Eyes on the SRC: October 19, 2017

S1190010

by Karel Kilimnik

As we contemplate this new round of increasingly familiar resolutions, several things stand out.  One is the continued funding of vendors of questionable quality to provide professional development, even after the recently approved PFT contract was characterized as “fiscally irresponsible” by members of the SRC.  Another is the need for a fair and equitable funding formula so that schools do not have to rely on the largesse of foundations, non-profits, and universities to provide necessary resources and fund programs of their choosing. The voices of the district’s true stakeholders—students, educators, parents, community members—are diminished by those of private entities who have no obligation to be transparent or accountable to the public. Public schools are not charities.  They must be supported by public money.

October’s resolutions demonstrate the growing influence of both Drexel and Temple universities in the district’s business. Two of the five SRC commissioners are employed by Temple. Temple was awarded a $70, 000 contract by the SRC to facilitate the community outreach component of Dr. Hite’s latest Priority Schools process currently underway. Temple has also acquired a $2.7 million dollar federal grant dealing with ELLs (B1) as well as managing a Music Education Project (B5). Drexel expands its involvement with the Powel School (A6) that raises the question of resources allocated within a certain zip code. The “Hunger Games” continue as schools scramble for resources that should be mandated and supported by the district. More professional development money lines the pockets of vendors such as Carnegie Learning (B16), again reinforcing the message that the problem is ineffective teaching and not the dearth of resources provided to struggling schools.

 What If…?

The 3.5 million raised by the Fund of the Philadelphia School District was used to bring back Certified Librarians instead of “classroom libraries”.  A Certified School Librarian works with every child in a school, not just students who have classroom libraries. They get to know the child over a period of years and guide students with research skills, a wide array of books both fiction and non-fiction, and developing an analytical perspective. 

Next SRC meetings: Thursday October 19 at 4:30 PM; Thursday November 16 at 4:30 PM.  Call 215 400 4180 by 3p.m. the day before in order to register to speak.  Please consider attending even if you are not speaking.

The full list of resolutions for the October 19 meeting can be found here

Resolutions of Note

Needed:  Audit of District Finances                                                             

A-5

Operating Budget: $546,014 Contract Ratification with City Controller of Philadelphia – Single Audit Services for FY16 and FY17
RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission hereby ratifies the execution , delivery and performance by The School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent, of contracts with the City Controller of Philadelphia, to provide independent audit services for the Single Audit for Fiscal Year 2016 for an amount not to exceed $221,014 for the period commencing July 1, 2015 through June 30 2016 and to provide independent audit services for the Single Audit for the Fiscal Year 2017, for an amount not to exceed $325,000, for the period commencing July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017, for an aggregate amount not to exceed $546,014.

APPS Analysis: According to the US Department of Education, Pennsylvania leads the nation in funding disparities among all districts. It is clear that we need a thorough examination of how the district spends taxpayer dollars. Schools need investments in smaller class size, an adequate number of counselors, functioning school libraries with certified librarians, vibrant Art and Music programs, ELL programs that meet the needs of diverse populations, and creative after-school programs. But the “cash-strapped” district spends more for redundant professional development and questionable “personalized learning” technology. Instead of drawing upon the wealth of knowledge and experience within the district, this administration has forced veteran teachers out while directing more money into the pockets of private business (like the disastrous outsourcing of substitutes to Source4Teachers). In addition to the Controller’s report, the public needs to see an independent forensic audit of district finances.

Our Schools Are Not Charities

A-6
Fund/Donation: $222,694 Grant Acceptance from Drexel University; $96,000 Acceptance of Donations from Steppingstones Scholars and Lakeside Professional Development Network; Memoranda of UnderstandingCategorical/Grant 
RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission authorizes The School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent or his designee, to accept with appreciation a grant from Drexel University for an amount not to exceed $222,694, to provide various academic and climate supports at the Powel Elementary School and to provide teachers with onsite professional development through the establishment of a learning laboratory at the McMichael Elementary School for the period commencing October 23, 2017 through June 30, 2018; and be it

