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District turning to consultants for big help

By Benjamin Herold on Jan 24, 2012 02:25 PM

by Benjamin Herold
for the Notebook and WHYY/NewsWorks

As he tries to deal with the School District’s "unprecedented" budget crisis, new Chief Recovery Officer Tom Knudsen intends to rely heavily on outside consultants to help implement what could be a radical transformation of the District’s operations.

According to a Request for Qualifications issued late last week, the District is looking for providers of “managerial and financial consulting services” to help:

  • Close the District’s budget gap this year.

  • Develop a balanced budget for next year.

  • Assist in the completion of a five-year financial plan for the District.

  • Develop a plan for reorganizing the District’s “administrative, operational, and organizational structure.”

  • Determine options for “monetizing District assets.”

A District spokesperson was unable to provide information about how much those consulting services are expected to cost. But David Thornburgh, executive director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute of Government, surmised that it won’t be cheap.

A similar turn to consultants in the 1990s ran into the millions, he recalled.

"We've run this play before," he said.

Government agencies frequently turn to consultants for help with big restructuring efforts, said Thornburgh. 

“You’ve got a system out of kilter,”” said Thornburgh. “You’re buying expertise and talent that is used to working on very tight deadlines in a very political context. “

“It’s kind of a S.W.A.T. team.”

In order to balance the District’s budget this year, Knudsen and the School Reform Commission must find $61 million in new cuts or savings by June. At the same time, they hope to address the underlying problems that point towards a “structural gap” of at least $269 million for next year.

According to a presentation delivered by Commissioner Feather Houstoun last week, the District is hoping to find as much as $46 million of the funds needed for this year by getting more concessions from the District’s five labor unions.  

Teachers’ union President Jerry Jordan expressed disbelief that the District is intending to spend significant sums on consultants while cutting school budgets to the bone and asking for more givebacks from teachers.

“Where is the money coming from?” asked Jordan. “Continuing to keep hiring outside people and giving out contracts to others to perform duties that could be done within the system by staff is not money well spent.”

In October, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers approved a contract extension that saved the District $58 million by allowing it to delay payments into the union’s Health and Welfare Fund. At the time, District officials said they needed $75 million in concessions from labor unions to help close a $629 million gap.

Now, they want more.

“They keep changing the numbers,” said Jordan. “I don’t have any belief in any numbers they have right now.”

Responses to the District’s RFQ are due January 31. 

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Comments (92)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 24, 2012 4:19 pm

Thank God we have some outside experts to clean up this mess. There will need to be more cuts across the board.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 24, 2012 4:50 pm

Wake Up--If you are a working person,this is code for unionbusting and such. Don't let them fool you nor separate and conquer us. Unions are good for all working people. In any case, don't believe what they're telling you. It's ALL about "charterizing" as much as possible to give more profits to the rich, taken from the middle and poor. Don't be a fool.

Submitted by Barbara A. Viaud (not verified) on January 25, 2012 2:13 pm

Do you realize that there are children who are being abused verbally and physically by staff under the ASPIRA/ Corporate Charter School System. That cannot possibly be beneficial by any stretch of our imagination. I personally witnessed children being forced to stand out in the cold, just for being late. In one high school in particular, coats and bookbags were jammed into an open closet that didn't have any light in it. Students were instructed to walk through the halls with their arms behind their back. I couldn't distinguish those dehumanizing conditions from pictures I've seen of the Jewish Holocaust or even a Concentration Camp. Children were frisked haphazardly as they entered the building. What message are we willing to send to our young people? No wonder they contradict the system. We contradict ourselves! Violence begets violence, and trust shows them that we care, and are willing to stand up for them. It appears that we subject young people to having to fend for themselves. And to this cause, they will rely on themselves... by any means necessary. We teach them how to survive, but not how to manage their lives successfully. And judging by the present state of our economy, that lesson wasn't taught back then, and it's not being taught now.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 25, 2012 5:42 pm

Nothing would surprise me about charters. Everything is hidden that can possibly be hidden so I am not shocked by your comment.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on January 26, 2012 6:34 am

I have seen verbal abuse of 2nd graders at our PSD school by their teacher. Funny that no one made any comments about this, or that in highlighting abuses at charters, that anyone gives parents any credit for being able to make a choice. The observations you make should be shared with parents at the school.

Fix the PSD, and parents will stay.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 29, 2012 11:19 am

I agree lets all try to make PSD a great place to learn at.

