Policy Committee Meeting: January 10, 2019

by Diane Payne

Co-chairs Maria McColgan and Joyce Wilkerson were present,  along with committee members Julia Danzy, Lee Huang, and Chris McGinley.  Board member Wayne Walker was in attendance as well. Three APPS members attended this meeting; two spoke in defense of public education.  APPS reports on all BOE meetings can be viewed at APPSPhilly.net.

(Videos of all Board meetings can be viewed on the Board of Education page on the SDP website. Meeting materials, including agendas and powerpoint presentations, can be found on the Board of Education website.   All of the materials of the January 10 meeting are not yet posted, but you can view the online agenda with links to each policy under review here.)

The Committee approved Minutes of its October 11, 2018 meeting.

District Chief of Staff Naomi Wyatt served as Dr. Hite’s designee at this meeting. She introduced both the policies to be reviewed and the other staff members who provided the information on each policy.

Proposed Policy Changes

Ms. Wyatt on Policy 304: Employment of District Staff.  Wyatt noted only that language was changed in this policy for clarification purposes.

Chief Talent Officer Lou Bellardine on Policy 916: Volunteers.

Bellardine stated that the revisions made in this policy were to clarify language and to encourage parent participation.  He further noted that the District is moving to an online system for clearances so that all clearances collected at the school level will be uploaded and available to Bellardine’s office; his office will monitor and track clearances.  A member of the Family and Community Engagement (FACE) staff described the volunteer training that the office will provide.

Bellardine addressed the questions around the difference between volunteers and visitors that had been raised by parents and community members at previous Board meetings.  Visitors do not need clearances and may be in school buildings for school functions and meetings.  A problem arose a few months ago when the FACE office incorrectly put out a brochure stating visitors needed clearances.  This information has been corrected and all principals have been notified.

Question: can anyone in the district report on how many students have been assaulted or harmed by volunteers prior to the requirement for clearances and how many have been assaulted or harmed since the clearances have been instituted? This is an age of fear which promotes more and more security measures–is there any indication that these measures do in fact keep our children safer?

Chief of Schools Shawn Bird  on Policy 111: Lesson Plans.

Bird stated that his office met recently with PFT leadership and teacher representatives on this issue. He said that the proposed language change is for clarification purposes.  There is not a specific form that teachers must use but all the components noted in the policy must be in their plans. Principals will advise teachers at the beginning of each school year on the lesson plan expectations.  Bird did state that the collective bargaining agreement between the union and the District spells out lesson plan requirements. So why does the wording of the new policy not align to the wording of the contract. One problem is that the word “outline” has been deleted in the new policy. The fact that the word “outline” is in the contract means that the policy should not be approved as proposed here.

At a previous Board meeting, teacher Jessica Way raised the issue of some principals requiring lengthy, time consuming lesson plans that constitute teacher busy work. Wording in the policy opens the door for principal misuse: To facilitate more effective instruction, lesson plans must be prepared in advance. Lesson plans will be inspected reviewed and must conform to the guidelines established by the principal or his/her designee.  This highlighted language is what some administrators use to require teachers to prepare plans tailored by the principal.  The contract applies to all teachers in all schools. Principals cannot make up their own rules. For those two reasons, this policy should go back to the Committee and amended so that it does not contradict the contract.  [See full proposed policy below]

Dr. Bird on Policy 217: Graduation Requirements.  

Students must accrue 23.5 credits and complete a service learning project in order to graduate.  Bird reported that while the state’s moratorium on the Keystone exam as graduation requirement may be lifted, the requirement to pass the Keystone is scheduled to be lifted for the  class of 2022.   Board members expressed a lot of concern about how we are preparing to help our students because a large percentage of students do not pass this test. McGinley asked, “What is the triage plan?” Bird did say there were some alternatives to passing the Keystone including a passing grade on SAT, ACT, etc. but acknowledged they were still working on that issue.

Chief Operating Officer Danielle Floyd on Policy 805: Emergency Preparedness.

Floyd reported that the district is moving to an online system for safety plans.  She said there were no technical changes but some deadlines were changed in order to match government codes.  In answer to Committee member questions, Floyd said that Philadelphia Fire Marshals monitor some fire drills, but keeping up with the ensuing paperwork is sometimes a problem.  When asked how the District knows whether all fire drills are effective, Floyd said that for each fire drill in the building, a different drill location is used. When questioned about shelter-in-place drills, a supporting district employee answered and said that the district follows best practices in implementing those drills and that there is no state guideline for this.  McGinley proposed making a definitive Board policy outlining clear expectations around shelter-in-place drills.

