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Report detailing Boston Consulting Group findings and recommendations released

By Dale Mezzacappa on Aug 2, 2012 06:35 AM

By Dale Mezzacappa and Benjamin Herold

The School District released a 119-page document on Thursday that summarized the analyses and recommendations of the Boston Consulting Group, an outside firm retained at private expense to help the District avert a financial meltdown by radically overhauling its business operations and delivery of education.  

The document details BCG’s work and thinking on hot-button topics ranging from charter expansion to labor negotiations.  It also includes the previously unreleased analyses behind controversial District proposals to close dozens of schools and reorganize those that are left into decentralized, independently managed “achievement networks.”

“This presents a summary of our key findings and recommendations – some of which have been accepted by the school district and integrated into their proposed blueprint, while others await further community input and District consideration,” reads the summary.

Speaking with reporters Wednesday, District Chief Recovery Officer Thomas Knudsen praised the consultants, saying they have been instrumental in helping the cash-strapped District to identify hundreds of millions of dollars in possible savings and to rethink some of its fundamental assumptions. But Knudsen reiterated that BCG, which has worked in several other large districts around the country, has been making recommendations, not setting policy.

“They do not in any way prescribe what we’re doing,” he said.

“What this exercise did was essentially get us into a ballpark, a financial framework in which to operate. How we now move the pieces is the management challenge of the next [several years].”

Underlying the entire document is the reorganization of the District into a “portfolio management” system in which the school is the center of change, receiving support and guidance – but not control and mandates – from the networks and a completely revamped and downsized central administration.  

In a briefing accompanying the document’s release, Knudsen insisted that BCG was not, as alleged by some, in the forefront of pushing a strategy of wholesale school privatization, largely through the achievement networks.

“BCG has been professional, agnostic on any number of topics, and provided excellent analysis. [The consultants] have not attempted to influence the outcome in any way.”

Since being hired by the School Reform Commission in February, BCG has engaged in four distinct phases of work, all paid for with $4.4 million in private donations, most or all of which have been coordinated by the William Penn Foundation and delivered through the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania. 

Key BCG findings and recommendations:

Achievement networks

BCG strongly urges reorganizing the District into achievement networks of 20 to 30 schools each to provide them with “customized, responsive support and guidance.”

When the network proposal was first made public, there was an outcry that it was meant to privatize the system. And the details of how exactly the networks would operate were sketchy and confusing, causing the SRC to back off plans to pilot one this coming school year.

For now, they are on the back burner, but certainly not off the table.

“Everybody’s going to take a deep breath for the time being, and this recommendation will be there and the analyses will be there for us to call upon when the time is right,”  Knudsen said. He added that incoming superintendent William Hite needs time to “think through this problem in terms of what he would like to see happen.”

In a later interview, SRC Chairman Pedro Ramos said that “the network discussion continues,” but added that the school closings need to be dealt with first.

In the document, BCG stresses that it does not envision that all the networks would be managed by private, outside organizations.

It goes into detail about New York’s series of networks, pointing out that 80 percent of its networks are operated by district employees, not private groups. And it specifies that unionized principals and teachers who might step forward to run a network in Philadelphia would remain in the union.

It said that the networks would primarily provide general academic support and coaching; special education services focused on improving quality; and support for principals in getting skilled and qualified teachers.

The best such networks around the country, including some high-profile charter management organizations, are “highly customer-service oriented” and “drive strong instructional philosophies, share best practices,” and give teachers in-depth personalized coaching, BCG writes. 

The networks would be part of a three-tiered organization. A lean District Center with fewer than 300 employees would handle functions like the finance office, accountability, human resources and information technology, while a Shared Services Organization would provide services like transportation and maintenance, much of it outsourced. Schools, both District-run and charter, could buy the services they want. 


Knudsen said that the prediction that 40 percent of students would attend charter schools in five years was a “linear projection” from the District's charter office based on recent trends -- not a goal or a desired outcome promoted by him, the SRC or BCG.

And the document says that charter growth should occur primarily through expansion of the Renaissance Schools process to minimize the financial impact on the District and ensure that charters are in fact helping to move students from low-performing seats to high-performing seats.

The document says that “on average,” charters outperform District-run schools academically, based on a comparison of the number of District-managed schools and charters using the District's School Performance Index.  But the report points out that charters “range widely in performance” and “need greater oversight and management of their performance if they are to meet their full promise.”

It also notes that the District has been reluctant to close poor-performing charters.

“Despite a significant effort to evaluate charter school performance, charters have faced a relatively low threshold for reauthorization and expansion – even charters with poor or inconsistent performance levels,” the document says.

It also notes that the current state funding system “overcompensates charters for disabled students,” and that “charters are leaving the district with a higher share of students with severe disabilities.” Now, charters get more than twice the per-pupil amount for a special education student than for a regular education student, regardless of the severity of the disability.

And cyber charters, it said, drain funds from the District with very little evidence that they are educating students. The District should create its own virtual charter school to stem the tide of students enrolling in expensive state-authorized charters with “notoriously low” achievement.

The document also expresses concerns about other inequities brought about by charter expansion, pointing out that some have high barriers to entry and that they serve very few English language learners.

“As charters constitute a growing proportion of the district, there must be shared responsibility for meeting the needs of all students,” the consultants wrote.

BCG said that pursuing the Renaissance turnaround process to expand charter seats is the most cost-effective and the best way to further the goal of moving students into better learning environments. Now, some students leave high-performing District schools to attend charters that are no better or even worse – and at great cost, it found.

Each new charter seat costs the District $7,000, but “pupil-level data show that charters often serve students who could have gone to District-operated schools in their neighborhoods that have similar academic performance levels.”

School closings

The high-profile proposal for closing dozens of schools by next fall, which Knudsen reiterated as crucial and unavoidable, is gearing up, with the first round of public meetings to start perhaps as soon as Aug. 15. Specific school-closing proposals, Knudsen said, would likely be made by October or November.

The document says that the district must close between 29 and 57 schools, and outlined some options: to better utilize huge high school facilities, it could create more 7th- to 12th-grade schools. Or it could keep the same grade spans, but close more elementary schools and pay more careful attention to neighborhood impact.

It points out that “it could be difficult to find 15-19 high school buildings suitable to be closed simultaneously.”

Knudsen promised a lengthy, thoughtful process on closings even as he said that the large-scale closings “must, must, must” occur – and that most must happen in time for the 2014 fiscal year. The document points out that “previous [District] processes as well as the experiences of other districts throughout the country highlight the fact that careful implementation planning and community engagement are critical to the success of large-scale right-sizing efforts.”


The report strongly recommended outsourcing maintenance and transportation services, “barring sweeping concessions” from SEIU Local 32BJ District 1201. The District rejected the recommendation, but clearly leveraged its findings to wrest $100 million in savings in its settlement with the union.

