A grass-roots organization of parents, community members, and school staff, fighting to defend public education. We work together to provide analysis and demand accountability from the School District of Philadelphia to provide students with a high-quality education.
In the week just prior to the June 16th meeting, the SRC added 10 new resolutions to the over-130 already posted. They also withdrew, without explanation, 7 resolutions for charter renewals. Commissioner Farah Jimenez was not present at the meeting, neither in person nor by phone.
Although renewals for Aspira Stetson and Aspira Olney were not on the agenda, Stetson students were in attendance. PA Representative Angel Cruz and Aspira Chairman Fred Ramirez were on the speakers list to speak in favor of the Aspira renewals; neither showed up. Lisa Haver asked whether they were taking part instead in the private meetings which Aspira attorney Kenneth Trujillo had alluded to and that the district had acknowledged were taking place.
APPS members continue to bear witness to the actions of the state-imposed School Reform Commission. Whether the meeting is crowded or sparsely attended, we testify every month on crucial issues, not the least of which is the SRC’s lack of transparency and public accountability. APPS members were present to call “shame” on the SRC when it convened its stealth meeting to cancel the PFT contract. This month APPS members Karel Kilimnik, Diane Payne and Robin Lowry spoke on a number of issues. To view their testimony, go to APPSphilly.net.
Among the public speakers was a dedicated group of Penrose School parents from Southwest Philadelphia. They voiced their anger and frustrations at both the district administration and the Penrose school administration’s failure to support their hard work toward redesign. There is never a penalty for district’s failures but schools are labeled and then closed, turned over to charters, and subjected to the chaos and churn of the turn-around model.
SRC Rejects Charter Office Report, Changes Procedure to Hold Up Non-Renewal of Renaissance Schools
Looking back over all of the shenanigans we have witnessed over the past six months, when Superintendent William Hite announced his intention to place Cooke, Huey and Wister elementary schools into the Renaissance program, we see how the parents and community were shut out of the process from the beginning. Months later, Dr. Hite reversed his recommendation to place Wister on the chopping block citing improved performance data (which was revealed by APPS member Coleman Poses). But Commissioner Simms threw a curve ball with her surprise motion from the floor to return Wister to the chopping block, expressing her “pent-up emotions” after meeting with parents advocating for a Mastery takeover. None of the other SRC members ever explained why, in this case, the data was not driving their decision.
Finally, another shady district maneuver surrounding the entire process was discovered when APPS co-founder Lisa Haver requested the evaluation reports which Superintendent Hite touted as part of the parent involvement component to his top-down decision. No reports were to be found anywhere; in fact, it appeared no one even knew what Lisa was requesting…including Dr. Hite himself. So much for that “community engagement” stuff.
This SRC meeting was preceded by a rally—sponsored by Parents of Wister, NAACP, PFT, APPS, PCAPS, and Parents United—in front of the school district administration building. Speakers addressed the district’s failure to provide the resources needed for thriving public schools. A large and noisy presence of Mastery supporters on the other side of the steps periodically disrupted the speeches of parents and community members, including the president of the local NAACP. Once inside the auditorium, a vocal contingent of the Mastery supporters occasionally ridiculed and disparaged teachers and parents of Wister, as well as those supporting their fight to keep Wister public.
What is noteworthy about this scenario is that it plays right into the hands of the corporate machine. This strategy of pitting community members against each other serves to secure the power and profit of the few over the democratic voice of all. Parents, students, teachers and community members all want the same thing; a fair, equitable and safe education for our children. Although we want the very same thing we find ourselves divided by a promise that some see as salvation for their child while others know is the handing over the democratic rights of every child. The corporate model promises what we all want for our children but comes with two costly price tags: the continued disinvestment of traditional public schools coupled with an alarming loss of democratic rights.
Eight members of APPS provided testimony at this SRC meeting: Diane Payne, Deb Grill, Karel Kilimnik, Carol Heinsdorf, Lisa Haver, Barbara Dowdall, Kristin Luebbert, and Robin Lowry. (To see videos of these presentation or read the transcripts, visit APPS members testimony to the Philadelphia School Reform Commission.) The testimonies called out the SRC and Superintendent Hite for a wide range of dereliction of their duties to safeguard public education.