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April 2014 Vol. 21. No. 5 Focus on Using School Time Wisely

Theme articles

A question of time and money

Activists, teachers, and District officials have differing ideas about lengthening the day.

By by Bill Hangley Jr. on Mar 31, 2014 12:38 PM
Photo: Charles Mostoller
Action United member Dawn Hawkins and her son, 8th grader Khyrie Brown, have been calling for improvements at Blaine, a K-8 school in Strawberry Mansion. They persuaded new School Reform Commission Chair Bill Green to visit the school but don’t see eye-to-eye with him about planned reforms, including longer hours.

Khyrie Brown wants more for his school: more art, more music, more books, more laptops, even more paper towels in the bathrooms.

And although staying longer each day at Blaine Academics Plus, a K-8 school in Strawberry Mansion, isn’t at the top of his agenda, Brown says that what educators call “extended time” can help.

“Last week was the first time I went to Saturday school,” Blaine’s optional PSSA prep classes, said the 14-year-old 8th grader. 

“My friend was like, ‘Just come.’ I said, ‘School’s already five days a week, and now it’s six?’ But then I wound up going, and the college student I was with, we got a lot of work done.”

Brown in February gained public attention with an impassioned speech at Bill Green’s first School Reform Commission meeting, inviting the new SRC chair to visit Blaine to witness its struggles. 

At the time, there was no way Brown could know that Green would not only visit, but also would announce a big change that could allow Blaine to implement one of Green’s signature priorities: longer school days.

Next year, Blaine’s principal will be able to hire or keep only those teachers willing to implement the school’s new “transformation” plan. Principal Gianeen Powell is developing that plan with a small team of her teachers, backed by a $1.5 million grant from the Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP). 

Powell’s blueprint isn’t final, but “I hope she’s planning to put together a team that wants to spend that extra time,” said Green.

Not everyone at Blaine is thrilled with the requirement that as a “transformation school,” it must replace at least half of the current teaching staff.

There is another problem: Under the teachers’ current contract, more time from them costs more money, and Green has said repeatedly that schools shouldn’t count on that.

The District’s budget crisis has led to the elimination of many afterschool activities (outside of high school sports) because schools no longer have money to pay teachers the hourly extracurricular rate called for in their contract. Some have cobbled together programs like Blaine’s seven-week Saturday school, which serves about 80 of its 400 students, by using volunteers and community partners. And a number of teachers have continued to lead clubs or coach sports teams without compensation.

But how can the District offer all of the students in a school like Blaine the kind of focused, academic instructional time Green has cited as most useful, without spending more money?

“Everything right now is a setup for the teachers’ contract,” said James “Torch” Lytle, a former Philadelphia administrator and Trenton superintendent now at Penn’s Graduate School of Education. “[Green] could tell the teachers, ‘We’re going to open schools earlier, keep them open later, and that’s going to be one of the terms of employment.”

More can be better

Since his days on City Council, Green, like many education reformers, has argued that longer days could boost academic outcomes – particularly if students spend more time studying core subjects like reading, math, and science. 

“Every student, regardless of his or her academic performance, would benefit from additional time in the classroom,” he wrote in a 2010 policy paper. Upon taking the helm of the SRC, he said, “There have to be longer school days, longer school years.” 

Green cites extended-day charters like KIPP and Young Scholars as models for the District. He’s been influenced by the work of filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan, who spent five years studying American schools and has said that the single best way to improve them would be “extended time, any way you can do it.”

At Blaine, few would disagree that almost any kind of expanded time would be an improvement for a school that last year offered no afterschool activities at all. 

“A longer day is not necessarily a better day,” cautioned Jerry Jordan, head of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. But done right, he said, the kinds of activities that often come with longer days can be a “simple way” of keeping students engaged.

Jordan knows this firsthand. 

“I was a talker in school,” he recalled. “I can remember going to my afterschool yearbook club, and my teacher saying, ‘Ms. Brown told me you talked all period in geometry. If you continue doing that, you’re not going to be part of this club.’ 

“And that was all that had to be said.”  