The document outlines at length inflexible work rules, poor standards and high absenteeism among the District’s blue-collar workers. In recommending that these functions be outsourced, it also points out that the District is required to give part-time workers full benefits and pay into their pensions, something that private contracts don’t have to do. Knudsen and the SRC chose to reach an agreement with the union, but extracted significant concessions, including what amounts to a 10 percent cut in pay as well as promises around productivity, work standards, and flexibility.

The document also makes the point that any new Philadelphia Federation of Teachers contract also needs major changes to work rules and compensation structure, recommending “comprehensive bargaining reform.” It said that both the contract and state school code policies “significantly undermine the [District’s] ability to implement a world-class talent management strategy and become a true magnet for high-performing principals, teachers and staff.”  

Financial analysis

BCG attributes the District’s financial woes – a more than $700 million shortfall had to be closed for this coming school year, and more than $200 million will be borrowed -- to the loss of state and federal revenues, not to bad fiscal policy, and urges the District to seek more funds.

“It is important to note that, while the [District] faces massive deficits, its overall spending and operations costs are generally in line with those of other large districts,” the summary notes. And it says that the District's massive budget gaps “were caused mainly by a loss of $300 million in state and federal revenues, in combination with the continued growth of charters and the rise in personnel costs for compensation, health care, and pension benefits.”

While not citing bad fiscal policy, it outlines a history of “poor communication and transparency among the [chief financial officer], District leadership, and key stakeholders” that undermined the credibility of its numbers. It also notes that its finance office has been smaller than those in comparably sized districts.

Still, it adds, “before undertaking further cuts, the District should continue to seek greater funding.”

School safety

The document recommends creating a comprehensive Office of Safety that would not only deal with policing and security but also would combat truancy and “focus on using both security and school culture strategies to combat unsafe environments.”


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Comments (175)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 8:14 am

Union busting 101. And all Jordan can do is wring his hands!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 12:15 pm

obviously you are against the union. All will be fine when the PFT legal team take matters to court. I'm not worried and neither should any other teacher. The SRC tries something like that and there won't be anyone teaching anyone. They can't attract and retain teachers already. Please spare me the negativity!!!

Submitted by Pseudonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 1:18 pm

Who said they want to attract or retain teachers?

From their actions, it is obvious that they want the district to become a wasteland of students who can't go anywhere else and teachers who can't get out either.

Don't get me wrong, I have long sought to work with the exact populations that aren't accepted to charters. But nobody at 440 seems to believe there are good teachers in the district who want to work in public schools with their students and just be left alone enough to do their job. They seem to view us with contempt, as the teachers who aren't good enough to go to a charter (?!) or the suburbs.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 19, 2012 11:15 pm

And you have no clue what you are talking about. The Universal Companies had no problems hiring qualified, well educated teachers for the school they just took over in the North East Philadelphia. The days of unions destroying the American Educational system are numbered.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 20, 2012 8:52 am

How do you know they are qualified and well educated? Unions are not the ones destroying the educational system.

Submitted by tom-104 on August 20, 2012 9:02 am

First of all, I'd like to see the evidence that "Universal Companies had no problems hiring qualified, well educated teachers for the school they just took over in the North East Philadelphia." Are their PSSA results going to publicized just like public schools are required to do? Will their be full transparency for them and all charters? The charters have gone to court to oppose such transparency.

Second, Universal is being given every advantage at the expense of public schools. At Audienreid, they were given a brand new building rent free for their first year and greatly reduced cost for rent and maintenance this year. If all public schools received political favors things would be very different.

Third, since you think "unions" are destroying education, I'd like to see what the wages and benefits are for employees at Universal and what is their retention rate for teachers? Will this information be made public or will statements like yours, which is not based on reality, just be unchallenged with evidence?

Submitted by Christopher Paslay (not verified) on August 3, 2012 8:18 am

Here are three key reasons why Philadelphia public schools fail, and what can be done about it:

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 3, 2012 9:59 am

Woah woah woah. Totally disagree with your picking on the Education Law Center, YUC and PSU and saying they fight to keep violent students in schools.

Also, it's the SDP. The PSD is the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf.

Submitted by Phantom Poster (not verified) on August 3, 2012 3:14 pm

The groups you cite are not the enemy. Your negative attitude towards kids who need help is a bigger issue. If anything, too many kids are forced into alternative schools without having the benefit of legitimate due process.

Submitted by Brian Cohen (not verified) on August 2, 2012 8:14 am

I take large issue with the statement, " that 'on average' charters outperform District-run schools academically"

According to a RAND study on Philadelphia schools in 2010, that is categorically false. I would like to know where the BCG is getting their information.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 12:10 pm

Great point Brian. That statement doesn't hold too true in Philadelphia. They also talk about Renaissance School but fail to mention Promise Academies who are also performing better than district averages. Check out the report from RFA about Renaissance Schools and Promise Academies:

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 2:02 pm

Brian--Relax--this is the fuzzy math all charters and their ilk foist on the Public. It's not worth the time nor energy to expose them.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 3, 2012 6:07 am

I found some encouragement in what I've read about the report, but the charter piece is counterintuitive. Nationally, charter schools are a bust and a drain, and support my opinion that they exist to help dismantle public Ed.
But the learning environment is key. Non-scholastic factors kill school performance, so a smaller school without the AA/Cambodian race riots and teacher assaults, as examples, academics should be better. So the district should make a centralized effort to expand some here to make schools safe and bright, or else alleviate poverty effects, perhaps with magic or youth pro basketball.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 8:43 am

Boo-Hoo for the Union. It effectively ran the District for decades; in fact, with the PEA, effectively ran the State.
But the worm has turned, the GOP dragon now scorches the education landscape.
Is this District school typical? One-half the teachers are out the door even before the pupils, unwilling to meet on solutions for problem students disrupting their classrooms. Or scream at a colleague who therefore is forced to interrupt prep time with a question. Or refuse to even collect paperwork for their box on student charges' needs and behaviors, required to improve the school environment.
Meanwhile the school's most experienced "lead" teacher teaches not a minute all year, but instead fetches the coffee for the principal or huddles with a coterie of cronies. (Fortunate for students, it did not occur the principal or the janitor would have been covering classes. But then again, many covering classes were not properly subject certified.)
One might ask, "Where is the principal?" In the office, sending a minion out with instructions for immediate action, never with any advanced notice, and the recurring threat, "Or (he/she) will write you up."

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 12:17 pm

You have no clue what you are talking about!! The District cannot attract and retain teachers as it is!! Are you going to teach our children? Anyone? Somebody? Please spare me your negativity. No one is lining up at the door to teach in Philly. Once the SRC breaks the PFT contract then its game on!!! Then, and only then can all teachers walk!!! Teachers still have the ball in their favor. No way in God;s green earth you can replace 10,000 teachers.

Submitted by Pseudonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 9:48 am

But, we've already proven that closing those schools isn't really going to save money.

