Lisa Haver – SRC testimony – October 15, 2015

Good Evening. My name is Lisa Haver; I am retired teacher and co-founder of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools.

Let’s look at the record of transparency and democracy of the SRC during the administration of Superintendent Hite.

Two years ago, the district scheduled seven community meetings to discuss their new school rating system. When members of the community expressed their criticisms, the district responded by cancelling the rest of the meetings with no notice. People found out when they showed up for the second one.

Fast forward to last week, when parents and community members, at all three schools targeted to be given to charter companies, were given the wrong locations and had to run around trying to figure out where to go. The district has gone from disregard to blatant contempt for the people who care about their children’s futures.

Teachers and other school professionals have been shut out of the process completely. The Office of Community and Family Engagement should change its name to Office of Community Exclusion.

The Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools asks questions of the Superintendent and the SRC at every meeting. Sometimes we are ignored, sometimes we are told flat out we are not answering your question, sometimes we are told we’ll answer you later which often means much later.

But what shocked even our members was finding ourselves the target of attempted intimidation when we wrote a letter to one SRC commissioner asking questions about matters of public concern. We wrote a letter to Commissioner Jimenez in early September asking about her actions, including voting, on resolutions on contracts with Mastery Schools. We asked because Commissioner Jimenez has abstained over 25 times on these matters because her husband’s law firm represents Mastery and KIPP schools.  We asked why:

  • She voted on August 20 to approve a $300,000. Contract with Mastery Schools to expand their program of professional development in three district schools beginning August 21.
  • She took part in discussions in Executive Session on the SRC’s decision to give Frederick Douglass Elementary to Mastery Schools rather than proceed with the non-renewal process after the failure of Young Scholars to provide an adequate education to those students.
  • She took on the oversight of the district’s charter office and oversaw the SRC’s charter application process last winter. Besides the obvious issues here, we asked why that information was never made public by her or the SRC as it was never announced or posted on the SRC website.

In America, in a democracy, the public has an absolute right to ask questions of public officials on matters of public concern. The response to public questions should not be an overtly threatening letter from a lawyer and an attempt to silence those members of the public.

As yet, we have not received a response from Commissioner Jimenez to any of our questions. We urge her to take this opportunity, here at this public meeting, to assure that public that her actions as a member of the SRC were entirely appropriate and constitute no conflict of interest.