FURTHER 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 services valued at $85,000 from Steppingstone Scholars at the McMichael Elementary School to provide students with after-school programming in literacy and mathematics and arts enrichment; and be it

Further Resolved, that the School Reform Commission authorizes The School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent or his designee, contingent upon receipt of this donation, to execute, deliver, and perform a Memorandum of Understanding with Steppingstone Scholars to provide students with after-school programming in literacy and mathematics and arts enrichment at the McMichael Elementary School, at no cost to the School District, for the period commencing October 23, 2017 through June 30, 2018; and be it

FURTHER 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 materials in the amount of $4,000 from Drexel University and services valued at $11,000 from the Lakeside Professional Development Network at the Powel Elementary School to provide professional development to teachers regarding trauma informed practices; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission authorizes The School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent or his designee, contingent upon receipt of this donation, to execute, deliver, and perform a Memorandum of Understanding with Lakeside Professional Development Network at the Powel Elementary School to provide professional development to teachers regarding trauma informed practices, at no cost to the School District, for the period commencing October 23, 2017 through June 30, 2018.

APPS Analysis:  This resolution includes another example of why our schools cannot be treated as charities. These programs exist only as long as this grant does—then what? What our schools need is a fair and equitable budget. What if these entities put money into fighting for such a budget? The six schools Dr Hite has placed in his latest round of Priority Schools all need these kinds of programs. Parents and teachers alike have spoken to this. Where is the money to fund their programs? Is this only for schools located in a certain zip code? Why isn’t this provided for every single school no matter their address?

 
B-5

Donation: $3,500,000 Acceptance of Donation from The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia – Music Education
RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission authorizes The School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent or his designee, to accept with appreciation the donation from the Fund for The School District of Philadelphia of monetary grants, in-kind services, equipment, and materials valued at $3,500,000, for the purpose of increasing students’ access to music education, for the period commencing October 20, 2017 through June 30, 2020; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission authorizes The School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent or his designee, to accept with appreciation the donation from the Fund for The School District of Philadelphia of monetary grants, generated through the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation PMAY Artists grant valued at $245,700 to support the All City Orchestra and students pursuing careers in instrumental music, for the period commencing October 20, 2017 through June 30, 2020; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission authorizes The School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent or his designee, to accept with appreciation a donation from the Fund for The School District of Philadelphia of in-kind services, equipment, and materials, generated through Tyler Contemporary Gallery at Temple University’s Symphony for a Broken Orchestra fundraising initiative providing a minimum of $180,000 for the purpose of repairing and replacing musical instruments, for the period commencing October 20, 2017 through June 30, 2020; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission authorizes The School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent or his designee, to accept with appreciation a donation from the Fund for The School District of Philadelphia of monetary grants, in-kind services, equipment, materials and consulting services, generated by the GRAMMY Music Education Coalition Initiative, valued at a minimum of $3,074,072 to support increased participation in music education classes and programs, for the period commencing October 20, 2017 through June 30, 2020; and be it

Description: The School District of Philadelphia’s Office of The Arts & Academic Enrichment, in alignment with Action Plan 3.0, is preparing a strategic redesign and implementation of music education curriculum and programs to ensure access and equity for all students. The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia will coordinate various external fundraising efforts including, but not limited to, Tyler Contemporary Gallery at Temple University’s “Symphony for a Broken Orchestra” which generates donations for instrument repair, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s “PMAY Artist Initiative” grant to support the All City Orchestra and instrumental programs encouraging diversity, and the GRAMMY Music Education Coalition seeking to increase participation in music education across all grades. Donations acquired through these efforts will provide resources and funding support to all schools in the District, including the growth and sustainability of existing music programs as well as the addition of new music programs in schools where programs do not currently exist.

APPS Analysis:  Temple Contemporary (Tyler School of Art) saw a problem with the district’s collection of damaged musical instruments and decided to try to help; this is admirable. The district has an enormous problem inventorying and maintaining materials. Music Education was once part of every school’s curriculum, providing students with access to choral and/or instrumental instruction. Then cuts rained down upon us and Music and Art teachers were among the first forced out the door. In 2001 the state seized control of the district by creating the SRC whose mission was to stabilize finances—and they failed. Charities such as The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia have taken on more funding responsibilities for projects of their own choosing, in the same way that the private Philadelphia School Partnership has. Accountability and transparency are not part of the equation; private boards set priorities rather than the community. The public loses its ability to hold them accountable. They answer to no one except their funders.