Submitted by ConcernedRoxParent (not verified) on August 2, 2012 10:15 am

I am Pro Union, but benefits for Part-Time Employees? That is ridiculous. That is why many places hire part-time employees, it saves them on benefits. If those employees want benefits, they should apply for Full-Time jobs.

@Anonymous, I don't know what school(s) you are speaking of but at most schools this doesn't happen. (And no I don't work for the district nor am I teacher As my log on says I am just a concerned parent.). Most of the schools I have been too, for different functions, meetings etc...the teachers and other educational staff are working hard trying to educate our children. They arrive early and stay late, start study groups for those kids that WANT the help, and coach teams. (And there is no money for EC so they do this all without getting paid).

Now....the cleaning people and building engineers, I am sure many do work hard but I know at my son's school that is not the case. There is a building engineer a cleaner, and 2 other guys that I am not sure what the heck they do. Ask the building engineer or the two other guys to help us with something when we are setting up for an event and we have to fill out a 15 page document just to see they will approve moving a table from point A to point B. The cleaning guy, the LOWEST paid, he is right there moving that table and asking what else he can help with. If he is out on vacation, god forbid one of the other 3 actually clean a bathroom. I actually had to call the district on them at one point last year because when asked to clean the bathroom they told me that it "wasn't their job". I about blew a gasket. Luckily I have a good rapport with the other staff (Principal, secreatary, teachers, etc) that they actually thanked me for doing it. Principals hands are tied until someone actually files a complaint. Needless to say the Building Engineer doesn't like me much. Can you tell I am upset about that.

So, please do not paint all teachers, prinicipals and other educational staff with the same brush!

Submitted by Retired FMS (not verified) on August 2, 2012 8:01 pm

I used to supervise the Building Engineers. As you stated, most are hard workers who will go above and beyond to get things done. However, there are a few bad apples in the system that work harder at making excuses than it takes to actually perform their required tasks. If you reported your concern(s) to "the district" as you stated, it should have been followed up and rectified (especially when it comes to restroom cleanliness. If not, another phone call (from the Principal) or a letter to the Regional Facilities Office should address it. As far as filling out "15 page documents" for service, a one page "Request for Service" form was created several years ago by FMS to be filled out by teachers and approved by the Principal (you can go to the School District web page for Facilities and find it in the Forms or Principal Handbook links) for such requests. By utilizing this form, the Principal can better track the quality (or lack of) service the Custodial staff is providing. This is also tool that can be used by the Principal/Supervisor in determining the type of disciplinary action that should be taken against the individuals not performing their jobs. Additionally, monthly building inspections are performed by the Principal & Supervisor to pin point problem areas of concern (such as: Life/Health, Safety, Mechanical, Structural, etc.) and see that they are addressed in a timely fashion by either the school custodial staff or maintenance department. I hope this information helps you.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 10:05 am

Knudsen's comment about the 40% "projection" of charters is false. The compact's mandate on number of students who will be moved is clear.

Lisa Haver

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 11:57 am

Any word on concessions from the PFT? We need to get those out of the way so we can move forward.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 11:57 am

Any word on concessions from the banks? We need to get them out of the way so we can move forward.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 12:10 pm

What does that have to do with anything? The SDP can't do a thing about banking regulations. This is one problem with most education debates -- the gets politicized such that broader political battles rule the day, instead of the ONLY concern that should be taken when running an education system: what is best for the education of the children.

I'd love to see a debate on that. A debate that argues about traditional public v. charter on the basis of what's better for education, not what's better for Big Union or Corporations. But nobody wants that debate, probably because for both sides, it would be uncomfortable to acknowledge that neither has a monopoly on being right.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 5:52 pm

It's not New York City bankers that have to foot the bull for the PSD. It's hard working Philadelphia residents who have had our property taxes raised twice already to bail out the PSD. It's time for the PFT to share in the sacrifice, and no, a one year pay freeze is not a sacrifice.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 11:45 am

Any word on concessions from the people who are making the big bucks? You and people that believe like you, just don't get it.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 1:28 pm

Let's see...Knudsen makes $25,000 per month (a joke), Hite $250,000 per year and Nunnery, Dixon, Ramos.....and the list goes on. It ain't over yet. If SRC breaks the PFT contract then all bets are off. Then, and only then, can teachers walk off~!!!!! Can't replace 10,000 teachers--No way, no how. Maybe Ramos and Knudsen will teach in a school.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 2:00 pm

Hite will get $300,000 plus a possible bonus of 20%.

Submitted by Philly Teacher (not verified) on August 2, 2012 12:04 pm

Yes, I'll leave the District and take my 10 years of experience to the suburbs so then you won't have to pay me!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 1:55 pm

Good luck finding a teaching job out there. The teachers that got laid off in the suburban districts are first in line for any new hiring. It's the union "seniority" thing. You understand.

Submitted by Philly Teacher (not verified) on August 3, 2012 1:37 am

Luckily I'm a computer engineer. No shortage of jobs at better pay for my kind. :)

But, there haven't been enough layoffs in suburban districts to have much if any backlog of teachers waiting to be recalled. If you have the skills they're looking for you shouldn't have much problem getting a job.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 3, 2012 11:12 am

Go for it. That's free market capitalism.

Submitted by Philly Teacher (not verified) on August 6, 2012 2:44 am

No, it's being highly educated. There's a good chance my job would be at government funded research universities. My graduate school was funded by a federal grant I fulfilled.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 6, 2012 9:43 am

So you just can't get off the government teet?

Submitted by Philly Teacher (not verified) on August 6, 2012 11:48 am

Who can? My property rights are enforced by tax money to the police. Your cell phone only works because the FCC regulates the radio wave spectrum. You have a functioning internet because of ICANN (which I helped out with, paid by the government teet). But, you can pretend all the government does is oppress you and destroy your entrepreneurial spirit and that's the reason you're so downtrodden.

Submitted by tom-104 on August 6, 2012 2:26 pm

And a government program is about to tell us a whole lot we didn't know about Mars! Yeah!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 8, 2012 9:12 am

Yeah. Socialism is a great thing until you run out of other people's money to spend.

Submitted by tom-104 on August 8, 2012 10:10 am

Like the hedge fund managers and bankers? We have socialism for the rich!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 10, 2012 11:43 am

You have NO idea what you are talking about. Getting a job in the suburbs is near impossible. Thousands of resumes for each opening. Plus if you have advanced degrees or too much teaching experience they would not want you because they don't want to have to pay you more. They would rather hire someone with zero teaching experience so they can pay them the minimum on their salary scale. And you better be well connected to get the job!

