Finance and Facilities Committee:  February 20, 2020

by Lisa Haver

Board Spending Priority:  More Consultant Contracts or Healthy Schools? 

Committee members present:  Co-chairs Leticia Egea-Hinton and Lee Huang, Joyce Wilkerson and Maria McColgan. Board members Julia Danzy, Angela McIver, Mallory Fix Lopez and Chris McGinley also attended and participated.

Egea-Hinton opened the meeting by announcing that the Board is working to acknowledge emails from the community about the environmental crisis. She said that the Board has made the asbestos crisis a priority and is monitoring it closely. Egea-Hinton invited all concerned to come to Action and Committee meetings and to write to the Board.

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Student Achievement and Support Committee Report: February 20, 2020

Will Board Keep Funding Edu-Vendor Contracts–or Spend More to Solve the Environmental Crisis? 

By Diane Payne

Present

Co-chairs Angela McGiver and Chris McGinley, Committee members Maria McColgan, Julia Danzy, and Mallory Fix Lopez. Board president Joyce Wilkerson and Board member Leticia Egea-Hinton also attended.

Committee approved the January 16, 2020 Minutes.

[All videos of meetings, agendas, and powerpoints can be viewed on the SDP website by visiting the Board of Education page. ]

Does the District Want Highly Qualified Teachers–or Does It Want TFA?

District Chief Talent Officer Larisa Shambaugh began this presentation by addressing questions, raised by Board members at the last Committee meeting, on what the District is doing both to reduce the number of teachers with emergency certifications and to fill hard-to-staff positions.  Shambeau narrated a power-point presentation on the District’s pathways to hiring teachers and supporting diversity in the workforce, including contracting with Teach for America (TFA) to place recruits in the hard-to-staff schools. As APPS co-founder Lisa Haver pointed out in her testimony, TFA has been the “lifeblood’ of the corporate disruption of public education and that it has pivoted from a teacher-training organization to an education management launching organization.  The privatization of public schools drove many teachers out of the profession–while TFA replaced through its teacher-lite program. Why would the Board want to bring people with minimal training and no experience into District schools, especially struggling schools? McIver said the District has to keep “all doors” open, but shouldn’t we be concerned about who comes in those doors? TFA recruits go through a brief training program before being placed in a classroom–as opposed to certified teachers with advanced degrees. Why should children in certain schools have to settle for this?   In addition, TFA recruits rarely stay in the classroom beyond their 2-year commitment, frequently moving into positions relating to education in think tanks, non-profits, and leadership roles (even though they have limited coursework background in education and few years of actual teaching.)  When questioned, Shambeau did admit that teachers who came to the District through traditional routes stayed longer than five years at a much higher rate than TFA recruits. Not a great track record.

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Eyes on the Board of Education: February 27, 2020

by Karel Kilimnik

If privatization and outsourcing are truly innovative, why don’t we see more of that in affluent suburbs like Lower Merion? As we review the list of Items the Board will consider at its next Action Meeting, there seems to be no end to the contracts with private vendors to take on work traditionally done by District staff. Companies that have been the lifeblood of the corporate disruption movement like Teach for America are now  joined by newer players Relay Graduate School of Education (which, as Board Member Chris McGinley reminds his colleagues, is not really a graduate school and is not accredited in Pennsylvania) and the District Management Group, hired to perform tasks formerly done by District Staff (Items 15, 16, 17). Dr Hite sent a letter to all District staff last week imploring District staff to aid in recruitment efforts under his “Teach Today. Change Tomorrow” initiative.  Why is he recommending spending $325,000 on TFA Recruitment if this campaign was just launched? Hundreds of thousands have been spent on teacher recruitment in the past three years–where are the results? Is the push for TFA an indication that that recruitment effort failed? The Board does not have to take on the rubber-stamp function of the SRC. The Board can take a stand and restore teacher recruitment and professional development to the District.

Dr Hite, a 2003 graduate of the business-oriented Broad Superintendents Academy, continues to outsource rather than build internal structures and capacity. The primary belief by the Billionaire Boys Club, of which Eli Broad is a member (note more details under #15,Contract with Teach for America to Support Teacher Hiring $325,000)), are described succinctly by Curmudgucation blogger Peter Greene “… Broad does not believe that schools have an education problem; he believes they have a management problem. School leadership does not need an infusion of educational leadership–they need business guys, leadership guys….there is no external governing or certifying board of any sort declaring that the Broad Superintendent’s Academy is a legitimate thing, and yet, it exists and thrives.”

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