Click on a speakers name to read a transcript of their testimony.
by Lynda Rubin
Technical Problems Galore
The Board held its first in-person Committee meeting at 440 since its Joint Committee Meeting on April 23, 2020. Seven of the eight Board members attended in person, but public viewing and participation continued remotely. The public could view via TV or live-stream, but could testify only by phone. The August 13, 2020 Committee meeting is listed as a remote meeting on the District website. The meeting was held in the large 2nd-floor auditorium.The Board members’ desks were configured in 3 rows of 3 desks per row, following social-distancing guidelines. Staff and presenters sat off-camera until called up. President Wilkerson did not explain why the Board was abandoning the Zoom format, as the rate of new COVID cases have not significantly decreased in the city.
In a letter sent this morning, the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools has called on the Board of Education to ask for the resignation of Superintendent William Hite.
“In light of the many revelations contained in the Inspector General’s report of the Hite administration’s failure to protect the health and safety of the students and staff of Benjamin Franklin and SLA high schools, the members of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools call on the Board of Education to ask for the resignation of Superintendent William Hite”, APPS co-founders Lisa Haver and Karel Kilimnik told the Board.
“Dr. Hite and his team, for over a year, endangered the health and safety of the students and staff of two high schools,” said Haver. “They ignored repeated warnings from parents, principals and teachers. They pushed forward even after the emergency hospitalization of teachers after daily exposure to toxins. The Board of Education should ask for Dr. Hite’s resignation today.”
by Karel Kilimnik
Reading Board of Education agendas invoke feelings similar to that of Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day: will we be trapped in this cycle forever? Is there a future in which we don’t see the same items for consulting contracts, outsourcing of professional services, and growing the legal firm slush fund? We have seen little independence from the Board, which conducts business in the same way the SRC did–rubber-stamping administrative requests.
The COVID pandemic provides an opportunity to right the priorities for the district by involving stakeholders in decision making; eliminating outsourcing and rebuilding infrastructure; using the already existing resources of educators instead of hiring outside consultants who return like cicadas; supporting Black Lives Matter and Student Voter Registration.
We need actions to back the speeches. We need equity to guide funding so that it gets to schools with the highest needs and fewest resources. The August Agenda Items in particular keep us in that Groundhog Day cycle of privatization, outsourcing, and sending precious dollars to out-of-town consultants: Item 1, $700, 000.00 Contract with KJR Consulting for Central Office Professional Development, Anti-racism training and Change Management Support; Item 24, Contract with the Urban Affairs Coalition at Philadelphia High School for Girls, giving non-profits the power to decide on how project money is spent at a public high school; Item 10, Ratification of Supplemental Outside Counsel, growing stable of outside law firms; Item 13, Contract with Various Vendors for Furniture and Equipment at PSLAMS, a new public school configuration brought about by the private funding of the Philadelphia School Partnership. Extensive anti-Racist training had been conducted by District educators who were told that they must do so only as volunteers; the District would not pay them–but have found $700,000 to pay KJR. District Chief of Staff Naomi Wyatt told the Board at last week’s Joint Committee meeting that the Hite administration’s central office staff had a good relationship with KJR, who had been the recipient of previous District contracts. Wyatt did not explain what “Change Management Support” is. The criteria for choosing leaders of anti-racism should be who can provide the best education on the subject, not being on good terms with a consulting company that has no experience in the subject.