by Diane Payne
“I can’t believe what you say because I see what you do.” James Baldwin
For the second month in a row, the Board of Education denied some members the opportunity to speak on official items and matters of concern. Due to the Board’s arbitrary changes in public speaking policy, an unknown number of people have been silenced. Without public announcement, debate, discussion, or vote, the Board instituted a speaker policy change that caps the number of student speakers at ten and adult speakers at thirty, and reduces speaking time from three minutes to two. Even the School Reform Commission did not resort to outright silencing of the public. The PA Sunshine Act protects citizens’ right to meaningfully participate in their governments and to be heard on all official business. Shocked reaction to this speaker suppression has come from staff, Parents, students, community members, local politicians, the Education Law Center, and the ACLU. Those objections have fallen on the deaf ears of a Board that touts public engagement while silencing the public. APPS and UrbEd, represented by the ACLU, have filed suit to reverse the speaker policy changes in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.
Sign our petition here to tell the Board: Stop the Suppression of Public Speakers!
This post includes the testimony of those that spoke at both the April 25th Budget Meeting and the Action Meetings as well as the testimony of those that were unable to speak at the March Action meeting. Click on the name to read the transcripts of each individual’s testimonies.
by Diane Payne
The Board of Education saw its first real pushback at this meeting. Student protestors, upset at the vote on metal detector policy, took over the meeting. The Board left the room and did not return, leaving the public participants wondering what was happening. The Board then took an unprecedented action which may have serious legal ramifications. Democracy is not always neat and orderly. How the Board responds to the messiness of passionate voices will shed a light on how much “local control” really exists under a mayoral-appointed Board. Details below.
All nine members of the Board of Education were present as well as student representatives Alfredo Pratico and Julia Frank. (All meeting agendas and materials can be viewed on the SDP website; videos of previous meetings can be viewed by scrolling down on the BOE homepage and clicking on Watch Previous Board Meetings.)
Ten APPS members were present, but only one had the opportunity to testify. Seven others were unable to deliver their public remarks to the Board. The room was filled to capacity, and the energy of engagement was palpable. A total of 48 speakers were registered to speak, but only 12 were able to deliver their remarks.
The meeting commenced with a beautiful student performance from the Central High Jazz Combo. As usual, the talent and confidence of these student performers was inspiring and a stark reminder that the battle to preserve and improve PUBLIC education is a battle worth fighting.
Click here to read the rest of the post
by Diane Payne
Lee Huang and Leticia Egea-Hinton co-chaired this meeting; Committee members Angela McIver, Chris McGinley, Joyce Wilkerson, and Wayne Walker (via telephone) were present. Board Member Julia Danzy joined about midway through the meeting. One APPS member testified on behalf of public education. This meeting was held at 10:00 a.m. and was sparsely attended compared to last month’s meeting held at 4:00.. February Committee minutes were approved.
Meeting agendas and powerpoint presentations can be viewed on the SDP website by going to the Board of Education page and clicking on “meeting materials.”
Chief Operating Officer Danielle Floyd narrated a presentation on three still unanswered questions raised at a previous meeting. Floyd confirmed that the sale price of West Philadelphia High School was $5.1 million. When looking up the property, a sale price of $1 is listed. However, this was a developer transaction that happened after the SDP sale. In answer to a question from Lee Huang, Floyd stated that the only way to verify any sale price is to search through the past resolutions for the specific resolution which approved the sale. Floyd failed to note how tedious that would be and how difficult it is for a member of the public to find that information without the actual date and number of the resolution. In this age of computer information with everything at one’s fingertips, District information only goes back a few years and is cumbersome to search for–the antithesis of user-friendly.
Click here to read the rest of the report