Will Board Heed Community Concerns About Reopening?

by Lynda Rubin and Karel Kilimnik

At a remote press conference Wednesday, Superintendent Hite and  District and City officials presented the District’s official school reopening plan. Mayor Kenney, Board President Joyce Wilkerson, senior District staff and City officials appeared, making statements and answering questions from reporters. This stood in stark contrast to the virtual “Town Hall” meetings held by the District last week, which no Board member attended and at which no questions asked by parents, community members and educators were answered. 

The  28-page “Advancing Education Safely” (AES)  lays out a hybrid plan that has most students in school for two days and working remotely for three. The document acknowledges two contributing organizations, the City of Philadelphia and Accenture, a multi-national business and technology consulting firm based in Ireland.  Attempts to find a contract with Accenture on the Board’s website were not fruitful. The Board has not released its agenda for the July 23 Action Meeting; it may appear there.

Having attended all of the virtual town hall meetings and recent Board meetings, and having heard from parents and community members over the past four months, APPS has concluded that the Hite administration’s reopening plan fails in large part to address public concerns.

APPS member, teacher and parent Zoe Rooney and teacher Emily Simpson have compiled an extensive list of questions from District parents, educators and community members.

Dr. Hite, in response to a reporter’s question, stated that  this reopening will come at a cost of $60 to $80 million. But that does not include the financial and emotional cost to the students, parents and educators who will be on the front lines in this battle. Parents, notably those who are also teachers, must also figure out how to make this complicated schedule work and still stay employed. Will their employers allow them to bring their children to work three days a week? Will the District provide flex time for teachers with school-aged children? 

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APPS Calls on Board of Education to Vote on District Reopening Plan

Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools  

For immediate release:  July 16, 2020  

Members of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, a grass-roots advocacy organization, has called on the Board of Education to vote on the District’s re-opening plan at its special July 23 Action Meeting.  

“The plan presented yesterday—during a remote press conference—raises crucial questions about the health and safety of students and staff when they return to in-person classes”, said APPS co-founders Lisa Haver and Karel Kilimnik in a letter to the Board today. “Those questions must be heard and deliberated on by the Board in a public meeting, and the Board, as the governing body of the city’s public schools, must take a vote to approve or reject the Administration’s plan.”

APPS members attended all of last week’s online meetings, billed by the District as “Town Halls” but actually sessions in which members of the public submitted questions. No questions were answered during the sessions, and the District has not yet posted any on its website.

Questions and concerns—about logistics, students receiving special education services, protection for medically vulnerable students and staff, lack of space in common areas, flexibility for working parents, transportation, and more—raised by reporters at the press conference, and by members of the public afterwards, must be answered in more detail at the Board’s meeting next week, for which an agenda has yet to be posted.

APPS is also calling on the Board to mandate re-opening plans from all charter school operators.

“The Board is responsible for the health and safety of all District students, including those attending the District’s 87 charter schools”, said Haver. “The Board must require the same type of detailed re-opening plan from those administrations.”

Dear President Wilkerson and Members of the Board, 
 
APPS members call on the Members of the Board of Education to vote to approve or reject the Administration’s proposed reopening plan at the July 23, 2020 Special Action Meeting. That meeting’s agenda should include consideration of the Advancing Education Safety Plan as an official item. 
 
The AES plan presented yesterday—during a remote press conference—raises crucial questions about the health and safety of students and staff when they return to in-person classes. Those questions must be heard and deliberated on by the Board in a public meeting, and the Board, as the governing body of the city’s public schools, must take a vote to approve or reject the Administration’s plan.
 
Concerns raised but not answered at last week’s online sessions—about logistics, students receiving special education services, protection for medically vulnerable students and staff, lack of space in common areas, flexibility for working parents, transportation, and more—must be answered by District staff at the meeting.  
 
In addition, the Board must require all charter school operators to submit the same type of detailed reopening plan for each of the 87 District charters. The Board is responsible to assure the health and safety of all of the District’s students, whether they attend District- or charter-managed schools. 
 
We appreciate your attention to these matters and would appreciate a timely response.

 
Sincerely,
Lisa Haver
Karel Kilimnik

Ears on the Board of Education: June 25, 2020

by Diane Payne

The 8-member Board held its 7th remote Action Meeting on June 25th as the Covid-19 crisis continues to necessitate quarantine. Mayor Kenney has not yet replaced Chris McGinley, who resigned at the end of April, nor given any indication when he will.   Kenney has said that his Nominating Panel must reconvene, even though the Panel submitted names of 27 candidates just months ago.  Concerns about current Board members’ appearance of conflict of interest (See Possible Conflicts below),  coupled with alarm over support of anti-public education measures, amplifies APPS’ call for an elected school board. Until Philadelphia ends the disenfranchisement of its people when choosing school board representatives, it is imperative that Mayor Kenney institute an open and transparent nominating process with full public participation. 

Why are Philadelphians the only voters in the state barred from choosing their school board members? The answer points to the systemic racism people have taken to the streets to demand an end to.

Read more here.

Defenders of Public Education Speak before the BOE, June 25, 2020

Click on an individual’s name to read a transcript of their testimony.

Deborah Grill

Lisa Haver

Karel Kilimnik

Kristin Luebbert

Barbara McDowell Dowdall

Cheri Micheau

Diane Payne (oral testimony)

Diane Payne (written testimony)

Ilene Poses

Zoe Rooney