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More than 1,000 teacher jobs must be filled

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[Updated 8/13 with quotes from Fraser, Useem, Kempin]

Just 20 calendar days before teachers are to report to work, the School District has finally posted its teacher vacancy list and next week will start trying to match teachers with more than 1,000 vacant positions.

District spokesperson Jamilah Fraser explained, "After we finish the voluntary and forced transfers, we will have the opportunity to bring back nearly 200 teachers" from those who were laid off.

Awaiting selection of their new assignments are 930 teachers who were force-transferred, according to Arlene Kempin of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

The PFT posted the transfer schedule on its website Friday. Starting on Tuesday and continuing for nine days, teachers who were force-transferred as well as voluntary transfers will take their turn at 440 N. Broad St. picking positions based on seniority. Kempin noted that any voluntary transfers don't affect the overall numbers on the vacancy list because a position opens up in place of the one filled.

At the same time, the District's nine Promise Academies will be filling their vacancies through a site-based selection process.

Still no word on the long-awaited arbitrator's ruling in the grievance filed by the union over the District's decision to protect existing Promise Academy teachers from layoff. The hiring process cannot be completed till that issue, affecting 174 teachers, is resolved.

At this point in the summer, the District is usually only hustling to hire for its hardest-to-fill positions. Last summer, it was still working on staffing its first cohort of Promise Academies.

The process this year is complicated not only by the grievance and by the layoff of about 1,500 teachers due to a budget crisis, but also by the fact that the District's human resources staff is coping with sharp cutbacks as part of a 50 percent reduction in central office spending.

A chaotic end-of-summer hiring process was as predictable as it is unfortunate, according to researcher Betsey Useem, who has written extensively on teacher hiring issues.

"Given the known budget predicament, planning to prevent this sort of disruption should have been given priority by the administration," Useem said. "Researchers have shown that student achievement suffers when the shuffling of teacher assignments during September robs them of serious learning opportunities."

The largest clusters of teacher vacancies to fill this August are at the District's three new Promise Academies, where all teachers were forced to reapply for their jobs. Germantown High School has 39 openings, King has 49, and West Philadelphia has 44.

But they aren't the only schools with lots of hiring to do and now not a lot of days left to do it. Barry Elementary in West Philadelphia, slated to become a Promise Academy and then dropped from the list, has 22 vacancies. Carnell Elementary in the Lower Northeast has 21. Overbrook High School has 20.

No official tally of the total number of vacant positions is available, but the Notebook counted well over 1,000 full-time positions on the list. The District says the vacancy list will be updated daily.

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Paul Socolar

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Paul is the Notebook's former editor and publisher and also one of its founders in 1994.

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