Submitted by LS Teach (not verified) on January 27, 2012 10:52 am

Aspira contracts their discipline and climate out to an outside agency. Parents and students are aware of this before school begins. I am not an advocate intimidation in schools, but some parents are okay with it. I know Stetson saw a lot of positive changes in their school climate last year. This is an up and coming trend in education (contracting out discipline protocol) and I have a few friends that are involved in it.

Submitted by Barbara A. Viaud (not verified) on January 27, 2012 6:55 pm

Thank you for your comment. I can appreciate your response. There are still a lot of protests concerning the changes in the schools, despite the fact that parents and students appear to be okay with it. Students have walked away from schools because they don't agree. Stetson; however, may be a model school that I am not wholly familiar with, but not all can boast of this ameliorating climate.
It reminds me of the once popular novel "1984," by George Orwell. The dominant philosophy being:
In 1984, George Orwell warns of the terrifying dangers that man may create for himself in his quest for a utopian society. It warns that people might believe that everyone must become slaves to the government in order to have an orderly society, but at the expense of the freedom of the people.
“The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth.”
How are your friends involved? Are they students, or part of the contracted protocol? I’m curious because I’ve spoken with students, and members of the “ Team” protocol.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 24, 2012 5:32 pm

Call back Ackerman, she knows how to get the most bang for HER BUCK!!!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 24, 2012 5:33 pm

$46 Million in concessions?!?

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on January 24, 2012 6:07 pm

Hopefully Knudsen will find another answer/solution. Otherwise, why would he have been hired if this is the only one, one which is already proposed?

Submitted by SocialScience (not verified) on January 24, 2012 6:11 pm

Can someone please explain to me this concept of spend money to save money? Not really sure how that works.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on January 24, 2012 6:57 pm

Apparently it worked at PGW. We shall see.

Submitted by Taxpayer (not verified) on January 24, 2012 6:55 pm

Oh, that's easy. You don't work in private industry so you have no concept of the free market and capitalism, or success or failure, because you're not held to account for job performance.

The concept of spending money to save money or to make money comes from the concept of investment. Whether that be in R&D for a new product, capital investment to make your workers more productive, or hiring management consultants who can take a close look at the operations of an organization and come up with ways to streamline operations. Then normally the lazy unproductive workers would be let go and the competent workers would be given intentive bonuses. But since your union won't allow higher pay for harder working, conscientious teachers and the firing of lazy incompetent ones, the burden will just fall on the younger teachers, regardless of their dedication and work ethic.

Does that explain it?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 24, 2012 7:12 pm

"intentive bonuses" aside, I think you are a taxpayer the same way Frank Gallagher from Shameless is a taxpayer.

Go back to /b/ and stop trying to tell productive members of society what to do.

Submitted by Down the Hall (not verified) on January 24, 2012 7:51 pm

I am so sorry that your employer, who is blinded by the "free market" and "capitalism" has decided that the shareholders' interests are more important than your standard of living. And have decided to convince you that it is in the best interest of the shareholders for you to pay more for benefits that, quite frankly, are substandard, so that the shareholders can continue to live their lavish lifestyles. All the while you will fight their war against the commonweal.

I am also sorry that you have been convinced by the shareholders to believe that education is a business. Well, it's not. In the "free market" business exists to make money, that is their mission. In education, schools exist to educate the populous, so that our democratic republic will continue to grow and evolve. Education's mission is to produce future citizens who can think, function, and participate in our democratic republic.

Submitted by Taxpayer (not verified) on January 25, 2012 10:00 am

In the public sector the "shareholders" are the taxpayers. And contrary to what your union tells you, it does matter what we think. As for the competition that you so fear, it has already been in education for a long time. Universities, both public and private, compete for students. Private elementary schools compete for students. Now it is coming to the public school system. Get used to it. The school boards have a responsibility to get the best deal for taxpayers that they can. Period.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 25, 2012 9:48 pm

Because in the public sector, if you want quality employees, you offer minimal salaries and crappy benefits. Works every time.

You could at least be internally consistent. Wrong, but consistent. Put down the Fox News for a day and take a walk. Maybe use your brain a couple times, then come back and talk to us.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on January 24, 2012 8:10 pm

The problem with your logic is that public education is a "public trust" and the beneficiaries are the students and the community as a "common good." The board of trustees, of a public trust, have fiduciary duties of care, loyalty and good faith which inure to the students and their local community.

In private entities, fiduciary duties go to the ones who own the entity and the purpose is always to make money not serve children..

There is no evidence that private organizations who call themselves charter operators or EMO's raise achievement or serve our children better in any way. The evidence shows that what they more often do is exclude needy students.

