One teacher's tale

It’s been a tough summer for many laid-off employees of the Philadelphia School District. Take Tony Frangiosa.

Frangiosa, 28, taught math at Harding Middle School for a year. He was laid off in June, one of over 2,000 workers who lost their jobs district-wide because of a budget gap of more than $650 million.

“Here’s where it gets great,” he said in an e-mail.

Frangiosa was told to expect a lump sum payment for his last three paychecks deposited into his account on July 22. He spent the weeks leading up to that date in Lexington, Ky., where family members live, looking for another teaching job. He also filed for unemployment.

“I woke up Friday July 22 to find my paycheck was not deposited. I was told the only way to get my check was to drive up to Philadelphia and personally go to 440,” he said, referring to the district’s headquarters at 440 N. Broad St.

His grandmother wired him some money so he could make the 10-hour trip back to Philly. Frangiosa waited three hours for a check, he said, deposited it, paid bills and planned his official move to Kentucky, where he’s already secured and started another teaching job.

He left Philadelphia “feeling great that although I had a terrible experience with possibly the worst and most unorganized school district in the country, at least I was hired somewhere else and would have a chance to work at a normal school system.” (Yes, Frangiosa said, he’s pretty fed up.)

That great feeling didn’t last long. On the drive back to Kentucky, Frangiosa stopped to fill his car with gas and found he couldn’t pay for anything. His bank balance was negative. He called his bank, his union representative, and district payroll to find that the first check bounced — a snafu caused not by a lack of funds but a problem with the physical checks themselves.  The checks, a spokesman said, had not been activated and so appeared invalid.

Officials told Frangiosa that he could try again to get his money — but only if he showed up at district headquarters, an impossibility given his financial predicament and the fact that his car had just broken down.

“So I was stuck in West Virginia,” Frangiosa said glumly. After three hours and multiple phone calls, he found enough people to deposit money into his bank account so he could make it back to Kentucky. It took him 30 hours to get home.

He felt terrible asking relatives and friends for money, but had no other choice, he said.

Frangiosa finally got some unemployment money, but the paycheck — about $3,200 — still hasn’t surfaced. He was told one was mailed out at the beginning of August, but he still hasn't seen it.

“I was a great teacher,” he said.  “The students loved me.  Our school math scores increased by eight percent. But that doesn’t matter in Philly.”

As of Friday, district spokesman Fernando Gallard said, 34 district checks had bounced.  He confirmed that one was Frangiosa’s.

Gallard said a new check was mailed to Frangiosa on Aug. 2, but since Frangiosa never received it, Gallard said another check will be sent.

“Well,” Frangiosa said, “At least that’s something.”