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Questions about Renaissance charter costs from a former SRC member

By David Limm on Apr 11, 2014 04:37 PM

 

Former School Reform Commissioner Joseph Dworetzky penned a letter to Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn this week, nudging him with questions about the cost of converting two traditional District schools to Renaissance charters. Answers to those questions, Dworetzky says, would make clearer, and more public, information useful in deciding whether to hand management of two North Philadelphia schools over to charter school operators.

The impetus for the letter was comments that Kihn made at a recent education conference, where he expressed frustration (“nobody gets it; the media doesn’t get it") over the misunderstanding of the costs associated with the process of turning management of two elementary schools, Steel and Muñoz-Marin, over to charter operators Mastery and ASPIRA.

I read in an article in the Notebook that you are frustrated that there is a misconception about the $4,000 per student “stranded costs” at the two proposed new Renaissance charters.  The article quotes you as saying the District needs to do a “much better job” of getting the information out to the public.


I have listed below a few questions concerning those reported costs. The answers to these questions could be helpful to the on-going public discussion about the proposed changes at these two schools; perhaps the District could post responses on the District’s website in the section where information on the Renaissance Initiative has been provided historically. 

In the letter, dated April 8, the former SRC member, whose term ended in January, asks seven sets of questions about Renaissance charter costs. They include: how they were calculated, why the estimated costs this year are so much larger than estimates in previous years, what the projected growth in enrollment is, whether attempts have been made at reducing costs, and what the annual, long-term costs of converting these schools are.

According to Raven Hill, a District spokesperson, school officials are aware of the letter and are committed to providing the public with information about the price of charter conversion and expansion. 

"We have described in many forums, including the Notebook, the stranded costs associated with charter school expansion, including Renaissance charter school expansion," she said.

Dworetzky's letter also asks Kihn to post an analysis, similar to last year's, of the projected rising costs from year to year that would result from expanding enrollment at the schools.

"In the case of Steel and Muñoz Marin, we are currently calculating the projected costs based on the recently determined projected school and District costs for [fiscal year 2015], and will make these available when they are completed," said Hill.

Dworetzky's final question asks whether it's responsible behavior for a nearly broke school district to spend additional resources on select schools, considering that the source of the money ends up being the District's other students.   

On Thursday, the state's auditor general, Eugene DePasquale, announced his plans to audit the District. Earlier in the week, City Controller Alan Butkovitz expressed his frustration over the District's culture of secrecy around its finances, calling it " virtually impenetrable."

 

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Comments (63)

