Quashing Public Engagement

Testimony of Karel Kilimnik to the BOE, Dec 10, 2020

Philadelphia’s school board is changing the way it operates. It is quashing public engagement.

Two years ago when the SRC ended we hoped that a return to local control would allow for public engagement and transparency. Those hopes are now gone. The Board started off with four committees that gave the public an opportunity for dialog with Board members. First to go was the Community Engagement and Partnership committee that disappeared after a year. Now Item 29 eliminates Student Achievement & Support and the Finance & Facilities committees. We were told when we persisted in asking when our questions raised at Action meetings would be answered to raise them at committee meetings. The only public venue left is 3 minutes allocated to speakers at Action meetings. If you do not stay on topic then the President swoops in and cuts your mic thus ending your participation. This silencing of community voice enhances the call for an elected school board.

Item 14 adds yet another unaccredited non profit to the roster for teacher recruitment efforts. The Hite administration now wants to add a fourth partner to their Teaching Fellows cohort of Temple and Drexel (neither pays PILOTS), and Relay or as former Board member Dr Chris McGinley says “the Relay Fake Graduate School of Education.”  Urban Teachers received a start-up grant in 2009 from The New Venture Fund, which blogger Thomas Ultican has called “ the Swiss army knife of public school privatization” as it  promotes education technology development and bankrolls charter school creation.  Urban Teachers has set up shop in Dallas, Washington DC, and Baltimore. Johns Hopkins School of Education acts as their accredited partner  in DC and Baltimore. Their funders include the Walton Family Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. We have a Broad trained Superintendent on a mission to privatize the District and a Board that willingly follows his lead and approves contracts as fast as he proposes them. 

How  is  Urban Teachers obtaining PA certification? If they don’t, will the District retract its offer? Why is the Board even considering adding yet another unaccredited vendor to the list? Deny Urban Teachers a contract. For more diverse teachers work directly with Historically Black Colleges and Universities instead of contracting with an unaccredited non profit.