The School Reform Commission held an Action meeting Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4 pm at 440 North Broad Street. The meeting was recorded and could be seen via a live stream or Comcast local channel 52. This article serves as a recap for those individuals who were unable to attend.
In attendance were the following members: Wendell E. Pritchett, Feather Houstoun, Sylvia P. Simms and Joseph A. Dworetzky (via speakerphone). Superintendent Hite was also in attendance and Evelyn Sample-Oates (Chief of Family and Community Engagement) facilitated the meeting and later the speaker section.
Two extraordinary students were recognized as the Office Depot Seniors of the month. Fatmata Bah from Strawberry Mansion High School who has aspirations of being a doctor, and Alessandra Mullen from Philadelphia Virtual Academy who is currently attending Pennsylvania School of Ballet with professional dancers. Each received a check for $500 to support their education. Pritchett stated, it is important to “celebrate the range of students in the district.”
The breach in policy about new district hires not being included in the monthly report was next on the agenda. As a result of a coding error the new hires were “skipped” and now it should no longer be a problem since the codes have been corrected to include more data streams. The corrections will only reflect new hires since October 2013.
Approvals for pool contracts were next. Dworetzky went on record stating that in the future he will no longer support pool contracts unless all of the individual awardees and the specific conditions are spelled out. Any reports of prior work should also be available in order for the SRC to make a decision based on more complete information. The vote for the current contracts included professional development by University of Pennsylvania Education Center for the Archdiocese. Lisa Haver, Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools questioned this and if there was previous protocols for such provisions.
Lastly, before the speakers that registered were allowed to speak, staff from Office of Specialized Services reviewed and discussed a pending contract with Camelot and Community Council for special education services for students with severe emotional disturbance. Currently, Camelot has 46 seats with only 16 available; Community Council has 60 seats and 10 available. Camelot will receive $88.69 per student per day and Community Council will receive $69.44 per student per day. Much discussion went back and forth between some SRC members (mostly Dworestzky) and Specialized Services in regard to cost and the contract being cost effective.
Three parents discussed the following three different Renaissance Mastery Charters: Gratz, Hardy Williams, and Frances Pastorius. Each lauded the efforts at each school in regard to increases in reading and math scores. All of the speakers were given three minutes each. The next speaker offered a satirical description in regard to the advertising bill in city council. She asked the SRC and the School District of Philadelphia to not support the bill to place ads on school buildings especially since the schools nor parents will have any say in what advertisers will be represented. A third speaker, an attorney and former educator, congratulated the participation of the students in the last SRC meeting with the following quote, “Their sincerity and hopes and dreams were brilliantly put before us.” Many students feel that they are not being heard and he advised the SRC to stop the adversarial environment in order to implement student centered instruction and support.
An educational advocate commented on how money is being spent on services that the city already provides for free like recycling. This is vital in the current pending budget shortfall. Transparency is not always evident with the decisions that the SRC makes despite it always being mentioned. She continued to support Dr. Robinson’s curriculum that provides a cultural foundation for students and is recommended by Attorney Michael Cord (Avenging the Ancestors Coalition). She believes it will help, “children to know who they are and for all teachers to be able to understand and teach cultural history.” A professional development called “Lest We Forget” was sponsored by her organization, but only 2 teachers attended. The final speakers were a lawyer and representative from a charter school that has not received any word on its approval and they were very disappointed in the lack of transparency and consistency in the charter renewal/approval process.
If you are interested in the minutes from previous meetings or this one please click here. You will find the rules to register as a speaker and the next SRC meeting is Thursday, January 16 at 5:30 pm at the Education Center at 440 North Broad Street.