Submitted by Lisa Haver on April 11, 2014 5:00 pm
Good questions. Also: what is the reason for doing this at all? Just to make more charters? Under what authority does the district now give schools to private operators without a public hearing process? (They cannot invoke a parent-trigger law which does not exist.) Good to know that Mr. Dworetzky still cares. But he knows how frustrating it is to ask a question of a district official or an SRC member and be met with silence. If he presents these questions at the next SRC meeting, I for one will support his right to be answered.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 14, 2014 9:55 am
My concern is that this is another North Philadelphia school that has been turned into a Mastery Charter School. When do we stop allowing Mastery to take over our schools. Before you know it, all schools in North Philadelphia will be charter. No more public education for the children of North Philadelphia. This take over of schools is not happening in other areas of the city. Why?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 11, 2014 6:01 pm
Joe was the only SRC member with balls.
Submitted by Danny's Voice (not verified) on April 11, 2014 7:35 pm
No he didn't. He put on a great show and then always rubber stamped what was put before him anyway. He only voted no when there was a clear majority voting yes. You never saw him take a strong and vociferous stand on anything. Anyone who can sit idly by and watch this ridiculousness go on and on without standing up and saying this is wrong and has to stop, does not have much fortitude. There are advocates who, every day and every month at SRC meetings, do stand up and question the propriety of what is going on. They are the courageous ones.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 11, 2014 11:45 pm
Bull! How many years did he sit up there, and refuse to answer questions along with the rest of them? How many years did he sit up there and talk a good game and then go right ahead and vote right along with the rest of them to enforce the Governor's agenda? He had his chance to actually DO something, but when push came to shove, he just went right along and voted with the rest them to turn over schools, close schools and work against the Teachers. Mr. Hypocrisy is his name. The nerve of the man!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 12, 2014 12:08 am
He was a Renaissance supporter and a member of the PSP Compact. Now he plays hero. Why can't some people just go away and stay away?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 11, 2014 7:19 pm
Absolutley right Lisa, and the point about having the money to do this is more than valid. This "low scores " thing is annoying because you can't starve the system and expect results (which is exactly what they are doing). Also to draw children into charters then to say the public school doesn't have enough "seats" is such a transparent ruse. Never be afraid to ask or push for something for fear of silence or any other answer. As a matter of fact we as Philly residents demand and deserve an answer. I've asked Dr. Hite and posted the question to newspapers about where my school income tax check is going to be used. I didn't expect an answer but it's a question people should be asking.
Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on April 12, 2014 6:29 am
According to the Newsworks story on April 8, 2014, the test scores for Mastery schools (Cleveland, Clymer) and Aspira school (Stetson) versus Steel and Muñoz-Marín are not very different - Reading: Stetson (ASPIRA) is the lowest - 31.59% proficiency and Clymer (Mastery) is the highest - 40%. Steel is 32% and Munoz-Marin is 33.41%. Math: Scores are lower for Steel (34%) and Munoz-Marin (33%) versus Stetson (51%) and Mastery (46% - 51%) Yes, there is a difference but not impossible to address without taking over the schools. Mastery Cleveland sticks out for no English Language Learners and a much lower percentage of students with an IEP. Yet, its scores in reading 36% - near Steel and Munoz-Marin. Mastery Clymer, based on test scores, appears to be the most successful (highest % of students with an IEP but almost no ELLs.) I don't know about the history of the schools but there is more to the story than test scores. (e.g. I don't know their scores pre Mastery. I don't know school climate, community engagement, etc., etc.) Test scores can not be used to justify the "Renaissance." Obviously, ASPRA and Mastery want these schools because they fit their "feeder patterns." To spend millions on a few schools - while starving other schools - is unethical and immoral. I have experience the starvation as a teacher and parent. It is a slow, painful and preventable death.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on April 12, 2014 8:38 am
That difference in the school scores is not very significant. Such differences can easily be had through test preparation practices. There is a "mythology" about the accuracy of test scores and what they measure. Test scores at their very best are only "approximations" of ability and are not exact yardsticks at all. As you say, the scores of all of those schools is below the mean. That does not denigrate what any of those schools do. Cognitive growth begins at birth, Actually it probably begins in the womb, and grows over time. Any student's test score is a result of many factors including background of experience, ability to concentrate and attend, learning disability, test anxiety, etc. The Pearson tests which I have seen are not very good tests at all, and cannot be given much credence. They are certainly of questionable "validity and reliability." What we need, if we are going to use test scores, is a credible system of student assessment. We do not have that now. The sad thing about all of this is that the scores are not used to improve schools or give them support. They are not diagnostic tests to be used to meet the needs of children.They are only used to justify giving schools to private entities. That is the "test score game" which is insidiously being imposed upon Philadelphians and our nation. It is time for "intellectual honesty" about standardized tests and how they are being misused. Are we in this for private gain or public good?
