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Steel parents file grievance against SAC charter vote

Update: A second Steel School Advisory Council member filed a complaint with the charter office, but the complaint was allegedly dismissed because it came after the 8 a.m. deadline. The SAC member Giavoni Gethers forwarded her complaint, a serious one, which is posted below.

Yesterday almost 200 families voted in the first ever parent vote about whether to turn the last public school in Nicetown over to charter operator, Mastery Charter, which is seeking to complete the first K-12 “Charter Achievement Network” in Philadelphia. At stake is $6 million for Mastery, despite the fact the District spends just $3.9 million for the school with the same number of students. The District dropped the announcement on the Steel community on April 1. It reconstituted an existing School Advisory Council solely for the charter takeover vote, and then disqualified more than 80% of the applicants for breaking some rules while selectively approving for vote other applicants who broke other rules. This statement comes from members of the Steel School Advisory Council about a grievance filed today against the charter office with regard to the SAC vote.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 2, 2014

Steel parents to file grievance on SAC voting process:

80% of parent applicants disqualified by charter office day of the vote

Statement by Kendra Brooks, Marie Otch,, Nikki Bagby, Diana Koch, Donna Savage – Steel School Advisory Council members:

Since the beginning of this month, parents have raised constant concerns about a botched process around the Renaissance charter takeover of Steel School.

We have stated constantly that the charter office is making up the rules as it goes and breaking them whenever it feels like it. Parents have not had full transparency on this process and we do not trust the Charter Office which has done all it can to make this process as difficult and punishing for parents as possible.

We are an active and engaged community with an existing School Advisory Council. We stand for our children and our school and our community. That is why we filed a grievance this morning with the District charter office.

The charter office has chosen to make up rules and selectively enforce them. They disqualified more than 80% of SAC parents for not following some rules, then approved other parents who also broke the rules. They disqualified these parents on the night of the vote despite our request that parents be informed of their status earlier. They made up a requirement to have long-time involved parents attend four different sessions in a 13-day period in order to vote. A major disqualifier was the failure to attend a Mastery tour, even for parents who were parents of Mastery students. This was a significant hardship for some parents, and it made other parents feel like the process was biased.

The charter office has refused to answer questions, and has not been truthful or held to the commitments of many of the questions it does answer.

We are asking the School District of Philadelphia to review these procedures and come to a quick and timely resolution. We do NOT want this process dragged on any further. However, we cannot have so many active parent voices be disqualified while others are approved at the whim of a charter office that has lost the faith of this community.

The SAC will remain vigilant about our school, this process and our voice.

Thank you.

**************************************************************************************************

May 2, 2014.

Giavoni Gethers

Student [sic] Advisory Council Member for Edward Steel School

Philadelphia, PA

RE: Breach of Ethical Practices during the Vote on May 1, 2014 at Edward Steel School by School District Employee Peng Chao.

To Whom It May Concern,

Good afternoon to all my constituents; School District of Philadelphia, S.R.C., Mayor Nutter, Superintendent Dr. William Hite, District Superintendent Ben Wright, Principal  Mary Bonner, State Senator Representative Shirley Kitchen, State Representative Rosita Youngblood,  Helen Gym of Parents United,  Kendra Brooks and the Media. I would like to formally make a complaint for Breach of Ethics on Mr. Peng Chao the Operations Coordinator for Renaissance School Liaison for the School District of Philadelphia. He is accused of throwing the Student Advisory Committee (SAC) of Edward Steel Elementary Recommendation Vote on May 1, 2014.

On Thursday May 1, 2014, Mr. Chao was in charge of the voting process, along with Kendra Brooks, of Edward Steel Elementary School on 4901 [sic] Wayne Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At 6 p.m. all of the SAC members were to meet at the school to vote of the recommendation of leaving this school to the School District of Philadelphia or to allow Mastery Charter to take over the school. Mr. Chao had Barbie Dozier, a fellow SAC member, call Ms. Bolt and Ms. Butler (SAC members) on the phone during our voting process to come cast their ballots. Ms. Dozier repeatedly called these two women to come cast their ballots. Both women are known Mastery Charter supporters and their two votes threw the SAC recommendation vote in Mastery’s favor. Mr. Chao even went as far as having Mrs. Bonner, Edward Steel Principal, call these two ladies names over the P.A. system so they can come and vote. They both showed up to vote at approximately 7 p.m.

Mr. Chao had all the SAC members sign a confidentiality form and expressed that we could not speak of the 9 to 8 (in favor of Mastery) vote until after 8 a.m. on May 2, 2014. Yet, all of the Mastery supporters upon leaving the room went over to the Mastery Charter tents that were set up outside of Edward Steel School to disclose the vote results. This is also a Breach of the Contract of Confidentiality that we all had to sign and their violation of such contract should also be investigated.

When I went to file the grievance after 8 a.m. I was told I was not allowed to because the 8 a.m. deadline had passed. Yet we all signed a contract stating we are not supposed to discuss the vote to anyone until after 8 a.m. on May 2, 2014 when the parents vote would be released. Since, this was legally binding contract and I did not want the threat of being sued and I complied only to realize it was intentionally gagged so no one within the SAC would file a grievance until after they were no longer valid.

Mr. Peng Chao was to be a Neutral Party throughout this process but he displayed Unethical Behavior and Practices as well as a Breach of the School District of Philadelphia Employee Code of Ethics that must be investigated.  By holding the vote, having members call other members who was not present at the time to come and cast their ballot as well as turning away SAC members that met the SAC membership requirements just to permit them from voting is unethical and unjust. As a fellow SAC member the voting process should be Unbiased and Fair and no one with a Conflict of Interest should have the capability to make a vote go in their favor. Thank you all for your time.

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