Check out what happened at the last school board meeting!
(Note: Not everything discussed at the meeting is outlined below; there may be important action items that were not covered here.)
During the most recent board meeting, the board voted on a Student Voter Registration proposal supported by PA Youth Vote which passed unanimously. Many students, community members, and teachers spoke out in support of the bill. Students speakers included student board representative Rebbecca Allen, Ibtithal Gassem (17, Central, 11th), and Jamion Washington (Parkway NW). Laura Brill, the director of national organization The Civics Center, called this policy “potentially transformative” and an example for other districts around the country.
Some students, parents and staff asked the district to get rid of the vaccine mandate for athletes wanting to participate in spring sports. At the moment, spring athletes must be vaccinated by March 1. Other parents asked for masks mandates to be lifted because according to Jennifer Rando (a parent), “the harm from these restrictions now outweigh the benefits”. Superintendent Hite responded that he is in conversation with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and the district may be moving towards relaxing restrictions. To see the SDP current covid plans go to: https://www.philasd.org/coronavirus/
The Sayre High School community has requested funding for a pool; the funding was denied before this meeting. Sen. Williams spoke out about this decision, arguing that this pool can save lives and represents the communities’ wants. Dana Carter, member of Parents Organized for a Better School District of Philadelphia and Racial Justice Organizing Committee, advocated for support for Sayre pool because of the direct correlation between access to sports and graduation rates. In response, board member Lisa Salley said rejection of the pool was not a “no”, but a “no, not right now”.
In an update on the School Funding Trial - Gov. Wolf has proposed budget increases for PhlED and other districts. To learn more about the fair funding trial check out UrbEd’s guide at: https://assets-global.website-files.com/60ccb2e472fa32ca092cb514/61f89108ccd1ecccf1ce6eac_FairFundingTrial%5BFinal%5D.pdf or urbedadvocates.org
Parent Aruni Kayatilleke spoke about being horrified at an Inquirer article stating lead in school water. Superintendent Hite responded that school requirements are more stringent than city requirements and that this district is regularly testing water and adding hydration stations.
Current Senior at Palumbo, Michell Tlapaya Flores, spoke about poor building conditions over her four years. When Michell was a freshman the roof fell at Palumbo. Another speaker, parent Tanya Walker, spoke about Robeson High School conditions - hot buildings with no ventilation. Board voted on and approved 12 million renovations for Meehan as a swing space for other schools including North East high school.
The district is facing a major staffing and attendance issue. Teachers quitting mid-year (between December and February) is up roughly 200% from last year. Nursing staffing levels are again low even with the 32 new hires. Due to these issues, the district is considering partnerships with paraprofessionals to help more people become teachers. Chief Talent Officer Larisa Shambaugh cited high hiring wages and resignations creating a very competitive market. COVID has also made teacher attendance a major issue in some schools.
On a more positive note, schools will now get two counselors if they have more than 650 students rather than 800 students.
Board Vice President Leticia Egea-Hinton announced that the district is making significant progress with the superintendent search and is on track for a March announcement of finalists. To see updates visit: https://www.philasd.org/schoolboard/search/
The district is holding focus groups on 2/28 for academic calendar creation.
Data and information coming soon about this year’s admissions processes.
State board upheld the decision to not renew Aspira, Onley, and Stetson charters.