Testimony of Kristin Luebbert to the BOE, January 30, 2020

Good Evening, my name is Kristin Luebbert–I am a long-time Philadelphia resident, teacher, PFT member, and member of the Caucus of Working Educators.

Tonight I would like to strongly urge you to vote NO on action Item 20: A consulting agreement with five entities that could cost the district up to 1.4 million dollars. The stated purpose of this contract:

1) To provide business process design expertise, staff training and change management support to improve the capacity of the District to deliver effective and efficient special education services to students and caregivers, and 2) to provide managerial and staff support training to improve the ability of the District to achieve goals and objectives.

The Board should vote NO on this item for two reasons: The District already has the expertise they say they need,  AND we simply cannot afford to spend one more penny to line the pockets of dubious consultants while our children and school staff sit in toxic buildings for 181 days each year.

First of all, I contend that the District already possesses (and pays for) the expertise to support and teach our students with special needs–that expertise exists in almost every one of the schools our children attend: our teachers of special education, our paraprofessionals, our counselors, our nurses, our school psychologists and other related service providers all know what our students with IEPs need and deserve. Furthermore, we know what we would suggest to change the flawed system we currently have. All the school-based experts named above  are certainly able to train managerial staff if that is necessary. Consulting firms are not needed to “improve the capacity of the district to deliver” effective Special Education services—what is required is a leadership that truly listens to the professionals already in their employ and to the parents of the children we teach. Convene the experts you already have-and listen to them. Expensive consultants are superfluous.

Secondly, in this time of deep crisis in our District it is foolish to spend money on outside firms while our own students do not have what they need. We often hear the term in loco parentis when we discuss our obligations to and our care of our students. Standing in for parents during the school days means that we want, as John Dewey said, “what the best and wisest parent” wants for their children. No good parent that I know ever makes sure their own needs are met before the needs of their children are taken care of. A good parent would not buy an expensive car while neglecting to feed and clothe their children. Yet that, in a real, practical way, is what the district does time and time again: pay for consultants, outside contractors, office renovations, useless and ineffective programs while the students go wanting.  All of these things are purchased while our buildings make all of us ill, some of our students literally go without adequate furniture in their classrooms, and many teachers must use textbooks older than they are!

What I will say to you is this: Not one more dime should be spent on anything that does not directly serve to help students and staff inside our school buildings: fix our buildings and supply our students with what they need before you buy one more fancy car.