Archive: February, 2013
A great deal has been said about the Philadelphia School District's initial contract proposal to the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. So far, little of that has been said by district officials, who have declined to go into specifics.
On Thursday afternoon, I sat down with Superintendent William R. Hite Jr., who very much wants the public to know that he's first and foremost an educator, that he values teachers, and that he does not want to drive anyone out of the district.
“We believe teachers are professionals, just like architects, lawyers, doctors,” Hite said. “We want a contract that reflects that. I truly believe that in order for teachers to be effective, there needs to be some flexibility and we need to treat them as professionals.”
Some bullet points:
First, the financials - as already reported, pay cuts 13 percent for those who make $55,000 and above, with lesser cuts for those who earn less. (Employees who make under $25,000 would take a 5 percent cut.)
It's going to be a long summer.
The Philadelphia School District wants its teachers to lengthen their workdays, give back up to 13 perent of their salaries, and forego pay raises at least until 2017. It wants to reduce the money paid out to departing employees, weaken seniority and give principals full authority over hiring and firing teachers.
Philadelphia Federation of Teachers officials on Tuesday confirmed some details of the district’s initial contract proposal, which the Inquirer has obtained. School officials have been saying for months that they need up to $180 million in labor givebacks annually to avert a five-year deficit of more than $1 billion.
Three more low-performing city schools will be given to charters in the fall, and six more will be overhauled under Philadelphia School District management, officials said Friday.
Alcorn Elementary, in Grays Ferry, Kenderton Elementary, in Tioga, and Pastorius Elementary, in East Germantown, will become Renaissance charters given to organizations "with a proven track record in both turning around low-performing schools and operating high-achieving schools. The eligible providers have not been named.
Barry, Bryant and McMichael elementaries, in West Philadelphia, Cayuga Elementary, in Hunting Park and Edison and Strawberry Mansion high schools in North Philadelphia will become Promise Academies. They’ll get longer school days and some extra resources, plus must turn over at least half of their staffs.
UPDATE, 4:50 p.m.
What was a largely quiet, perfunctory School Reform Commission meeting was just interrupted by perhaps 100 sign-waving, shouting citizens angry at the district's move to shut 29 schools.
While a district staffer was reading a resolution honoring school counselors, the protesters marched in with a bullhorn, photos of Gov. Corbett and Mayor Nutter (blamed for underfunding schools) and signs reading "1 Year Moratorium" and "Save Our Schools."
UPDATE, 5:55 p.m.
School closings are underway now, but not before protestors shut down North Broad Street to show their displeasure with the Philadelphia School District's plan.
"Shame on you!" they shouted.
Ten schools would be spared closures or program mergers if new recommendations issued this morning by Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. are adopted.
The 10 — Meade, Cooke, Duckrey, Morris, McCloskey, Lankenau, Gompers, Overbrook Elementary, McMichael, Strawberry Mansion High — came off the closing, merger or program list. AMY at James Martin, which was to move into the Penn Treaty School, will now remain in its current building and expand.
Two closures were added: M.H. Stanton and Beeber Middle.
For about two weeks, the heat was out in much of Samuel B. Huey Elementary School in West Philadelphia, a teacher told me. As of Monday, it still wasn't operational in the gym, cafeteria, and many classrooms.
With temperatures hovering around the freezing mark, “you can see your breath in the air,” said the teacher, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal.
On Tuesday morning, after a reporter's call to the Philadelphia School District, it was finally fixed.