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Board of Education to hold virtual committee meeting and a budget hearing this week

Up to 15 members of the public will be permitted to join each meeting via Zoom. An unlimited number can submit written testimony.

The Philadelphia Board of Education meeting on March 26, as seen on television. Seated (from left) were board member Julia Danzy, Board President Joyce Wilkerson, Superintendent William Hite, and board member Christopher McGinley. An American Sign Language interpreter is standing in the back (right).

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

UPDATE: The Board now says that, at the budget hearing, as many speakers as can be accommodated by 4:45 will be allowed to speak. (The budget hearing will start at 3 p.m. with a presentation by Chief Financial Officer Uri Monson, so more than 30 minutes might be available for live testimony.) At the joint committee meeting, 30 minutes will be allotted for speakers. All speakers at both sessions are asked to limit remarks to 2 minutes.

The Board of Education will hold one joint meeting for its Finance & Facilities and Student Achievement & Support committees on Thursday, April 23, beginning at 5 p.m. Prior to that meeting, a budget hearing will be held at 3 p.m.

Fifteen slots will be available at each meeting for members of the public to join via the videoconferencing app Zoom. An unlimited number can submit written testimony, which will be summarized and read by board members, according to a board press release.

People who wish to speak at the budget hearing must register by 3 p.m. Wednesday, April 22, by submitting a form found here, emailing schoolboard@philasd.org, or leaving a voicemail at 215-400-5959.

People who wish to speak at the committee meeting must register by 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 22, by submitting a form found here, or emailing, or leaving a voicemail as above.

Written testimony for both meetings will be accepted through the email and voicemail until 5 p.m. Wednesday.

The meeting will be livestreamed to the public at https://www.philasd.org/schoolboard/action-meetings/live-stream and on Comcast Channel 52 and Verizon FIOS Channel 20. It also will be recorded and posted later on the District’s website.

At the budget hearing, Chief Finance Officer Uri Monson will provide an update on the District’s fiscal position and how it has been affected by the loss of revenue from both the city and the state due to the pandemic. Under the CARES Act, the District is also due for federal aid of at least $116 million, based on the amount coming to Pennsylvania that is due to be distributed under the Title I formula.

But it is unknown whether that or any other forthcoming federal money would be enough to offset the potential losses.

The agenda at the joint committee meeting includes a discussion of the Charter Schools Office’s recommendations on whether to renew several charters. It also will vote on a proposal to relocate Laboratory Charter to East Falls; the neighborhood opposed a similar proposal last year.

“Knowing how essential public participation in board meetings is, the board is trying out Zoom meetings, which allows us to comply with public health guidelines and to simultaneously give community members an opportunity to communicate in real time during meetings,” said Board President Joyce Wilkerson. “We appreciate the support of our families and communities, as we find new ways to conduct the essential business of the School District in these challenging times.”

Two board members, Mallory Fix-Lopez and Julia Danzy, have written an op-ed urging public participation, which is available here.

More information is at https://www.philasd.org/schoolboard/.

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