Testimony to BOE Action Meeting, Dec. 8. 2021

by Lisa Haver

The next time the Board of Education claims to value public engagement, that they are listening to the public, remind them of the many ways that they have silenced people over the past year. First their gutting of the policy that assures parents, students, educators and community members that they will have an opportunity to speak before the Board votes on contracts and enacts new policies on school admission. Because if you went to sign up 23 hours after the window opened Monday afternoon, you were out of luck.  If you had planned to go to the next quarterly meeting of the Policy Committee in February, too bad. They decided—but never announced—that they are only meeting twice a year now. 

If you did manage to get on the list and wanted to speak on the terms of the agreement the Board negotiated with Universal for yet another renewal for Audenried High School, well, the Board doesn’t disclose that until after they vote on it. The Board does this on a regular basis, and not one Board member has objected.  APPS has objected, as we will tonight, but no Board member has a problem with violating the law that says governmental bodies must notify the public of what they are voting on before they vote on it.  And really, does the Board need a law to do that? The same Board that has been swearing that they listen to the public? 

Universal has not met any academic standard since they took over Audenried in 2011. They have not met financial or organizational standards. They don’t have the background checks required by law for all employees. In 5 years, Audenried expelled from its one school about the same number of students that the District did from over 200 schools—most of them thrown out without the due process they are entitled to. The renewal of this contract with Universal will cost the District over $40 million. For a school that fails every year to meet standards. Shame on the Board of Education and shame on the members of City Council who do nothing to protect the students and families in this community and do nothing to protect Philadelphians for this ongoing mismanagement of taxpayer funds and from being silenced when they try to speak out on it.