Karel Kilimnik SRC testimony – January 19, 2017

Click the picture for the testimony video.

Good evening to everyone both here and in tvland. I am Karel Kilimnik, graduate of the District, retired teacher, and co-founder of the Alliance for Phila Public Schools. Today I want to comment on the turmoil and chaos created by Dr. Hite’s administration as a tactic for undermining our public schools. We need a high quality district not a couple of high quality schools. I’m certain that Dr. McGinley understands this concept having worked in high quality districts.

In 2014 parents at Steel and Muniz Marin schools were asked to vote on staying with the district or being managed by a charter operator. They voted for the District. In 2015 Dr. Hite learned that you can’t give parents a choice because they don’t vote his way so he put Cooke,Huey, and Wister schools into the Ren Charter Program. A lot of pushback occurred. Wister was taken off the list and then put back overriding his decision. Great Oaks withdrew after Councilwoman Gym’s scathing report of their incompetence to run Cooke school.

So now we arrive at 2016. Dr. Hite has learned that if you want to create turmoil with less pushback then you simply include more struggling schools into the mix and you say no closures and no charter conversions. You bring in Cambridge Education an agency with no connections to the District to basically do the superintendent’s job. Find out what works and what needs improvement. You create a list of 5 options most of which include getting rid of teachers and possibly the principal.

APPS members attended many of these meetings and we are disturbed at both the process and findings of Cambridge. Many of these 11 priority schools have new principals. At one school the parents absolutely adore their principal and what he has been doing for their school in such a short time. They don’t want to lose him nor the teachers.

The resolution passed by the SRC which approved its contract with Cambridge states: “The vendor’s purpose in the School Quality Report is to provide additional on the ground data to inform which strategic investments would be most likely to drive sustained school improvement.” However, the reports do not include any additional data, only that which is available through the district itself. Cambridge has been paid $200,000 by the district for conducting the SQR.

Parents, teachers and community members know what Philadelphia’s schools need: restoration of support staff, including nurses and counselors, to pre-doomsday budget levels; smaller class size; functioning libraries with certified school librarians; appointed teachers in every classroom; adequate books and supplies. In short, true stability and equity for all schools. Dr. Hite needs to make a true commitment to stability and equity for all schools in all neighborhoods.

Here is the link to our Review of the Cambridge Education Reports on Priority Schools.