The Aftermath: Time for an Emergency Procedure policy

This past May, there was a horrific bus accident involving eighth grade students, staff and parents of Charles W. Henry Elementary school. All 30 passengers and driver were injured when a car collided with the charter bus and eventually overturned on I-95.

It is understood that this was indeed an accident. However, everything that is done in the aftermath has to be intentional.

It was immediately noticed that the district did not have a plan to proceed with this type of emergency. Though a crisis team was sent to the school by the district, it was clear that there were minimal questions that would be answered. Parents and community members were roughly handled by this team, leaving most people extremely frustrated. Once the immediate effects of the accident had cleared, parents were faced with continued inability to get necessary information from the school administration, district administration, vehicle insurers, etc.

“While the immediate response of getting passengers triaged was difficult, once the dust settled the next day there was no word on how the PSD was going to help parents move forward with post accident support.” Linda Gordy, grandparent of former 8th grade Henry student 

It is understandable that there is a legal need to maintain a level of control at the school and district level. However, everything was flipped for students and their parents who now had broken bones, head and spinal injuries, laceration, and emotional trauma. Information was needed to assure than children would be able to continue medical, surgical, and psychological follow ups. Many children were unable to return to school due to lack of accessibility. It took 3 weeks for children to regain access to their education at home. When parents tried to figure out what the procedures are for their questions, they realized that Philadelphia school district has no emergency procedure policy for field trips. They were left to call one department after another to try to find someone who could accurately answer their questions and address their concerns. Many found it extremely difficult to navigate the system at 440 and resorted to obtaining their own legal assistance.

After the May 15th accident, parents were stressed with the primary concern being the well-being of their children; helping them walk, helping them remember, helping them feel safe.  The district made it clear that they could not provide legal advice, but they were unclear on what they could provide.  Parents should not have had to ask for accident reports, insurance, & driver info,  The school’s answer to “how will my child receive instruction when they can’t access the building?” shouldn’t be – “We’ll figure it out.”” Stephanie Clark, parent of former 8th grade student

In addition, it was extremely difficult to gain answers to how any existing safety plan information (Policy 705) would be accurately and comprehensively communicated to parents and guardians. We are still unclear of how safety information would be exchanged with students who have little to no verbal ability.

“Ms. Burns stated that the district has shared ownership with principals for implementing the safety policy.  In response to a parent’s question as to how information will be given to non-verbal students or students in need of other learning supports, Dr. Kolsky stated that the school safety team would be involved and that the information would be documented at the school level and kept in a safety binder as well as being discussed at Back to School Night.  I agree that these should be the proper protocols but what if that doesn’t happen at the school level?  How would you, the SRC, know based on these upper level administration responses whether parents have truly been informed?” Jennifer Aiello, parent of Henry students

At this time, there is still no policy in place or actively developed to ensure that the many mistakes made during the aftermath of this accident are not repeated.

Since May, parents have been testifying before the SRC to highlight the need of such a policy.

Linda Gordy,  (Grandmother of former 8th grade Henry student) testimony May 2017 : I-95 Bus Accident Lessons Learned May

Stephanie Clark (Mother of former 8th grade Henry student) testimony May and July 2017: SRC Board Meeting – 20170706

Jenny Aiello (Parent, Henry students) testimony:  June 2017 SRC comments June 15 2017

Robin Roberts (Parent, former 6th grade Henry student) testimony: July 2017 Emergency Procedure Policy testimony july 6

We are working with parents and community members to help the district develop an emergency procedure policy for field trips.

It is important that this policy incorporates:

  • A current contact list of the departments, point person, email addresses, and telephone numbers.
  • District sponsored services – like enhanced counseling or school based therapy services for students involved: duration, scope, and follow-up.
  • Documentation needed for children to return to class and school. Including an explanation of why this information in required.
  •  Plan to getting children back to education.
  • Use of alternate bus companies when an injury causing accident occurs.
  • Parent Involvement in selecting preferred supplier esp. for charter companies.

It is imperative to develop an emergency procedure policy for field trips.

“The children, staff, and parents have suffered through a catastrophic accident. Regardless, everything that happened after that had to be deliberate and purposeful. Corrective measures are necessary. If not, what child are you willing to offer up next time.” Robin Roberts, parent of former 6th grade Henry Student.


Philadelphia’s children need better access to breakfast.


SRC Testimony given April 27, 2017 – Access to Breakfast

Good Afternoon, I am here on behalf of Parents United for Public Education to speak in support of Access to Breakfast.

Of course, we do not agree with current White House administration who has stated there were not outcomes to defend free and reduced lunch programs in our nation’s schools.  The evidence is overwhelming that these programs work as designed. We only need to speak with teachers who know firsthand that hungry children cannot learn. We can positively affect the possibility of increased education ensuring that our children start their day with access to high quality breakfast programs in school.

