This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Mayor Nutter’s annual Education Week, marking the opening days of school in Philadelphia, will have a couple of new twists this year.
The mayor’s activities will continue into a second week, city officials said, as Nutter plans to be in Harrisburg starting on Sept. 15 in an effort to ensure that the state legislature promptly approves the proposed Philadelphia-only cigarette tax increase upon its return from summer recess. The District is counting on $49 million from the tax this school year in order to avert further layoffs.
In another addition to the usual back-to-school activities, the mayor will go to a charter school board meeting on Sept. 10 to encourage other members of the public to do the same.
“He’s going to be using his right as a citizen to attend a charter board meeting,” said Lori Shorr, the mayor’s chief education officer. “Parents of charter school students should be going to charter board of trustee meetings.”
The mayor will attend a 6 p.m. meeting of the board of trustees at Independence Charter School.
Shorr said the mayor hopes to bring about more openness and “public accountability” for charter boards.
Often, charter schools provide little public information about their board meetings, which are open to the public and covered by the provisions of the state Sunshine Act. In Philadelphia, many do not post meeting schedules on their websites and the vast majority do not post minutes of their meetings, the Notebook found in a review of more than 30 charter school websites.
Independence Charter does devote a substantial section of its website to information about its board of trustees – including minutes of meetings – but the schedule of board meetings for the new year was not posted yet when the Notebook checked the school website on Friday.
Shorr noted that the city’s Education Week this year includes a mix of advocacy and celebratory activities.
“We have a backdrop of economic and fiscal crisis,” she said. “It’s challenging to set a celebratory tone for the beginning of the year.”
Activities planned by the mayor for the first day of school on Monday include:
- A back-to-school march in West Philadelphia, starting at the House of Umoja.
- A visit to the LINC, one of three innovative, small high schools in North Philadelphia opening this fall, where Superintendent William Hite will be ringing in the new school year.
- A midday “listening tour” with students at Swenson High School in the Northeast.
- A press conference at 1 p.m. with an update on the Philadelphia Education Supplies Fund, which was launched last year by the city to help financially struggling schools with basics like paper.
Nutter has conducted a week of education-related activities during the first week of school since his first year in office.