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Lisa Haver, parent activist in Philadelphia, was thrilled when the state relinquished control of the school board in 2018. Now Philadelphia has mayoral control of its schools. Haver soon discovered that the appointed school board is not interested in parent engagement and shuts parent voices down.
She wrote in The Philadelphia Inquirer:
Just weeks into the new school year, Philadelphia school communities find themselves already dealing with chaos. Parents, students, and school staff, many navigating toxic flood waters after a devastating storm, were not notified of the district’s decision to open schools late until two hours after the first bell.
Students at several district schools had to avoid mountains of trash left in schoolyardson their first day back.
The district has revised bell schedules and school calendars with a stunning disregard for the needs of parents.
In June, when the Inquirer Editorial Board asked City Councilmembers what their priorities would be for their 2021-22 session, education was barely mentioned — not even by the Chair of Council’s Education Committee.
Another recent editorial lamented the erosion of trust between Councilmembers’ constituents and city institutions including those between the school community and the Board of Education that “have been exacerbated during the pandemic which Council could ameliorate by finding ways to navigate and, hopefully, reduce.”
But that doesn’t seem to be a concern for councilmembers. Some have joined protests at schools where teachers refused to enter toxic buildings. But other than one letter signed by a handful of councilmembers sent last February, Council has been largely silent on the silencing of their constituents by the board.
Haver points out that neither Superintendent William Hite nor his staff was held accountable for the fiasco at Benjamin Franklin High School, when two schools merged. Construction costs soared from $10 million to over $50 million. Students and staff were forced to endure an unsafe learning environment while construction proceeded. Accountability for multiple failures? None.
Nor did anyone on the board respond when the district’s principals endorsed a vote of no confidence in Superintendent Hite for his lack of leadership during the pandemic.
Mayoral control enables the silencing of parent voices.