Addressing hunger in our schools has been linked with improved academic outcomes, better diets, lower rates of student obesity, fewer visits to the nurse, decreased tardiness and absenteeism, and disciplinary problem.Image result for cartoon school breakfast

2015-16, in the place with the highest level poverty and deep poverty among large cities, Philadelphia’s schools feeds breakfast to 38 low income children for every 100 participating children (38%). The goal set by Food Action and Action Center is 70%. Nationally, districts that are exceeding the standards utilize the most effective strategies:

  • offering breakfast “after the bell” – having breakfast in the classroom during morning announcements, while attendance is being taken.
  • Grab and Go breakfast carts allowing students to eat on their way to class
  • Second chance breakfast –give students the option for a healthy breakfast offered after homeroom or 1st period when a student may not have been hungry.

There are several obstacles to participating in free breakfast programs including late buses, long morning commutes, tight family budgets, and stigma of those who get the “free food”.  Within our schools, there is a disconnection between the policy and practice of how access to breakfast occurs – and children suffer.  Children have to get to school early and may not have the ability to do.  In Philadelphia school district, it has not been clear that late arriving students have the opportunities to access and eat their school breakfast. That decision is left to the principals. It would be helpful for clear direction from district administration to ensure that all who would benefit from access to breakfast are able to. By incorporating breakfast in the school day, the stigma of “those free food” kids will be vastly reduced making it clear that all students wImage result for cartoon school breakfastould benefit from a high quality breakfast to get ready to learn.

39 Philadelphia schools are meeting or exceeding the 70% goal. A lot can be learned from the best practices set by school communities like Hackett, Muniz -Marin, Lawton, and Duckrey.

If the School District of Philadelphia was able to achieve the breakfast goal of 70 low income children fed for 100 children participating (70%), the district would benefit from over $2.5 million in additional federal funding. This is money that could be spent to preserve the Eat Right Now program and maintain the 10 dedicated knowledgeable nutrition educators. Or, it could help settle a fair and equitable teacher contract. How about that?

We are asking district administration to align policy and practice with increased diligence in prioritizing that Philadelphia’s school children are able to access breakfast and lunch programs.

Thank you,

Dr. Robin Roberts, PT DPT, MBA

Parents United for Public Education

Also see the research by Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) on school breakfast after the bell.



Addendum: Dr. William Hite asked for any information about school children who have not been able to access their breakfast. Please send him an email at: 


Parent Summit 2017 “We Are Not Turning Back-Education is a Right”

Mark your calendars….

Saturday, April 29, 2017 9:30-4pm
Saint Joseph’s University
5600 City Ave, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19131

Register here for our 2nd Annual Parent Summit, a day of UNITY and Education. This summit is designed to empower family leadership in schools, unite families around the city and educate families on key education issues in Philadelphia and around the country.  Don’t miss out!

“A united voice has much more volume. It is going to take a city of united parents to tear down a broken establishment and rebuild for the sake of our kids. Simply put, we must get informed, get involved, get together and fight for our rights.” Tonayia Coffer

“Parents raising their collective voice show that we are active and engaged in the high quality education we demand for our children. Strong, educated, parent voice forces open secret deals and lights the dark intentions of corporate education reforms. We are here, we are fighting, we are not giving up on the excellent public education Philadelphia’s students deserve.” Robin Roberts

“Philadelphia children deserve a fully funded and fair education. Parents will not stop fighting until we have one!” Shakeda Gaines

“The voices of parents have always been important. But many times the powers that be try and silence parents into complicity with fear mongering and intimidation. When a collective voice is shouting with support from other parents, that is a powerful force against harmful reforms, tactics, and attacks.” Tamara Anderson


Voices of the People: Our Vision for Our Children, Our City, and the Future of Public Education

On May 21st, 2016, a group of Philadelphians concerned about the education of our city’s children gathered to envision a better present and future for our communities. Parents, family members, community members, educators, organizers, activists, citizens– no matter the titles we attached to our roles and identities within the schools and communities of our city, each of us was committed to sharing our visions for what education could and should be in the City of Sisterly and Brotherly Love. This document is a product of the sharing of our visions, and the cumulative drive and commitment that fuel them.

We came together due to the many levels of injustice and negligence we observe in our school system. We came together due to our frustration that parents are neither listened to nor heard (and if we don’t act, who will?). We came together to create connections across the School District of Philadelphia and beyond. We came together because we are committed to being a voice for all children. We are a progressive group of individuals who plan to drive positive change through innovative solutions in K12 education.

The educational experience and environment we envision for our children is diverse, dynamic, and democratic. We want our schools and school system to honor children as full human beings. We want schools that honor and support the experiences of our children, including true respect for and understanding of the need for trauma-informed and culturally relevant teaching and learning. We want schools that respect different learning styles and foster inter-generational learning relationships and environments. We want our schools to provide more humane and flexible learning opportunities that include art, music, dance, theatre, athletics, civic engagement, practical life skills, and career and technical education. We want every school to provide our children with functioning libraries (with librarians!), green outdoor space, structured, activity based recess, updated English language learner (ELL) curricula, and access to fresh, healthy food. We want every school to engage in and support meaningful parental involvement and engagement. We want class sizes that allow for more attention for our children from teachers and other educators (ideally no more than 22 students per class). We want our children to be able to attend school without fear of violence. We want our children’s social and emotional development to be nurtured by a learning environment and school culture committed to mutual respect, restorative justice, and the principles of cooperation and collectivity. We want our children’s creativity and critical thinking to be nurtured, and their intelligence to be inspired in an atmosphere of empowerment and freedom.

