By Barbara Dowdall
(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. The video can be watched here.
Policy Committee co-chairs Dr Maria McColgan and Joyce Wilkerson were present along with members Lee Huang, Chris McGinley, and Julia Danzy. Board member Dr. Angela McGiver also attended.
Committee co-chair Dr. McColgan opened the meeting by noting that all items under discussion were posted in advance. Five policies were under review:
Policy 122 Extra Curricular Activities (sports, clubs, student leadership)
Policy 224 Student Care of School Property (Section 717.1 Computers, etc.)
Policy 333 Professional Learning (to replace Development) (Should be clear and follow state law)
Policy 340 Employee Responsibility for Student Safety (Employees Code of Ethics)
Policy 616 Payroll Deductions (Re: Responsibility, Legal references)
Board Members Discuss Policies
Chief of Staff Naomi Wyatt was present to present proposed amendments to policies.
Board member Dr. McGiver asked whether the availability of Extra Curricular(EC) activities is required. Chief of Schools Dr. Shawn Bird explained that availability is “encouraged”, not required. Committee member Chris McGinley said there should be a publicly available list of activities, noting regulations that require equitable access, e.g. Title IX, and that language regarding equitable access should be included in the policy and be part of the District’s annual report to the Board. Ms. Wyatt said there would be no problem doing that. Dr. Bird said that E.C. activities in an individual school follow student interest and then the students’ ability to find a sponsor (staff or community member possessing clearances). The SDP High School Directory does include listings of some but not all existing opportunities (although only 27 of 40 available at Bodine). Most information on EC is in school handbooks, not District-wide materials. Committee member Julia Danzy asked whether there is a budget line item for extra-curriculars. Dr. Bird said yes although many trips require fund raisers. Dr. McColgan asked whether the budget for extra-curriculars is based on a per student or per existing clubs. Dr. Bird said he did not know and would work on finding out. Board member Dr. McGiver asked if an activity like sports were not available in a particular (small) school, would students be able to play “somewhere.” Dr. Bird noted that these opportunities already exist. She then asked whether every school has a student government organization. The figure provided was 60%. Discussion followed about the value (resume building for one) of extra-curricular activities and that, in many cases, the learning there exceeds that derived from classes, whether mandating interferes with autonomy and whether expanding them should be a Board priority. Board President Joyce Wilkerson expressed concern for small schools and their ability to provide opportunities for their students.
On the topic of Professional Development (Learning), Committee Co-chair and Board President Joyce Wilkerson asked whether current policies abide by the contract with the PFT.
*Coleman Poses spoke on the importance of school board policy to insure that high school seniors turning 18 before the next election, primary or general, be provided an opportunity to register to vote.
*Horace Clouden noted that of 100,000 students needing transportation daily, 60,000 are bused not to achieve racial integration or for safety reasons but 60 to 80% to reach elementary charter schools with preferred programs. Mr. Clouden suggested that–given SPR results showing most schools are similar in achievement–if desired programs were made available locally and available space in neighborhood schools were utilized, the busing could be reduced, benefiting 7th and 8th grade students who currently miss EC opportunities by having to set out for home at 3:00, and benefiting parents and guardians who could more easily attend student performances and participate in Home & School meetings.
* “Mama Gail” [Gail Clouden] raised concerns about communication including scheduling and rescheduling of committee meetings. She also suggested changes in policies that bar students from participation in EC activities for minor infractions or low grades, noting that a “worst student” in an instance she knew grew up to be an accomplished musician.
*Cecilia Thompson voiced concerns about transgender students’ participation in athletics and proms. Dr. McGinley noted that Policy 252 is devoted entirely to trans students. Rachel Holtzman from the Department of Students Activities said that students may dress both in school and at proms in accordance with their gender identity. Decisions in athletics are guided by Title IX and are decided on a case by case basis.
* Maura McInerny , Legal Director of the Education Law Center raised the needs of pregnant and parenting students and their children.
Member Lee Huang asked for clarification of procedures. Member Chris McGinley said that Policy revisions discussed today will be presented for first reading at the October Action Meeting and voted on in November. Today’s suggestions for a district-wide listing of extra-curriculars and the annual report to the Board including equal access will be included.
Policies to be reviewed at the November meeting of Policy include 206, 249, 701, 706, 714, 820, 901, 902, 610, 611, 613 and a new policy not yet numbered on business diversity.
Dr. McColgan asked that Policy 215 be referred to Student Achievement and Support and Policy 706 be looked at by Finance and Facilities with a plan for the Policy Committee to review in January.
Policy Committee: The Board of Education of the City of Philadelphia has constituted and appointed a Policy Committee. This Policy Committee will provide governance oversight of the District’s existing and any proposed policies established by and pursuant to applicable laws and regulations as well as coordination and reconciliation of existing or any proposed policies among any other committees of the Board.
Authority & Responsibilities:
- Meet quarterly during the school year;
- Setting and publishing meeting dates for the Committee;
- Reviewing and recommending policies for consideration by the Board;
- Reviewing and reconciling any existing and proposed policies originating or functionally deriving from and among any and all committees of the Board;
- Providing reports to the Board, as necessary or as requested by the Board; and
- Performing additional duties as assigned by the Board.