Submitted by Pseudonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 12:46 pm

Now that they've told us they plan to cut our salaries, our benefits, lengthen our contract day (which means stupid bureaucratic crap or mandatory study hall duty cutting into our "free" time that we use to prep), and try to take even more salary in the form of "contributions" as soon as they can (next August),

you must be completely delusional if you think we would give them "concessions" now.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 12:59 pm

Who's conceeding goofball??? The PFT already gave 30 million in concessions regarding their pension fund. You think teachers who teach in the badlands are gonna give up raises??? Heck no!!! This isn't the other union. Once the PFT contract is broken then game on. No way they will replace 10,000 teachers. No one is lining up at the door to teach in Philly. People want the suburban jobs.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 4:09 pm

The PFT Lawyers have already won cases saying the District HAS to honor both the Collective Bargaining procss and any agreements. If the District tries to break or impose a contract, the teachers will have the right to "walk".

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 4:48 pm

Come next August there is no contract.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 4, 2012 6:37 pm

That's my concern. What happens next August? Pay cuts, increased benefit costs. But will they also freeze the pay tiers? To ask teachers who are low on the pay scale to accept a years-long pay freeze, a pay cut, and pay for benefits seems outrageous. Especially in light of the fact that we are buying our own teaching supplies, including books! I have already spent $500 this summer. Or do we all just get laid off? It's very unsettling.

Submitted by J.J. McHabe (not verified) on August 2, 2012 4:04 pm

Hey, didn't you read the Boston Consulting Groups report? You clearly didn't. Because if you had, you would have found out that people by the thousands (millions?) are wanting to work in Philly, but are being kept away by inflexible work rules. Get rid of the contract, and viola! Problem solved. The stampede will have begun. EVERYONE will then want to work for the Philly Schools.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 5:04 pm

And we all should believe the Boston Consulting Groups report??? I don't believe it for a minute. For years when there were teacher shortages, you picked up some teachers then most left after year two. They gain experience then leave! MOST teachers want to go to the suburbs---go look at the line at the Teacher Job Fairs. The lines for the suburban schools were around the block while the Philadelphia School District area had very small interest. I saw it first hand. I will also say that in the State of Pennsylvania, especially in Philadelphia, the PFT will stay!! That's right union busters---this isn't Wisconsin!!! Once the PFT legal team manuevers and takes actions in the courts, the teachers will be just fine. Just read a couple of months back when Pedro Ramos tried to railroad the PFT in Harrisburg---EVERY Democrat on the State Education Committee scoffed at Ramos' attempt to break the contract. Ramos looked like a fool afterwards. It was on the news and in the newspapers. The BCG can say that the SRC should do this and do that but in the end it;s what the SRC can really do---which is nothing to the PFT.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 5, 2012 6:43 pm

Very few people support teachers on strike. Hostage taking 101 and taxpayers are wise to the game. Try it and the law will change. PA is one of the very few states that allow such action to start with.

And nevermind that Your employer is effectively bankrupt.

By all means go for it. Corbett has a path to reelection and it is running against the philly machine and the theft corruption and incompetence at its core.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 5, 2012 7:02 pm

Correction.......It's all strategy. If the SRC "cancels" the contract or if the contract "expires", then indeed the teachers are no longer under a contract and therefore can walk. Currently, teachers cannot strike in Philly while under contract. They can, however, "walk off". In the event that does happen, the SRC does not even have the numbers to fulfill those positions. Point----teachers in the end still have a leg to stand on.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 6, 2012 3:03 pm

That's also one way to fix the pension deficit.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 7:12 pm

You are a fool if you truly believe what you are saying. "Inflexible work rules"? Name these rules that are keeping aspiring teachers away. Do you really think under the charters things will be more flexible than before? You obviously haven't worked in a school if you do. It is the lack of support (which is bad in charters too) and unruly children that drive teachers. Having to constantly watch out for administrators that can't teach, but want to hound their own staffs. This city will look like a ghost town if the BCG gets its way.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 9:51 pm

I read the comments as sarcasim and not being serious. The word viola with the exclamation point was the dead giveaway. (And to think I didn't even go to college and understood the meaning of the post). So relax.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 3, 2012 11:30 am

Wow. You teachers are sharp!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 3, 2012 12:10 pm

Yes, you caught the sarcasm, but there are enough that won't. There are too many people out there that think that Philly's problems can be solved easily. You just have to replace the unionized teachers with inexperienced teachers who are willing to work for low wages and expect little support. They actually think there are hordes of replacements being held back, for whatever reason, who are just waiting to rush in to fill the ranks.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 12:23 pm

Buildings have been understaffed for years with fewer and fewer custodians. Many are sent over to other schools temporarily, leaving those left to do more and more.

Please don't blame the workers--again--for the decisions of the administrators. The custodians I have worked with have gone above and beyond. One man stayed late every day when the school was putting on a play to help move the sets.


Submitted by Pseudonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 12:17 pm

I couldn't thank my custodian enough. He was kind, concerned about the students' safety, and always helpful. I had my students write him thank you cards at winter break (actually, when they found out who we were writing cards for, they wanted to).

This man was shared with 2 other schools. I can't even imagine the daily gauntlet-- if one room was even a little messed up, he wouldn't make it to everyone. Too often, teachers complain "Oh, nobody even took my trash out" when one person is trying to cover 50 classrooms a day. If a bathroom gets graffitied by a kid, that's their whole day.

I'm sure there are lazy building staff out there, but I've never met them. In fact, I am going to miss my building staff next year when I move schools. It doesn't take much to treat them like the colleagues they are. Too often I see them treated like "the help".

Submitted by Philly Teacher (not verified) on August 2, 2012 1:04 pm

There are good and bad custodians. You learn to appreciate the good ones when you have to work with a bad one.

Submitted by eileen diffranco (not verified) on August 2, 2012 2:29 pm

There are many holes that need to be filled before this plan moves forward. First of all, who decides who will run which achievment networks? Will those responsible have a proven track record or will they be someone's friend, sorority sister, former colleague, neighborhood politco? Will the public have any part in the selection? (Notice, no parents or teachers were involved in the selection of the new superintendent) Who will provide the empirical proof that the agency can do the job? Will we taxpayers be assured that the each achievement network is being run by professional educators rather than business people who know nothing about education? Who will check for nepotism? How soon will the entity be replaced if they are found lacking? Secondly, will the charter schools accept everyone in their catchment area? I've heard stories of kids having to "apply" to charter schools. When the charter school decides that students are not "a good fit" and send the kids back to their neighborhood public schools, will they return the thousands of dollars they were paid to educate the student? ( Will CAtholic schools who receive vouchers admit everyone or only those who meet their standards? Will they return the voucher money when they find the kids might not fit?)Thirdly, when will we learn how much charter school CEO's earn? How much tax payer money is earmarked to pay the CEO's of charter schools? when we will learn about the allegedly "non-profit," non-elected board of directors that run charter schools funded by the public? When will the stats appear which state that only 17% of charter schools outperform their local public school? Thirdly, who has studied the impact of a closed public school on neighborhoods who have lost their churches, their supermarkets, their and their corner stores, their swimming pools, their libraries, and now their schools? what happens when kids have to cross dangerous turfs to attend school? Will busing be available for these kids even if they live less than a mile from the school? And fourthly, why must teachers re-negotiate their contracts when other professionals, like bankers are never faced with such a predicament even when it was the bankers who have caused the recession? The SDOP- and the city- engaged in risky credit default swap hedge fund deals that went bad once the economy tanked. The banks have not offered to cut the SD a break on the tens of millions of dollars the SD owes the. So yes, the banks are intimately involved in this mess. Right now, the SRC has the citizens of Philadelphia in a vise grip where the voices of the stakeholders is conspicuously absent.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 4:04 pm

City Council will not allow this to happen.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 3, 2012 2:33 am

What percentage of PFT and CASA members actually live in Philly? I assume the majority of 1201 members lives in Philly. When the SDP agreed to end the residency requirement for teachers, it dramatically changed where teachers live. Far too many live in the suburbs. City Council has no obligation to suburban residents.

