March 6, 2016
Dear Chairwoman Neff:
The members of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools call on you to halt the placement of four more neighborhood schools into the Turnaround Network. This latest plan will only lead to further destabilization of schools already struggling to survive in conditions caused by both financial and managerial crises.
Three of the four schools targeted—Roosevelt, Rhodes and Munoz-Marin—have recently undergone major transformations. Roosevelt and Rhodes were converted from middle to elementary schools. Munoz-Marin lost the majority of its staff when the district attempted to hand over management of the school to Aspira Charter Schools two years ago. The decision to place Mitchell, a school with a new principal who was praised by Dr. Hite in a recent Philadelphia Inquirer story, is truly baffling.
What is the point of inflicting more trauma on students who need the safety and guidance of teachers and staff who are working to build strong school communities?
The teachers and staff are working under appalling conditions and are now being blamed and punished, along with the students whose relationships to them will be severed.
Community meetings have been scheduled this week, beginning Monday, even though there has been inadequate notification of parents and community members, if any. The district has not disclosed the cost of the program, how it will be carried out, or what criteria were used to select these schools. It is difficult to understand how the district can afford any extra expense of this kind, especially since it plans to spend $15-20 million to place Cooke, Huey and Wister into the turnaround program as Renaissance schools. Dr. Hite has stated publicly that he cannot guarantee the district will not run out of money before the end of this school year.
As a former teacher and principal, you know how important it is for children to feel that school is a safe and stable environment. Instituting a plan whose essential feature is the severing of relationships between adults and students can only add to the trauma many students already live with.
We understand that the SRC is not required to vote on internal turnarounds. But the SRC is responsible for the financial and academic success of every school in the district. Recently, the SRC overruled Dr. Hite’s decision in the Wister case. The SRC should do the same in this matter.
Lisa Haver, Co-founder
Deborah Grill, Secretary
4 elementariness added to Philly district schools slated for closure | Newsworks – March 4, 2016
The above letter to Chairwoman Neff was reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer on March 7, 2016 along with her response.
Lisa Haver was interviewed on The Solomon Jones Show on WURD on March 8, 2016. Click here for audio of the interview.
On Thursday, March 10, Superintendent Hite formally announced the four school turnarounds. He included the announcement with an announcement about budgeting a full-time nurse and a full-time counselor in each school next year. Council President Daryll Clark: “It’s hard to be excited about anything that comes out of that building, because more often then not it’s not real.”
Emails show effort to sway SRC on Wister charter conversion
The Notebook – March 17, 2016
February 1, 2016 For Immediate Release
Members of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools have called on School Reform Commission Chair Marjorie Neff to nullify the vote taken at its January 21 meeting on the fate of Wister Elementary School in Germantown. In a letter sent Monday (click here to read the letter) APPS co-founders Lisa Haver and Karel Kilimnik list a number of reasons why the resolution introduced from the floor by Commissioner Sylvia Simms, and approved just minutes later by the SRC, is not valid.
Commissioner Simms, in an unprecedented move, introduced a resolution from the floor asking the SRC to proceed with pairing Wister with Mastery Charter Schools, thus overruling Superintendent William Hite’s decision to remove Wister from its Renaissance Program. “Ms. Simms said she heard from parents on both sides, but she didn’t attend any of the meetings held by parents at Wister to keep the school public,” said Kilimnik.
APPS claims that “deliberate deception” was used by “district officials at all levels” to keep Wister parents from attending the January SRC meeting. Resolutions were posted to approve two other schools’ placement into the Renaissance program, but none was posted for Wister. District officials had already begun to hold meetings at Wister to develop an alternative program.
“The message from the district and the SRC was clear: we are taking no action on Wister,” said Kenya Nation, a Wister parent. “The Wister parents have been meeting every week over the past three months and came to the last three SRC meetings. I would have come to the January meeting if I had known the SRC was going to take a vote on the future of our school,” she said.
The letter also points out that no resolution was ever presented to the public at that meeting. “Neither Commissioner Simms in her speech, nor Head of Counsel Michael Davis before he called the roll, gave anything other than an interpretation of what the resolution was supposed to be about,” said Haver. “That alone means that the action is not valid and must be rescinded.”
The letter also states that Neff’s refusal to allow the public to speak before the vote was taken is a violation of the state’s Sunshine Act. APPS filed suit against the SRC and the district in November 2014 on similar grounds after its vote to cancel the PFT contract the previous month.
The Battle for Wister Elementary School
The Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools – January 20, 2016
‘Sunshine’ questions loom over SRC’s surprise resolution
The Philadelphia Public School Notebook – February 8, 2016
Plan to privatize 3 schools is inconsistent and a gross overreach
The Philadelphia Public School Notebook – February 10, 2016
Nine Philadelphia academics use the SRC’s much touted data to show their is not basis for privatizing Wister Elementary.
Kenny asked to investigate why Wister went charter
February 10, 2016
Advocacy Organization Donates Settlement Money to Student Programs
August 10, 2015
Members of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools have begun to donate the funds received from a settlement reached last month with the SRC, the School District of Philadelphia and the City of Philadelphia. Three APPS members–Ilene, Poses, Barbara Dowdall, and Lisa Haver, all retired teachers–filed suit in federal court after school district security and Philadelphia police confiscated their signs at the February 2015 SRC meeting. Ms. Poses incurred minor injuries when she was dragged from school district headquarters by Philadelphia police officers because she refused to remove the sign she was wearing.
All of the plaintiffs have agreed to donate the settlement money, approximately $21, 000, to student programs and to continue the advocacy work of the Alliance. None will benefit personally from the settlement, which was paid completely from the city’s litigation fund.
The three APPS members have donated a total of $6500.00 to support student programs at Philadelphia Young Playwrights, History Hunters, the Arden Theater, the Teachers Institute of Philadelphia (TIP), Kelly Green (a student-run vegetable garden at John B. Kelly School), the Arden Theater, and the Wissahickon Boys and Girls Club.
A $1000.00 donation was also made to the Philadelphia Student Union, whose video of the assault was instrumental in reaching the settlement. Hiram River, PSU Executive Director, said, “We are very grateful to APPS for this generous donation and for their ongoing advocacy on behalf of the students of Philadelphia.”
Donations will be given to additional student programs and organizations in the coming months.