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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What would SRC reform look like? | Philadelphia Public School Notebook

What would SRC reform look like? | Philadelphia Public School Notebook: "What would SRC reform look like?"

It is very clear at this point that the SRC needs to change. It needs to rebuild trust, engage with the public and be responsive, establish credibility and guidance for ethical conduct, define its role more clearly and share that with the rest of us. I would add, the SRC also needs to demonstrate that they are in control, get a handle on the District's finances, and improve transparency.

How will we know that change is happening? What does each of these things look like? What will be the manifest signs of change?

Reconstituting the SRC

For starters, we need a short timetable and transition to an all-new SRC. That means the two current long-serving members, Joseph Dworetzky and Denise McGregor Armbrister, should step down. In turn, the slots need to be nominated and confirmed quickly so the body can get to work. The governor, the mayor, the state senate, and the current members should coordinate and cooperate in order to make it happen. Each will have to be flexible about political prerogatives, demonstrating that they want a new era as well. My two cents? I think we need an education expert and a financial expert.

They need to talk about students, education, and community. I would like to know what each member thinks should be:

  1. the biggest priority for the next 12 months, and

  2. their personal priority and where they will devote their focus and energy?

The members should make some public statements. Tell me what your platform is. You may have the job, but let me know what you are going to do with it. Woo me a little.

Focus on finances

We need clear signs that the SRC is getting a handle on the budget. I think we are going to need some multi-year projections, or perhaps even multi-year budgets. We need an aggressive inventory of existing contracts and some sort of metric for contract review. Show us the money. I would like to hear, sometime by early December, some steps that the SRC will take to improve the financial situation. They don’t have to be earth-shattering, just specific.

Improve accessibility and community engagement

This is a government body. They represent us and need to make that clear. They can do so by having meetings that are accessible to people, at times that, let’s say, parents, students, and teachers could attend. They can have some discussion and ask questions in public, so we see what the process is. Listen to some complaints and acknowledge them. We know it isn’t the most fun part of the job, but do it anyway. Then have a monthly report that demonstrates that you had a few of them checked out. Hold a listening tour. Build a direct relationship with the people you represent.

My big wish? The SRC will take on the role of the keeper of the flame: the body that provides both vision and stability through transitions, and helps represent the public in discussions with the superintendent. I’d know it was happening from what they choose to focus on in the coming year.

For me, this would be a start. What about you? What would have to happen, what would you want to see, for you to start a sentiment that goes something like this: “Actually, I think things have started to change…”?

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