Transcript of the testimony of Barbara Dowdall

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Barbara Dowdall 2

Remarks to the School Reform Commission and Superintendent Dr. William Hite   March 15, 2018

It is a universal human desire to want to be remembered – most often for having made the world, or in this case, the School District of Philadelphia, a better place.

From the fall of 2001 through the spring and summer of 2003, Philadelphians United to Support Public Schools worked first to oppose creation of the SRC, then to offer informed and dedicated guidance to its operation. Almost a decade later the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools (APPS) joined a wide range of advocacy groups that had formed with the same purpose.

As the School Reform Commission winds down (with apparent great residual energy!), a time of reflection on how this body will be remembered, both for its words and deeds, seems in order.

Though many of us have been a part of past and present opposition & questioning, there is no doubt that good things happened following the takeover:

Brand new textbooks were delivered to our schools.

Paul Vallas and later administrators, including Dr. Hite, followed the lead of David Hornbeck in providing support and protections for LGBT students.

Dobbins/Randolph had the opportunity to partner with High Schools That Work (HSTW) in gaining staff training at conferences in Atlanta and Nashville in setting lofty goals, then with the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Temple University and summer Governors’ Institutes in focus on improving literacy in career technical education.

Teachers from the West and Southwest regions were encouraged to attend Yale University’s National Teachers Initiative summer intensive and to return to set in motion with the Univeresity of Pennsylvani the Teachers Institute of Philadelphia, now poised to extend its high quality professional development seminars (and free web access to all curriculum units) to Temple.

Randolph, awarded free agency in the fall of 2004, was able to develop its own athletic program by 2007, as my t-shirt can attest.

I am certain that SRC documents will provide a vast array of accomplishments to sustain the value of both need for and benefits of the state takeover.

You may want to consider, however, the possibility of being remembered for steps not welcomed:

Lack of followup to the original research on varieties of school management, to wit: that increased funding for traditional public schools brought greater results than outsourcing either to Edison Schools, Inc or random EMO’s.

Lack of active marshalling of community support for fair funding from the state legislature that created and the executives who appointed members to the SRC.

Removing parent agency in determining who would manage neighborhood schools after two sets of parents rejected the charter takeover option.

Excess of excess spending on expensive law firms for work in defending the stealth abrogation of the teachers’ contract and other actions and delaying a settlement relating to honoring the Sunshine Act.

Unending awarding of funds to a vast array of outside, unproven education vendors rather than utilizing the talents and skills of your own staff.

Ceding power and authority over future school management to outside entities and individuals with deep pockets and questionable motives.

Showing no hesitation in eliminating school nurses, counselors, librarians, school ops, NTA’s and secretarial staff resulting in the undermining of our schools’ ability to function properly. Further an increasing inequity among schools by fostering the primacy of volunteer staffing and charitable donations over full and fair funding and professional educators that can be found in suburban schools just outside our city limits.

There is still time for the SRC and Superintendent Hite to provide us with a Legacy Plan 3.0 that would serve as guidance for the incoming Board of Education.

Barbara McDowell Dowdall bmcdowdall@gmail.com


Click here to return to transcripts from the March 15, 2018 SRC meeting.