The most successful charter schools are the ones who were founded as entities themselves which, in PA require their own independent boards of trustees to be a true charter school. They are not private schools.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 24, 2012 11:01 pm

Again, I ask how can anybody ever suggest that some charters are better than others. Until they play by the same rules--which ain't gonna happen-- you can't judge good from bad charters. They simply do as they please with protection from the pols who opened them. It's all a scam as of now. The whole Edison fiasco has come and gone, thank God but now, even more sinister businesses-charters--are here, all claiming to be savior for the kids. Truth is they're particularly evil and vile frauds, stealing money from the kids they claim to care for and yes, they cherry pick to make their "job" even easier.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 24, 2012 8:15 pm

No but it explains you.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 25, 2012 12:35 pm

Not really that simple I'm afraid.

I have worked in "private industry for 22 years before becoming a teacher here in Philadelphia. Let's start with the term "private" for example. GE is private but receives millions from the government. Likewise, Comcast, many other large corporations and non-profits receive tax exemptions because of our "collective will." (Name the large corporations, and many mid-size corporations that do not receive some government benefits whether roads, hospitals, police etc.)

While I hate taxes, I hate even more dead bodies not collected on the street. I hate taxes but hate even more some wild relative of someone's brother making up school stuff because they have indigestion. In other words, having a unified, regulated and protected workforce that is better paid helps lots of people and students.

Could things be better organized? Sure, of course. But in private industry, I participated in the reorganization of major corporations about every other year. Reorganizations cut jobs, lower pay, "streamline" operations which is a cold way to say someone's cousin had indigestion and a new dream. You understand I'm sure.

Elite's refuse to recognize a truly "win-win" scenario for working people. If they did, even President Obama would behave differently, maybe especially so. The pipeline is a no-brainer as are more jobs. I hate taxes and little endangered lizards, too

Submitted by Samuel Reed III on January 24, 2012 10:51 pm


Sorry to make the commercial reference. But ShowTime is running a series "House of Lies" about how consultants operate.  Follow the money trail . See where it leads us...

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on January 24, 2012 6:01 pm

Hopefully there will be greater transparency. I had no idea the district had lost money in debt interest swaps $39 million per article "PhillyDeals: Adviser guilty of fraud linked to Pa. swaps" at (thanks Notebook for the link).

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 24, 2012 6:29 pm

Make sure not to ask any teachers! It's not like we have any idea what's happening!

Just bring in the cast of House of Lies. That way, we can just close the doors on this whole "public education" thing for good.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 24, 2012 7:59 pm

Boy, I am confused now. There is a deficit. We are at bare bones now, yet there is money to hire folks to get the budget together. Where is the money coming from? Many people were laid off and will continue to be laid off, but there is no money? Is there a money tree in front or behind 440 that someone is shaking dollar bills from? Where is the money coming from?

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on January 25, 2012 7:22 am

I think that is one of the things that needs to be fixed, and I would look to see if Knudsen can.There doesn't seem to be a "real time" budget available to see if there are funds available for "inspired" or even routine decisions. School budgets are approximate, with parameters that supposedly leave a cushion in the aggregate.

Though $150,000 seems like a lot, here's something I pulled from the SRC's Public Meeting Resolution List for October 20, 2010: "Strategic Programs
B-10 Categorical/Grant Funds: $179,869.26 Contract Amendment with Frontline Solutions – School Advisory Councils " This amount is only an "amendment"... what was the total contract amount?

I believe longterm budget issues are more important than SACs which duplicate the already created School Councils and function(s) of the Home and School Associations.

Better tracking might close the loop where charters can keep funding for kids they "kick back" to the PSD also.

Good ideas only come to fruition if there is the discipline required to implement them. Education is not a business, but does require finance/discipline.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 25, 2012 2:15 pm

Education is now very big business as in the charter fraud. If we're not careful, the corporations which is exactly what charters are, will take over the inner cities which will be the end of hope for the have nots. This is one of those times in history where a decision will be felt for generations. Which way America???? Pick charterizing and the end of hope or fund the inner city schools fairly and even out the playing field. The first choice will lead to further hatred and despair while the latter will eventually lead to peace and justice. CLEARLY, the corporations only care about profit and that's why WE must keep Public Education PUBLIC. The folks need to fight like our life depends on it because it does. By the way, Obama is so full of it, great speeches with no action so we're in this on our own which I guess, is poetic justice.

