A recent news story reported on the ongoing renewal process of Aspira Olney High and Aspira Stetson Middle Schools. The SRC’s CSO recommended non-renewal in the strongest terms, and with an overwhelming number of facts and data about their academic, managerial and financial failings, including misuse of taxpayer funds.
Rather than revoke the charters and take back the schools from a company which has clearly failed the students and the community, two members of the SRC have taken it upon themselves to act as agents of the charter company, rather than protectors of the public interest, and conduct private negotiations with Aspira representatives.
Dawn Lynn Kacer, director of the CSO, said: “We don’t make recommendations based on promises of future performance. We make decisions based on outcomes.” The SRC should remember that its mission is to maintain a strong public school system. Letting failed, corrupt companies continue to manage our schools is a betrayal of that mission.
In that news story, Commissioner Green made knowingly false statements about me and the Alliance. In a democracy, public officials, when questioned by the public, should not by engaging in personal attacks. I ask that Commissioner Green, after my testimony, retract those statements and make a public apology.
I recently sent a letter to Commissioner Jimenez about her admission, on national TV, that she may be supporting Donald Trump for president and her repetition of many of Trump’s talking points, such as that he is a “working-class billionaire”. Ms. Jimenez failed to mention that she sits on the School Reform Commission, that she is a Republican party operative, and that she is director of a public advocacy organization. Her deception is troubling. As I said in my letter:
“…[Y]our appearance and comments on MSNBC represents the failure of a government official, one appointed to represent the interests of the children of the district and their families, to condemn the racism and misogyny, [and] fear-mongering against those who belong to a certain religion, which has come from the Trump campaign.
The majority of Philadelphia’s students are children of color, representing a variety of cultures and languages. Our children face discrimination every day because of their color, their ethnicity, their sexual identity or their disabilities.
Viewers…witnessed a member of the SRC admitting… that she is considering voting for a man who has vowed to conduct a mass deportation of undocumented immigrants (some of whom could include parents of Philadelphia’s schoolchildren) and who has mocked a man with physical disabilities.
It is disturbing that you would say publicly, on national TV, that you could vote for a man whose campaign actually began when he accused the first African-American president of lying about his place of birth, claiming that he is not a true American… a man who has called for a ban on Muslims entering the country and creating a mandatory national registry for them… just months after the district approved two Muslim holidays in its school calendar…
The district has ongoing staff training to recognize and prevent bullying because it understands the effect that bombastic language and threats can have on minorities and people perceived as different.”
Because of this, and issues raised about her many conflicts and her questionable voting, it is time for Commissioner Jimenez to do the right thing and step down.
SRC Transcript – August 18, 2016
Green’s Verbal Attack on Haver at end of Testimony
Lisa Haver’s testimony addressed three issues: the secret negotiations that two SRC commissioners are currently conducting with ASPIRA officials in order to have that charter company maintain control, against the recommendation of the SRC’s Charter School Office, of Olney High and Stetson Middle schools; her request that Bill Green retract the knowingly false statements he made about her in a news story on the ASPIRA matter and offer a public apology; concerns that she and a colleague had expressed in a letter sent to Commissioner Farah Jimenez about her appearance, in July, on national television as an “undecided voter”, her repetition of several talking points from the Trump campaign, her failure to renounce Trump’s racist, misogynist and xenophobic statements and the effect her behavior could have on the students and families of Philadelphia.
At the end of her testimony, Commissioner Green began what can best be described as a tirade against Haver. He pointed his finger at her, interrupted her when she tried to defend herself against the torrent of false statements he was making, and loudly and repeatedly ordered district staff to “turn off her mic”. It was a shocking display of bullying, by a government official, of a member of the public who came to speak on public issues. The transcript of that exchange follows.
[Note that Green does not address the Aspira, Inc. issue or explain his involvement in those private negotiations.]
Green: I have a comment to make about about this testimony. Like you, who get to come here and distort facts and say false things…
Lisa H: What did I say that was false?
Green: You have a First Amendment right to be here and express your opinion as a citizen of the United States…
Lisa H: You’re accusing me of making false statements, now.
Green.: You do it all the time.
Lisa H: No…
Green : Yes you do.
Lisa H: No.
Green: Most of what you say is not fact based – it’s your opinion.
Lisa H: No, You’re accusing me now publicly of making false statements.
Green: Yes. I am. Absolutely, I am. And I have my First Amendment speech rights and I can say whatever I want.
Lisa H: Of course you do.
Green: But what I will say about Ms Jimenez… Farah Jimenez… Commissioner Jimenez…
Lisa H: Please stop pointing your finger at me.
Green: (to District staff) Please turn off that microphone.
(to Lisa) You had your time, this is mine.
Lisa H: Please stop pointing your finger at me.
[Green pulled his finger back but a minute later began pointing at her again.]
Green: Commissioner Jiminez… Commissioner Jiminez…You may not have noticed her color. Or the fact that she cares about her community or the fact that she serves on this commission, unpaid…
Lisa H: I didn’t…
Green: …to care for the children of our city. She is here because she cares. She has a right… And by the way, on MSNBC it says “undecided voter” on her name. It did not say, and she did not say. that she would support Donald Trump…
Lisa H: And that’s not what I said…
Green: It’s what you implied, that’s my point, Ms Haver.
Lisa H: That’s not, I’m trying to tell you…
Green: [to District staff] Please turn off that microphone. I’m not having a dialogue. I’m giving comment.
Staff: It’s off.
Green: No it’s not. It’s green, I can see it. [Green is referring to the green light at the base of the speaker’s microphone.]
Staff: It’s off. It’s off from back here.
Green: OK, thank you. [turning back to Lisa H.] I just want to say, um, it’s dishonest of you to come in here and say that a citizen of the United States doesn’t have the right to go on television and express her…
Lisa H: Because I didn’t say that.
Green: Yes you did, You said…
Lisa H: I did not. I said she represents the SRC…
Green: The fact… the fact that she’s an SRC member, the fact that you work for… whoever you work for…
Lisa H: She didn’t say that… [inaudible]
Green: The fact that all this stuff … is not relevant to her ability to go on TV and express her opinion.
Lisa H: Yes it is, to our Latino students, to our Muslim students, to our African-American students…
Green: It’s not… It’s not… It’s not…[after each of Lisa’s examples above}
Lisa H: …to our disabled students…
Green: She’s an undecided voter, Ms Haver. She’s an undecided voter…
[At this point, Chairwoman Neff interrupts]
Neff: Mr. Green, Ms Haver, Can I ask that we continue the meeting and you all have this discussion after the meeting?
Lisa H: Thank you, Chair Neff.
Neff: Thank you.