This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
At its December meetings, the School Reform Commission:
- Heard testimony from nearly two dozen students and parents about the violence experienced by Asian students at South Philadelphia High School. The auditorium was packed with students holding signs expressing the urgent need for a safe school environment and how they felt the District let them down. In remarks to recognize National Inclusive Schools Week, Superintendent Arlene Ackerman made note of several initiatives that would take place to help foster safer learning environments for the District’s students, including extra police patrols around the school, more security officers, a new “Task Force for Racial and Cultural Harmony,” adoption of the Department of Justice SPIRIT Program, and new office of diversity, led by Theos McKinney.
- Adopted a revised $2.4 billion operating budget for the current fiscal year, reflecting the fact that the District received $182 million less in state aid than originally budgeted. The gap was closed in part by $45 million in other revenue increases, but also by a range of spending reductions, including cuts to planned implementation of new computer systems, a paring back of other Imagine 2014 initiatives, reductions in utility costs, and cuts in special education spending through mainstreaming of students. Counting categorical expenses, the unified budget for 2009-10 is $3.1 billion.
- Approved extensions to four of its collective bargaining agreements – with teachers and maintenance workers through January 15, 2010 and with principals and school police through January 31, 2010.
- Approved contracts totaling $10.6 million with 13 agencies to provide school-based behavioral support services between January and June, with coordination provided by the Philadelphia Mental Health Care Corporation.
- Voted to approve 22 proposed student expulsions. The Commission voted not to expel three other students, and one student threatened with expulsion withdrew from the District voluntarily.
- Heard testimony from a parent at Jackson Elementary who said that District staff had tried to intimidate her from testifying to the SRC when she signed up to speak about issues facing English language learners at her school.