Testimony of Robin Lowry to the BOE, July 23, 2020

Good Evening.  My name is Robin Lowry and I have been a Health and PE teacher in the district for 27 years. 

Thank you for problem-solving in unprecedented times. Please show your support for families, students and staff and vote “no” to the reopening plan as it stands now. Thank you Dr. Hite for clarifying the Digital vs Virtual because it sounded like yet another way to break up schools. Schools have been unsafe, unclean, and under resourced for a long time and Broad Academy superintendents have been destabilizing our schools from the inside since Vallas. Now you ask us to trust that schools will be safe & clean and that our concerns matter. We are right to be suspicious. 

You also ask us to believe the new focus on equity.  Will equity start with ending standardized testing? Ending charter zombification?  Giving all schools playgrounds? You can show your commitment to equity by Supporting BLM Week of Action in School, and other staff anti-racist inquiry practices. But which voices on equity will you listen to?  Experience tells me that Teachers, discredited and shut out by district and union leadership longer than the Broad Academy has been training administrators, will be ignored. Will you roll out the trope that teachers are only interested in their jobs if we are reluctant now to go into unsafe schools? Your vote “No” tonight can be a new beginning on how to collaborate with community members respecting and building on their experience and expertise.

Topic #18 on the Athletics plan: “All student-athletes should clean individual equipment and clothing after every use.” Do you mean that athletes will bring their own sports equipment? What if they don’t have any, will the district provide it?  That’s equity? You expect them to launder workout clothes after every practice?  Will you supply the washers and dryers for equity? Or do you think students can pop their clothes in the washer at home? As a PE teacher, am I expected to disinfect equipment after every class? Who buys the cleaners? Will I have time before the next class arrives? I have a washer and dryer in the girl’s locker room- will I have to do the laundry for students?
Topic # 17. The Healing Together Plan is what? a few social-emotional, trauma-informed, mindfulness-based initiatives that can’t restore the dreams and desires of Philly students growing up in unsafe, inequitable and under-resourced schools. Focus Area #3 is “relationships and community” The Digital Academy denies that goal.  Remember our students are still recovering from the trauma this district has imposed on them through the Renaissance and charter takeovers of schools. Are you aware of the mobility between schools of our students.  If student housing situations change will they be able to stay virtual in their current school for this year for some stability?  Vote no to the Reopening Plan! Let’s start virtually and plan for success now.

As a Yoga teacher for 30 years I can tell you mindfulness isn’t a magical pill.  As my guru BKS Iyengar said, for children, even rollerskating is yoga. Mindfulness is paying attention. Children pay attention when something grabs their attention.  Coloring, singing, storytelling, precious activities in a classroom that take time, time that has been pushed aside for testing. Children need more arts, music and Physical Education, classes you now identify as essential for FtF learning.  Vote No to the Reopening Plan because even virtually during COVID, we can develop class communities and relationships.  People misunderstand what mindfulness is – teachers create it when we engage a child’s mind, body and imagination in a friendly and safe environment.  Enriching the curriculum creates mindful opportunities for students. To be mindful one first needs to feel comfortable and safe.  Don’t outsource mindfulness and social emotional learning. This year we have to be creative -but we have Art, Music, PE, Dance, and loving and engaging teachers. Let’s get creative and keep our school communities intact. Start Virtual and enlist the whole Philly community to support the Social and Emotional Wellness of students, parents, and staff.  We are a community. Let’s work together, for once! Listen to all voices. This is what democracy looks like. Let’s get to work!