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on April 12, 2014 8:35 am
Rich, Private Gain.
Submitted by Morrie Peters (not verified) on April 13, 2014 9:19 pm
The SAT and every other national standardized test is a LIMTED snap shot of an individual student on a specific day, in specific environment and at a specific hour. The tests were never meant to be used to compare children, educators or schools. They are as insidious and evil as Arne Duncan and his overlord, Eli Broad. Numbers, as any experienced Hollywood accountant can tell you, can be manipulated to paint on any canvass. Any experienced teacher can tell you that the tests are fecal matter. Each of us is a snowflake;-)
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 13, 2014 11:59 pm
Morrie, I never remember having so many tests when I was a student here and certainly they had the means of identifying standing and progress. They ARE insiduous and are being pushed for reasons other than student standing and even teacher performance. They are a means to an end with a lot of people making money in the meantime.
Submitted by Veteran of the WPHS "Renaissance" (not verified) on April 12, 2014 8:20 am
The district has the power to identify the "losers" and then " dump" them. A rigged game.
Submitted by Louis (not verified) on April 12, 2014 9:53 am
Wasn't Dwqoretzky a big proponent of Renaissance schools when he was on the SRC?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 12, 2014 10:13 am
It is time for "intellectual honesty" about standardized tests and how they are being misused. Are we in this for private gain or public good? >Rich Most educators are intellectually honest, those who are in it for the money are not seriously interested. Good point you made about how these things can be remedied, and would it not be cheaper and more fair to remedy rather than scrap? Of course it would.
Submitted by Headstart teacher (not verified) on April 12, 2014 2:27 pm
The difference is that Mastery and Aspira do not hire PFT members. A way to AGAIN circumvent t the union. This also continues to push the SRC privatization agenda while trying to give parents a say. I call BS on that!! These schools will be turned irregardless of the fact that many, if not most, of the parents do not want their school to be a charter, turnaround, renaissance or whatever the heck you are calling the process today.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on April 12, 2014 3:17 pm
Only if we all accept that answer. The parents need to raise holy hell about having no say because they are citizens and still have rights--not for much longer though if we all just throw up our hands and accept a dictatorship.
Submitted by anon (not verified) on April 12, 2014 8:33 pm
hey come on now. they're having two elections & if the results are split, hite casts the tie-breaker. what could be more fair than that?
Submitted by anon (not verified) on April 12, 2014 11:16 pm
okay, so here's a simple but effective preliminary statement (in lieu of calling a sick out) for the pft to make to express their displeasure with hite & company's attempted end around of our negotiated labor contract and his lack of appreciation for all that we do as teachers. are you listening jerry? effective our first day back from "spring break" let's bring the district to its knees by manufacturing a paper shortage. "gee, i meant to go out and get some this weekend, but just plain forgot." that's right…no one uses copy paper unless it's supplied to us free by the district. no homework, no tests, no i.e.p.s, no nothing. either they are forced to acknowledge our ongoing selfless contribution of basic everyday supplies and their own inability to maintain basic work supplies or they make massive emergency shipments of paper to the schools. either way, we win. what say you all?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 13, 2014 9:43 pm
"irregardless", eh? With teachers like you, it's no wonder Philly schools fail.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 13, 2014 9:41 pm
"Usage note: Irregardless is considered nonstandard because of the two negative elements ir- and -less. It was probably formed on the analogy of such words as irrespective, irrelevant, and irreparable. Those who use it, including on occasion educated speakers, may do so from a desire to add emphasis." http://tinyurl.com/oglfxjt And what is your line of work?
Submitted by Morrie Peters (not verified) on April 14, 2014 8:56 am
Message Board Spelling Nazis (or MBSN for short)...the sure sign of someone with to much time on their hands:)
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 14, 2014 6:08 pm
Sorry, but every time I see in writing or hear in spoken English, the word, "irregardless" I cringe. The word is "regardless". Carry on!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 14, 2014 6:19 pm
Your permission for how others use words is noted. I hope the cringe isn't permanent!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 14, 2014 7:39 pm
It isn't permanent, thank you for your concern. It just tells me that someone was asleep when that lesson was taught. Carry On!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 12, 2014 2:58 pm
I actually like Mr. Dworetzky, but his continued public engagement after his term has expired is both bad for and unprecedented. I'm each of his predecessors had things they could have said, but when you're out, it's over. It also brings attention to the facts that you didn't send your kids to Philadelphia public schools and you don't even live here anymore. Enough.
Submitted by Ken (not verified) on April 12, 2014 11:10 pm
Sylvia Simms clearly the worse SRC member. The fact that anyone would chose her using her qualifications as a "parent" over someone like Helen Gym is a disgrace. She plays the fake parent card to endorse suspending the school code in August, but makes no comments as a "parent" when they eliminate the high school fair in September. Let's also add the lunacy of someone who is not a college graduate on a SCHOOL reform commission.
Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on April 13, 2014 10:21 am