Powell told the same kind of story. “I was a big athlete in school,” she said. “I did well [in class] because the coach was getting on me!” 

So when Blaine was awarded its PSP “transformation” grant, Powell surveyed parents about the kind of extended time they favored.  

The results showed strong support for traditional afterschool activities like art, music and sports. Parents were less interested in the kind of structured academic programming Green has cited, Powell said, not just because they want their children to have fun, but because they know that sports, clubs, and other extracurriculars help keep students on track in the classroom.

Parents also want their children safe and supervised, which is why Powell doesn’t ever want to see a repeat of last year, when the school offered nothing after 3:09 p.m. 

About the Author

Bill Hangley Jr. is a freelance contributor to the Notebook.

Comments (60)

Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on March 28, 2014 11:35 am

I'm bothered by the characterization of Action United as "a pro union community group" in this context.   The suggestion is that they don't have an independent basis for their concerns about what's happening to Blaine.   If you are going to say Action United is pro union, then you should point out that PSP, which consistently advocates for an imposed contract and rolling back traditional union rights, is anti-union.  

Submitted by Bill Hangley (not verified) on March 31, 2014 4:52 pm
I hear you, but the difference is, when I talk to Action United folks they'll say that they are committed the idea that there's an inherent benefit to having a union. So for example, when I interviewed AU's Terrance Meacham that day at Blaine, he said that while he could see the benefit of giving principals more authority to hire, he also said that having a union at a school is essential. "Without a union, even if it starts out okay, sooner or later people are going to get greedy," he said. "Anything that goes against the union, we’re not going to do." PSP, whatever one might think of its intentions, doesn't openly commit itself to the opposite point of view. They'll say that union schools *can* be successful under the right conditions (and they did just give $3 million to union-staffed schools). Whether that's their honest opinion is another question. That's the logic that lead to that characterization. You could call
Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on March 31, 2014 4:23 pm

Bill...thanks for your response.   It is true that Action United is openly supportive of unions...God bless them!    As for PSP their carefully crafted public relations posture should not blind any of us, especiallly astute journalists like you, to their intentions.   Their actions justify an anti-union characterization.    They have lobbied incessantly to suspend collective bargaining, eliminate seniority and for reducing compensation for teachers.   If it walks like a duck...