A-24
Ratification of Amendment of Sub-Grant Acceptance Period – American Association of Retired Persons
RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission hereby ratifies the extension by The School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent, of the acceptance period of a sub-grant from American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), originally authorized pursuant to Resolution No. A-4, approved by the School Reform Commission on September 17, 2015, by extending the acceptance period from its original scheduled expiration of April 30, 2017 through December 30, 2017.

APPS Analysis: What our students need is smaller class size, full-time classroom assistants, school libraries, and research-proven professional development. Tutors should be supplemental. These well-intentioned volunteers are not trained professionals. It is wonderful to have older adults coming into help provided that time is allotted for teachers to meet with them and help orient them to the needs of their students. Is this program being implemented at the six Priority Schools so desperate for resources? If the District is allocating so many resources to collect data on this program why not place them into the Priority Schools?

No Explanation, No Description, No Attachments—The Usual                

A-8
Capital Fund: $177,840 Authorization of Net Cost Change Orders
RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission authorizes The School District of Philadelphia through the Superintendent or his designee, to execute, deliver and perform amendments of the attached contracts for a net cost to the School District not to exceed $177,840.00.

Description: This resolution seeks approval for various revisions to the on-going construction project as detailed on the attached Modification of Contract document. Changes include items designated as errors or omissions, differing site conditions, unforeseen conditions and revisions requested by School District representatives. Change orders approved to rectify errors or omissions will be further reviewed by the Offices of Capital Program and General Counsel for possible recovery of costs through the professional liability insurance policies of the design professionals, negotiations, and filing of claims or lawsuits against the design professionals.

APPS Analysis: “Attached contracts”? Nothing is attached.  There is no indication here of what the district is spending  $177, 840 on. 

B-18 (Pending)
Operating Budget: $720,000 Ratification of Contract with VisionQuest – Alternative Education Program

B-19 (Pending)
Operating Budget: $40,000 Contract with Jehiza Feliz – Program and Partnership Coordinator – SLA @ Beeber

APPS Analysis: Why is there no description or explanation for these resolutions? How can the public know what $760,000 of our tax money is buying?  What other governmental body behaves in this manner?  Yet another reason for abolishing the SRC and replacing it with an elected school board so that voters can demand documentation on all public spending.

Will Hite Administration Make Student Privacy a Thing of the Past?

A-22
Categorical/Grant Fund: $150,000 Acceptance of Grant from Neubauer Family Foundation – Data Dashboard Development and User Access
RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission authorizes The School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent or his designee, to accept with appreciation a grant from the Neubauer Family Foundation, if awarded, in an amount up to $150,000, to to support Phase 3 of a contract entered into with Inprocess Consulting LLC, pursuant to Resolution A-6, approved by the School Reform Commission on August 18, 2016, for an enterprise data analytics, reporting, and dashboard solution tool (Business Intelligence tool), including the development of additional data dashboards, as well as the enhancement of public-facing data tools such as the online School Profiles.

APPS Analysis:  This resolution actually refers to A7 from August 2016, not A6.  The issues we raised in 2016 remain the same:  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?  Students and parents deserve answers to these questions.

A-23
No Cost Amendment of Contract with Inprocess Consulting LLC – Enterprise Analytics and Dashboard Solution Project
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 originally entered into with Inprocess Consulting LLC, pursuant to Resolution No. A-7, approved by the School Reform Commission on August 18, 2016, for an enterprise data analytics, reporting, and dashboard solution tool (Business Intelligence tool), by moving the start date of Phase 3 of the contract from September 1, 2018 to October 20, 2017, at no additional cost to the School District.

