Testimony of Lisa Haver to the BOE, August 20,2020

My name is Lisa Haver, with the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools.

If this meeting were being held in the auditorium, I would be standing up and screaming this testimony.

APPS members sent a letter to the Board today, telling them that “after reading the in the Inspector General’s shocking revelations of the Hite administration’s endangering the health and safety of the students and staff at Benjamin Franklin and SLA high schools for months, despite the objections and cries for help from parents, teachers and the principal, the Board should request Dr. Hite’s resignation. After they receive that, the Board itself should examine its own role in this shameful episode”. 

Dr. Hite and his administration are responsible for having students and staff exposed to dangerous substances on a daily basis for over a year. We know that teachers and students had to be hospitalized. And still the Administration and the Board allowed this project to continue. 

One shocking thing about the report is not just the contents but the fact that not one single person is identified by name. That is as clear a signal as you can get that no one, not even the people at the top, will be held accountable. The fact that Board members are not even quoted by name, that their names are actually redacted from the report, gives every indication that they will again give this Administration a pass.  Maybe the Board should have a sign posted on the façade of 440 that says: It is what it is. As I said in my Notebook commentary last month: 

The board’s response was to rationalize, and ultimately, to decide that saving face for the administration took precedence over taking immediate action to protect the health and safety of the city’s children.

The IG report says: The consultant-based patchwork the District frequently relies on for so many positions has short-term financial savings, but it does not benefit the District’s long-term welfare.

 APPS has testified for years about the financial and institutional cost of this practice of hiring consultants rather than rely on, and invest in, the professionals who work for the District. In fact, the August agenda proposes a $700,000 with KJR consultants for non-essential work.  

President Wilkerson told Chalkbeat that this would be included in the Board’s annual evaluation of the Superintendent, along with all of the “great things” going on. So this will be just one more box to be checked off? 

Last year, I saw a play called Minors about the cash for kids scandal in upstate PA where judges, with the collaboration of many in the education and justice systems, put kids in private jails for minor offenses for the enrichment of the judges, the private prison company officials and others.  The Ben Franklin and SLA students were collateral damage in the Hite administration’s struggle to save face and cover up a complete fiasco. If Black lives truly matter to the Board, then they will use their power to hold Dr. Hite and his team responsible.  One more reminder that the people of Philadelphia need and deserve an elected school board.