Submitted by Pseudonymous (not verified) on August 3, 2012 12:21 pm

Everyone I know lives in the city, though mostly in NE. Half of the Fairmount neighborhood seems to be teachers. In fact, all of the "gentrifying" neighborhoods that City Council loves are full of teachers.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on August 3, 2012 1:40 pm

Glad to hear it. I look FORWARD to the war in September of 2013 when the scum bags SRC try to fight the PFT. I hope Jordan is up for the war. His teachers are !!!!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 3, 2012 4:11 pm

Many live in NJ and surrounding PA suburbs. I'd be surprised if even 1/2 of Philadelphia teachers live in Philly.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 6, 2012 2:21 am

I teach in South Philly and my teaching friends live in South Philly, North Philly (for $300 a month!), West Philly, and Northwest Philly. My principal lives in Jersey.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 6, 2012 5:06 am

I also teach in South Philly. Anyone buying a house is moving to the burbs - especially those hoping to have kids. I've always lived in Philly and my kids go to Philly schools (no, not Masterman like Nutter, Prichett, etc.) Most of their teachers live in the burbs.
Teachers needs to live in closer proximity to where we teach. "Fleeing" every night to the comfort of NJ or the Main Line leads to a huge disconnect from what our students deal with on a daily basis. There should be a residency requirement.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 6, 2012 8:08 am

You are an idiot!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 6, 2012 9:16 am

Based on your response, you must live in safe and sound in the burbs. Just like more building trade jobs need to stay in the city, more teaching jobs need to stay in the city!

Submitted by Pseudonymous (not verified) on August 6, 2012 9:49 am

I live in my school's catchment. I like the idea of being a neighborhood teacher, and students always have a strong reaction when they see me on the street or SEPTA because they aren't used to it.

However, I think it is crazy to ask people who can get out of bad neighborhoods to stay so we know what our students live like. If their parents could get away from neighborhoods with constant gunfire, they would do it. I know how my students live, I grew up in poverty and see their neighborhoods all the time. Nobody who lives in poverty would refuse a chance to go live in a nice house with no drug dealers outside, and it is ridiculous to think that if you live near them you "know what they go through". You don't have to think about what day of the month it is to know if you will have dinner tonight.

And so teachers in the city settle into "gentrifying" neighborhoods with tax abatements. I don't see how this is any different from moving to the suburbs.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 7, 2012 8:15 pm

No hard feelings SOUTH PHILLY but you couldn't give me a house in S. Philly. I'm one of the teachers u speak of that flees to the burbs. It aids in the maintenance of my sanity. My daughter goes to school in the burbs yet, she has no more problems communicating with her teachers than I do with my students. I don't have to live in the middle of socioeconomic decline in order to know what poverty is. I RELATE to my students very well thank you. There was a residency requirement and thank god Ridge got rid of it. Some of the best teachers in the district came AFTER they got rid of the residency requirement, which, by the way, is why they got rid of it. This is what happens to people when they spend a lot of time in a microcosm; they begin to find it difficult to relate to the rest of the world. Don't you think your spectrum would be a little broader and your students would benefit a little more if you could bring a little of the Main Line to them and not try to empathize with them by wanting to share their immediate surroundings? You spend too much time looking down on folks outside of Philadelphia instead of helping the kids you work with learn that there's more opportunity for them some where else. Liberals are all alike.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 7, 2012 10:14 pm

Does this person actually believe she is helping Philadelphia teachers? "bring a little of the Main Line to them"? Elitist nonsense straight from Fox News.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on August 3, 2012 7:44 am

Yes, the plan skirts around the real problem, that is true accountability. Creating "achievement networks" is really a way to eliminate middle management, putting more responsibility onto the shoulders of the principals, and (theoretically) low cost nonprofit entities; At the same time the plan leaves in place the existing central power entity, with an even smaller accountability staff.

One needs to take a hard look at what happens underneath all the idealistic rhetoric. The same thing was found in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg District when they tried the "weighted" system of budgeting, that was supposed to distribute resources better to those who most needed them. They found an uneven distribution of resources that in fact took resources away from the neediest, and therefore the former method of "template" budgeting was a better system. The "weighted" system is part of the same "School Based Adminstration" movement. Though it attempts to give schools better autonomy in theory, in reality it takes resources away and also takes away equal standards of evaluation.

Sorry, but I have to draw on my own experiences: Principals already are given "creative freedom" in the Title I directives, but do they use it? Absolutely not, because for all the "goodspeak", they still feel the "evil eye" of 440. Will it be any different in an "achievement network"? Absolutely not. The "evil eye" remains, and now under the proposed "achievement networks", they (the principals) are legally liable for more.

So what is needed is a true "third party" check of power. Parents can't be the sole provider of this because their ability (in time and education) to be involved is uneven. The same is true of administrators, teachers, staff, and students. Together however, they could be a powerful "third party" voice. The technology exists to create this. The initial "legwork" might involve some time, but once in place, having a database where honest feedback could be accumulated could provide that much needed power "check and balance".

Speaking of technology, the very first thing that needs to be done is to have the test scores/"achievement" follow the child, not reside in a "seat". Easily done, and needs to be done.

Submitted by J.J. McHabe (not verified) on August 2, 2012 4:50 pm

Only 0.00000000000002% of teachers were rated unsatifactory, blah blah blah....Principals need more autonomy, blah blah blah...inflexible union contract rules, blah blah blah...if only layoffs were not done by seniority, blah blah blah....if only, if only, if only, blah blah blah.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 5:11 pm

I hate to break the news to you but someone who dedicated 20 years to the profession, while gaining multiple degrees in the field, and is rated satisfactory SHOULD have the right to seniority over brand new teachers. Brand new teachers don't have the experience and I for sure would be more comfortable knowing my child was in a classroom with an experienced educator. Unions, in general, are the backbone of our country, like it or not. Don't forget that union police officer who you may need help one day with, or the union firefighter saving your home, the union pilot to make sure you arrive at your destination safely, or that union nurse who helps save your life. Shall I go on???

