Eyes on the Board of Education: April 25, 2019

by Karel Kilimnik

Board Rolls Out Red Carpet to Charter Operators

Spring has arrived along with the annual crop of charter school amendments and renewals. Renewals come due when charters’  five-year terms are up. Amendments requests–for enrollment increases, name changes, relocation–can be submitted at any time, but often at the time of renewal.  Incredibly, charter schools who have refused to sign renewal agreements have still been granted amendment requests. First, let us deal with Renewals. Presently on the Charter School Office (CSO) website is the 2018/19 cohort of 12 schools–with no active link for any school, so no way to see the renewal evaluation report.

Of the 18 schools in the 2017/18 cohort, one link is not posted ( Mathematics, Civics, and Sciences Charter School). The April 25 Meeting Agenda lists two Charter Amendments under consideration. Laboratory Charter School is requesting a change of location (Item 3). Laboratory operates one school across three separate campuses in three different neighborhoods–a K-5, a 5-8 and a K-8.  Now Laboratory wants to consolidate all three into one location in East Falls at 3300 Henry Avenue. The District’s School Profiles page gives information on the Northern Liberties campus but not the other two; our written request for explanation has gone unanswered. The CSO Mid-Cycle Charter Amendment Evaluation Report specifically cites lack of community outreach about the relocation,  yet still recommends approval of their request.  The CSO page states that the Pennsylvania Charter School Law does not require districts to consider amendments: “The Pennsylvania Charter School Law does not provide for amendments to charters, and thus the Charter Schools Office (CSO) of the District is not required to review amendment requests from charter schools.”  This may provide a legal basis for denying this request. Why is the Board in such a rush to grant this charter school’s amendment?

The Board has made several pronouncements about making community engagement a key part of its mission. It has created a District Partnership & Community  Engagement Committee along with a Parent & Community Advisory Council. It is incomprehensible that they would consider approving this Action Item while excluding the community from the process.

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Student Achievement Committee Report: April 11, 2019

by Lynda Rubin

The Board of Education denied three new charter applications in February. The question now is whether they will continue the SRC’s practice of allowing back-door charter expansion through yearly amendment requests from charters and whether they will make this an open process for full public engagement.

Present: Committee members Chris McGinley, Angela McIver, Leticia Egea-Hinton, Maria McColgan and student representative Alfredo Praticò; Committee member Mallory Fix Lopez was absent. Board President Joyce Wilkerson sat in the audience.

Dr. McIver announced that Kindergarten registration begins May 31, 2019. The Board Budget Hearing will be held on April 25, 2019, 4:00 PM in the 2nd floor auditorium prior to the regularly scheduled Action Meeting at 5:00 pm.

The minutes for the March 14, 2019 Student Achievement Committee Meeting were approved.

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How many lawyers does it take to shut down a failing charter school? | Opinion

How many lawyers does it take to shut down a failing charter school? | Opinion

When the School District of Philadelphia targeted Germantown High School for closure just one year before its 100th anniversary, there was no legal recourse for students or families. No law required the district to conduct an inquiry or call witnesses in order to hear testimony from those fighting to save the school. While the administration of Superintendent William Hite did hold an informal meeting at the school, the community’s pleas fell on deaf ears. Germantown High, along with 23 other neighborhood schools that had served generations of Philadelphians, was closed by vote of the School Reform Commission in a matter of months.

Closing a charter school is a very different story. The Pennsylvania Charter Law mandates a lengthy legal process, beginning with weeks of hearings at the district level. Thousands of pages of documents are entered into evidence. Should the hearing examiner rule in the district’s favor, the charter school can appeal to the state’s Charter Appeal Board in the hope that the six-person board of political appointees, most of whom have ties to the charter sector, will overrule the decision of the local board. Should that fail, the school can appeal to Commonwealth Court.

A recent story by Inquirer reporter Maddie Hanna detailed the costs involved in current efforts to shut down two city charters.

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Student Achievement and Support Committee: February 21, 2019

By Diane Payne

Chris McGinley and Angela McIver co-chaired.  Also present were committee members Julia Danzy, Leticia Egea-Hinton, Mallory Fix Lopez, and the two student representatives, Julia Frank and Alfredo Pratico.  Board Member Wayne Walker attended this meeting and although Committee Member Maria McColgan was absent, she watched the meeting via livestream and texted questions to co-chair McGinley.

Five members of APPS attended this meeting and three spoke in defense of Public Education.  (Meeting agendas and power-point presentations can be viewed on the SDP website by going to the BOE page and clicking on “meeting materials.”   A large number of people attended this meeting.  As the room filled, members of the public had to sit in the atrium and watch the meeting on a screen.  Several public speakers had to come from this overflow room. If this first-floor meeting space constantly overflows for this meeting, it is hoped the Board will accommodate the public by moving to the larger, second floor auditorium where everyone can feel included.

Minutes of the January Student Achievement and Support Committee were approved.

District Presentations

Recruitment and Retention of School-Based Staff

Chief Talent Officer Louis Bellardine and the Deputy Staffer Teresa Ritz reported on three categories: school leaders, teachers, and support staff.  They listed the challenges and strategies in staff recruitment and retention for each of the categories (which can be viewed on the PowerPoint presentation).  Not mentioned in this presentation: the professional conduct, school-based resources, and building conditions that so many members of the public testify about before this Board (as well as its predecessor, the SRC).  Recruiting and retaining quality staff must begin with the heart and soul of the District’s philosophy–not just jargon on a PowerPoint.

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