eyes, this same Resolution was posted for October’s meeting but withdrawn at the last minute. This resolution allocates $23 million to a private company to operate a school with “up to” 500 students for five to six years. Why not use these funds to provide more resources to nearby Strawberry Mansion High School ? Vaux High School was closed in 2013 due to low enrollment—where will Big Picture find new students?  Once again, there is no descriptive text, so we will repost the September resolution: “Vaux BPS will be a non-selective, public school option that primarily serves neighborhood children using an applied-learning school model. A Pre-K Program and social services will also be located in the building.”

The original September  B-9 Resolution stated that Vaux Big Picture was partnering with PHA.  The district should provide the terms of the agreement which partners the district with PHA and the city. The September resolution also stated that the new Vaux would be a “Thin Management” model. This was a failed experiment from 2001 when providers such as Edison and the for-profit Victory Schools managed District schools. Eventually they were booted after making millions and providing no discernible academic progress. The initiative which did show academic progress was the District Office of Restructured Schools. Selected schools kept their teachers and principals and received extra resources and supports.