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 31, 2014 5:39 pm
The reason PSP was brought into existence by the Boston Consulting Group and the "philanthropists" funding them is to break the union. It is PSP's reason for being!
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on April 2, 2014 10:34 am
I knew it, I knew conspiracy theorists don't read. PSP was brought about by the SDP's desire to win a Gates Foundation grant. (Try reading.) BCG was brought in to actually help the SDP, not get cannibalized by charters - their work was duly ignored. BCG has nothing to do with PSP. Speaking of BCG, not a single teacher put in a proposal for running an achievement network, after yacking so much about "teacher led" schools. Conspiracy theorists have done more to get the SDP dismembered than both PSP and BCG combined - go figure.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on March 31, 2014 5:27 pm
You can't be this dumb dude. PSP clearly is anti union for several reasons all of which lead back to money. What a coincidence !!
Submitted by Bill Hangley (not verified) on April 1, 2014 12:30 pm
>>> You can't be this dumb dude Call it what you want, but whatever my personal opinion about PSP may be, until they come out and say, "we can never work with a union ever," as a reporter I can't fairly hang the blanket "anti-union" label on them. Ron's point is a fair one - the PSPs of the world know very well how to manage their communications & their practices so that reporters like me can't pin them down. PSP is open about their opposition to certain union practices, and their overall philosophy is clearly pro-charter, but they did just give $3 million bucks to two union-staffed schools. And Mark Gleason has told me himself that while he doesn't think unions are necessary for public education, he thinks their position in Philadelphia is such that the "fastest way" for reformers to get good results here is to cooperate with the union.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on April 1, 2014 1:54 pm
If I told you I lost a quarter on one side of the room and I was looking on the other side for it, how would you feel about it and would you take me seriously?? I don't care what these folks say, look at the facts and follow the money, Dude. I have nothing more to say except that you can't be this dumb.
Submitted by Bill Hangley (not verified) on April 1, 2014 2:28 pm
I followed three million dollars to two union schools. What does that mean, Joe K?
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on April 1, 2014 2:55 pm
If that's the truth, then a pox on both their houses but it doesn't change the motives of the charter lie folks not does it permit democracy to be marginalized. Be careful what you think you know that just ain't so.
Submitted by Bill Hangley (not verified) on April 1, 2014 3:45 pm
What do you mean, "if that's the truth"? PSP gave $3 million in grants to Blaine and Kelley. You may not like how it's getting spent but that money's not going to charter schools.
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on April 1, 2014 6:45 pm
It is going to two schools in which most of their teachers will be forced out, the same teachers who were praised just a year ago for the quality of the job they were doing. It is going to two schools in which many of the children, just recently pulled from LP Hill, will now need to adapt to a new staff. It is going to two schools in which the parents were uninformed of the switch. It is going to two school in which the principals have been singled out as willing to go along wholeheartedly with the plan of Mark Gleason. And any school that is uninterested in this travesty be damned/ starve/ left to rot. Come on Bill. We thought better of you. We thought better of the Notebook.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 1, 2014 3:48 pm
Why are you calling the schools "union schools?" Why not call them School District public schools? Otherwise, call charters "non-union schools."
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on April 1, 2014 3:36 pm
Anonymous---------------You beat me to it and I resent that !!!! I noticed that too but you stole my thunder. You got the quicker trigger finger !!
Submitted by Bill Hangley (not verified) on April 1, 2014 3:37 pm
I did that to make you mad.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on April 1, 2014 4:45 pm
NO, you didn't. You did it because that's the way you see it. Be honest for a change, Dude.
Submitted by Bill Hangley (not verified) on April 1, 2014 5:49 pm
I'll admit it: I frequently think of schools that are staffed by the union as "union schools." What's the appropriate punishment? Should I be drawn and quartered? Run out of town on a rail? Have my eyes pecked out by birds?
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on April 1, 2014 5:34 pm
It ain't working Dude. To quote your hero, Chris Christie, "I'm done with you Dick."
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 1, 2014 6:38 pm
Bill, it's one thing to be disgusted with the calcified union bureaucracy (many of us are too), but ultimately it is the rank and file teachers that are the union. Unions were created to defend their members and are sorely in need of a vision of social justice for society as whole. However, having a disdain for "union schools" as you put it is to be left with corporate schools, which are not in the interests of teachers or society as a whole. Who do you think your audience is?
Submitted by Bill Hangley (not verified) on April 2, 2014 11:45 am