Your comments about Sylvia Sims are offensive.   Why is she "worse" than the professors, lawyers, and college graduates on the SRC who have routinely trampled on public education?    There are plenty of working class parents in this city who don't have advanced degrees but who understand very well what is going on and have been fighting back.   A college degree is quite compatible with supporting injustice.   In the words of the immortal bard Woody Gutherie, "Some will rob you with a six gun, others with a fountain pen." 

Submitted by Ken (not verified) on April 13, 2014 10:05 am
Ron....first I am a big fan of your writing and comments on the Notebook. I teach in the SDP and I want to emphasize I am not trying to be a troll or offend anyone (besides Sylvia Simms). I agree with much of your comment. But I will stick to my guns on these points. A member of the SRC should have a college degree. I will think this till the day I die. Of course there are many smart people out there without advanced degrees (and I don't know that a college degree is "advanced"), but the SRC could have easily found a parent with a college degree. I wonder how many other government commissions have members on them without college degrees. Second....yes, if Sylvia Simms wants to play the parent card (which is her right to play, i will not deny she is an involved parent)...don't play it one way. If she really thinks eliminating seniority issues in the school code is better for the kids (as a parent), then I want to see her attacking issues like the High School Fair cancellation, like the lack of full funding of our schools.....issues that parents understand and actually effect the lives of students on a day to day basis. I am not trying to give everyone else a pass. I just am angry....yes angry!!!....that Sylvia Simms, in my opinion, is using her power as a "parent" to protect herself and her narrow self interests. If she can speak truth to power just once I could give her a little respect.
Submitted by Jimila (not verified) on April 13, 2014 11:57 am
I agree with you, Ken. It is offensive that there is an SRC and even more so that this woman was put on the SRC. What are her qualifications and when has she spoken about anything? She perpetually looks confused and overwhelmed. What is the term for someone who votes how they are told?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 13, 2014 12:27 pm
Jimila, the term you're looking for is any SRC Member
Submitted by Ken (not verified) on April 13, 2014 12:01 pm
Nope disagree.....Bill Green is a lot of things....but confused and overwhelmed he isn't.
Submitted by Ken (not verified) on April 13, 2014 12:36 pm
And her group "Parent Power"....they have been strangely invisible ....i guess a devastating funding crisis isn't enough to get them involved. Also there Facebook page is invite only...which is more than a little odd.
Submitted by Annony (not verified) on April 13, 2014 2:06 pm
"Parent Power" was created by Ackerman. It was the group who "demonstrated "in support of Ackerman with Ackerman's PR staff creating the posters, etc. I have no idea if "Parent Power" actually represented parents or was another tool of Ackerman's PR machine.
Submitted by Anonymous on April 13, 2014 8:20 pm
Parent Power's website looks like it hasn't been updated in two years. Their Facebook page is private, the SDP lists them as a parent organization on its website....it provides a contact number which was answered by a lady with a crying baby in the background who asked for contact info and she would get back to me. There seems to be little evidence parent power has done anything recently.....not even a statement asking for the state to fully fund the schools. Compare that to the repeated activism of TAG, Parents United For Public Education, several Home and School councils, and I'm sure I'm missing many other community groups. How can a parent group stay silent as the state and city continue to underfund the SDP schools? Parent Power members, prove me wrong....if you are reading this can you direct me to any activities you have done in the last year?
Submitted by Jimila (not verified) on April 13, 2014 3:40 pm
Ha. But I cannot, for the life of me, recall the term for someone who serves to vote however they are told to vote by the person who appointed them to a position.
Submitted by Ken (not verified) on April 13, 2014 5:45 pm
Ron.....you have seen my responses and the responses of others. I was wondering if you had any other thoughts.
Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on April 13, 2014 10:49 pm

Ken   I share the view that Sylvia Sims has not been a strong advocate for parents and has largely towed the line of the Corbett-Nutter SRC.  If people want to go after her on these grounds that's fine.  I just don't think she should be targeted because she lacks formal education and comes from a working class background.   While I don't know Sylvia well, I do think she comes out of some history of genuine concern for students and parents.   She is not the first and will not be the last community leader who gets co-opted and manipulated by those in power.   

Submitted by Ken (not verified) on April 13, 2014 11:30 pm
Ron....thanks for replying. I appreciate your response and will agree that some of the comments and name calling of her are uncalled for. And, yes she has been co-opted. My frustration and anger are driven by these thoughts. One....I really had high hopes for Michael Nutter, and to see him nominate Ms. Simms to the SRC, when there were so many other better candidates was so disenchanting. Two....I just can't get over that her credentials are basically getting parents involved...and....as I stated in a previous comment....there is zero evidence of her or her group actually advocating for parents. Her group..Parent Power...seems to be a cipher at this point. Where is her voice as the SDP is slowly being starved of resources. So, it's a little unfair and maybe even irrational...but I give her less leeway than the other SRC members. Or, let me put it this way....we already know Bill Green's agenda....what does Sylvia Simms REALLY believe in.
Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on April 13, 2014 10:26 pm

