Testimony of Rachel Boschen to the BOE, September 17, 2020

“Good evening. My name is Rachel Boschen, and I’m proud to be a teacher at McClure Elementary. This school board is tasked with overseeing and holding district leadership accountable. Yet month after month I listen in as the school board instead thanks the Hite administration for failed leadership.

The Inspector General’s recent report lays out many of these failures, and also the ways in which Dr. Hite and has kept you- the school board-and the public in the dark. And yet, you still seem to trust, in good faith, that the updates and information provided by the district here are truthful. Dr. Hite’s lack of identifying a single environmental risk during his presentation earlier should raise a huge red flag for everyone listening. Given the state of our buildings, we know this cannot possibly be the case. As a teacher and active member of this community, I feel responsible to highlight some of the ways the district has hidden information, shared falsehoods, and stretched the truth…

The district has plainly failed to prepare its staff, its students, and our families for the virtual instruction we are undertaking. As a teacher I took part in 7 full days of Professional Development before the first day of school and not one of my sessions had anything to do with effective teaching in our current state. No “How to increase student engagement in a virtual environment”, no “Digital tools and resources to increase engagement and academic growth.” Nothing. At least as egregious, the only anti-racist training provided was a single 45 minute asynchronous training. Our PD did nothing to provide us with the tools and training that we need—and have been begging for—to be successful educators in this moment. Dr. Hite’s claim tonight that virtual engagement has been addressed in professional development sessions is news to me. So when he says that there is “currently no critical issues identified for this milestone,” he doesn’t speak for me or the many teachers I work with everyday. Staff are not only building the plane as we are flying it, here in the school district of Philadelphia we are building our planes with popsicle sticks and Elmer’s glue. AND we are doing so without the safety net or trust of a secure and fair contract.

Your failures don’t just make our jobs harder, they directly impact our kids. Mandating young children to sit in front of a computer screen for hours on end is not only unreasonable, it’s unfair and counterproductive to their education in this most vulnerable moment.

Dr. Hite and district leadership have also consistently failed to prioritize equity and racial justice. You send emails and create committees, but then turn around and send our School Climate Staff, some of the most marginalized, underpaid, and almost exclusively Black and brown staff back into unsafe buildings. Our students are safe at home, ALL of our staff should be too. Sending climate staff back in school is yet another of the many ways district leadership continues to show disregard to any true work to promote equity.

At what point do we admit that the school board is shirking your responsibility to hold leadership accountable for their many, many failures? When will you stop thanking Dr. Hite for the failed leadership, and begin truly holding our district accountable?“