In answer to a Committee question, Floyd said that 100% of high schools have scanners and hand-held wands.  The wands are used in high schools if the scanner has a problem or if the scanner detects something. All elementary and middle schools have the hand-held wands.  When asked when or how they are used in these schools and if proper training is in place for this, a staff member from the Office of Communications stated that they are used if there is a probable cause  or if there is an uptick in problems at a particular school.

Wilkerson asked whether a neighborhood shooting would trigger school safety precautions; Floyd responded that it could result in a school lockdown.  Someone in the audience asked whether these practices also applied to charter schools . Floyd responded that all schools have to follow PA codes for safety but that she did not have specific information on that; she suggested that the Charter School Office may have this information.

Public Speakers

Lisa Haver, APPS co-founder,  spoke on Policy 304, Employment of District Staff and on Policy 217, Graduation Requirements.

Haver noted that the recent Philadelphia School Partnership rollout of its teacher recruitment website, in “partnership”  with the SDP, is a concern because of PSP’s corporate involvement in privatizing the city’s schools. She expressed concern about language change in Policy 304 and whether this could lead to even deeper involvement with PSP or other private organizations.  In reference to Policy 217, Haver pointed out that the Keystone exam is still given in our high schools and is used by the District and the state to rate schools. She noted that the District was not following the proper procedures in two ways: by not offering the Project-Based Assessment (PBA) to students who do not pass the test and by not providing the required remediation during the regular school day. The lack of support for students taking this exam continues to be a serious concern.

Chief Talent Officer Bellardine responded to Haver’s concern about Policy 304 by saying that PSP’s recruitment site was nothing more than a job board, like any other number of job boards where the district posts vacancies.  He stated anyone visiting the site would be directed to a link to the School District for application information. What he failed to address is the growing influence of PSP and its corporate donors in district decisions, business, and operations. Nor did Bellardine talk about the fact that PSP controls all information on the site and the privacy issues that raises.

Joyce Wilkerson indicated that the Student Achievement Committee, meeting later that day,  would be tackling the concerns around supports for the Keystone Exams.

Lynda Rubin, APPS member, spoke on Policy 304, Employment of District Staff.  

Rubin expressed serious reservations about why the language was changed in this policy to specify that the superintendent can delegate in the recruitment of district staff as opposed to the superintendent or his delegee.  She voiced the concern that this is opening the door for additional outsourcing of district functions rather than the superintendent delegating functions to district staff.  In response to Rubin’s concerns, McGinley asked whether there was any legal ramification to this change in language. A member of the District’s legal team answered that the prior language of the Policy was ambiguous and that this change of language does not remove responsibility from the superintendent.  Rubin returned to the speaker chair to restate that a delegee means a district employee but “ to delegate” could mean to outsource. No one, including anyone from the legal team, offered a clear answer to Rubin’s concerns.

Committee Votes

The Committee agreed to recommend the policy changes as stated.

McGinley asked whether District personnel will include specifics about the shelter-in-place drills; Ms. Wyatt said that would not be a problem.  He then raised the issue of increasing the frequency of these meetings, noting that quarterly is not adequate to keep up with all District policy needs.  McIver said that they were working on an every other month schedule for these meetings. The meeting was adjourned.


Full text of Policy 111: LESSON PLANS



To ensure continuity of instruction, the Board requires lesson plans.



The preparation of daily or weekly lesson plans by a teacher is required. with a satisfactory rating who has completed the probationary period may be required only to the extent of an outline of the daily activities of the class including topic, instructional aids and supplies used and references to textbooks and/or curriculum guides. The lesson plan shall include the daily activities of the class including: topic, instructional goals, instructional strategies,  resources/materials, and supplies and references to textbooks and curriculum guides.  If a teacher’s classroom performance appears to be, or is becoming unsatisfactory, s/he may be required to prepare more detailed lesson plans. Each teacher shall have available emergency lesson plans for use by substitutes.
Plan books Lesson plans must remain in the teacher’s desk to be available for the principal and substitute teachers.


Delegation of Responsibility

To facilitate more effective instruction, lesson plans must be prepared in advance. Plan books Lesson plans will be inspected reviewed and must conform to the guidelines established by the principal or his/her designee.