Applications for Representation - Improving the Philadelphia Board of Education
When the School Reform Commission held its last meeting in 2018 it was seen as a beacon of hope for Philadelphia’s schools. For many this was a sign that for the first time in eighteen years the decisions that matter most to our community would be made by our community. However, three years after the founding of the Board of Education, little has changed. Our school infrastructure remains damaged and dysfunctional, while student demands like police free schools are ignored just as they were in the student walkouts of 1967. This is because the selection of board members still remains entirely outside of the public sphere. The Educational Nominating Panel, selected by the Mayor, brings a list of candidates from the applicant pool to the Mayor. His selections are then confirmed by the City Council. In this process there is no requirement for anyone involved to meet with the public, share information about the applications they received, or discuss their method of selection.
This city needs a transparent, public process of selection to make sure that students and community members are represented. That is why we are launching Applications for Representation, a new action which aims to flood the admissions process with student applications to make it clear that we will fight for representation, public input, and transparency in the selection process.
At 11:59 pm on Sunday, December 6th the public application to be considered by the ENP closes. In order for us to pressure the board we are asking every eligible student, meaning a student who is at least 18 years old and has been a resident of the commonwealth for at least one year, to submit an application in an act of protest against the selection process. In order to make this easier for students we have created a resource document with sample responses for all of the application questions. The Board of Education states its vision is to create a community where students are valued and respected. In order to make this vision a reality the input of students and community leaders is crucial, but our voices are consistently ignored. There are currently two student representatives on the board with no voting power. That is not empowerment, in fact it is barely representation. However, there is no restriction against students applying to be full members of the board. So, if they will not give power to our representatives then it is up to us to fight for it. For this board to truly represent the community of students and teachers that it claims to it must include them in the selection process.
- Rory Macdonald, Masterman Chapter