I beg your pardon, Anonymous, but where did I indicate any "disdain" for unions or union staff or union-staffed schools?
Submitted by Geoffrey Winikur (not verified) on April 2, 2014 10:41 am
This mindset is disconcerting, especially coming from an education reporter. Do you really believe that the PFT control public schools schools? Do you believe that schools are exist for the sake of union members?
Submitted by Bill Hangley (not verified) on April 2, 2014 12:12 pm
What makes you think I would believe that, G?
Submitted by Geoffrey Winikur (not verified) on April 2, 2014 2:16 pm
Bill: I am not engaging in a personal attack. You stated that you think of non-charters as "union schools." I'm just wondering why. It seems like a loaded statement, particularly when PFT members are being asked to pay for management's mistakes.
Submitted by Bill Hangley (not verified) on April 2, 2014 2:53 pm
To clarify: there's no value judgement there. Simply my mental shorthand for the system, based on who staffs it: I sometimes think of it as made up of union schools and non-union schools. "Renaissance charters" being non-union schools, for example, even tho' they're also "district" or "neighborhood" schools. And Blaine or Kelley being "union schools" because they're still staffed by the union, even if they're "turnarounds." That's all. If the statement seemed loaded or judgmental, it wasn't meant to be. However, if my later replies to Joe seemed snarky and dismissive, they *were* meant to be, as he'd clearly demonstrated by that point that he was determined to be insulting and offensive. Poor judgment on my part perhaps, but nobody's perfect.
Submitted by Geoffrey Winikur (not verified) on April 2, 2014 12:55 pm
Sorry for the typos.
Submitted by Bill Hangley (not verified) on April 2, 2014 12:22 pm
Nothing to be sorry for. I'm sorry for this whole dust-up. Ron raised a good point at the outset and I tried to explain my thinking. Joe K followed with an insult and I tried to clarify, to no avail, after which he decided to toss some more grenades so I stopped taking him seriously. Now people are making all sorts of assumptions - "he called them 'union schools'! He must think ..." - but they're unwarranted.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on April 2, 2014 2:41 pm
Dude--Getting attention is not always a good idea and playing the wounded animal is even worse. You did it to yourself and likely deliberately to get said attention. Either way, it ain't working so give it up and move on.
Submitted by Bill Hangley (not verified) on April 2, 2014 2:57 pm
See above, Joe. Nice talking to you!
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on April 1, 2014 3:53 pm
Anonymous---------------You beat me to it and I resent that !!!! I noticed that too but you stole my thunder. You got the quicker trigger finger !!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 1, 2014 5:11 pm
They will probably have company unions, union in name only. All the union will do is collect dues but otherwise be part of management.
Submitted by Annonym. (not verified) on March 31, 2014 7:10 pm
PSP funded 3 schools last year - Workshop, HIll-Freeman and SLA. SLA and Workshop have historically gotten around hiring policies and brought in their own. (Just look at the Workshop staff - they hired people who were not District employees in a year when thousands were laid off.) This is not behavior supportive of a unionized workforce. Now, PSP is funded 3 "innovative" high schools. These schools are not hiring laid off teachers. Hite needs to open the "flood gates" so to speak so these schools can hire who they want. Yes, the principals (or whatever their title) will get full power to pick who they want. There may be some merit in that process but it will lead to more nepotism than already exists in this District. (Just look at the charters - PET, Spring Theory, Community, Delaware Valley - it is a family affair.)
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 1, 2014 6:58 pm
Bill, PSP's actions speak to its stance on unions. They lobbied Gov. Corbett to force concessions from the PFT before releasing the $45 million in federal funds. Federal funds, not even state money and tying it to concessions from the teachers' union. Actions speak louder than slippery words. Karel Kilimnik
Submitted by Bill Hangley (not verified) on April 2, 2014 12:07 pm
All that is true, Karel, but that doesn't mean that a news report like this can fairly describe the PSP as "the anti-union Public School Partnership." They've lobbied for concessions and changes - but they're not publicly calling for the union to be eliminated. They're not opposed to a collectively-bargained contract. They have told me on the record that their version of "reform" can include union-staffed schools, and they've put some money into union-staffed schools. In a news report like this - not an editorial - I have to respect those facts when I describe PSP.
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on April 2, 2014 12:21 pm
It seems to me that the only way the Notebook and you might be willing to come out and say the PSP and Mark Gleason are anti-union would be if Mark Gleason were to throw a molotov cocktail into the union headquarters on Chestnut Street. Maybe not then either. Gotta respect Mark Gleason!
Submitted by Bill Hangley (not verified) on April 2, 2014 1:44 pm
Exactly!!! If Gleason did that - or even if he just came out and said, "we've decided that unions can't be worked with under any circumstances - we'll no longer be funding any union-staffed schools" - I would feel comfortable describing PSP as "anti union" in news stories.
