Transcript of Barbara Dowdall’s testimony before the SRC.

Barbara Dowdall SRC 1-18-18
Click the picture to view Barbara’s testimony. Her testimony is located at 0:00.

 Priority Schools 

One of my favorite classroom posters read “Label Jars, Not People.” Today, I would offer an amendment: “Label File Folders, Not Schools.” The Pennsylvania-legislature-mandated 2001 takeover of Philadelphia public schools, in essence, labeled our entire district: “Failing.” The SRC’s first hire as CEO came from a district also struggling, yet he proceeded to label 70 schools as “Failing,” and handed off two thirds of those to outside management. Almost as an afterthought, the remaining one third of the 70 “failures” — miraculously provided additional (adequate?) resources — did the best. Instant amnesia regarding this startling but unplanned result allowed the SRC to ignore the research-established affirmation of our own teachers and administrators and to sally forth to the land of charters and charter expansion – this goal facilitated in later years by bringing on superintendents affiliated with or trained by the Eli Broad Foundation who proceeded, in concert with the SRC, to “[under-resource, disrupt and close our] public schools in order to make charter schools [more] appealing to parents. The hemorrhaging of students from public schools to charters has led to urban school districts closing public schools all over the country due to “under enrollment”.

The shock of 23 schools shuttered combined with the scourge of the Doomsday budget and its dramatic slashing of staff was followed by a parade of euphemistic labels for groups of schools (Renaissance, Transformation, Redesign, Innovation, Turnaround, and now Priority) that we were still meant to understand as “failing.” Parents were momentarily involved in determining whether to remain with the district or be charterized. Having voted incorrectly for the former, no school communities were provided that latitude (respect) again.

Instead of “Priority Schools,” we should address school priorities. First — as anguished voices have implored — restore all staff and resources to pre-Doomsday levels (undergirded with equity in essential resources like music programs and professionally-staffed libraries) then find out what, in addition, parents, students, staff and community want to be provided – by direct face to face conversations and active listening, not through costly and questionable Cambridge or other outside entities. {As with Kenderton, for example} Philadelphia voters rejected the policies and practices of the SRC and its superintendent by non binding referendum on the ballot in the spring of 2015 and the SRC graciously acknowledged the will of the people by their vote to disband in December just passed. Yet the SRC and its superintendent (who will, very likely, be continuing in his post even as the local board takes over) have persisted in undermining our schools through the inexorable continuation of disruptive labeling and threatened handovers. It is time to cease any and all further changes through June 30th, except those actively requested or agreed to by students, staff and families in those schools.