Testimony Karel Kilimnik to the BOE, December 12, 2019

Community Disengagement

Good evening to everyone. Tonight my topic is Community Disengagement. I want to begin with Item 9 — part of this administration’s ongoing strategy to outsource developing strategic plans from operations to early childhood. Why is district management hiring the District Management Group LLC to do its work? The DMG CEO has no education background he simply sells education products. He cut his teeth at McKinsey & Co. known for cutting the workforce to maximize profits. Working in Illinois and Vermont school districts  DMG’s record involves recommendations to reduce costs spent on special education students while increasing professional development (that they sell). This description is typical of Board Items that provide no information to the public, just fuzzy possibilities. It’s the sleight of hand that is also used to make conditions for charter schools disappear so the public has no idea what is going on. Did this vendor recommend that Dr Hite spend over $600,000 to renovate his office suite as stakeholders demand healthy school buildings?

Next is the Comprehensive School Planning Review. Vanessa Benton has welcomed observers and ensured that we have handouts used during the planning committee sessions. Board members, you will vote on the recommendations coming out of this process. You should attend these meetings and not simply rely on district staff reports. The next round of meetings is scheduled for next week. This entire process should be a public one open to all stakeholders as whatever is decided will impact everyone. I have asked at every CSPR meeting when materials will be posted. Presently headings are up, but nothing is posted. The District should hire a City Planner who knows Philadelphia, its neighborhoods, and schools as this is an ongoing issue.

Third, it is disgraceful that the Board has scheduled the only charter school hearing where public testimony is allowed on Friday Dec 20. This Hearing should be held on another day during that week if you truly want to engage community participation.

Of the 4 Board Committees there is only one that has held no public event, and that ironically is the District Partnership & Community Engagement Committee. Having a Parent & Community Advisory Council is not a substitute for public meetings. According to the Board website this committee is to meet quarterly during the school year and hold at least two public hearings each school year.  I have asked several times for when public events will be scheduled but thus far nothing is on the calendar.