Ears on the Board of Education: December 9, 2021
by Diane Payne
APPS filed a formal objection, read during the meeting, to the Board’s violation of the PA Sunshine Act, this time for voting in secret on the charter renewal of Universal Audenried Charter High School. Why does the Board continue the legacy of the SRC by conducting all charter business in secret.
Since the dissolution of the state-imposed School Reform Commission, the hope of District staff, students, families, and community members for a more responsive school board have been dashed repeatedly by the members of the Board. They eliminated all of the Committees except one, eliminating an important venue for deliberation and dialogue. They recently reduced the Policy Committee meetings from quarterly to twice a year. A pattern of Board disenfranchisement continues with its violations of the PA Sunshine Act. The Board refuses to post the full text of any charter school item until after they vote. They post the full content the day after the vote, with no notice that it was previously not posted, thus falsifying the public record. The Board bars people from speaking before they vote on Action Items. At this meeting, the Board added to this list knowingly deliberating on public business in executive session.
Eyes on the Board of Education: November 18, 2021
by Karel Kilimnik
What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or does it explode?
The District’s Pandemic Push-out affects everyone in the District: parents, students, educators, community members. When we had no choice but to stay home, meetings were virtual and human contact was minimized. The Board took advantage of our isolation by continual minimizing of public participation. Instead of becoming more inclusive and more committed to listening to the District’s stakeholders, the Board and the Hite Administration have used the quarantine as a means of putting more distance between their directives, procedures, and policies.and those affected by them. When we won the battle in 2018 to abolish the School Reform Commission, we had great hopes for a School Board, albeit an appointed one. The Board increased community engagement with the establishment of four committees: Finance and Facilities; Student Achievement and Support; Policy; Family and Community Engagement. After two meetings, the Board disbanded the Community Engagement Committee. Last year, they disbanded two more, leaving only the Policy Committee, which met only four times a year (APPS found out last month that Policy will now only meet twice a year). In an December 2020 article Board members told Chalkbeat last year that Board meetings will look different, with more public engagement and discussion of data. In truth, there has been much less public engagement and much more data analysis–up to two hours at every action meeting. Only when APPS members complained did the Board allow public speakers to be placed ahead of the Goals and Guardrails session. In January, the Board implemented Speaker Suppression procedures capping the number of speakers and cutting speakers’ time.
Eyes on the Board of Education, October 28, 2021
by Karel Kilimnik
“The paradox of education is precisely this – that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated.” James Baldwin
Will the Next Superintendent Be an Educator or a Business Manager?
Searching for a new superintendent opens a world of possibility in a District starved for transparency and genuine community involvement. Selection of the last superintendent occurred in a cloud of secrecy hidden from the public until the final two candidates selected by the SRC were unveiled. There was great hope as we transitioned from state rule to local control a mere three years ago but this Board has deflated those expectations as they instituted Speaker Suppression and continue rubber stamping whatever Items Dr. Hite presents. The Mayor’s selection process for appointing Board members also hid behind a brick wall. Transparency and public participation were blatantly missing. The Board could step out of their box, be bold and listen to the public. Will they actually listen to the public or will shadow donors continue to pull their strings in this selection process?
For the past ten years the District has been led by a superintendent committed to balancing the budget no matter who suffers. Teachers and school staff, students, and parents have been traumatized as schools were closed; counselors,nurses, and teachers were shifted around the District like pawns on a chessboard; ongoing remediation of unhealthy buildings was ineffective. We need a leader with a vision for rebuilding what we have lost, restoring trust, and listening instead of mandating. Someone who has at least ten years experience in a school and has not roamed the country climbing their career ladder. Is the Board up to this responsibility or will we simply have another business oriented superintendent?
Ears On The Board of Education: September 23, 2021
by Diane Payne
The Board’s deliberate and mean-spirited disrespect for the students, parents, educators, and community members was the lowlight of this meeting. Board President Wilkerson moved speakers way down the agenda, calling on them after a lengthy presentation. At this “hybrid meeting”, the Board allowed into the auditorium only those who signed up to speak in person. With about 80% of the room empty, at least 50 people could fit with more than adequate distancing. After all, the Board has no problem with filling classrooms with little ventilation to capacity or having students, in the words of Student Representative Rebecca Allen, “packed like sardines” in hallways. In fact, half of the Board members attended virtually, including Julia Danzy and Marie McColgan, who have supported all of the administration’s plans for full return to school buildings since last year, falsely claiming that most parents supported the administration’s plan. Once again, there was a persistent echo in the auditorium, making it difficult for attendees to hear. The camera was positioned so far back that those viewing at home could not see the faces of the Board members or tell who was speaking.