Submitted by ProPublicEducation (not verified) on January 25, 2012 7:53 pm

Now, now. Let's be careful about putting reason in the way of unfettered money-hungry business folk. They only think they don't care about the demise of public education. If they succeed, they'll be wringing their hands too and, without any idea of what education is all about, they'll plan for more private corporate approaches that will fail. Level playing field is not in the lexicon of business.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 25, 2012 7:05 pm

Exactly BUT they won't worry about the education part of it at all, just the profit piece.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 24, 2012 9:56 pm

All thinking people know the push to privatize as much as possible is alive and kicking. The SRC is following the script of Corbett and even, here it comes, Obama who has been a huge disappointment for working people, especially unionized folks. He should be ashamed of himself but he knows he has us in his pocket due to the crazy alternatives like Gingrich. We are in this by ourselves for the most part. The corporations saw the green light in 2010. Elections matter and working people are paying for it now. Pols like Walker, Kasich, Christie and Corbett are the direct enemies of working families.

Submitted by TIRED OF THE LIES (not verified) on January 24, 2012 9:02 pm

The district claims it is out of money.
The district wants to create more charter school.
Charter schools cost more money that regular public schools.
That tells me the district wants to create more debt. Additionally they are spending money to consultants who will find ways to balance the budget.

The children of this city who are living in poverty are being forced to go to schools who have been financially reduced to bare minimum.

Submitted by SocialScience (not verified) on January 24, 2012 10:10 pm

Wow, love all the comments. Mine was obviously sarcastic. The SDP is operating in the red, $61M in the red. How do justify paying over $1M when you are $61M in debt. This is a public run entity, a non-profit, not a private corporation which has shareholders paying more money into. Our shareholders (aka the Feds and PA's Governor/Congress) pulled back over half a million dollars in funding. Not a fair or accurate comparison.

Submitted by SocialScience (not verified) on January 24, 2012 10:06 pm

As for the comment on not being held accountable for job performance, every teacher has bi-monthly reviews in Philly. Not accountable? If our students fail, we are turned into a Charter or Promise Academy. Not accountable?

Please check your facts.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 25, 2012 6:12 am

Bi-monthly reviews? No, there are two per year for tpers and one per year for tenured teachers.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 25, 2012 8:48 am

Not completely correct either. TPEs are rated twice a year but are to have four formal observations. Should they not receive the four they are required to have, that is on the administration of that building. First year teachers who are in a PAR school are the only ones who are not required to have four formal observations. They are still rated twice a year. The rating system is a state mandate.

Submitted by I Love Teachers (not verified) on January 25, 2012 10:33 am

Where are you getting your information??

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 25, 2012 9:04 pm

Well, in two years I have been observed twice formally and once informally. Many don't even get that.

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert (not verified) on January 25, 2012 11:35 am

I think the person referencing bi-monthly reviews may be in an 'Empowerment' School (what a piece of Newspeak that is!). EMP Schools often have twice-a-month walk-throughs by AD Admins, and they often key on the same teachers and classes. It is not supposed to be an eval for a teacher, but that is what it turns into. They only use room numbers, not names in the 'review', but--let's face it--we all know which teacher is in which room. Again these AD staff people should be the first cut.

Submitted by meg (not verified) on January 25, 2012 11:26 am

I'll sign that petition.
the walk through teams are the biggest waste of money since Ackerman got her severance pay.

Submitted by I Teach in Philly on January 25, 2012 3:06 pm

Why are we paying the walk through teams those big $alaries? We can feel bad enough without them draining the payroll and making morale worse.

Pressure builds, the district is imploding, the kids are reacting to the loss of school security, supports and extracurriculars, teachers are afraid of being laid off and making do in the classroom with almost nothing . . then 440 strolls in again telling everyone (in the vaguest terms possible of course) that they are doing a terrible job.

Give me that petition so I can sign too.

Submitted by meg (not verified) on January 26, 2012 7:30 am

our last walk through declared my room a fire hazard because of the books and displays - really ?! no comments not eh teaching going on or progress of the kids academically. Not even any complaints about behavior (which I had since they were so off task), but complaints about he room itself. This is absolutely out of their control - not something they should even look at and yet - that was their focus. Guess everything else was too good.
Then the team complained about store bought displays - which there are almost none of - I think I would score better if I stopped teaching when they come in and let them have something real to complain about.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 25, 2012 9:17 pm

Actually, Linda Wayman has completely ignored that rule and mentions names on her walkthroughs. I know because I was a Dept Chair on a walkthrough, and our union rep and principal argued against it. She won. Yes, the AD Supers need to go!