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on August 2, 2012 5:28 pm

UNIONS will always be around or the USA is doomed to become a 3rd. world country and/or a dictatorship. The PFT ain't goin anywhere and nothing will make that more clear than if the SRC tries to break the PFT. 10,000 teachers ain't chump change. Just as the pond scum on the SRC couldn't break the Custodial union, they can't even begin to break the teacher's union. Look around the country, the charter lie is being exposed more and more and is seen for what it is, a Tea Party Republican strategy to break unions, democrats and the middle class. Ain't goin to happen !!!!

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on August 2, 2012 8:44 pm

City Council has the back of the unions. They're regular folks who understand and CARE about the city. They're NOT bought and paid for shills of the big money pond scum. I would love to see the SRC try to mess with the PFT in any big way. They'll get their asses handed to them.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 10:28 pm

Are you sure about that?

Will a PAC Pick Philly’s Next Mayor?
Students First is very interested in City Council.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 3, 2012 2:29 am

Kenyatta Johnson is a huge supporter of vouchers and charters. City Council members are supporting charters and parochial schools. Don't be fooled. City Council is loyal to the ward leaders.

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

my guess is that all you need to do is look at the people who were/are funding his reelection campaigns

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 4, 2012 8:59 am

Have you talked to 1201 folks? They feel broken!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 4, 2012 8:32 am

I agree and it's ALL a disgrace. All the designed corruption by the big money scum bags and 1201 had to give back. It says here the PFT better strike to defend itself. By the way, the PFT and other unions should be ashamed for not more actively supporting 1201.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 7:51 pm

Any career worth doing is worth having a union to protect it. Ever wonder why politicians never have one?

Submitted by Philly Teacher (not verified) on August 3, 2012 1:49 am

It could be because they actually get to set their own pay....

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 3, 2012 11:35 am

Unions are for people who can't make it in a market economy based on their skills, experience and work ethic.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 3, 2012 11:57 am

Learn the history of unions before you open your big mouth.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 3, 2012 12:24 pm

bet you wouldn't give back any of the perks, benefits, fair pay, good working conditions and rights that UNION are responsible for winning for you, would ya?

Oh and check out the Free/Open Market economies around the world (the ones that are successful) and see what a large role UNIONS play in making them successful. OR you could always move to some 3rd world Latin American country or perhaps some closed market Asian economies and work 12 hours a day, in bad conditions for low pay.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 3, 2012 12:52 pm

Ha, ha, I hear that China and Mexico are always looking for cheap, shut up and do what your told workers. . .

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 3, 2012 1:59 pm

"shut up and do what you're told, workers . . ." Maybe they could give you some lessons on homophones while you're over there?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 3, 2012 6:49 pm

cool, that's (notice that's and not thats) all you had to say? Must have made my point then, since you cannot defend your attack on Unions and must resort to teaching an Engish lesson.

Are you ready to give up all of your health benefits, sick days, vacation time, worker's comp, family leave time, and maternity leave time yet? How about working 10, 11, 12 hours a day with no breaks or be fired because the Boss doesn't like you or because his/her neice needs a job? I know, you want to work in a "sweat shop," like in the good 'ole days, and maybe have your 8 year old son or daughter right there beside you. That would be cool.

There (notice there and not they're or their) are boats and planes headed for China and the 3rd World every , I'll be more than (notice THAN and not THEN) happy to purchase your ticket. I hear Walmart is hiring as well.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 4, 2012 8:57 am

How about teachers working an 8 hour day like the rest of the Country?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 4, 2012 11:01 pm

You mean, I should not come to school at 7:15AM, stay after school till 4-5PM bring any work home, grade papers in the evening and on weekends, get up at 4:30 to get ready for classes? It would be nice... But I don't think it would work.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on August 3, 2012 1:26 pm

Moron speaks, can't think, but speaks. Read the history of Unions. Do yourself a favor.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 3, 2012 1:49 pm

Do you really think "work ethic" has anything to do with the loss of jobs in this country? Since when did your bosses, Mitt and the Kochs, give a damn about work ethic. Has to do with shipping American jobs overseas and then blaming American workers.

Submitted by Timothy Boyle on August 2, 2012 9:12 pm

"A lot of this is to get partnerships,” Bichner said. “This is not something to be handed down from a think tank, but a process involving the community, parents and students. 

From 2008. sigh.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2012 9:00 pm

Does anyone reading this know how PAR consulting teachers are selected/hired and trained?

This school year the PAR program is supposed to be expanded to schools city-wide. (It is a pretty lucrative gig to be a consulting teacher/teacher coach in the PAR program based on salary data that was recently published.) The process for becoming a consulting teacher is not fully explained in the contract or on PFT website, so that is why I ask. I heard there was some kind of conference in Atlantic City in August related to the PAR program but can't seem to find more information about it. Not certain of this but very curious how and when teachers are selected to be consulting teachers.

Does anyone think that PAR will or should be eliminated next PFT contract?

Submitted by Meom (not verified) on August 4, 2012 5:51 pm

I got a call from a building rep and said that the conference will be in Atlantic City at the Trump Plaza on August 13th-15th. Not sure about the PAR program. Maybe we can call the PFT and get more information.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 4, 2012 8:32 pm

Did your building rep provide details about the conference or ask you to go?

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert on August 4, 2012 9:27 pm

I believe this conference is a training FOR building reps. I do not think it is a general conference, but I could be mistaken. It was presented to the Reps as a conference/retreat for the Reps.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 5, 2012 12:33 am

Yes, it is a training conference for Building Reps

Submitted by Jip (not verified) on August 5, 2012 9:42 am

Why Atlantic City? 2 nights? How much is this costing us? Who's paying for this? Who is going? Is this in support of Chris Christie and not Mayor Nutter? I think Philly could use the business, don't you.

Submitted by drom (not verified) on August 5, 2012 11:53 am

Do we really need a RETREAT while we're under Attack. Is this what Jerry Jordan calls fighting back?

Submitted by Barbara (not verified) on August 5, 2012 4:23 pm

Yes, I agree. Jordan is not a fighter and that's for sure. I'm just hoping that he's not complicit somehow with the Nutter, Corbett, Ramos cabal. Hey, even paranoids are right sometime.

Submitted by tom-104 on August 5, 2012 7:18 pm

I wonder if this is why:

Teacher union boss bends to school reform winds

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 5, 2012 7:18 pm

I've posted on here several times that I didn't trust Weingarten and by extension, Jordan.

Submitted by Anonymous on August 5, 2012 9:20 am

Yes, it's on the 13th and 14th of August. I think I'll take a ride down to join the group.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 5, 2012 11:41 am

How much of our dues are paying for a few PFT members to hang in Atlantic City? Why not a location in Philadelphia? In tight times, those with access to money should be more responsible. Our paychecks will be cut next year - how about the PFT leadership which makes far more than the rank and file?

