Robin Roberts transcript of testimony before School Board on July 9, 2018

Click on timestamp 1:02:26 to view Robin’s testimony.

Parents ask how they can be advocates in their school esp. around facilities. They have been told over and over by school and district administrators to read their Facility Condition Assessment, that was conducted in 2015.  When parents of Mayfair’s youngest students were told of the move to Meehan they found the FCA and read it. They reached out to the Philly Healthy School Initiative to help them understand the breadth and depth of the facility issues at this building. They did this because there was no one willing or able at 440 to help them. Through their initiative, they understood the longstanding conditions of this middle school and grew more concerned about how this move could be in the best interests of their 5-7 year olds.

In the past 2 months, they brought their education with clear and detailed questions to their elected officials, the new school board, the past SRC, and the district administration. And they have received few concrete answers from the district other than, this is a done deal.  Why?

Meehan required over 15 million dollars to fix immediate facility issues and bring the building current. Yet, the district has spent less than $260 thousand to address any of these issues in the past 3 years. It has prioritized just 1.7% of the resources needed to fix the facility deficits at Meehan for the students that have been there all along. It appears that this building was never going to be fixed, but replaced by now.

It is more concerning that the principal is noted in the FCA that – “a major deficiency in the design of the school is it’s circular corridors and room orientation which inhibit security by creating hiding places, preventing good visibility in the corridors.”  It is actually the structure of the Meehan that make it unsafe, so why are 5-7 year olds going to be placed there. But now there is the expectation that the expenditure of several millions of dollars in an 8 week time frame will do the trick and ensure a safe, nurturing learning environment.

It is said over and over that the district has a trust issue. Well, the district has given us no reason to trust them.  For example, b/c my time is short, several schools that apparently had work completed required significant additional cleaning to remove incredibly harmful asbestos fibers and lead dust.

Yet, parents of these young children are just supposed to trust district administration that all this work will get done correctly and completely. They are to trust that this building will be safe and the decisions making have been sound even when it is clear that it is not.

Parents are savvy enough to be a vital part of the process. We are engaged and excited to participate in our children’s schools. The district administration institutes delay, deny, attack whenever it can to avoid transparency and collaboration. It pleads ignorance and promises to do better, but rarely does.  We need our school board to hold this district accountable, demand better decisions, priorities, and outcomes. We do not need another rubber stamp for whatever the district wants – to weaken public education in Philadelphia. We, the parents of this district’ students, fully expect better of you all.

At this point, it doesn’t matter if a single child is injured or not or if they finally get the HVAC working for the comfort of everyone in the building. The decision to move forward with this plan should have never been finalized. Parents have spoken and should have been listened to. Decision makers like to use references like “all students are my students.” We need to be crystal clear, these are their children, not ours. Our children will not have to exist on the front lines of these decisions.

Robin Roberts – Director, Parents United for Public Education, Philly Healthy School Initiative

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