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on January 26, 2012 2:16 am

Teachers' names are also printed in the report given to principals post walk through. (There are many misspellings, by the way...) Also, there are "nonsense" recommendations that are not based on anything other than they had to write something about each subject. Another examples of AD1/Wayman and her crew's incompetence.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 26, 2012 11:52 am

Wayman is typical of what is going on in the District. Management has rife with low-classed; uneducated individuals who are full of anger and lack substance. Wayman is Nixon's lackey. Nixon has provided NO leadership in academics for one reason only: She doesn't know what she's doing. Fire them!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 25, 2012 8:13 pm

Tenured teachers get two observations per year. Get your facts straight. On top of this there are informal observations which are more of a way to harass teachers than any real push towards educational improvement. If you have 15 years in you don't have the two observations, but have to do a professional development program that is approved in the fall, reviewed in the middle of the year then again at the end of the year. The school district was suppose to provide training in how to write this program, but failed not only to do that, but even provide a basic template for teachers to follow.

BTW, where the hell are these new lesson plans the PFT promised us for last Jan. 9th? Just another sign of their apathy towards the teachers they are suppose to be serving.

Submitted by meg (not verified) on January 26, 2012 7:41 am

most of us are now in this three year schedule which puts us either in the observation year every third year for 2 formal observations or in the PD plan years which includes meetings with the principal and informal observations to see if the PD is actually going on - either way this is a shift and a lot of stress, since those meetings take up prep time and are not really very clear in the goal or actions.
I have been here for 24 years, so I have two formal observations int he works for this year. One down, which went extremely well and one hanging over my head... this is really strange.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 25, 2012 9:07 pm

Yes, bi-monthly informal observations.....

Submitted by SocialScience (not verified) on January 24, 2012 10:53 pm

Crippling sanctions...unrelenting pressure...was Barack Obama talking about Iran or schoolteachers?

Submitted by Meg (not verified) on January 25, 2012 11:03 am


Submitted by ProPublicEducation (not verified) on January 25, 2012 7:19 pm

Hey,why don't we get just go to the core and get rid of all teachers, principals, textbooks and other school supplies. While we're at it, let's outsource those pesky students. Then we can leave the whole School District to be handed over to the businesses that are really what's important here. Education is no longer about teaching children how to think, be creative or be able to enter the workforce. It's about how today's entrepreneurs can make a profit while pretending they're saving education.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 25, 2012 8:42 pm

AD1 uses names in walkthroughs at Edison HS!!

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on January 25, 2012 8:06 pm

How does the district explain or justify paying promise academy principals a $10,000 bonus. Except Ed Penn and Lois Mondesire who got a 20,000 dollar bonus. Mondesire was moved out of the promise academy region and put into a school as a principal. Guess where? Germantown High because it is a promise academy and of course she wants her bonus.

How does the district explain paying promise academy teachers for an extra hour, 4 days a week. That adds up to quite a bit of money just to teach a 45 minute class of arts and crafts, line dancing and games of chance. Whose job is it to monitor this? Well that person dropped the ball.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on January 26, 2012 2:13 am

Strawberry Mansion under Lois Mondesire is one of the schools being investigated for cheating fraud. It was one of the most notorious - next to Roosevelt. Wagner is also under investigation under Nixon. So, why are Mondesire and Nixon still in positions of power?

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on January 26, 2012 4:04 am

Strawberry Mansion under Lois Mondesire is one of the schools being investigated for cheating fraud. It was one of the most notorious - next to Roosevelt. Wagner is also under investigation under Nixon. So, why are Mondesire and Nixon still in positions of power?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 25, 2012 9:46 pm

I just found out that Jerry Jordan will be our union rep for the next four years because he ran unopposed. Did anyone know his term was up? I spoke to other union members tonight and no one had a clue! I knew people who wanted to run..... I am tired of this damn union! Time for more than a Superintendent overthrow!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 26, 2012 6:18 am

what kind of crap is this? did anyone know there was an election coming up?

"Jerry T. Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, has been elected to a second four-year term. He was unopposed.

Jordan was elected at an executive board meeting Monday night.

His new term will begin July 1. The union represents approximately 15,000 teachers, librarians, nurses, counselors, noninstructional support staff, and others employed by the School District of Philadelphia."