Ken   I share the view that Sylvia Sims has not been a strong advocate for parents and has largely towed the line of the Corbett-Nutter SRC.  If people want to go after her on these grounds that's fine.  I just don't think she should be targeted because she lacks formal education and comes from a working class background.   Some of the abusive comments here smack of class and race bias.   I don't know Sylvia Sims well but I think she comes out of a history of caring about students and wanting more parent voice in the District.  She is not the first and won't be the last community leader to be used and manipulated by those in power.   By all means let's call her to account but on the basis of the decisions she makes.

 

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on April 14, 2014 10:11 am
I agree with Mr. Whitehorne. Regardless of Ms. Sims strength in advocating for parents, even If you had had a parent with a college degree, he/she would not necessarily have voted in favor of seniority. Speaking of which, someone needs to explain to me how seniority takes patronage out of the equation. Some teachers achieve seniority through patronage. There has to be a more democratic way to minimize this factor. How about you mandate that applicants for a job be given how decision makers voted in the site selection process, and an avenue of redress should they feel they were discriminated against? Assuming all principals are incapable and will use personal criteria to fill vacancies is as bad as assuming all senior teachers are the most capable to fill them. It also ignores the importance of the team, and the uniqueness of openings. The blame for the failure of a team should rest on the manager/principal; If you take his/her ability to create a team away, then you also take some of the responsibility should the team fail to reach its goals. Is it any wonder that teachers are given the blame sometimes? Finally, the last thing you would want on a decision making board is homogeneity of background.
Submitted by Ken (not verified) on April 14, 2014 12:58 pm
"You can achieve seniority through patrons age."?? Please explain. Without seniority any teacher can be let go for any reason (or no reason). So think of a well regarded veteran teacher who ends up not get along with a new principal. The principal decides to lay this person off and his career is over. Why should a teachers job be connected to the whims of a principal? I know it sounds crazy but many principals sadly worry more about having staff that kisses their asses and lives in fear than strong effective teachers.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 14, 2014 12:42 pm
And the other protection seniority provides is it protects veteran teachers from being cut just to cut costs. Without seniority teaching well become a temporary job. There will be no stability in children's education and schools being viewed as a community of caring individuals for the students will be lost.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on April 14, 2014 7:55 pm
Patronage is another word for cronyism, political appointment, nepotism, etc. It's not "patrons age", though the mix up is interesting. So if a few principals operate this way, the way to seniority for some teachers would be to "kiss ass", which means they are senior teachers for the wrong reasons. There's your answer. And why does "due process" only protect the senior teachers? Isn't there something wrong with that?
Submitted by Annony (not verified) on April 14, 2014 7:26 pm
Far too many principals have their job because of who they know - not what they know or have done. Therefore, the assumption that one gets a job because of who they know is entrenched in administration and positions at 440. Due process should protect anyone regardless of years as a teacher. Once someone has tenure, the due process is more entailed.
Submitted by Ken (not verified) on April 14, 2014 7:48 pm
Due process protects all teachers Due process protects teachers from incompetent principals.....which then leads to having strong, veteran teachers.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 14, 2014 8:49 pm
You seem to misunderstand seniority. There are officially no "senior" teachers who have more or less power in the building. Occasionally, a few teachers might become leaders of a sort- academy heads, discipline deans, etc. as you said, this might be for "kissing up" or it might be because they are strong teachers. However, these positions are in no way related to seniority in the sense hat teachers and the SDP mean. That is purely number of years worked, and is used only in a few situations, such as layoffs & recall and voluntary and forced transfers (non-site select). Due process does not protect only senior teachers, it applies equally to any teachers who have been working in the district for more than 3 years with satisfactory ratings. It simply means that there must be a hearing with evidence of wrongdoing to discipline or dismiss. As opposed to a principal who thinks you aren't a good fit, etc.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 13, 2014 8:32 am
There are a handful of schools in the SDoP that are doing extremely well. Penn Alexander, Greenfield, Masterman just to name a few. Why doesn't Hite use these schools as a model for the ones that are under performing in stead of turning them into charters, renaissance, promise, transformations schools? Has there been any evidence that the schools that were turned into Promise and Renaissance schools prove to be more successful? At what point do we hold parents accountable? Shouldn't it be expected for them to participate and send their children prepared for school? Maybe parents need the help more so than the schools.
Submitted by anon (not verified) on April 13, 2014 9:16 am
ummm, because his handler's would be pissed? hite was brought here to shrink the sdp, not grow it.
Submitted by Annony (not verified) on April 13, 2014 4:12 pm
Masterman have very selective admission requirements. SLA, Central, Penn Alexander, Greenfield, Meredith, etc. do not reflect the demographics of many schools. The families are predominantly middle class and have more formal education. The families are able to raise a lot of money for these schools and they do. Just because one school appears to "work" (e.g. test scores) does not mean the same approach, strategies, etc. will work in another school.
Submitted by Paul Socolar on April 13, 2014 6:00 pm

