Board of Education Action and Budget Meetings: April 20, 2023
by Lisa Haver and Deborah Grill
With every meeting, the Board of Education finds new ways to enforce its mission of speaker suppression. Several APPS members who tried to sign up to speak at the action meeting found the window closed after just two hours. APPS member Ilene Poses was not only barred from speaking but was barred from entering the auditorium when she arrived. Security told her that there was no more room in the auditorium. When she called those of us who had made it in, we counted over ten empty seats. Ilene was finally admitted along with several other people.
The board pushes the public away both literally and figuratively. The staff tables in the front of the room set up an ever-expanding barrier between the board and the public. In an auditorium with an official capacity of 240, the board had only set up 82 seats. Lisa Haver asked the board to explain that when she testified; she got no answer.
Eyes on the Board of Education: December 15, 2022
by Lisa Haver
Irony, apparently, is not the Board of Education’s strong suit. After imposing a number of speaker suppression policies, with no notice or explanation to the public, the Board now proposes hiring a firm for $70,000 to expand the district’s “capacity to engage families, students, staff and the overall Philadelphia community in authentic two-way engagement efforts.” Are the Board’s action meetings not authentic enough? The Board clearly wants to hear from a very limited number of families, students, staff and community members, and only for two minutes at a time. The Board eliminated three of their four public committees, including the Parent and Community Engagement Committee, venues that were supposed to provide opportunities for more dialogue about issues of concern. The one remaining committee, the Policy Committee, now meets only twice a year. The Board’s Policy page does not even mention that there are meetings. Governance by invitation is not a substitute for true public engagement.
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Ears on the Board of Education: June 23, 2022
by Diane Payne
Dr. Tony Watlington’s tenure as superintendent got off to an inauspicious start with his request to the Board, made before he was sworn in and granted by the Board without deliberation at its last meeting, for a major contract with Tennessee-based Joseph and Associates that came with a $450,000 price tag. The three-phase consulting project begins with the firm focusing on the “development and execution of a 100-day entry plan” for the new superintendent. When the Board conducted its months-long superintendent search, with members of the community devoting significant time and effort, did they make their final choice with a caveat from the Board that Dr. Watlington was not prepared to take on the job as soon as he got here? Is this the message the Board and Dr. Watlington want to send the school communities—that their priority is not funding classrooms but outside consultants? That a new superintendent wants to conduct business as usual?
Ears on the Board of Education: April 21, 2022
by Diane Payne
Over the years, APPS members and others have testified about the barriers to finding basic information on the District website, for content as well as for technical reasons. There is too often a lack of straightforward and honest presentations. The agenda for this action meeting is another such example. Omitted from the agenda posted online and distributed at the meeting, again, were the legislative update given by Board Member Fix Lopez, the Parent and Community Advisory presentation given by Board Member Thompson, and the Student Representative presentation given by Rebecca Allen. None of these were about issues that had just arisen. The agenda also failed to include dollar amounts for Item 8, Item 9 and Item 28. This may lead observers to think these are no-cost items. In fact, Action Item 8 totalled $15 million and Item 9 totaled $16.9 million. Item 28, a 5-year renewal for Mastery Shoemaker, will cost the District a minimum of $50 million. The Board has a duty to inform the public of how they are spending public funds.