Testimony – City Council School District Hearing
Submitted by Lynda Rubin, a member of Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools
I am a school counselor who retired after 41 years, 38 years in one school in South Philadelphia, D. Newlin Fell School, and 3 previous years teaching at the now closed Walton School, 27th & Huntingdon Sts.
Consistency and stability matters for educators, students, families and communities.
What path has our School District taken? Creating a very un-even school system where some schools can raise money for staff, equipment and trips, while in the neediest schools, existing staff are forced out to make way for new staff with little to no knowledge of the neighborhood, children or each other. But the appearance of change while exerting control is accomplished. The SRC and District blame PFT and CASA staff and deny them contracts and resources to enable them to do their jobs. Conversely, the SRC is pouring money into a host of outside contractors, like Cambridge, Inc., a global corporation, to come in and identify the problems of what they dubbed “Priority Schools” after a couple of visits, a few very short observations in classrooms and some brief meetings with and surveys of parents. Now, the SRC is seeking to outsource teacher preparation programs to unaccredited corporate models like Relay who use scripted training programs, and principal programs like “Philly Plus” where not even School Law is taught. The shift is being made to privatize the operations of our schools and hiring the cheapest labor we can get, regardless of the quality or how few years they stay.
Charter schools have been overtaken from their original design for educational innovation by corporate entities who hide behind supposed non-profit companies. But make no mistake, hedge-funders don’t invest in non-profits for nothing. We can’t even seem to hold non-performing charter schools to account even when their academic progress is on a downward trend over 3-5 years. At the last SRC meeting, Michael Karp defended Belmont Charter’s lack of academic progress on the high poverty level of its students. Well, haven’t charters touted as their reason for being that they can do better with these students? If they can’t, why are they allowed to continue, renewal after renewal? At a new charter application hearing this year, KIPP CEO Mark Manella was asked by hearing officer Allison Peterson why KIPP was applying to open a new school instead of concentrating on fixing an existing non-performing KIPP school. He replied, “With every school we’re getting better. We’re able to increase our support staff, that helps.” HUH?
At last week’s hearing, Councilwoman Blackwell correctly chastised Superintendent Hite when he absurdly said that principals are choosing not to have librarians, when she said, “You’re making their decisions for them based on funding!” Thank you for pointing out that Hobson’s choice.
I’m imploring City Council to do its due diligence, during the school year, not just at budget time, to learn about what the SRC and District are doing behind their pretty words.