Several comments have been deleted from this post by our editors because the commenters engage in name-calling. Though we allow a tremendous amount of leeway in the comments (as you will see from the comments we did not remove), this forum is not a free-for-all.

Please go to other sites if you want to call people names. Commenters are welcome to put forward any point of view and criticise whomever they please, so long as you are using evidence to make your arguments. Calling someone a cretin, a puppet, or a bobblehead does not advance the conversation about Philadelphia public schools. It is particularly objectionable to use the cloak of anonymity to engage in this kind of name-calling.

As stated below: "By using this service you agree not to post material that is obscene, harassing, defamatory, or otherwise objectionable. We reserve the right to delete or remove any material deemed to be in violation of this rule, and to ban anyone who violates this rule."

Submitted by anon (not verified) on April 14, 2014 1:47 am
this stopped being a civil discussion years ago. this is class warfare at its ugliest and you can lead, follow or get out of the way. these people are public figures and as such are fair play for discussion. one man's objectionable description is another man's colorful adjective. what you see as name calling, others see as calling public servants to task and labeling their all too predictable actions as self-motivated.
Submitted by Morrie Peters (not verified) on April 14, 2014 11:47 am
Amen, anon...while you sit in an office, Paul, we are engaged in hand to hand combat on a daily basis...your publication in its earnest desire to be be fair has entertained the destruction of thousands a lives a year...the fourth estate is broken and the last, best, hope for this country and anyone who yearns to be free is to have a balanced public education. Can anyone out there see the folly and hyprocrisy of Gleason, Hite and Nutter advocating for the poor? Not one of them cares one iota about anything but money and power. The Daily News, the Inquirer and this publication are all managed by pro-Charter (privatization) interests. Public Education is the civil rights issue of our time and if we continue to let it be whored out by people with no experience running a classroom or a building it will be the death knell for this country. The truth is Baby Boomers are scared to die and they do not want to pay their taxes. The rich exploit this.
Submitted by Eileen Duffey (not verified) on April 14, 2014 12:45 pm
Paul, Like you, I am troubled by the the tenor of discourse on this site at times. I have tried to keep my strongly felt opinions at a level that my 89 year old mom would be proud of. In fact, I often share my comments with her. But I am not a bit surprised by the increasing propensity of otherwise civil notebook readers to write comments which in civil society would be deemed offensive. Another canary in the cave we should take note of. Take away citizen's voice, render professionals invisible in the conversation about public schools, remove hard won liberties and protections and expect anger and offensive responses. Look at what has become of our impoverished inner cities. Expect more as workers rights are increasingly stampeded in the current predatory reform efforts. I hope you will consider exercising the broadest understanding of why this is happening and that you will respect my attempt to be honest here.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on April 14, 2014 12:41 pm
I have no idea what Eileen Duffey just said but I'm sure I agree with her. To quote Longshanks against the Scots, " F______'em, send in The Irish."
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 13, 2014 11:20 pm
"Too many people talk about the adults. Too many people worry more about the adults than the students they're supposed to serve," Sylvia Sims. August 2013 What's funny is this comment describes Sylvia Sims actions on the SRC.
Submitted by Ken (not verified) on April 14, 2014 1:29 pm
Parent Power where are you???? A lonely nation turns it's eyes to you. Parent Power....do you even exist at this point???? Parent Power...hello?????
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 14, 2014 5:07 pm
Sylvia Sims works at two places that are lousy and the worst at customer ,or as Hite says,"client" relations . She works at her patronage job at Comcast and then is a member of the SRC. Anyone that had to deal with Comcast and SRC knows both suck at resolving issues. But hey Comcast make billions and has power for their agenda which includes the SDP and union members and pull the strings behind the scene on both fronts-their company interest as well as the District.
Submitted by Helen Gym on April 14, 2014 5:17 pm