Submitted by Jack (not verified) on April 2, 2014 1:19 pm
Bill; Of course Blaine received a grant from PSP. how mych of that money made it into the classroom? how much of that money was used by the principal to take trips to other schools out side of the city and state to look at how they conduct the business of education? How much money was used to charter buses for parents to take them to other schools to show them how they operate? Was the potential use of these funds spelled out publically when the grant was awarded? The answer is NO. You could look it up. The fix appears to have been in the minute the money hit the school district. And for the principal to stand up in front of parents and say that the teachers in the building do not embrace technology and want to use pencils and paper, is a bald-faced lie and yet no one called her out on it. Probably because she appears to have the ear of the SRC and PSP. Teachers are still buying their own supplies like paper and notebooks for the students among other things. There have been little or no descernable changes that have come about in the classroom with that $1.3M grant. The only person who benefitted from the grant was the principal because it furthered her own agenda. Her school was a failing school before the kids from LP Hill ever walked in that door. it was no better or worse than other neighborhood schools. Yet somehow PSP was sold on a grant to this school by the principal and/or the SRC.
Submitted by Bill Hangley (not verified) on April 2, 2014 2:35 pm
>>> how mych of that money made it into the classroom? None, by design & by their admission. On the other hand, the "plan" that the school is developing with PSP's money is being written up by a principal and a team of teachers who are all union members, and who'll all be union members next year. Your (and others') broader points are well taken, trust me. It's no accident that there are no labor types on PSP's board; it's no accident that Blaine's staff visited only charter schools with their PSP money (IIRC). PSP's isn't secret about its opposition to various union practices. Mark has told me outright - as I reported here in the Notebook - that he doesn't think a union is by definition necessary. But Mark has told me - again, as I've reported here - that he's willing to work with the union, if grudgingly. His exact words were, "is it the best way [to improve schools]? No, but it's the fastest way." It's considerations like this that prevent me from describing PSP as "anti union" in a news story.
Submitted by inthetrenches (not verified) on April 2, 2014 3:55 pm
What is amazing and frightening is that Gleason is at the education "table." He has no experience or background other than he attended school. The issue is not "anti or pro" union - Gleason's position is clear. The larger issue is about public education - funding, voice, power, etc. Gleason and his privatization funders want to take any public voice out of public education. This is the goal of the "deformers" - privatize public education so it is no longer a public good but an even more profitable commodity. Gleason and Company get to pick and chose which schools get funding, which schools expand, which schools open, etc. Scary - yes, scary.
Submitted by Bill Hangley (not verified) on April 2, 2014 3:31 pm
It's a lot easier to get invited to anybody's table when you have a bunch of cash to hand out! The concerns articulated here - Joe K's ad hominems excepted - are well founded. I understand why people are skeptical about PSP. They have a lot of clout, and by MG's admission, they *don't* see inherent value in a unionized workforce; there's a case to be made that they should.
Submitted by inthetrenches (not verified) on April 2, 2014 4:47 pm
The power of PSP is no different than the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United and today in McCutcheon v. FEC. Big money is negating democracy - people participation - with big money. If we don't want to live at the will of the corporate oligarch, then we have to stop the loss of public education to Gleason / PSP.
Submitted by inthetrenches (not verified) on April 2, 2014 1:09 pm
Gleason does not have to say he is "anti-union." Look who funds PSP. The goal of PSP is to primarily fund chosen charter and parochial schools and remove "seats" from public, neighborhood schools. Gleason has said PSP will fund "expanding" and "new" schools. (Apparently "transformed" also fall under "new.") What is happening is Gleason is funding schools who either do not abide by the union contract with staffing (e.g. SLA, Workshop) or are willing to get rid of most of the teaching staff (e.g. Blaine). The "new" high schools will also do what they want with staffing. If a union is only "bread and butter" issues, it is a very weak union. Hite / SRC / Gleason are claiming the only issues negotiable are salary and benefits. They even want salary to be arbitrary. Claiming Gleason is not "anti-union" is like claiming Walmart is not "anti-union." As Ron wrote, if it walks like a duck...
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on March 28, 2014 1:16 pm
