Board Members Must Be Fully Present

Ears on the Board of Education: February 24, 2022

by Diane Payne

APPS members and others, both in person and via written testimony, objected to the Board’s plan to hold small in-person meetings for a select few to meet the next superintendent finalists. Before the public speakers had finished, Vice President Leticia Egea-Hinton, who is spearheading the search process, stated on the record that those raising objections were wrong. Her rationale was that this meeting would be live streamed and they were holding a hybrid town hall open to the public.  APPS members in the auditorium spoke up to say that holding one public meeting doesn’t erase the fact that the meeting in question was only open to a certain number of people, chosen in a private process, and that the qualifications for admission ruled out any community member.  Egea-Hinton’s defensive response was not an honest effort to try to understand the objections, just to rationalize the Board’s actions. None of the other Board members objected to holding a select meeting to meet the candidates.  
The Philadelphia community is shut out on almost every front. We are the only District in the Commonwealth that doesn’t have an elected school board. One person–the current mayor–selects Board members in a secret process not open to the public. The Board shuts down its committees and imposes speaker suppression. If the Board is going to claim that the superintendent search process includes public participation, that must be more than window-dressing. APPS calls on the Board to make both town halls open to the public. Do not bar anyone from attending. Take steps to insure cross representation of stakeholders and let the public have both in-person and hybrid options for attending both open townhalls.

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Board Fails to Respond to Crises

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.) 

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