SRC and City Settle First Amendment Complaint with Education Activists

Ilene Poses removal

For Immediate Release                                June 3, 2015

SRC and City Settle First Amendment Complaint with Education Activists

Three former Philadelphia teachers have agreed to a settlement in their civil rights lawsuit against the School Reform Commission, former SRC Chair Bill Green, the City of Philadelphia and other parties for violating their constitutional rights during a February SRC meeting.

Ilene Poses, Barbara Dowdall and Lisa Haver, who are all members of the grass-roots advocacy group Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, filed suit in federal court in March. Signs were confiscated from the three during the meeting in which the SRC voted on thirty-nine applications for new charters. Poses was also accosted by Philadelphia police and forcibly removed from the building when she refused to remove the sign she was wearing around her neck. APPS members regularly attend SRC meetings and frequently give public testimony on school issues.

As part of the settlement agreement, the SRC released a statement in which it reaffirmed the rights of the public to “…wear clothing and/or to carry signs that display viewpoints on issues of public concern.”

Commissioner Farah Jiminez, at a subsequent meeting, apologized for the SRC’s actions.

Paul Messing, attorney for the plaintiffs, said, “The settlement makes clear that there are consequences for violating the fundamental First Amendment rights of the public and that victims must be compensated.”

Nominal damages will be paid out of the city’s litigation fund. All three plaintiffs have said that they will not personally benefit from the financial settlement.  “We will be depositing all of the settlement money into a fund which will enable us to support programs for students and continue our advocacy work for public schools in Philadelphia”, Dowdall said.

School Police Violently Remove Woman With Sign: Abolish the SRC
Philadelphia Student Union video – February 18, 2015

Lawsuit: SRC violated former teachers’ right
Philadelphia Daily News – March 12, 2015

Hype over Hite makes no sense

On July 15, 2015 the Philadelphia Daily News printed this letter from APPS member Karel Kilimnik which was a response to a Daily News editorial of July 10, 2015: Saving Private Hite: The superintendent got a vote of confidence. He deserves the Medal of Honor.

Superintendent William Hite, Jr.
Superintendent William Hite, Jr.

I am truly puzzled with your paper’s admiration for Superintendent William Hite. As an educator, I can tell you that he has been toxic for education in Philadelphia. He has brought churn and turmoil to a district that needs leadership and collaboration. Almost 50 percent of principals have been replaced, assistant principals are becoming extinct as are school librarians. Many of these new principals are inexperienced and have not worked in an urban district before. In efforts to divest of veteran teachers many are receiving low evaluation marks for the first time in their professional lives. Hite has presided over the destruction of school communities by closing schools (now he terms it consolidation or merger). He has opened a few new schools that serve under 1,000 students total. My basic question is: What about the rest of the students in our district? Don’t they deserve a great education, too?

The social fabric of this country has been shredded. Few think about the whole; they are concerned with their own child/children. Hite feeds into this mentality wholeheartedly. His policies are not about everyone, they are for the few.

His recent shake-up at school district headquarters is very disturbing. I have researched some of these outsiders being brought into high positions and my findings are unsettling. It appears as if Hite is seeking to put Philadelphia into the arms of charter operators (two out of three I researched come directly from charter organizations). He has not disclosed their salaries. How come there is not enough money for Bartram High School, a struggling neighborhood school, to keep its art program and yet there is money to hire all these new people and create more infrastructure via networks? Hite claimed there would be an annual savings after closing 24 schools – where are the numbers to show this? Now he has found $34 million to give to a private company to hire substitute teachers? I call it magic money because it appears when he needs it.

He is determined to sell off positions and services to private operators over whom he will have no control. These outsiders are totally unaccountable to taxpayers whose money goes to fund them.

Karel Kilimnik

Click here to read Karel’s letter in the Daily News.