The new Philadelphia Board of Education on Monday announced its first public session, and it wants to meet you.
The much-heralded nine-member board will take the reins of the Philadelphia School District July 1, after the School Reform Commission officially dissolves.
Members will elect officers, offer remarks, and appoint committees and committee chairs at the board’s first meeting, scheduled for 5 p.m. July 9 at School District headquarters, 440 N. Broad St.
Immediately after the meeting, board members Julia Danzy, Leticia Egea-Hinton, Mallory Fix Lopez, Lee Huang, Maria McColgan, Christopher McGinley, Angela McIver, Wayne Walker, and Joyce Wilkerson will hold a meet-and-greet with the public.
Those who wish to speak at the meeting should register by calling 215-400-4180 by 10 a.m. that day.
The board soon will accept applications for a nonvoting student representative and an alternate student representative. Applications for the student seats will open July 1.
Members of the public provided a taste of what they expect from the new school board in a citywide listening session this spring. The Mayor’s Office of Education released a 100-page report outlining the highlights Monday.
Among the major themes: People want to turn the page after the SRC and its “defensive, opaque way of conducting its business and relating to the public”; they want schools that are more “welcoming and respectful” to parents; they want better services for immigrant families.
The report said respondents during the listening sessions told the board that “crumbling and unhealthy school buildings are unacceptable, demoralizing to students and staff, and pose urgent health and learning risks.”
Charters were a major topic of discussion, but there was little consensus about them. “Many voices slammed charters as emblematic of a ‘corporatization and privatization’ of public schools that they find disturbing. Other voices praised what charters have done for their own children and to their sense of having choices as parents.”
People were united, too, in the sense that the state of resources in the schools is unacceptable. There was frustration over inequities between city and suburban schools, and what people saw as “inequitable distribution of resources among district schools.”
Special education parents spoke powerfully, the report said, about having a difficult time securing appropriate services for their children. Often, they said, “the problem wasn’t that no services were available, but that parents or guardians lacked the right map to navigate a maze of rules and terminology.”
The issue of board accountability also came up repeatedly, according to the Mayor’s Office. People want the board, the report said, “to be clear about what decisions were made, when they were really made, who made them, how public input was used, who is responsible for executing the decisions, and how success will be measured and evaluated.”