Our individual and collective commitments to make this vision a reality is at once diverse and united. We are committed to making change in our schools. We are committed to using our contagious passion and persistence to bring more parents into our movement, to develop clear plans for common goals, and to bridge the gaps between parents and educators. We know our rights as parents and we will push for them. We hear the voices of the youth, and we will listen to them as we fight alongside them. And throughout, we will be vigilant and prepared to address and resist decisions that impact us but don’t include us: “nothing about us without us.”

We will continue to connect with, learn from, and empower each other. We will always speak for, listen to, and advocate on behalf of our children. We will keep pushing. We will never give up. We will continue the work of creating a better life for our children and our communities.

After the election – Welcome to our new future :(

We wish we could provide a more insightful blob post, but there are already great investigative works out there. Please take some time to inform yourself on the latest Secretary of Education appointment. Public education is incredibly important to our republic. We do need to fight for it more than we think we should have to.

From Education Voters:

5 reasons why Trump pick Betsy DeVos is wrong for Secretary of Education


By Amanda Litvinov


Don’t miss out on the education, legislative and political news you can only get with EdVotes. CLICK HERE ›

Last week, President-elect Donald Trump nominated as Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, a billionaire and conservative mega-donor who has no classroom experience, and whose work in public education consists mainly of efforts to privatize it.

“In Michigan, we know firsthand how disastrous DeVos’s ideology is, as she has spent decades wielding her family’s money and influence to destroy public education and turn our schools and students over to for-profit corporations,” said Michigan Education Association President Steven Cook, who served as a paraprofessional in Lansing Public Schools for 15 years.

Elementary school teacher and NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia said DeVos’s work “has done more to undermine public education than support students. She has lobbied for failed schemes, like vouchers — which take away funding and local control from our public schools — to fund private schools at taxpayers’ expense. These schemes do nothing to help our most-vulnerable students while they ignore or exacerbate glaring opportunity gaps.”

Here are just five of the reasons why Betsy DeVos should never serve as the Secretary of Education:

1. Betsy DeVos has no training or experience in education.

She has never worked in a school in any capacity, and does not hold a degree in education (nor did she or her children ever attend a public school).

2. Like Donald Trump, DeVos is an ardent supporter of “school choice” privatization schemes, despite a complete lack of evidence that privatizing public schools produces better education.

In Michigan, Betsy and husband Dick DeVos have pushed for decades for so-called “choice” schemes and corporate charter schools, most of which have performed worse than the state average. They are long-time Republican party donors who support pro “school choice” candidates, and Betsy DeVos has served on the boards of two major groups leading the charge to privatize public schools.

Share this graphic.

3. DeVos has invested millions lobbying for laws that drain resources from public schools.

In 2000, Michigan voters rejected a massive effort led by Betsy and Dick DeVos to change the state’s constitution to allow private school voucher schemes that siphon money away from public schools. But Betsy DeVos has promoted these measures as chair of the American Federation for Children, and the DeVos family has spent millions to push for the expansion of vouchers in other states.

4. DeVos has fought against the regulation of charter schools.

The DeVos family gave nearly $1 million to GOP lawmakers in the Michigan legislature who gutted a bill that included accountability measures for charter schools in Detroit. Those charters will not be subject to the same oversight or regulation as public schools, even though they are funded with taxpayer money, thanks largely to the DeVos family.

5. Betsy DeVos is not a good fit for a position overseeing the civil rights of all students.

Donald Trump’s nomination of DeVos is deeply concerning to many civil rights groups, because school choice schemes promote racial segregation and undercut civil rights enforcement that is routine in public schools. Corporate charter schools have higher than average teacher turnover and closure rates, which disproportionately affect students of color and low-income families.

The DeVos family’s support for anti-LGBT causes is well-documented. Since 1998, the DeVos family has given more than $6.7 million to Focus on the Family, a group that supports “conversion therapy”—a debunked theory that purports to change the sexual orientation of gay and lesbian individuals that is strongly opposed by the American Psychiatric Association, the Human Rights Campaign, and scores of other medical and civil rights organizations.

Emily Talmage on Bad News Betsy and what this means for our future.
Jersey Jazzman reports on what we can learn about Betsy DeVos from her husband’s charter school.
The DeVos family owns several mansions…and Betsy wants to bring back child labor for workers children.
NYC teacher Gary Rubinstein comments on a statement by Teach for America about the DeVos appointment.
A New York Times report on what Betsy DeVos did to Michigan schools.
Exceptional Delaware says America is getting bamboozled with Betsy DeVos on Common Core. Her record shows she supports Common Core and digital learning.
Betsy DeVos being against Common Core is countered by her whole history.