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 26, 2012 7:45 am

jerry jordan wins reelection for 4 more years in secret election

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 26, 2012 7:05 am

doesn't our union have a moral and legal obligation to publicize that an election is coming up in an open forum?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 26, 2012 7:18 am

what if they held an election and nobody knew. way to go PFT. attaboy jerry! score a big zero for the democratic process.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 26, 2012 7:07 am

shhhh! there's an election coming up....keep it a secret.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 26, 2012 12:21 pm

You know, I probably would have voted for him, but I would have liked the chance to have made the choice myself. How is this democracy? No one - not even the PFT Reporter or The Notebook - mentioned this prior to the announcement of Jordan's renewed presidency. Where's the democracy in that?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 26, 2012 7:56 am

putin could take lessons from jordan

Submitted by Anonymous PA teacher (not verified) on January 26, 2012 8:58 am

Best comment ever! :)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 26, 2012 7:12 am

jordan got outmanuevered by ackerman for years. didn't openly criticize her till writing was on the wall that she had lost nutter's support. too bad we don't get a chance to vote for someone with stones.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 26, 2012 8:26 am

Do the the gross income of the blue collar working man to the take home pay (what we really live off of) with all the layoffs...all that tax juice starts to dry up...A healthy working force won't exist without medical benefits( which are totally over inflated) can't work the machine without fuel or proper maintenance.....the greedy are imploding on themselves...Unemployment is not looking so bad the fat cats scramble when the simple chores of life have to be addresses with their sweat and stress....The working man deserves fair pay and a chance to get by...plenty of waste can be cut...but don't kill off the grunts who keep things going.

Submitted by steoifasio (not verified) on November 26, 2012 8:52 pm
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Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on January 26, 2012 1:51 pm

Cost saving measure: The extended hour in promise academies has been eliminated.
Principals will be receive the $10,000 bonus.
Good move!!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 26, 2012 4:27 pm

Any confirmation on this? Principals will receive or won't receive the bonus?

Submitted by Anonymous PA teacher (not verified) on January 26, 2012 4:23 pm

I keep hearing this rumor, but would somebody please try to verify it? WHEN, exactly? Is this just a rumor about next year, or is it coming this year? As a PA teacher, I'd jump for joy if they'd cut the extra hour, and so would many of my colleagues.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 26, 2012 5:57 pm

Regarding Promise Academies. It seems that people keep saying that the extra hour will be cut. However, is this information true or not? If so, where can the teachers find out about this? The extra hour is not working and desperately needs to go! However, if this is some sort of myth, then please stop posting this out here.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 26, 2012 7:01 pm

Cutting the extra hour would also mean cutting the pay for those hours, I would think (otherwise it wouldn't actually save money...). That could get complicated, given the agreements that the teachers signed (at least in the first year). I feel like the District is going to be in some complicated legal matters over exactly what a "Promise Academy" is, and who gets bonuses for working in one / how much latitude they have to cut the hours in the middle of the year.

Submitted by Michelle (not verified) on January 27, 2012 11:24 pm

Part of the problem is the proliferation of charter schools because charters are more expensive (see "The Financial Impact of Philadelphia Charter Schools on the School District of Philadelphia" at This is partly due to the way that the state funds charter schools and to the growth in the number of students transferring to charter schools from private schools.

Submitted by Sem (not verified) on January 30, 2012 8:35 am

Who exactly are these outside consultants?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 3, 2012 8:34 pm

I agree, the walk through teams have to go. How much money would be saved through that? But they continue...

I work at a Promise Academy. These are very difficult students in dangerous schools. Teacher turnover is atrocious, subs won't come, and we are constantly covering. As far as the extra hour, enrichment is only twice a week, and sometimes canceled to do academic work. The other days we teach all day until dismissal.

Who said that the extra hour would be eliminated? Now, summer school has been eliminated; this is not fair to teachers who signed on to difficult Promise Academies for the extra money and now will not get the additional income. Now, I heard a rumor that Saturday school will also be canceled. Now after all that, why would any teacher in their right mind stay at a school as difficult as a Promise Academy with the financial incentives removed? I signed on because I needed the money. If we are going to be paid as teachers in regular schools, nobody is going to stay at a Promise Academy. I know I won't Then these difficult schools to staff, former Promise Academies, will become even more short on teachers. If the district plans to keep teachers in Promise Academies, they need to keep their word about the benefits promised by signing on to a Promise Academy. But I agree, enrichments should go and be replaced with academic content. That's just food for thought.

But, I repeat walk through teams at this point are just taking money which should be spent educating students. Why do the principals receive such a large incentive anyhow? I didn't get that to sign on.

When will we see layoffs of middle management such as those on the walk trough teams, and other administrators? In private business when tough times are encountered, management is the first to go. Those doing the actual work stay. Why at SDP do those who do the actual work, work with students get laid off, and those middle management personnel stay, when they have no contact with students? Because it's all political, those in management are politically connected.

Let's see if our new recovery officer can step out of politics and see the situations as it is.

