Ears on the Board of Education: October 28, 2021
by Diane Payne
Three days before a possible SEPTA strike, Superintendent Hite announced that schools would be open as they have been this year — that is, there would be no alternative virtual instruction. Hite presented no plan to help parents get students to school. Fortunately, SEPTA operators have tentatively agreed to a new contract, and a strike has been averted. Was Hite’s non-plan designed to put more pressure on SEPTA or its unions to settle? Fortunately, we don’t have to find out — this time. But the Board and Hite must develop a plan for alternative education in the case of transportation strikes, natural disasters, weather emergencies, and of course, a spike in COVID cases.
President Joyce Wilkerson, Vice-president Leticia Egea-Hinton, Board Members Mallory Fix Lopez and Lisa Salley attended in person. Attending virtually were Julia Danzy, Reginald Streater, Cecelia Thompson and Maria McColgan — who, despite being an outspoken advocate since last year for a return to in-person learning for students and staff, has yet to attend a hybrid Board meeting in person. (Mayor Kenney has not begun the process of filling the seat left vacant when Angela McIver resigned in July.)
Eyes on the Board of Education: May 27, 2021
by Karel Kilimnik
“Knowledge is the prime need of the hour.” Mary McLeod Bethune
The Board proclaims its commitment to public engagement, but its actions say otherwise. The Board ignores letters from elected officials, public testimony and even legal action, holding fast to its speaker suppression policies. They shut down all of their monthly committees. And every month, the Board subjects the public to 1 ½ to 2 hours of data analysis aka Goals and Guardrails, always on the agenda before the registered public speakers. For three years parents, students, teachers and staff, principals, and community members have told the Board what our students need to succeed: more support staff, toxin-free buildings, smaller class size, restoration of school libraries with Certified Teacher Librarians. How did the Board respond? Not by solving the most pressing academic and infrastructure problems, but by creating an elaborate, data-driven, test-score dependent maze.
Many of May’s Action Item descriptions are confusing and bereft of details. The Board voted to table last month’s Item for a $6.5 million contract with Renaissance and Illuminate Education, citing a lack of information from the Administration. This month, Item 19 has been revised to include that information. It is the Board’s responsibility to demand that all official Items have the necessary details. The SRC’s agendas had more comprehensive Resolution descriptions. The Board oversees the Administration, not the other way around.
Private entities play an ever-expanding role. The Hite Administration has contracted with KJR Consulting to provide professional development for three years. Item 17 proposes yet another contract extension for $550,000. GaileyMurrary, LLP offers brand-building (Item 20 Contract with GaileyMurray, LLP – Communications Consultant $100,000) at a time when teachers and students need more classroom supports.