I am baffled on the comment stream by the inordinate focus on Sylvia Simms above all others as a failure of the SRC. Wendell Pritchett and Feather Houston have been equally complicit and mostly silent on a host of issues - despite the fact that they have a wealth of information and contacts that they draw upon. 

The most fascinating thing about Mr. Dowretzky's tweet, honestly, is that he calls out Paul Kihn - NOT the SRC or Hite ot Gleason for that matter- for the Renaissance initiative. Kihn is rightly targeted as an architect of Philadelphia's financially reckless and academically contradictory pursuit of reform. We all would be better off focused on those moving these agendas, rather than those who have made themselves irrelevant to them.

Submitted by anon (not verified) on April 14, 2014 10:15 pm
feather houston was appointed by the gov'nor, so her voting pattern offers no surprises. we knew what we were facing there. you are certainly right in calling out wendell pritchett - he has largely been a disappointment, particularly in light of him being an educator from an urban university background. a reasonable person might've expected more nuance and sensitivity from the man than he has demonstrated. i think what grinds people most about nutter's appointment of sylvia simms is that her connections to ackerman, along with her lack of credentials, painted her as a person not to be taken seriously right from the get-go. nor has she shown any leadership qualities since becoming a member of the src. for nutter to appoint such an apparent lightweight to the position was a slap in the face for all who labor in the pits to trying to right this school district.
Submitted by Ken (not verified) on April 15, 2014 11:34 am
Helen is of course right.....and Ron was making the same point...it is the entire SRC that is complicit in what is going on. But sometimes it is helpful to see the trees from the forest (to reverse the idiom). There is value in focusing on individual SRC members. It is important to see that the SRC is so biased that even the unofficial parent voice on the commission is not in touch with what parents are dealing with during this funding crisis. I do think there is value in calling Sylvia Sims out on this. I do wish the news media can focus on the irony of the parent voice not speaking for the parents. I wish the news media can focus that her organization is an astroturf group that has been silent about the funding crisis in our schools (you know, the issue all of the other parent groups are dealing with). This issue really came into focus after Ms. Sims spoke out for suspending the school code in August, claiming (and I am paraphrasing here) it was in the best interests of the students. One could not have expected a more cliched answer. But, then a few days later, when the district announced their would be no high school fair....i thought it was interesting that an activity that EVERYONE agrees is in the best interests of the students was going by the wayside, and yet this parent voice was silent. So, yes I am being repetitive and a little bit obsessed on this :) But there is value in focusing on the individual member of the the SRC AND the concept of the SRC as a whole......give me a 100% locally elected and controlled school board and at least we, the voters can have some accountability!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 18, 2014 7:14 am
A tale of two closed Facebook groups. I attempted to join Parents United for Public Education and within hours I was accepted into the group. I attempted to join Parent Power, it has been a week and I have not yet been accepted. I am a parent of two children in the SDP public schools....but I guess that isn't good enough for Parent Power....or maybe they really are a fake group.
Submitted by tom-104 on April 14, 2014 6:38 pm
It says something about our culture that we are OK with people who have no educational background or training to be in charge of education, the very thing from which they lack credentials. The people in charge think that just because they spent their childhood in school they are an expert about education. Anyone who has not spent part of their life running a classroom really does not know why we have the problems we do in Philadelphia. No law office would tolerate a layperson off the street to run their law practice. No hospital would tolerate someone trained in another field than medicine to administer their hospital. This applies to the entire SRC who have no K-12 classroom experience and people such as Mark Gleason who has no background with education except as a School Board member in north New Jersey for a few years. From this he was brought here by "philanthropists" to undemocratically reorganize the School District for corporate interests. This conversation with Mark Gleason shows just how out of touch he is with Philadelphia's history and the history of the crisis in the School District. HIs perspective on education is typical of our cultures attitude to education. http://tinyurl.com/njqpldt

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