May I point out that that the growth in the charter school population in recent years is only because public schools were turned over to "charter operators" as Renaissance charters. They are not "charter schools" in reality. They are schools operated by "management agreements," That is not the same as a "charter grant" pursuant to the processes mandated by the Charter School Law. There is a legal difference and a practical difference which is very important for all of us to understand. Lawrence Jones, Leader of the Coalition of Charter Schools, made an excellent speech last week before the SRC. He pointed out that a few of the "charter operators" are receiving "special treatment" at the expense of independent charter schools. Charter school growth in the past few years is mostly because students and parents are being "forced into charter schools." They are being forced into charters because of the closing of neighborhood schools and the intentional starvation of public schools and neighborhood schools. A consequence of this starvation is squarely before us at Bartram. That is part and parcel of the "privatization game" which is being insidiously imposed on us from behind closed doors and closed meetings. As I have said again and again -- it is time for all of us to be honest.
Submitted by inthetrenches (not verified) on March 28, 2014 3:50 pm
Ackerman and Darden also gave the charters huge increases her last year. String Theory now has a high school that will be allowed to have over 1200 stuents. Freire and Nueva Esperanza were given middle schools. Many other charters were given thousands of "seats."
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 31, 2014 11:59 pm
Good clarification about the Renaissance charters. They are not "charter schools" in reality. They are schools operated by "management agreements" versus a charter grant. Since the inception of the Renaissance initiative back in 2010 many union jobs were lost to these managed schools.Jordan got sideswiped by Ackerman by allowing this. Jordan totally messed up and failed to not make sure that these "management agreements" schools were union affiliated -keeping the jobs in the PFT . The SDP did this back about a dozen years of so with management firms like Edison, Foundation and others. They were all keep union jobs , just managed by "management agreements". Jordan dropped the ball on this one by not saving many union jobs here. I doubt the push would be so forceful to open more Renaissance schools if they had to pay a decent salary and benefits. Since now they can open these schools and pay a lot less to teachers, staff, with no job security, due process, etc.they have more of an incentive to do so. More importantly , the PFT union would be more powerful with more members left in the fold and more schools represented. The "management agreements" schools should turn them over to the District when the schools reach a certain academic level ,not be in operation forever.Operate them for about five years to see if a difference is made, if not, turn them back to the District.Either case there should be a five year cap to manage them-period. The million dollar question here is- why the SDP can't do what the charters are doing ? This way they could just to keep them traditional District schools .What most of these charters do for achievement is crack down on discipline,behavior.Unlike the SDP that has a school code of conduct that isn't enforced. Basically, what Hite, Green, SRC,and Ackerman (back in her day) among many others are saying I can't run / manage these challenging District schools properly- so let's release them to charters or "management agreement" schools. That would classify the SDP leaders as being more incompetent, than there already are, and just passing the buck. That's not doing their jobs .Anyone can walk away from a challenge -to make their jobs easier. An effective person takes it head on.
Submitted by Dawn Hawkins (not verified) on March 31, 2014 1:32 pm
This is Dawn Hawkins a parent at Blaine school I was OUTRAGED with the out come out the decision they made without parent input about the school transformation of the school had a meeting at the school the comments that they didnt care about teachers losing ther jobs they didnt care that our children that have relationships with these teachers will bring concerns half of the parents really DID NOT see why the change over SAD SAD SAD SAD UNION BUSTING IS DISGUSTING! PARENT LEADER- FOR ACTION UNITED
Submitted by Joe k. (not verified) on March 31, 2014 3:02 pm
Ms. Hawkins.....thank you very much for your support.......
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 31, 2014 3:01 pm
When has parent input been a part of the decision making process at Blaine? The teachers blame the parents for all that ills that school. Yes action united is a puppet organization of the pft. Anyone who says different isn't being honest.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 31, 2014 3:01 pm
As a retired SDP employee I see NO reason whatsoever to demand that teachers work a longer day and have non compensated after school activities "for the sake of the children." We know that a longer day is not a smarter day, and we know that children turn off at a certain point in the day. This is a ploy to get free labor when in fact this was never the case (and doesn't have to be). IF we value our chidren and IF we value the professional people that teachers are then we will bring back after school activities (as well as art/music/ library during the day) and they will be paid for by the District. When I see this talked about in threatening, punitive terms it indicates that TPTB are basiclly interested in babysitters and not professional employees, Their bottom line is cheap, privatized labor. Rich is right, students are being FORCED into charters by starving the District of resources so that the District can they say our neighborhood schools have "empty seats." I personally have never seen such a transparent MO and we need to continue to have a parent/teacher community alliance to stop this runaway privatization train. Please do not be hesitant about contacting Arne Duncan (spoksman for the President and his policies) who is complicit in all this, and let us be careful in choosing out next Governor who *should be* pro fair funding.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 31, 2014 3:20 pm
