Masch: More layoffs coming

UPDATED, 5 p.m.: My colleague Alia Conley interviewed folks who are leaving the Philadelphia School District today. 

Some were reluctant to talk for fear of repercussions, but others who spoke out had strong opinions about the district.

Joe Razzano spent 12 years as a district counselor.  

“I’m tired of the aggravation, tired of the bureaucracy. Just tired of the crap,” he said. When asked how to fix the problem, Razzano, 68, said the district is too big.

“I think they need to tear it down and start it over again. They’ve come up with so many goofy initiatives. They need to clear out this building and get people back in the classroom.”

Irene Clark, a cafeteria worker for 10 years at Comegys Elementary School, saw teachers every day work hard in the classrooms.

“The teachers are getting mistreated. Seeing the pressure they’re under and the parents come in and put them under more pressure. The teachers deserve every penny they get, and they deserve more,” she said.

For Clark, 64 and retiring, it’s the new teachers who lost their jobs that make her sad.

“What gets me, is some young teachers just started and they’re laying them off. They have family, homes and cars and things they had to pay for. What are they going to do?”

UPDATED, 3:15 p.m.: No final decisions will be made until an SRC meeting to be held "on or about" July 20, but more pink slips are coming, Chief Financial Officer Michael Masch said today.  "There will be more layoffs," Masch said, to fill a new, $35 million budget gap created by a shortfall in expected state revenue.  The district banked on charter school reimbursement money that Harrisburg was not willing to give.

UPDATED, 12 p.m.: Responding to a parent question, two commissioners speak about the philosophies that guide them as they make decisions for the district.

Commissioner Johnny Irizarry said he struggles to balance competing priorities, but that his guiding priority is trying "to look at what’s fair to all the children of the city." Irizarry said he believes the district has historically failed poor and minority children, and that ensuring equity for them is his top job.

Chairman Robert L. Archie Jr. said that parental involvement will drive improvement in the district.  He's learned in his two years on the SRC that schools are too often asked to stand in for parents.

UPDATED, 11:20 a.m.: School Reform Commission Chairman Robert L. Archie Jr. just reaffirmed that the SRC will not cancel union contracts today, as it has threatened.

The district is banking on $75 million in concessions from its five unions.  Some of the unions - including the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, the largest union - have said they will not negotiate, but some have sat down with the district.

"We are encouraged by the progress of discussions," Archie said at the SRC meeting. "It's our desire that the school district continue with those talks."

Archie also said that the SRC will meet "on or about" July 20 to hear an update on union talks.


Today is the last day on the payroll for about 3,400 Philadelphia School District employees laid off to close a $629 million budget gap.  It's also the day that many of the workers taking a voluntary early retirement report to district headquarters to turn in their separation paperwork.  It's a dark day at "440" - 440 N. Broad Street, the headquarters, where there is "a lot of crying and other displays of emotion."

The School Reform Commission meets in special session at 11 a.m. today to handle a financial matter. There may also be a budget presentation from Chief Financial Officer Michael Masch, who earlier this week announced the district has a new, $35 million gap because the state declined to give the district additional aid.  And expect speakers to testify about budget cuts, including a cut to 26 full-service kitchens I wrote about earlier this week > ="">here.

I've heard from a number of teachers, but only a few central office staffers, about their stories.  If you're a central office worker either being laid off today or any employee volunteering to retire early, I'd love to hear from you privately. or 215-854-5146.

I'll be live Tweeting today's meeting, beginning at 11 a.m. Follow along below. (On a mobile phone? Click here.)  

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