Submitted by ANON 452 (not verified) on August 5, 2012 12:10 pm

As a Building Representative, I am going to the retreat. I am not sure of the rationale for the location, but I know we will be working in conferences and training for those two and a half days. As this is a contract year, I think that the leadership wants to train us on how we are going to approach certain issues in our schools and the district as a whole. There is not going to not going to be a whole lot of "hanging out" time. This is not a vacation. As someone who has attended conventions as a PFT delegate, I can tell you that we start at 7:30-8:00 AM and are expected to attend certain events at certain times. This is as it should be. Attendance is taken at every session, and we had better be there. I think it is a good idea to get the Reps together to plan strategy in this unfriendly environment we work in. We usually do this in a breakfast on a Saturday, but I believe the leadership believes we need more time in this very difficult situation the SDP has put us all in.

Submitted by Anonymous on August 5, 2012 1:14 pm

I understand, and support you, but why Atlantic City? How about supporting the union hotels in Philly that need our business? I'm sure the Hotel Employees and Restaurant International Union would have appreciated it. We should be helping support Union employees in Philly, not NJ Casinos.

Submitted by ANON 452 (not verified) on August 5, 2012 3:17 pm

I do not know how the decision was made. That is a question for the leadership. You make a good point.

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on August 7, 2012 12:00 pm

Any strategy you are planning needs to address two things- mobilizing the PFT members to show up when needed for rallies and public demonstrations as well as educating all our members (particularly newer teachers) to the history of labor unions in Philadelphia schools.
This Saturday is the Workers Stand for America event. Does the PFT really believe that a group email is all that is needed to get members to show up for this important event? I have heard nothing from my building rep. Neither have two friends in other SDP schools.
I read daily education crisis news. I feel that I am in the minority in this regard. Convincing PFT members that we all need to be educated on a daily basis is the first step. We then need to be mobilized to fight back. I am still not convinced Jerry wants to do this

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 7, 2012 3:54 pm

I find the flag waving tone of the rally offensive. "Join us at the workers stand for America event" Corporate America is outsourcing our jobs around the world for lower wages. They use flag waving to obscure that fact and encourage even more wars against other workers in these low wage countries. Why should unions help them?

Also, what's with the "good schools, good jobs and an investment in the middle class." What about the working class and unemployed? Now I know why the PFT didn't help the custodial workers in their fight. But can we expect any help when we need it if this is our perspective?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 7, 2012 3:33 pm

Thank you for pointing out the nationalistic and class based message from the PFT. Your last question is very pertinent.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 7, 2012 3:01 pm

I just love people like you, always claiming that the PFT does not do anything, then when the PFT wants you to participate in a simply rally with other Unions from around the country. . .you find yet ANOTHER reason not to show up. There is nothing wrong with the PFT or Jerry Jordan, if you want to know why the State and District has gotten away with everything they have. . .LOOK IN THE MIRROR! (SMH). It's people like you that has put us in the position we are in. Put Up or Shut Up!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 7, 2012 5:47 pm

It's only the memberships fault in the sense that they have allowed inaction from the leadership.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 7, 2012 8:52 pm

Can we Impeach?

We need new leadership. We were sold out.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 7, 2012 9:25 pm

You're absolutely right. And even more so. The PFT back in the days, never stood with the police or firemen in Philadelphia. When their support was needed by other unions around the city, the PFT turned their back on them.

Submitted by Anonymous on August 12, 2012 10:18 pm

Are you sure of the dates? I think it is taking place this weekend. I was told that some of
the union officials were seen at the Trump plaza over the weekend. Does anyone know for sure?

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert on August 2, 2012 10:55 pm

I know someone who is a consulting teacher. She had to go through a rigorous hiring process: interviews, resume, letters from teachers she had worked with that spoke to her ability to help teachers improve instruction. I know this because I wrote one of the letters of rec. for her. After she got the job, she happened to be assigned to my school to work with a new teacher. That teacher said that she was extremely helpful in helping during the stressful first couple years of his/her teaching career. Money spent on consulting teachers is money well spent--they help train and retain new teachers (and maybe counsel out some of those who do not belong in the profession).

Submitted by Joan Taylor on August 3, 2012 7:53 am

I had a similar experience. Before we lost this woman to the world of instructional coaches, she was an outstanding and dedicated teacher, highly knowledgeable and also full of common sense. She is what struggling teachers deserve.

Submitted by Deja Tu (not verified) on August 2, 2012 10:42 pm

My Insulting teacher was horrible. She just sat at the back of the classroom on her laptop, (on one time) even when there were kids running around her. , on phones, leaving comments like "don't talk while they're talking." Um, thanks! I expected more help.

Submitted by Joan Taylor on August 3, 2012 10:00 am

And she should be bounced from the program if she was merely insulting. There are many highly qualified teachers who would stand on their heads to help their colleagues.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 4, 2012 9:50 am

What does this actually mean:

"Seeking to create a “pipeline” of principals and teachers who are better equipped to deal with the real-world challenges found in Philadelphia’s toughest schools, city education leaders submitted a three-year, $2.5 million grant proposal this week to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation."

The writers of this fluff must really believe that their readers are actually morons. As it's been said by many of the bloggers above, no one wants to come to Philadelphia. What these writers hope to accomplish is to say something loud enough and long enough and finally someone will believe it. So, cut the wages, work until 5pm, work on Saturday, work 12 months a year and then people will begin to flock to Philadelphia to take a job no one else wants. We had one vacancy in our building-one person showed up through site selection-and he was no bargain. Schools such as KIPP and Mastery depend on very new, inexperienced teachers who will do whatever they are told for the first couple of years and then they are out the door. They don't stay around for long; they know there is no future.

And for those such as the person who wrote, "Unions are for people who can't make it in a market economy based on their skills, experience and work ethic." you need to recheck your facts.

AS a teacher with 15 years experience as well as experience in the private sector, I have tried and can't break through the strong walls built around the suburban school districts. There loaded with nepotism, political patronage, you name it and it is out there. Being good at your job and being a hard worker plays no part in who becomes a "good" candidate for a position. Teaching or otherwise. That's more of that "fluff" that sounds good in a blog. That's why you need unions because if not, we'll all be working for minimum wage.

