Last night, I was among the thousands who marched down Broad Street chanting: “This is what democracy looks like”. And as I passed this building I thought, “And the way that the SRC is allowed to govern is absolutely what NOT democracy looks like. The SRC—which does not operate in a system of checks and balances and which is accountable to no one—must go.
I have 3 questions:
- When will the information which was erased from the district’s website be restored?
- When will the SRC vote on the charter renewals for Aspira Olney and Stetson, Universal Vare and Audenried—all of which were recommended for non-renewal by the Charter School Office but postponed since April 2016?
- Will the Camelot Excel program be operating in the Strawberry Mansion HS building?
We know from experience that the SRC might answer and they might not. The SRC governs by rumor, not by information.
The district has used the construction of a new website as a way to give LESS information to the public, not more. And when we tried to get answers, we were told that the Director and Assistant Directors of the Office of Communications were both on vacation. The little information we got was from people we happened to run into in the hallways. There was no reason for the SRC to delete information. The district should be doing what everyone else, including the City of Philadelphia, does: maintain the old website while constructing the new one. This is a simple technological fix. Why does the public have to guess what the district is doing?
But this is not a fluke, this is a continuation of the pattern of misinformation or no information from the SRC and the Hite administration. We are still waiting for some kind of official report from Dr. Hite or Chair Wilkerson on what happened during the 6 months of secret meetings the district held with charter operators.
I attended a meeting yesterday at Strawberry Mansion High in which community members could not get an answer to a simple Yes or No question: Is the district placing a program for students with behavioral issues in the building? No one from Camelot was there, and there was not one piece of written information about the program, Camelot’s history and experience, or why Strawberry Mansion was being considered. The community was not told that the SRC had already voted to fund the program and enter into a contract with Camelot. School starts in less than two weeks, and no one knows whether this program will be placed at the school?
Last July 2016, the SRC tabled a resolution for an amendment for Harambee charter. No word on it since then. The SRC postponed resolutions on renewals of Gratz, Shoemaker and Clymer Mastery charter schools last year. No word on them. The SRC didn’t even post resolutions on several charters whose renewals they were supposed to vote on, including Belmont Elementary, which is now slated to get one of the new city social workers. Belmont Elementary did not meet a single academic standard on the CSO report. Why would they even be considered for renewal—other than the political connections of its CEO Michael Karp, who has a vote on the PICA board. No updates on them. The SRC voted to postpone the vote on Memphis Street charter because it needed “more information”. What more information do you need that’s not in the CSO report?
Who does the SRC really serve: the politically and financially connected. The Michael Karps, the Kenny Gambles, the Ken Trujillos. From the law firms who make money off of bond work and whistleblower suits to former tennis stars making big bucks on real estate sales to charter investors to charter investors themselves, like Carl Icahn, buddy of our “working class billionaire” president.
The SRC’s first priority is not the children of the city. That is why you need to go.