"Next year, Blaine’s principal will be able to hire or keep only those teachers willing to implement the school’s new “transformation” plan. Principal Gianeen Powell is developing that plan with a small team of her teachers, BACKED by a $1.5 MILLION DOLLAR GRANT from the Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP). " >> I don't want to hear one bad word about the PFT, whose teachers are trying to hold on to some semblance of normalcy, when I see stuff like this going on. Public schools cannot compete against big money and people need to understand that the real goal is not about "quality educaton," it's to eradicate us completely.
Submitted by Lisa Haver on March 31, 2014 4:53 pm
"Next year, Blaine’s principal will be able to hire or keep only those teachers willing to implement the school’s new “transformation” plan. Principal Gianeen Powell is developing that plan with a small team of her teachers, backed by a $1.5 million grant from the Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP)." The principal/PSP can hire back anyone they want to, whether or not they say they are for more technology, a longer day, a longer week, a longer year or any other criteria. They can keep anyone they want and force transfer the rest based on nothing other than their own whims. The SRC approved a $60,000 down payment from PSP in August 2013; this was supposedly for this "planning year". Acceptance of the rest of the proposed grant has not taken place. Paul Kihn was quoted in one news story saying that "no further action by the SRC" is necessary. This means that the district has, under the direction of PSP, changed the process through which the SRC must go in order to inflict a "turnaround" on a school. If you call it a Promise Academy or a Renaissance Charter, then you must have public hearings. The faculty AND the administration must go, and the decision voted on by the SRC in a public meeting. Now all you have to is make up a new category called "Transformation Schools", and none of these rules apply anymore. Now only the teachers are kicked out. The same teachers Principal Powell lauded in a December 2012 Tribune article as being responsible for the success of the school because they have gone above and beyond "...both professionally and personally". When the principal surveyed the parents about the kinds of changes they wanted, they were not told that receiving PSP's money or the changes which came with it would be contingent upon the wholesale removal of the faculty. Hite and Green need to get their stories straight on this. Teachers were told on Friday March 7 that they were now in a Transformation School and that they all had to reapply for their jobs. “What the District is certain of, Kihn said, is that all principals should have what Powell has now: the ability to set their own schedules and hire teachers willing to work extended hours. And while extended time now “comes at a price” – the cost of overtime – whether that will be true next year depends on the teachers’ contract, Kihn said.” Let’s be clear on this. No public meeting has taken place before the SRC to discuss these changes in either of these schools. No vote was taken by the SRC to invent a new designation of “Transformation School”, nor has it taken a vote in public to place any school into this new category. If the district says that the principals now have these powers, it is because that is what was decided in the Great Schools Compact Committee, which is overseen by PSP. Green and Hite need to explain under what authority these new powers have been granted to these principals. They also need to explain why the teachers are the only people being forced out of the school.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on March 31, 2014 5:07 pm
Lisa, may I piggy back on what you say. When a school is "transformed" in any way, it is essentially the same as "closing a public school" and reopening it under "another name" and another structure. It should therefore, be subject to the very same public processes as a school closing. Any sort of transformation of any public school requires an open and transparent "public process" which includes public input in the form of at least "some good faith public hearing process." As Dawn, a parent, says, all parents should be well informed before any school is "transformed" in any way. The right to meaningfully participate in the decision-mnaking of our public schools is a "process which is due" the parents, the public, and the teachers since they are stakeholders, too. They are citizens as well. These public processes are mandated by the 14th Amendment, its due process clause, and its equal protection clause. The Pennsylvania "Sunshine Act" codifies those constitutional principles. The term "transformation" is merely a euphemism for "reconstitution" or "turnover to a private entity." Either way it is just another way of "blaming the teachers" for the failure of the management and leadership to provide resources to children and to provide effective facilitation of professional practices in our schools. As you notice, the school is not going through any transformation of its governance process at all. One might think that "transformed schools" would transform their governance process to become more democratic and inclusive in an effort to move us into the 21st century. What is happening is all part and parcel of the games being played behind closed doors by the "chosen few."
