The School District sent out layoff notices to nearly 3,800 employees last week. The following letter, written to the District, comes from Harvey Scribner, a teacher at Crossroads Accelerated Academy who has been teaching in the District for over four years. He received his pink slip over the weekend.
Good Morning, Sir,
I received my notice Saturday. I got it early in the morning, so it could stick in the back of my brain all weekend like a splinter in a finger. I got it on a weekend so I could not clarify any of the points or contact anyone who could, at the very least, let me know what the next steps are. I lost sleep, got sick, and generally let it sink in.
The letter mentions to let someone at the School District of Philadelphia know if you are a veteran. I served honorably for 21 years in the Pennsylvania National Guard and have deployed twice in service to my country. I am honorably discharged and hold the status of retiree from the army. I also have a rated Disability for Service Connected Injuries. I successfully completed the Troops to Teachers Program and I have been teaching in the District since January of 2009. I started at University City High School, stayed through the change to a Promise Academy, was forced out due to seniority last year, and was site-selected to teach at Crossroads Accelerated Academy at Elverson for this school year. As you know, this is an alternative education school providing critical intervention to students in the Philadelphia School District.
Since coming to the District, I found equipment when there was none, I created curriculum when there was nothing, I did without when we needed supplies. I broke up fights. I sent kids to class when they wandered the halls. I worked two summer programs and took the extra step to complete training when the District did not think it was needed. For the last four years, I have struggled, alongside the most courageous and honorable people I have ever worked with, to teach the students, feed the students, clothe the students, protect the students, and lead the students. For this dedication, and for the dedication of my brothers and sisters in education, we are now rewarded with this? A District that lets us go, a union that shrugs its shoulders, a city that sleeps, a state that remains deaf, a federal system that demands more and offers less. The real crime is to the neighborhoods and blocks in Philadelphia that cry out for something better to anyone that would hear, and that sound is lost in the overwhelming symphony of thundering apathy on all sides.
I realize that there are always forces beyond my control, but know that if you break up our team at Crossroads, you will damage one of the few systems in the School District of Philadelphia that is actually working. We are strong because of the integration of our curriculum, the dedication of our small but determined band of educators, and because we have the proper leadership to carry us through. I understand that every school and employee will claim the same, but we are truly different. If you break us up now, you will lose one small program that is making a profound impact on the fabric of our city.
I am sure 3,800 others are writing this same type of note to you. You must be sick of the whining. I am humble and compliant, but know that when you run all of the motivated teachers like me out of the city, like you did two years ago, you will be doing a huge disservice to those families and neighborhoods who depend on the safe harbor of the school system to help the kids get out of the clutches of poverty, crime, and neglect. I will actively look for work elsewhere while waiting to see if you call me back, but in the meantime, know that you risk losing more than your teachers and staff. Your respect and honor is falling away in light of your decision to let us go. I hope you can live with that.
Sincerely and respectfully,
Crossroads Accelerated Academy at Elverson
This letter also appears at Faces of the Layoffs, a project by Teacher Action Group.