Philly school district’s lack of transparency frustrates families

Part 120 of 119 in the series Educating America

HELLO? District offers no answers on leadership changes at Philadelphia elementary school.

By Maura Pennington | Watchdog.org

PHILADELPHIA — The community is puzzled by ongoing leadership problems at Bache-Martin elementary, but Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law doesn’t allow families to get answers from the school district.

Multiple administrators earning six-figure salaries have cycled in and out of the school, and parents have reported students coming home with disciplinary contracts to sign and students from various grade levels in other classrooms without substitute teachers.

According to the Philadelphia Daily News, the principal, Yvette Duperon, took a leave of absence in the middle of the school year to complete a dissertation and was replaced temporarily by Ogo Okoye-Johnson, who was removed as principal of troubled Bartram High School without explanation.

The School District of Philadelphia has already been called out for its lack of transparency in hiring and reassigning employees, especially when dealing with those earning more than $100,000 annually.

Okoye-Johnson’s salary is $130,194; Duperon makes $147,006.

The confusing change in leadership at Bache-Martin, in the Fairmount neighborhood of Philadelphia, and tight-lipped nature of the district isn’t limited to one school, or even to Philadelphia.

“This issue plays out across the state because the Right to Know Law allows agencies to deny access to public employee discipline records, even when discipline issues result in demotion or discharge,” said Melissa Melewsky, media law counsel at the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association.

A letter sent home to parents Thursday says Duperon will leave Bache-Martin permanently at the end of the year. No reason is given.

The district communications office said it would not comment on personnel matters regarding leadership at the school.

Contact Maura Pennington at mpennington@watchdog.org and follow her on Twitter @whatsthefracas.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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