Saturday, August 23, 2014
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Updated: Layoff notices on hold for now, judge rules

Mayor Nutter demands more accountability from the Philadelphia School District, and layoff notices begin going out to thousands of district employees today.

Updated: Layoff notices on hold for now, judge rules

Mayor Nutter (left) is seeking extensive school district financial and program information in exchange for city funding. He sent a letter to Superintendent Arlene Ackerman (center), and members of the School Reform Commission, including chairman Robert Archie Jr. (right).
Mayor Nutter (left) is seeking extensive school district financial and program information in exchange for city funding. He sent a letter to Superintendent Arlene Ackerman (center), and members of the School Reform Commission, including chairman Robert Archie Jr. (right).

UPDATE, 6 p.m. - The district says in a press release that 3,024 employees total will be given layoff notices.  Among those, 1,523 are teachers and 490 are central office staff.  Layoffs began today and will continue. 

Site selection - planned for Wednesday after school - is still on for now, but the district's General Counsel is reviewing, a spokesman said.

UPDATE, 4:05 p.m. - An injunction has been issued, and layoff notices for 1,500 teachers are rescinded at least until a June 14 hearing, reports my colleague Troy Graham, who was inside the courtroom.

UPDATE, 3:30 p.m. - PFT President Jerry Jordan is waiting to be heard on a temporary restraining order to halt layoffs.  Jordan says that the PFT is aiming to stop the "erroneous" exemption of Promise Academy teachers from layoffs.  "That's a violation of the contract," Jordan said.

More coverage
 
Philly School Files: Layoff notices on hold for now, judge rules
 
If it's about the kids, we need controls

Jordan said he was told the proceedings were delayed because the district is waiting for an outside attorney - not an in-house district lawyer - to come and argue the case.  

UPDATE, 2:40 p.m. - PFT President Jerry Jordan is at this moment filing a lawsuit over the district's layoffs, a union official confirms.  Will bring you updates as I have them.

UPDATE, 11:15 a.m. - I'm told that layoff notices at central office have not gone out and it's not clear when they will.  At schools, a few principals have already begun notifying teachers; most are waiting until the end of the day.

Also, Councilman Bill Green today sent Mayor Nutter a letter about his demands for accountability from the school district.  Read my City Hall colleague Troy Graham's blog post about that letter - and the letter itself - here.

EARLIER: It’s the start of an incredibly crucial - and difficult - week in the Philadelphia School District.  As my colleague Troy Graham reports here, Mayor Nutter yesterday sent this letter to the School Reform Commissioner and Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman demanding a better accounting of how the district spends its money and more say-so.  The mayor set Thursday at noon as a deadline for gaining a new “education accountability agreement.”

If the district doesn’t comply, the mayor suggested, there will be no support for $75 to $110 million in new funding to roll back cuts to everything from transportation to special education programs - deep, painful cuts that will certainly change education in Philadelphia next year.  On Friday, Nutter signaled he was not pleased with how a deal to restore full-day kindergarten went down - Ackerman essentially got permission to use federal Title I money to fund the cost, about $25 million.  But she didn’t inform Nutter until an hour before she called a press conference.  He was not pleased.

Also, layoff notices begin going out today for thousands of Philadelphia School District employees.  The total layoff number is not clear, but the district will need to lose more than 3,000 positions, and PFT president Jerry Jordan told me on Friday night that he’s been notified that 1,498 teachers will get layoff notices.  

For the past few months, I’ve been hearing from anxious teachers and other employees who have been on pins and needles - when would the ax fall?  Who would be spared?  I spoke with one teacher, who asked that I withhold her name, who is waiting to hear.  Both she and her husband teach in the district, and both could be laid off.  “As it got closer, I kept saying, ‘We’ll be fine,’ but then we hear these numbers and I just don’t know,” she said.  

It feels surreal, the teacher said.  “You don’t go into teaching for the money.  You go into it for the stability - because you know you’re going to have a pension when you retire,” she said.  But now, no guarantees.  Even if one or both of them remains employed after June 30, the prospect of a pay cut is real.  The district has said that it must get $75 million in concessions from its five unions.  Jordan, the PFT president, has said he will not negotiate, but district officials have threatened to ask the School Reform Commission to use its special powers to impose terms on the unions.

The teacher feels sick.  She’s angry, she said, about how the district got here.  And she’s got her family to think about. “If both of us get laid off, we’re screwed.  we have a son, and we need health benefits.  I guess we’ll collect unemployment, and wait to get called back,” she said.  With other districts laying off too, looking elsewhere doesn’t seem like a viable prospect.  Teaching at a Promise Academy, overhauled district schools whose teachers get more pay and, the district says, cannot be laid off, is not a possibility.  Promise Academies have longer school days and years, plus Saturday school, and the teacher’s family commitments prevent her from doing that.

Check back - I’ll update with news, (follow me at Twitter, too; I tend to update first there) but in the meantime, have you received a layoff notice today? Contact me directly at kgraham@phillynews.com. Or share your story here, in the comments. Good luck on this tough day.
About this blog

Inquirer reporter Kristen Graham writes the Philly School Files blog, where she covers education in Philadelphia, both in and out of the classroom.

During the school year, you’ll frequently find her hosting live chats about the district on Philly.com.

Please do pass along the scoop about what’s going on at your Philadelphia public school; Kristen welcomes tips, story ideas and witty banter.


Kristen Graham Inquirer Staff Writer
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