Unless you're a Philly teacher, you have now idea how difficult and dangerous the job is. Taking more from our benefits and salary will only force teachers to quit. Especially the new younger teachers. Those in this generation do not have the same attitude toward careers as older workers do. Studies have indicated that young workers in the workforce today will have five jobs before retiring. If the teaching job begins to provide less income and benefits than they can get in private industry, they will leave. (At my Promise Academy, many younger teachers have said they are looking to find an alternative career, and are attending college to receive credentials for a different occupation.) This will increase the teacher turnover rate. We all know that new teachers have more difficulty with classroom management than experienced teachers, we all did at the beginning of our careers; as teacher turnover increases and new teachers are hired to replace those who quit, schools will remain out of control because there will be such a glut of teachers who haven't yet developed effective classroom management skills.

Can't we get through the politics, stop hiring more and more political cronies to solve the problem and just reorganize the administration and get rid of those not needed at this point in this budget crisis, and look at what's important - students and stable faculties?

Submitted by Anonymous PA teacher (not verified) on February 3, 2012 10:24 pm

I agree completely with your analysis of the climate, at least in the Promise Academy I work at. Frankly, I've never seen such chaos, dysfunction, and administrative incompetence. But I don't agree that the extra hour should be kept. Here's an exact quote from a note between two students I picked up today (unedited except expletives):

"I really think that everyday we should get out of school early like 3:00 everyday instead of getting out 3 on Mondays and Fridays and 4 tues., Wed; & thurs. Mon. through fri. should be 3pm every day cuz we be f----- tired every f----- day and I am so sick about this staying school all day b---s---. You know this stuff really gets on my f----- nerves. I really had it with this s---."

"I know, I feel you."

I see it time and time again -- the exhaustion, boredom, inattentiveness, and cutting. More isn't necessarily better.

I also believe that letting us actually teach our subjects, individually and using our own expertise and creativity instead of lock 7-steps would make the day more engaging for everybody. Look at it from the students' point of view -- how would it feel to sit through eight similarly patterned periods a day? "Do now, objective, direct, guided, independent, differentiation, exit ticket" -- over and over and over, day after day after long day. I wouldn't have been able to bear it, I don't think, when I was in school. Why are we trying to invent a factory model of educating our kids? (Oh, right, I forgot -- they're going to replace teachers with computers...)

Submitted by Down the Hall (not verified) on February 3, 2012 11:13 pm

What truly burns me up with the whole PA fiasco, is that school communities were torn apart. Many teachers who were a part of the school community were put through a gut wrenching choice, two years ago, and now they are watching this "Promise" become what it was once predicted to become, a "nightmare." The students are the ones who suffer, for many in these schools, the teachers are sometimes the only adults they can rely on to be there. Now the teachers are becoming transcient, leading to further chaos.

The walkthrough is ridiculous, and the "seven step lesson plan" has been twisted into something that Madeline Hunter herself has said it is not, here's a link to her own article (Sorry, haven't mastered the art of adding links to comments, here)

And now the district has decided in its infinite wisdom that cutting School Police Officers will save money, 1% of the shortfall. While the city and district have just vowed earlier to address school safety. Cut me a break, this just leads me to believe that they want to bust up the unions and then "outsource" services such as security, nursing, and janitorial to privateers. This is Phase III of the let's get rich off the public trough scheme. MORE SHOCK AND AWE TO COME!!!

It is time for everyone to start pushing back, before it is too late.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 3, 2012 11:31 pm

The Promise Academies are a "high cost" babysitting service. I am certain that teachers and students alike will be glad when this whole "Promise Academy" delusion finally comes to an end. Cut costs? A school police officer is much more valuable in any school instead teaching "knitting", and "playing scrabble" for an extra hour during the day. The teachers and students alike are not responding well to this futile experiment. These schools were given millions of dollars in grants, yet no mention is being made in diverting those funds in order to save jobs.
The kids are walking out of these schools in droves. Yet, the message is not getting across to those who are "balancing the books". I find it hard to believe that that district can derive a $150k salary for someone to "balance the budget", and not afford to pay school police and thwart teacher layoffs.
The charter schools are a farce, and yet the school district's money is being used to streamline these projects instead of fixing the problems that already exist.
**Imagine a school without any teachers
**Imagine a school without any safety and security
**Imagine sheer mayhem and chaos
.....Imagine 2014.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 4, 2012 4:32 am

Wayman - and Nixon - are responsible for the lock step 7 step lesson plan requirement. As you wrote, it is counter to Hunter's understanding of her 7 steps and it is inappropriate for all classes, every day. It is "drill and kill" instruction. Wayman - and Nixon - (Is the SRC listening????) have to go. Neither know anything about curriculum and instruction.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 4, 2012 10:33 am

Start pushing back by showing up at 440 on Wednesday at 4pm.

