Defenders of Public Education Speak Before the BOE, January 28, 2021

Click on the title to read the transcript of the speaker’s testimony

It is Time for a Change by Dana Carter

Restoration of School Libraries with Certified Teacher Librarians (CTL’s) by Barbara McDowell Dowdall

Goals and Guardrails Do Not Hold Hite Accountable by Lisa Haver

Community Disengagement Explodes by Karel Kilimnik

Data Dazzle with New Glossary, or Equity? by Robin Lowry

Action Item 16: Spending $300K on a Program to Help Schools “Keep Track” of PBIS Points and Rewards by Kristin Luebbert

Simplify the Student Name Change Process by Maddie Luebbert

“Demotion” of the Office of Multilingual Curriculum and Programs by Dr. Cheri Michaeu

Silencing Voices of Philadelphians Who Care about Their Public Schools by Diane Payne

It’s the same old song, with the same old meaning, and it’s still plain wrong [wasting $300,000 on positive motivation program] by Ilene Poses

So Very Many Things Wrong, So Many Excuses by Zoe Rooney

Limiting Public Testimony in the Wake of Reopening Schools by Sonia Rosen

Action Item 16 Contracts with Motivating Systems LLC and Kickboard, Inc. by Lynda Rubin

Ears on the Board of Education: January 28, 2021

by Diane Payne

The Board set the tone for this remote Action Meeting by imposing more undemocratic, punitive measures on the defenders of public education. Disenfranchisement was carried out in a number of ways, all decided in secret. The Board, for the first time in District history,  cut every speaker’s time from three minutes to two, and they limited the total number of speakers. In addition, the deadline for submitting written testimony went from 24 to 48 hours before the meeting. Violating not only the trust of the public but its own by-laws and the PA Sunshine Act, the Board amended an official policy without a public vote. Thus, when Dr. Hite called a press conference on Wednesday to announce his latest reopening plan, parents, teachers, students and principals had no chance to voice their opposition. The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers had been warning against the still unsafe conditions of school buildings, but the Board made sure that neither they nor the public would hear about them. The Board is taking advantage of a public health crisis to shut the public out even more. 

The Board continued its punishment by subjecting the public to hours of verbosity camouflaged as action, topped off with another round of self-congratulation.  It is disheartening to witness the hustle the Board perpetuates in addressing student achievement.  With the passage of Item One, the Board implemented its alliterative Goals and Guardrails (G&G)  campaign.  How can Board members be so deaf to the actual needs of students and educators, expressed month after month in public testimony?  G&G’s color-coded boxes bury issues in charts, graphs,  education jargon, and  interventions.  Their own education experts–the teachers and staff of the District–entreat the Board month after month to be heard.  Our city’s children have had countless “plans” imposed on them, year after year, in this administration alone.

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Open letter to Board of Education: APPS Demands Reversal of Speaker Rules

February 1, 2021  

Dear President Wilkerson and Members of the Board,  

On behalf of the members of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, we call on you reverse the changes to the Board’s official speaker policy imposed at the January 28 Action Meeting.   

For decades, from previous Boards through the School Reform Commission, members of the public have had three minutes in which to be heard on an issue—or issues. The Board, without warning or explanation, cut speakers’ time to two minutes and limited the number of speakers at every meeting. The Board did this without any public vote, violating not only the public trust but the PA Sunshine Act, by voting in secret and preventing any public comment.   

Earlier this year, President Wilkerson warned speakers that if they attempted to speak on any topic other than the one designated on their sign-up form, she would have their mics cut off.   

In contrast, charter operators were given hours-long hearings last week in which to sell their new charter applications, including a 15-minute period at the end of each hearing for closing remarks. When the Board votes on these applications, members of any affected communities will have only two minutes to argue for their denial.   

The reasons for this silencing became clear with Dr. Hite’s announcement, the day before the meeting, of his plan to send students and staff back into school buildings. In July 2020, parents, teachers, principals and students spoke for hours in opposition to Dr. Hite’s  plan. The Board clearly did not want a repeat. Anyone who tried to sign up Wednesday to speak on the plan found themselves blocked.   

Another reason emerged as we witnessed the Board’s 2 ½ hour discussion about the details of its new Goals and Guardrails.  The Board replaced public voices with their own. The first public speaker was not heard until almost three hours into the meeting. There was no consideration for parents who must feed children and help them with homework or for teachers trying to prepare lessons for the next day.   

The Board should not be using this time of public isolation to shut the public out even more.  

We demand that the Board reverse the changes in the Speakers Policy before the February 25 Action Meeting. Restore speaker time to three minutes. Remove the cap on the number of speakers.  Conduct all official business and hear from all public speakers before you embark on the next marathon Goals and Guardrails session.   

Parents, educators, students and members of the community should be seen by the Board as partners in advancing and improving public education, not obstacles.   

Sincerely,

Lisa Haver

Karel Kilimnik