Testimony of Barbara McDowell Dowdall to the BOE, December 12, 2019

Remembering the air of excitement in the our schools and communities when this local Board of Education took command July 1st of 2018, as parents, students, working and retired school staff, and voters – all had hope for rededication to our public schools, where the best of the old system – universal music instruction and participation; districts based on neighborhoods; libraries with librarians; in-house teachers providing professional development for peers; proper proportions of nurses and counselors; attention to physical conditions in all buildings without newspaper investigations and exposure; and equity in provision of resources – would meet the new.

However, as my eagle-eyed librarian mother asked on certain occasions when I was celebrating with hope the glitter of my latest reform efforts at home or in school, “Is this a distinction without a difference?”

And so yes, with our critical eyes and real-time experience with your efforts, we seek today:

Board of Education Distinction from the School Reform Commission with true Differences, including

  • Actual plans for restoration of our libraries with Certified Teacher Librarians, not more random donations, volunteer efforts, or encouraging the Free Library to claim ownership of the district’s responsibility.
  • Moving away from, not increasing administrative embrace of billionaire Eli Broad’s, Bill Gates’ , Mastery/KIPP charter philosophy-based instruction or the Philadelphia School Partnership’s maneuverings in our district.
  • Cessation/limitations, not repeated survival of questionable or ceaselessly expanding charters.
  • Reliable provision of essentials combined with family-requested enhancements for every school not subject to or reliant on donor whims.
  • An enthusiastic commitment to the tenets of the Sunshine Act.
  • Re-embrace of services provided by school district staff rather than proliferation of dollars to myriad outside operators.
  • More frequent questioning of, and directions to, the Superintendent and staff; clearer setting of policies by you and a demand that they should be carried out effectively.
  • Open, above-board, transparent, observable and amenable-to- community-input planning for our district and thus city future.

Distinctions with Differences that my mother, parent of four Philadelphia public school graduates, would approve of were she here today!