Eyes on the SRC: February 18, 2016

SRC 1-21-16

Welcome to the Seventh Edition of Eyes on the SRC.

by Karel Kilimnik

Before we get into the specific resolutions, we want to give an update on rules for speakers, as the SRC has changed them twice over the past two months. Since they won’t vote to make them official policy, you never know when they will change them again. We believe in school governance that is transparent in all aspects. The rules below are from the district website:

Revisions to current practice regarding speaker order: 

The School Reform Commission will be implementing new protocols based on two general principles. First, it is important to group speakers on the same or similar topics at Action Meetings in order to give Commissioners the ability to gain the big picture on each topic. Second, the Commission would like to encourage new voices and topics at meetings. 

Beginning February 18, 2016, the School Reform Commission (SRC) will be enacting the following changes to the order in which speakers testify at SRC Action Meetings:

  • Student speakers will continue to be prioritized and normally will speak first. 
  • Other speakers will be grouped by topic. Topics registered by new speakers, those who did not speak at the previous meeting, will be prioritized.
  • Speakers on resolutions will no longer be prioritized, given that all speakers are heard before votes are taken on resolutions. 

We also want to talk about the ramifications of what happened at the January 21, 2016 meeting.

Commissioner Sylvia Simms introduced a motion from the floor at 10 p.m. to return Wister Elementary to the Renaissance list and have Mastery Charter take over its management, in effect publicly overturning the Superintendent’s decision to do an internal turnaround instead.

There was no resolution posted on the agenda, and no resolution was read aloud.  Despite requests from APPS members, Chair Marjorie Neff refused to let any member of the public speak on the resolution–another clear violation of the PA Sunshine Act. 

In fact, the Wister community, because it had been assured that no vote would be taken, was not represented at the meeting. Simms reassured the audience of her full confidence in Hite. You might ask: why do we need a $300,000 superintendent if you don’t support his decisions? Two other SRC members voted to approve Simms’ motion, even though they admitted that the district had used faulty data when it chose Wister in the first place. Mayor Kenney, City Council President Darrell Clarke, Councilwoman Helen Gym and many in the education community have expressed outrage about the SRC’s undemocratic action, which clearly violated the PA Sunshine Act.

The other issue that comes to mind is what criteria will they now use to turn other schools over to charter operators?


Resolutions of Note


Human Resources


FEBRUARY 18, 2016

A-1: General/Categorical Funds: Approves Personnel, Terminations
RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission hereby ratifies the appointment of the following persons to the positions, on the effective dates through January 31, 2016 and at the salaries respectively noted, as recommended by the Superintendent, provided that: (a) continued employment of persons appointed to positions funded by categorical grants is contingent upon the availability of grant funds; and (b) persons appointed to positions funded by operating funds, shall report to either the Superintendent or his/her designees, and shall serve at the pleasure of the School Reform Commission.

APPS: There is a separate sheet at each meeting which lists new hires and their salaries.  However, not all new hires are listed. Last fall we learned how much the newly hired assistant superintendents and other high level staff cost only when a diligent reporter investigated. We learned more from a researcher at the Philadelphia Student Union who did a background check on those new hires. Why is an investigation necessary when it states right here that the salaries are duly noted? Why are all new management hires at 440 not included in this list?


A-14: License Agreement with North Broad Renaissance for use of a portion of the Education Center 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 North Broad Renaissance for approximately 198 square feet of space on the third 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. North Broad Renaissance will pay license fees to the School District in the amount of $3,267.00 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 March 1, 2016 through February 28, 2017, with an automatic renewal for one year, commencing March 1, 2017 through February 28, 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. 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. [Emphasis added]

Description: The proposed licensing arrangement for space at the School District of Philadelphia’s Education Center, with the North Broad Renaissance, a new non-profit that will serve as a Special Service District, will provide operating space for an important community resource that will also benefit the School District. The North Broad Renaissance’s primary role is to provide communication and information to city administrators and Council, neighborhood and community groups and others who are (or may) do business or development or other activities on North Broad, from City Hall to Germantown Avenue. In partnership with community stakeholders, their goal is to revitalize the community, create opportunity and improve the economic power and overall quality of life along North Broad. This arrangement enables the School District to utilize dormant space at its headquarters, offset operating expenses at the building and provide an accessible location for a valuable community service to the immediate neighborhood.  [Emphasis added]

APPS: Why is the rent so low?


B-5IDEA: $1,000,000 Contracts with EBS Healthcare, Inc, Progressus Therapy, LLC, and ACS Consultants – Long Term Substitute Special Education Teachers

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 EBS Healthcare, Inc. (Educational Based Services), Progressus Therapy LLC and ACS Consultants, Inc., to deliver long-term substitute special education teachers to fill existing special education teacher vacancies, for an aggregate amount not to exceed $1,000,000 for the period commencing February 19, 2016 through, June 30, 2016. [Emphasis added]

Description: The District conducted, and is currently engaged in, an exhaustive and comprehensive recruitment effort to locate and place needed special education teachers in its schools. Although 1,236 certified special education teachers have been successfully recruited and placed to cover the 18,441 District students with disabilities, there are still twenty-four (24) teacher vacancies needed to be filled. Twenty-four (24) special education teachers are needed to cover low incident students and classrooms. Low incident children are among the most vulnerable students in the District and have some of the most challenging needs. Low incident students include students with the following disabilities: autism, intellectual disability, emotional disability, multiple disabilities, and those students needing basic life skills training and support. Currently, there are special education teacher vacancies for low incident students and classrooms in the following schools: Autism Support: Arthur, Hill-Freedman, Kensington Urban, Lowell, McKinley, Meehan, Morton, Nebinger, Olney Elementary, Pennypacker, Prince Hall, Richmond, Strawberry Mansion, Roxborough, and West Philadelphia High School. Emotional Support: Edison, Morton, Strawberry Mansion, Northeast High School, and Washington High School. Life Skills

Support: Overbrook High School, Wagner, Hill-Freedman, and Northeast High School.

This resolution seeks authorization to contract with EBS Healthcare, Inc., Progressus Therapy, LLC and ACS Consultants, Inc. to recruit qualified and Pennsylvania certified long-term substitute special education teachers, to fill the above listed twenty-four (24) vacancies and to fill two (2) additional vacancies should they occur before the end of the school year.

APPS: Didn’t the SRC spend $34 million to bring in the incompetent Source4Teachers to fill both long term and short-term substitute vacancies? Why is another $1,000,000 needed to recruit for 26 vacancies? Why is there a director of the Office of Talent given this $1,000,000 expnditure?

 This statement comes from the EBS website – EBS Healthcare is looking for dynamic and friendly School Nurses to join our team!” Although the District is using them to provide teaching substitutes, the agency also provides school nurses or subs for school nurses. Will they be used to provide school nurses or subs for school nurses?

 Progressus Therapy LLC states on its website “Grow your career as a therapist here”. This Florida-based company provides speech-language therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, psychologists, special ed teachers, and early intervention providers school districts and early intervention programs. Are there no local speech therapists, OT, PT, psychologists, special ed teachers and early intervention providers who could serve our students? ACS Consultants is yet another private company brought into staff these positions. Their website boasts that they offer “the most cost effective solution to our clients. What happened to providing our students with educated and experienced practitioners who are also PFT members?

Also see:

APPS Calls on the SRC to Rescind Its Illegal Vote
Alliance for Public School – February 1, 2016

Plan to privatize 3 schools is inconsistent and a gross overreach
The Philadelphia Public School Notebook – February 10, 2016