APPS Analysis:  The District awarded Inprocess Consulting LLC a $1,250,000 contract in 2016. APPS member Carol Heinsdorf testified about the shortcomings of Inprocess Consulting LLC at the August 18, 2016 SRC meeting. Watch her testimony; it confirms why it is difficult to locate information on this company run by one person for under two years. The district, however, still has no problem using this unproven vendor to work with student data.

 B-1

Donation: $2,700,000 Ratification of Acceptance of Donation of Services and Resources from Temple University; Memorandum of Understanding

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 professional development services from Temple University to improve leadership, instruction and parent engagement of English Learners, valued at $2,700,000, for the period commencing September 1, 2016 through August 31, 2021; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission hereby ratifies the execution, delivery and performance by The School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent, of a Memorandum of Understanding with Temple University, in a form acceptable to the School District’s Office of General Counsel, to implement this donation of services.

APPS Analysis:  The district has an office whose purpose it is to ensure that ELL students receive services.  Why is there a need for another vendor, Temple University, to administer over $2 million in professional development for ELLs? The district knows what professional development staff has received as well as what is being planned. Student needs assessed by their teachers should drive this multi-year grant, not the assessment of an outside organization. This perpetuates the idea that teachers are not competent in determining what their students need to succeed. It continues the present administrations’ policy of outsourcing professional development. The resolution states “that Temple selected all nine schools.” Why allow an outside entity to make such a decision? It also says that the grant is for “middle and high schools”, but all nine selected are high schools. Are students’ needs driving this decision? Temple should donate the grant money and allow the district’s professionals to decide how it will be distributed.

B-16
Operating Budget/Categorical/Grant Fund: $650,000 Amendment of Contract with Carnegie Learning, Inc. – Professional Development – Summer Math Institute and Additional Math Institute Specialists
RESOLVED, that the School Reform Commission authorizes The School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent or his designee, to execute, deliver and perform an amendment of Contract No. 0654/F16, originally entered in to with Carnegie Learning, Inc., pursuant to Resolution B-9, approved by the School Reform Commission on March 16, 2017, by increasing the amount of the contract by an additional $650,000.00 from $6,066,174.03, approved by Resolution B-6, to an amount not to exceed $6,716,174.03.

Description: Carnegie Learning is currently contracted to facilitate our week long intensive summer Mathematics Institute, which provides intensive grade-level mathematics professional development to over 800 teachers and their principals (approx. 45 principals). As a result of participating in the Mathematics Institute, the Office of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment provides Mathematics coaching (12 coaches), through Carnegie Learning, for all teachers. The Office of School Redesign and the Office of Gear Up inquired about providing Mathematics coaching for five of their schools (1 Redesign & 4 Gear Up).

This resolution seeks authorization to amend Contract No. 0654/F16 with Carnegie Learning, Inc., by increasing the amount of the original contract by an additional $650,000.00 from $6,066,174.03, approved by Resolution B-6 on March 17, 2017, to an amount not to exceed $6,716,174.03, to provide five (5) additional Math Institute Specialists to support specific schools and their teachers during the 2017 – 2018 school year. The Math Institute Specialists will be contracted solely through Carnegie Learning, Inc. They will not be recruited or hired as employees of the The School District of Philadelphia.

Math Institute Specialists Breakdown: Four (4) Math Institute Specialists will support the teachers of the following schools (Edison, Fels, Penn Treaty, Kensington HS, Kensington Health Science. Kensington CAPA, Ben Franklin, Overbrook, West Philadelphia, School of the Future, Frankford, Martin Luther King).

One (1) Math Institute Specialist will be assigned to Hartranft.

APPS ANALYSIS:  Teachers beware! Carnegie Learning is one of many edu-vendors selling “personalized learning”—that means more students in front of screens instead of interacting with teachers and other students. Cambridge received a $3 million dollar contract in March 2017 and is now back for more.  These systems are designed to push teachers into the role of data managers. Note that both Kensington Health & Sciences and Hartfranft, two of last year’s Priority Schools, as well as Penn Treaty, a targeted Priority School this year, are all on the list to receive Carnegie Math Institute Specialists. Is this a trend for schools being redesigned or transformed in some way? (For more information on Personalized Learning, see  Philadelphia parent Alison McDowell’s blog Wrench in the Gears.)