What began as the nurses speaking up (as we clearly could see the price kids/teachers/ principals/ parents/ the philly community will pay as schools eliminate properly staffing nurses) is emerging as a movement of passionate, informed, concerned citizens who are willing to speak out in favor of REAL PUBLIC SCHOOLS during these uncertain times. This battle is expected to be long, protracted, grueling. So eat your Wheaties folks!
Fortify your spirits in whatever way you can. Read everything you can about trends in public education- and who/what is behind these trends...

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 4, 2012 10:04 am

Where the hell is the "new" lesson plan that the PFT and district were suppose to have out on Jan. 9th? As usual, PFT is missing in action.

Submitted by One of the Good Ones (not verified) on February 4, 2012 11:34 am

I can think of a lot more important things to focus on right now. Seriously??? You're worried about lesson plan templates. You're focus should be on the cuts that the district is forced to make.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 4, 2012 1:35 pm

Seriously? Yes!, I am concerned about the lesson plans as they take up too much of my time and don't really reflect what we can do in the classroom when we don't even have the books we are suppose to teach with. Sounds like you don't have to worry about them otherwise you would know why this is a hot subject for teachers in Philly. What the hell is the PFT doing that they can't even stick to their own deadlines. They were the ones that came up with the Jan. 9th date to have the new plans. It's not like they are doing anything about the administrative bullying that is going on in our schools. What do cuts have to do with excessive "busywork" that the administration has chosen to to use as a way to "push out" teachers. Teachers that have held this district together while every politically-appointed buffoon has tried to drive this district into the dirt?

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on February 4, 2012 12:54 pm

seriously?!! This is your biggest concern and worry in life right now at your school. Where do you work and how can I get there?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 4, 2012 12:13 pm

Perhaps the point that is trying to be made is the fact that we are told yet another lie. Yes, I agree, what is being done to stop the cuts being made to our schools? Why is the Renaissance Process happening for yet another year? Does anyone see the costs involved, the job cuts? The Promise Academies are not working, the charters are reaping the benefits with the money that should be used to fix public education. Their statistics are bogus, and teachers again this year will be losing their jobs.

No, I feel that the point being made is the fact that our union is invisible. They only say things that sound good for the moment. What are they doing to stop this insanity?

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on February 4, 2012 12:52 pm

While budget cuts are an issue, the fact Nixon sent all teachers a memo announcing a new lesson plan template for Jan. 9 and we haven't seen anything is another indication that she should resign. Then, she can take her girls friends with her such as LaTanya Miller, Johnstone sisters, Wayman, etc.

Submitted by Elementary Ass't Principal (not verified) on February 4, 2012 1:53 pm

I have nothing against Nixon, but apparently everyone else who posts on here does...however, I agree that Miller should go. That b--ch is a waste of time, energy, money, and space. The thing about it is, no matter how much b--ching and moaning we do, that is not going to get her out of there. I submit that with the allegations that have been previously made about her as they relate to her stealing time (i.e., coming to work at 10 and leaving by 2), that people down at 440 start logging her time and anonymously report it to the state Auditor General. Miller is in that position because of her family connections, not because she is qualified or knows anything. And you wonder why curriculum is in shambles in the district...

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 4, 2012 1:27 pm

I never said it was my biggest concern, but one of many which the PFT is too scared to tackle. Wear a red shirt folks, that will do so much! Maybe you want to spend every waking hour of your life doing busywork, but I don't. I have a life beyond school hours and, while it does involve taking work home, I don't want to spend every hour doing pointless busywork for clueless administrators that want to justify their fear of not tackling important things like school climate.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 4, 2012 3:18 pm

They are probably dragging their heels because requiring a unified lesson plan across the district is the dumbest thing I've ever heard. The template should be a maximum requirement, but of course it will suddenly become a minimum. There are schools that require only monthly summaries. There are schools that mandate 13 different kinds of bulletin boards. Again, just one more area where the district proves itself too big to manage.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 4, 2012 8:42 pm

They can hand down all these demands to their teachers, but this district can't be bothered to test kids for special ed. when they don't have enough teachers to cover them. As a result special ed. students are dumped in mainstream classrooms all day long now. If they are lucky might get an period or two of instruction when the special ed. teacher is not in a meeting with the principal trying to figure out how to avoid law suits. Don't get me started on the lack of discipline now that the school police are being laid off. Make up your own plan seems to be the mantra of the do-nothing school administrators these days.

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