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Philadelphia School District: Money isn’t the root cause of their problems

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The City of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett finally quit playing games after months of stalling. They gave the Philadelphia School District the money that they needed to sort of operate the schools, but Philadelphia School District Superintendent William Hite soon learned what most people in Philly already knew; that no matter how much money you get it doesn’t take too long to go through it.

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As Hite tries to figure out a way of how to maintain services with less money he also has to be concerned with how much money the school district is going to lose next year. However he hopefully has figured out that the loss of money from both the state and federal government isn’t the root cause of the financial problems of the Philadelphia School District. Here’s a clue: it’s the people who have been and still are in charge of making decisions.

It’s important for Dr. Hite to understand (and hopefully he does) that the state of Pennsylvania wants everyone to believe that the School Reform Commission (SRC) runs the show in the district, but that’s not true. The members of the SRC are all appointed by political leaders and are therefore that party’s ally, but in reality they’re nothing more than marionettes.

This group of unpaid appointees does the state’s bidding for them by keeping people otherwise engaged by looking at pointless issues and creating turmoil while the politicians continue with the plan to deflate the public education system.

Although the SRC has been in existence since the takeover in 2001 it wasn’t until Corbett got voted in as governor that the SRC came to life as possessed marionettes. Think about it. No one had to deal with the SRC or even heard about them too much until Corbett took office in 2011. Suddenly you have mayhem and anarchy spilling out on the streets.

Then out of the blue you couldn’t stop hearing about them whether it was about the questionable legal antics of SRC Chairman Robert L. Archie Jr. and his sidekick State Representative Dwight Evans, the continuing soap opera featuring Arlene Ackerman as the troubled but misunderstood heroine, heated SRC meetings that put the Jerry Springer Show to shame suddenly becoming the place to be on Thursday nights, or the PFT’s rousing rendition of the O'Jays hit Backstabbers sung acapella-over and over again.

The school district administration (which still includes the SRC) is part of the root problem. Since 2009 these people have been telling parents and community leaders that they’re going to have 100% transparency; that they’ll know everything that’s going on. That’s not working out too well.

During the reign of Ackerman people weren’t informed of the conditions of her contract and up until she was shown the door Ackerman as well as her communication staff insisted that she was staying while in the middle of contract buyout negotiations, her severance package was also kept from the public until it was a done deal. To this day no one knows who the anonymous donors were.

While working as a superintendent she had gotten the School Advisory Council in place she went behind their backs and did whatever she wanted to do without letting them know until it was done. There were contract bids awarded that went on without the public’s knowledge especially the amount of those contracts. This was done while she was agreeing to transparency.

And now we have Hite and the SRC (still).

As Ackerman and the SRC agreed on transparency, but never delivered Hite and the SRC are continuing this trend.

In August of 2013 when the PFT’s contract with the district expired the details of the ongoing negotiations were kept secret from the public. This is the same public who has to foot the bill for whatever concessions or contract perks are awarded. It’s how Philly residents got in the mess that they’re in now.

Hite and PFT President Jerry Jordan who always have so much to say any other time are now mysteriously silent. The only thing they agree on is that there are sticking points in the contract. What are the sticking points? As Philadelphia residents know only too well is that when people in power suddenly become silent they’re about to get the short end of the stick. Again.

During 2012 and 2013 there were 785 people hired at a time when people had been laid off and the district was screaming poverty. Some of these positions were in the central office which is the same central office that Hite claims he has cut, but can’t or won’t produce any evidence of such. The SRC is claiming that they didn’t know anything about it, but they’ve sung that song before; when Ackerman was being escorted out and when Archie was questioned for some questionable ethical actions with his buddy Evans. This clearly demonstrates incompetence when you say you don’t know something when it’s your job to know.

This is where Hite needs to be careful. If he insists that he didn’t know anything about these hires or the amount of money they were being paid he’ll look either stupid or incompetent of which he is neither. Doing so you’ll turn every parent, school advocate and community leader against you because they’ll realize you aren’t going to do anything about anything.

If he stands up and does something like Ackerman did he’ll no longer be needed as a figurehead, a drum major if you will, for the state and the destruction of the public education system. It was when Ackerman started speaking up against the political leaders and started asking questions was when she cast out.

The central office is also still posting open positions (eight new ones to be exact) which is odd because if they didn’t feel counselors and nurses in every school wasn’t a necessity what possible position in the central office is?

This is part of the problem. The people who run the district downtown keep eliminating jobs in the schools, but keep hiring people for the central office when they have no money. Until they change the climate and mentality of the administration the school district will always be broke; the kids will educationally suffer.

So what would be the point of transparency? Well it would show people that you have nothing to hide and what you’re telling the staff, parents and taxpayers is the truth. It may even prevent holding funding hostage because everything that you have and are doing is all above-board.

Dr. Hite and the SRC do what you say you're going to do and come through with agreements that have been made to Philadelphia is really that simple.

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