Finance and Facilities Committee Meeting: September 3, 2020

by Lynda Rubin

This remote Committee meeting, held  immediately after the Student Achievement Committee,  opened with an update on the District’s financial health in light of additional expenses and drops in revenue. The meeting did not, however, address the Board’s continued spending of large sums of money for contracts to favored businesses despite stating months ago that it was only going to spend money on essential programs. The Facilities Safety Report presented by the new Chief of Operations stands in contrast to the just released Office of Inspector General (OIG) Report that found both errors were made during the process and lies to the public about the safety of students and staff during in-school construction work and asbestos abatement. To date, no one has been held accountable. Any doubts about who the Board actually represents evaporated when, without prior announcement, representatives from a company vying for a tax-free KOZ contract, along with the City’s Commerce Director, were allowed to present a lengthy presentation that contradicted many statements in its August presentation. 

[The posted agendas for both committees can be found here.  Slide presentations and descriptions of upcoming Action Items for both committees can be accessed through links on this agenda.]

Minutes for the Joint Committee meeting of August 13, 2020 were approved.

Lee Huang chaired the Finance and Facilities meeting; Committee members Letitia Egea-Hinton and Joyce Wilkerson attended.  Board members Angela McIver, Julia Danzy, Mallory Fiz Lopez and Maria McColgan also attended. (Note: McColgan and Egea-Hinton left the meeting just before the Facilities Update.)

Click here to read the rest of the report.

Student Achievement and Support Committee Meeting September 3, 2020

by Lynda Rubin

The crucial question raised again at the Board of Education’s Joint Committee Meeting:  Will all buildings be safe for children to return to by the District’s targeted November reopening date? Hite administration officials reported on the ongoing preparation, including deep cleaning, preparing the HVAC ventilation system to be at full capacity, and making sure all windows can open.

[Slide presentations and descriptions of upcoming Action Items for both committees can be accessed through links on this agenda.]

Minutes for the Joint Committee meeting of August 13, 2020 were approved.

Dr. Angela McIver chaired the first part of this remote meeting.  Committee members Mallory Fix Lopez, Maria McColgan and Julia Danzy attended. Board members  President Joyce Wilkerson, Leticia Egea-Hinton and Lee Huang also attended. 

Learning Implementation Pathway Update:  Alicia Prince, Acting Chief of Facilities Management and Capital Programs. This covered the readiness of buildings, staff, and school operational readiness information to date. McIver stated that the District is still planning to move to hybrid model on November 17, as long as the health guidelines so indicate. The information presented by Prince  (pp 9-18) seemed to indicate that the District has no serious impediments and is almost set to return to in-school use. Coded colors show status of readiness:  Green (on track), Yellow (slightly off track) and Red (needs focus). Only Staff Coverage (academic and cleaning) was listed as Yellow. Building Readiness (slide p15) is listed as Green, but of 224 buildings in process of becoming Covid-ready, none has achieved full readiness.  Board members asked for specifics about some of the glossed-over deficiencies. Noting that 72% of students have been issued Chromebooks, Egea-Hinton asked  about the 28% who have not. Prince said the District is reaching out to them. Egea-Hinton also questioned the low levels of progress on Hand Sanitizing Stations (11% completed), Partitions (0% completed)  and Air Ventilator Capacity tests (25 completed, 199 in progress) and whether the remaining jobs will be completed and on schedule. Prince again referred to expected completion dates on the slides:  She reported that 85,726 students have received computers, 40,255 students have not.  [The Reopening Readiness Report, including School by School Operational Readiness Checklists,and future updates can be found here.]

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Neubauer Foundation Joins PSP in Shaping Public Education

by Lynda Rubin 

The Neubauer Family Foundation has joined the roster of foundations that support, both politically and financially, corporate disruptor-driven programs and initiatives in the School District of Philadelphia.  A closer examination shows that the Foundation has been involved in an increasing number of projects behind the scenes in alliance with the Philadelphia School Partnership, whose growing influence APPS reported in the first installment in this series.

In recent years, The Foundation, with over $50 million in annual revenue and $395 million in assets, has placed itself at the nexus of the school privatization movement, concentrating its efforts in Philadelphia. 

Neubauer’s Corporate Background

Serving as its CEO and Board chair, Joseph Neubauer led the growth of Aramark (founded as ARA services) in the eighties and nineties. In May 2012, Neubauer moved from CEO to Chairman of Board; he retired in 2014. Aramark’s website states that it provides food service, facilities cleaning  and uniform services to hospitals, universities, school districts, stadiums and other businesses in many countries around the globe. Aramark’s website promotes its “…decades of hospitality experience”, claiming that “Aramark is uniquely qualified to provide an optimal merchandise selection, enhancing the guest experience with precious keepsakes from the 2015 World Meeting of Families to Philadelphia.” Aramark came under criticism for price-gouging lunch packages at the visit of Pope Francis,  especially since people inside the area had no access to restaurants or food trucks. 

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Ears on the Board of Education: August 20, 2020

by Diane Payne

The Office of the Inspector General, a purportedly independent office within the District, issued its final report on the botched construction project at Benjamin Franklin High School undertaken for the purpose of co-locating Science Leadership Academy (SLA).  

The OIG report paints a picture of the incompetence of Superintendent Hite and his staff from the planning of the project to its completion. It reveals the shocking disregard for the health and safety of the students and staff at Ben Franklin. It shows how the Hite administration ignored the fears of parents and educators. The Board’s response to the scandal?  Expressions of concern and disappointment, but not one word about accountability. 

Continue reading here.