Open Letter to City Council – February 16, 2018

Dear Philadelphia City Council members,

I wanted to write and follow up following the hearing held by City Council on January 25th on the subject of faulty lead paint stabilization in a set of Philadelphia public schools.

At this hearing, you asked a panel of speakers that included Jerry Roseman from the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) and Danielle Floyd from the Philadelphia School District (PSD) if they knew each other and knew how to contact each other, etc.

Ms. Floyd promised information, collaboration, and coordination generally, and specifically with the PFT’s Director of Environmental Science and Occupational Safety & Health.

Yet in the three weeks since City Council’s hearing took place, a number of examples have taken place that demonstrate that the District is not living up to these promises.

I wanted to share some of these examples to let you know the challenges that remain as stakeholders attempt to get timely and adequate information from the School District.

  1. Prior to the carbon monoxide poisoning at Loesche Elementary School on January 26th that sent two dozen children and teachers to the hospital, school occupants had submitted ongoing complaints and concerns to District officials about the impacts of construction work being done at Loesche. Yet none of these complaints were shared with parents or PFT’s environmental science staff.
  1. On the morning of Monday January 29th, District staff met with parents and others at the school to discuss the carbon monoxide poisoning. Yet neither PFT’s environmental health staff person nor members of the Philly Healthy Schools Coalition were informed about nor invited to this meeting, even though this meeting took place only days after City Council’s hearing in which District officials assured Council members of collaboration and coordination with these entities.
  1. Only days later (Saturday February 3rd), Jerry Roseman was contacted by leadership at PFT to ask if he had been informed about a teacher who was injured at Loesche Elementary School the previous day (Friday, February 2nd) after a piece of material being stored on the roof had been blown off and struck a teacher.  Mr. Roseman told PFT staff that he had not been informed by District officials. It was only after reaching out directly to District staff on Monday, February 5th and asking about this incident was Mr. Roseman given any information by the District. Repeated requests by PFT to schedule a meeting with District officials to discuss this accident, in the context of developing a lessons-learned, Best Practices approach have gone unanswered.
  1. After several requests to meet with and discuss lead and asbestos remediation details and joint approaches at Olney Elementary School that went unanswered, PFT received an email at 2:46 pm on Friday, February 2nd, 2018, only 14 minutes before District officials planned on conducting asbestos remediation work at Olney Elementary stating that the project would begin taking place. They also did not discuss and coordinate details for joint evaluation as promised. Yet given the short notice, District officials did not attempt to reach PFT officials by cell phone, text or other methods even though District officials stated otherwise to Council members at the January 25th hearing.

As you can see, the actions by School District staff in the few short weeks since City Council’s hearing are far from the promises and platitudes we heard in Council chambers on January 25th.

We wanted to bring this to your attention, and request that City Council hold a follow up meeting with District officials to get an explanation why they are veering so far from the protocol touted in last month’s hearing.

Lastly, to the best of our knowledge, School District officials have not submitted any of the materials requested by City Council at the hearing. We hope that Council members will follow up and get information that should be fairly simple for District staff to compile and submit by email.

We look forward to hearing back from you about our concerns. Thank you for your leadership on this important issue to ensure that we protect the health of our children, teachers, school workers and community members.


David Masur, PennEnvironment Executive Director, on behalf of the Philly Healthy Schools Initiative 

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