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 31, 2014 8:16 pm
Shouldn't the PFT be more vocal about this 'Transformation' process and what it means for teachers? Teachers who were once part of the reason the school was improving, but now only half are allowed to stay. The PSP is calling the shots and in charge of this so-called transformation. I don't understand how it is even possible. Maybe the PFT is doing something, but I don't know. If anyone has more information, I hope they will share it. I guess rules are meant to be followed until they are inconvenient, and then they can be overlooked by changing a word.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 31, 2014 8:19 pm
Shouldn't the parents contact the ELC and file a lawsuit to stop the unveiled "transformation" before it's too late?!!!
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on March 31, 2014 10:09 pm
Dawn is trying to inform parents who do not know what is happening. ELC does not usually get involved with that type of law suit. They are presently advocating for a fair funding formula, and have been vocal about special ed issues. APPS, Action United, Parents United, TAG and PCAPS have been the most vocal about the lack of parent, community and teacher input into the decisions being made. APPS has been extremely vocal at SRC meetings about the Gates Compact Committee and PSP always meeting in private without open meetings. SRC policy certainly appears to be driven by PSP, and the Gates Committee. Reconstitution of schools is not illegal. Neither is contracting out educational services to charter operators. They are matters of choice and policy. There just is supposed to be a democratic process for public decision-making and rule making. That process is defined by the Sunshine Act. The district will say that they do follow the Sunshine Act. Such stuff is the making of good argument and public debate.
Submitted by union member (not verified) on March 31, 2014 4:04 pm
What has happened to Torch Lytle? Is he now a complete apologist for the district and the money people who control it? Does he really think that teachers should accept a longer day at less pay? Sad.
Submitted by Bill Hangley (not verified) on April 1, 2014 1:35 pm
Just to clarify, Torch didn't mean to say that teachers *should* accept the kind of deal he described. Only that they may not have much choice, given the District's multiple forms of leverage. Among the possibilities is that if the District doesn't get the union concessions it wants, it could choose to dramatically accelerate the transformation of union schools to charters. So Torch was basically saying that if the union's choice boils down to, "work like charter school teachers, or lose your jobs to charter school teachers," the union may well take the former.
Submitted by Anonymous but Aware (not verified) on April 1, 2014 1:01 pm
Whatever the intent, the message is another stone in the pile of "de-professionalism of teaching. Charters often treat teachers like cogs in a wheel - easily replaceable with a script / screen.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 31, 2014 5:03 pm
The Philadelphia Tribune gets it! http://tinyurl.com/lnqd8zf The Notebook doesn't!
Submitted by ConcernedParent (not verified) on March 31, 2014 8:47 pm
When I read all this going on in Philadelphia, I get very concerned about the future education of my child and our next generation. I have a few questions: Have the "promise" and "renaissance" designated schools been able to "turn around"? If so, why isn't the SDP using their experiment in other schools? If it hasn't, how will this model differ? What is in it for PSP by funding this transformation? Why would they not fire the principal and teachers? As a principal they are In charge of ensuring the school performs and grows. Has the Blaine Principal shown any gains? If not, then perhaps it has to do with the principals leadership. What happens if the school does not transform? I worry. It seems like the SDP is experimenting with the education of a very vulnerable group of children.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 31, 2014 10:27 pm
Longer days just don't work given our student loads. I spend a good 60 hours a week on school work and I don't get to give as many essays as I would like to help my students practice their writing and get feedback. Spending more time teaching will just mean I give less and less serious work. What we do need is a longer school year. That will allow students to 1) not lose a large portion of their knowledge over the summer and 2) allow me to give more writing assignments without pushing my unsustainable work hours even farther. I don't think the district realizes the trade offs here. If they want me to give quality work that actually makes students better then I need a reasonable number of students. You can't grade 120+ 5 page essays with good comments very frequently. I also know I will not work 60 hours on-average for the rest of my career. You can only have two of these three: give properly rigorous assignments with good feedback, have a normal work-life balance (under 50 hours of work), and teach 120+ students. The district needs to choose what they value. I can teach 500 students for 9 hour days if I only lecture and give standardized tests and read from other people's lesson plans without caring if they fit my students. Is that what the district wants?

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