The clock is ticking. We are nearing “Back to School” time in Philadelphia, which means that it’s more urgent than ever to:
- end unabated misfeasance from the School Reform Commission (SRC), an unelected and, so far, an unaccountable body and
- create laser-like focus back on our core Public Schools for all Philadelphians.
Commissioners of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission (SRC) continue making “lawful” decisions, which directly harm children in our public schools. The SRC is ignoring their “duty of care” for those children.
Not One More Year: Clear Misfeasance Deserves Justice
A lawful act performed in wrongful manner. Legal Glossary: The Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania
“…defendant will be liable for misfeasance if the defendant owed a duty of care toward the plaintiff, the defendant breached that duty of care by improperly performing a legal act, and the improper performance resulted in harm to the plaintiff.” West’s Encyclopedia of American Law
SRC Commissioners have created clear and present damage, in a “buffet” of misfeasance: financial, ethical, operational and pedagogical, with no apparent “check or balance” in sight.
A primary financial misfeasance of SRC commissioners has been plundering monies from public schools to approve charter companies. “Lawful”, but “harmful” to the public school student-majority, especially given Philadelphia’s inadequate, “Doomsday”, funding context.
Clearly, SDP revenue is a zero-sum system (SRC Commissioner Neff’s own term). Charter company funding of hundreds of millions of dollars comes directly at the expense of all other students in Philadelphia.
Astonishingly, Commissioner Green claims that state law “prohibits considering financial impact of new charters on public schools when approving charters”. Never mind that the whole purpose for the SRC is to alleviate financial ‘distress’ in the Public Schools. PA School Code Act 46. Never mind the very different legal opinion from the Education Law Center (here). The SRC barges ahead. In the aftermath, a charter school intrusion is a forced upheaval for neighborhood families, not a “choice.” Maybe “legal”; definitely harm-full. When their neighborhood school is closed, the next closest public school is often an inconvenient, unsafe daily expedition for elementary aged school children. “Lawful”, but harmful, and morally wrong action.
Commissioners have been stalling action for months on their own school district analysts’ recommendation to reject charter renewals, including ASPIRA, Inc.. Paul Socolar (with the office of Helen Gym, City Councilperson) notes:
“First the SRC granted Bill Green’s request and delayed its vote (apparently under false pretenses), then the District granted a conflict of interest waiver, all in order to allow Ken Trujillo to testify on behalf of ASPIRA…” Detailed here. “(Then they allowed him to speak way more than the allotted time.) Trujillo works for a law firm that has a contract with the District and so he is not also supposed to represent a charter school.”
SRC ethics, equity and process issues are in the spotlight with ASPIRA, Inc. charters, but they are much the same as Commissioner Sylvia Simms’ involvement with Mastery Charters. More detail in Bill Hangley’s “Sisters of Controversy” here. Simms’ earlier shaming disparagement of Philadelphia’s public school children was “lawful”, but harmful and morally repugnant (click here for detail). Her explicit desire to serve “her babies”, the “ones who look like her” is unprofessional, divisive, and shockingly unethical Maybe “lawful”, but a very wrongful manner.
Commissioner Green is openly combative with the teachers his own district hires, voting to outright cancel their negotiated contract. He publicly made blatantly false claims to parents in a August meeting of the “Parent Congress”, in an unprofessional, disparaging manner (click here for Green’s rant on You Tube video ) regarding teachers’ work ethic, all with no experience in what he speaks of, and without data. If that is not an unethical and counterproductive and wrong manner, I am not sure what is. Maybe legal, but harmful and very short-sighted.
The SRC’s flaunting of Sunshine process laws, now before the court, is yet another example of harmful, moral turpitude. The attitude of arrogant elitists, not public servants.
Meanwhile, the SRC’s misfeasant focus on charters masks their inability to improve the core, public system; the very reason the SRC exists, the core public schools in Philadelphia.
Our public schools are not trauma-informed. The SRC’s decision to underfund trauma-competence in the midst of our epidemic (click here for details ), breaches their duty of care.
The SRC continues to dismiss research and recommendations made years ago by the U.S.Department of Justice (Defending Childhood Report), Surgeon General, and the Centers for Disease Control. Instead, SRC Commissioners cut nurses, counselors and other adult support, while approving only minor other ‘lip service’ resources, in spite of the massive presence and overwhelming power of developmental trauma. A direct route away from trauma-competence. Again, lawful, but short-sighted and harmful.
Students’ developmental trauma should have been front and center, not SRC hijinks.
Be careful not to conflate trauma and poverty. Trauma during development, or ‘childhood trauma’ impacts almost half our children at levels which generate lifelong effects. To start, trauma-impacted children can not equally access their education.
Trauma’s neurological power blocks cognition, and alters social behaviors , thus making “learning” virtually impossible.
The intense, daily deluge of impacts disrupt every classroom: academically, pedagogically and socially(Click HERE for details). Trauma must then be confronted systemically. Instead, it’s the “lawfully” underfunded “elephant in the room.” Harm on top of harm.
Further, Commissioners seem to avoid accountability by closing the most heavily trauma-impacted schools or by converting them to charters, getting them “off the books” (Click here) for the cover-up. Immoral, misfeasant and blocking equal access, a violation of civil rights for tens of thousands of trauma-impacted students.
Developmental trauma is only one of the areas our core public school system has been handled brutally. The broader context is outlined HERE.
While the clock ticks, the list of groups who want change is long, broad and growing. Beyond the Governor, the Mayor and the Council President, recently, Dr. Joan Duvall-Flynn, President, Pennsylvania State NAACP, charged that the SRC
“has clearly demonstrated an incapacity to facilitate a thorough and efficient public education for the children of Philadelphia, and has in fact, destabilized the entire system.”
How do we restore accountability for quality public education for all Philadelphians?
Individual commissioners can be removed according to PA School Code Act 83, Section 696(for “distressed districts”) Part a.a.b.2:
The Governor may, upon proof by clear and convincing evidence of malfeasance or misfeasance in office, remove a commission member prior to the expiration of the term.
Of course, new commissioners might then be appointed. The new commissioners would hopefully be open to local accountability via a declaration to dissolve the SRC, seemingly the only way to slay the SRC. PA School Code Act 83, Section 696 Part N.
Philadelphia’s children await Justice:
Remove misfeasant SRC Commissioners. Stop the mis-focused, misfeasant bloodbath from charter approvals. Restore local control of our district. Identify leaders, student-centered, education-based leaders who are in the practice of building up people and systems, ethically, with knowledge of what they speak, without harm, in a right manner.
Move the focus back to the core, public schools for all Philadephia’s children, where it has rightly belonged, all along. It’s shocking that we still have an SRC commissioner who works for the idea of “my babies“, versus Public education for all. Our leaders must be focused like a laser on the core public system and the public good.