Ears on the Board of Education: July 14, 2022
by Diane Payne
With only one item on the agenda and six public speakers, this should have been a quick meeting. But the 2-hour Goals and Guardrails session took up almost half of this 4 ½ hour session. Eight of the nine Board members attended in person; Cecelia Thompson again attended virtually.
President Joyce Wilkerson thanked Governor Wolf and the Pennsylvania legislative delegation for passing a state budget that contains historic education funding increases. Unfortunately, the charter reforms that had been hammered out in bipartisan negotiations for years were killed at the last minute. Board Member Mallory Fix Lopez reported that the state legislature has passed HB1642 which will increase recruitment opportunities for new teachers in Philadelphia and also creates opportunities for high school student graduates from the District to receive credits toward a teaching certificate.
BM Thompson gave the Parent and Community Advisory Council (PCAC) report (not on the agenda) with the usual lack of detail and with no indication of the actual impact of this Council. She noted that PCAC members were on the Superintendent’s transition team, although she didn’t mention that only seven of the eight-seven members of the entire transition team are parents. Thompson also reported that one PCAC member has volunteered to help analyze the 11,000 work order backlog for Philadelphia school buildings. Giving this kind of responsibility to a parent volunteer of unknown qualifications should have raised questions, but none of the other Board members asked why this kind of work was not being done by a qualified District employee from the Office of Operations.
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Ears on the Board of Education: May 26, 2022
by Diane Payne
For Dr. Hite’s last meeting as superintendent, Board President Joyce Wilkerson introduced a slideshow of his accomplishments through the decade. (Those viewing remotely couldn’t hear so it may have had an audio component.) Mayor Kenney appeared in person to honor Hite. Going-away tributes accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. Hite achieve some success on the surface, and in the interest of those holding the seats of political and financial power. The budget, at least for now, is in better shape. But the people on the front lines can attest that those successes came at a price to students, staff, and families.
Budget Hearing: April 21, 2022
by Lynda Rubin
The Board of Education scheduled its annual budget hearing just one hour before its April action meeting. With a lengthy presentation from Chief Financial Officer Uri Monson on the agenda, followed by questions from the Board and testimony from nine public speakers, there was not much time for careful deliberation about the Board’s own spending priorities. It seemed at times that the tail once again was wagging the dog, with Board members’ comments and questions reflecting Board compliance rather than Board leadership.
by Diane Payne
Lee Huang and Leticia Egea-Hinton co-chaired the meeting; Committee members Wayne Walker and Joyce Wilkerson were also present. Board members Mallory Fix Lopez and Chris McGinley attended the meeting. Two APPS members attended the meeting; one spoke in defense of public education. Minutes of the previous meeting were approved. This meeting was held at 4:00 p.m. in response to community requests for a more public-friendly meeting time. Huang indicated that they would try to schedule “some” of the F&F meetings at this time. The meeting was well attended and featured seven public speakers. Once again, it was difficult to hear Board members and District staff. Several requests were made from the audience (as have been made at previous meetings) for presenters to speak into the mic, which went mostly unheeded. In addition, the wall speakers were on the lowest possible volume. The PA Sunshine Act states that meetings are not public if the public cannot hear the official business being conducted. Is “transparency” just a buzzword for the Board or will they make sure that the public can hear and participate at all meetings?
(Meeting agendas and power-point presentations can be viewed on the SDP website by going to the BOE page and clicking on “meeting materials.”
Presentations by Chief Financial Officer Uri Monson
Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Update: This first presentation highlighted the 2nd quarter’s actual fund balance compared to the projected fund balance. Unfortunately, the balance is 26.1 million less than projected. The reasons for this difference, as explained by Monson, are two-fold: the revenue impact of the City’s “tolling bill” and increased payments to charter schools. (More on the charter school payments under “Speakers Comments” below.) Monson reported that once the City and State release proposed budgets and revised revenue estimates, the SDP baseline budget will be updated, and either priority investments or potential cuts are added.
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