Read your history, Philadelphia has been used as an experiment in education for hundreds of years and it still is. It's easy to use those who can't fight back as an entry point for legislation that can't gain traction in other areas. That's why all this charter school business and privatization of education is gaining ground in Philadelphia. It would never be allowed in suburban districts along the mainline where local school boards and voters control the schools. However, in Philadelphia there are no firewalls to hold it back. The Republican power structure knows that once it gains ground in Philadelphia, THEN it will go "scorched earth" and spread to the suburban districts but, they have to anchor it somewhere which is Philadelphia.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 4, 2012 12:05 pm

If people in Philadelphia knew about “veteran” teachers who have been moved around the School District, from school to school, for YEARS because no one wants them---they’re lazy, unprofessional, incompetent, and yes, in some cases, very, very stupid---citizens would be up in arms. Principals who could get rid of these incompetents, don’t do so, either because it is too much work or because they just don’t want the hassle----or, perhaps, because principals are also moved around a lot and there is sometimes no consistency from year to year, in administration, in the schools. Instead of inviting incompetents to leave the profession, we simply move those teachers who do nothing to another school. In the same way, really incompetent teachers whose principals didn’t want them (or teachers in schools where the principal tried to hold them accountable) simple get to apply for a transfer and “pick” a new school------further ruining the lives of innocent children with their incompetence. And those incompetents with the most seniority get to pick first, ensuring places at some of the most desirable schools. The only way to prevent a school from getting some of this dead wood is to use “site selection,” but not every school can hire every teacher through this more thorough and thoughtful process. At one time, I was a strong believer in a teacher’s union, but after observing what happens in Philadelphia, and the lack of follow-through in firing incompetent teachers, I would say anything the SRC can do to eliminate seniority as the ONLY criterion in lay offs and transfers, would be a step in the right direction. Parents should spend a lot of time in schools, where they would see just how little some of their children’s teachers actually do---it’s criminal. It’s not just a few teachers who are not doing their jobs. There are too many. At the same time, there are many great teachers here in Philadelphia who go way beyond their “job description” to serve kids who depend on them to succeed. I really admire those teachers, and I wonder why their performance and dedication don’t count much in administrative decisions!? I’m definitely in favor of using fair and thorough teacher evaluations as the #1 criterion in all staffing decisions, along with fair interviews by site selection committees. Just think how hard it would be to be a principal of a school at which a number of the above-described “dead wood” teachers have self-assigned through the “picking” process. It sets up even the best principals for failure. There are many changes needed in Philadelphia, but until teacher assignments and evaluations are handled, we will not see major increases in achievement.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on August 4, 2012 1:03 pm

I had a classmate who teaches in the District and she said that at her school, which performs fairly well and has a stable principal, there are a few teachers who are burnt out and need to retire. However, they have seniority, so they have their jobs. She likes them personally, but acknowledged freely that they are not effective in the classroom. Seniority would not be a problem if teachers actually EARNED seniority through rigorous evaluation. She also said that she wished she received more feedback from her evaluations to help her improve.

One problem is that the teacher evaluations in Philadelphia just don't evaluate teachers well. According to Research for Action's publication called Philadelphia's Teacher Appraisal System: Needs Improvement (October 2009), Philadelphia still uses the PDE teacher evaluation form from 1978 (, see p. 4). (See the 1978 evaluation form here:'s_statutes/7503/employee_rating_form/507308). The evaluation was updated in 2004, but Philadelphia, as of 2009, did not use this updated version. (See the newer evaluation forms at

Another problem is that teacher evaluation is something which takes place 2 or 3 times per year. Rather, evaluation should be an ongoing process taking place weekly or monthly. Evaluation should consider student work, lesson plans, assessment practices, and use of evidence based practices. Evaluation should be a comprehensive, holistic process. However, such processes are expensive. Each school should have someone who is responsible for evaluating teachers and helping them improve. This person should be a coach of sorts. This coach would be a master teacher with training in effective evaluation. Again, this is expensive and the SDP doesn't have the money for this. If seniority were based on comprehensive, continual evaluation, then seniority would have meaning.

Different subjects require different types of evaluations. Evaluations of special education teachers should include appraisal of IEPs. Evaluations of ELL teachers should include how much progress students are making in learning English.

Evaluation should be helping teachers improve. Professional development should not just be something that happens a few times per year, but rather a process that should happen daily. Teachers have to be reflective and responsive to feedback and the behavior of their students. Teachers have to be able to think about their teaching, which requires sufficient background knowledge in content knowledge, pedagogy, and educational psychology. Teachers can't just be trained to be cogs in a system who implement a prescribed curriculum. If there is a common curriculum, that's fine, but teachers need to have the freedom to differentiate it to fit the needs of students.

In order to select and evaluate teachers, principals and other administrators need to be good teachers themselves and know how to evaluate teachers. Principals need rigorous evaluations as well. I don't even know what a principal evaluation looks like. The culture of a school starts at the top with a good principal.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 5, 2012 7:46 pm

So we should get rid of the PFT and go back to the days of old---6 day workweeks, 12 hour shifts, and no due process????? that and then no one really won't be interested in teaching here.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 4, 2012 7:29 pm

Blogger writes, "I had a classmate who teaches in the District and she said that at her school, which performs fairly well and has a stable principal, there are a few teachers who are burnt out and need to retire. However, they have seniority, so they have their jobs. She likes them personally, but acknowledged freely that they are not effective in the classroom. Seniority would not be a problem if teachers actually EARNED seniority through rigorous evaluation. She also said that she wished she received more feedback from her evaluations to help her improve. "

I really love reading these blogs. So this writer wants teachers to EARN seniority. Which means that, in their philosophy these observations/evaluations do not contain any element of subjectivism. Everything is strictly above board. So teachers would be ranked according to their status on the evaluation which gives principals yet a little more power to wield over the teacher's head. The teacher with the best evaluation would be on top of the seniority list. How would we rank that small contingent of teachers that manage to spend a great deal of time hanging out in the office with the principal? How could we determine that THEY are really earning their right to be at the top of the seniority list?

Obviously you've been to some college/university that has taught you all about the different teacher evaluation instruments that are available and how bad unions are. You've also achieved the right to determine who should and shouldn't be employed. This type of divisive action is exactly what 440 North Broad Street and the SRC want to happen. This will make it just a little easier for them to totally take the system back to where it was in the 80's. Paying teachers far less than they make now, longer hours, weekends, pay for your benefits, etc.

Whatever benefit you have was gained through the sweat of someone who possessed the drive and diligence to fight for what they believed in.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on August 5, 2012 12:06 am

You have totally misunderstood my comments. My point was that there needs to be a multi-pronged evaluation system in place containing multiple sources of information, both objective and subjective. An evaluation with the choice between satisfactory and unsatisfactory is not a very good instrument. A five point scale such as unsatisfactory, developing, proficient, above average, and excellent would allow for better determination of a teacher's performance. The evaluation should be both formative--helping the teacher to improve--as well as consequential, providing a means for retaining and compensating excellent teachers and dismissing ineffective teachers. Using a framework such as Charlotte Danielson's evaluation system would be a good start.

Also, the principal doesn't have to be the only evaluator. There can be an independent evaluators from within the District.

Finally, what I know about teacher evaluation comes largely from my own research, not from my coursework. And I am a strong believer in unions. If you've ever read some off my past posts, you would know that. However, I think that there need to make some changes to make the unions better. Protecting ineffective teachers and principals is bad for kids and the vast majority of educational professionals who do a good and excellent job.


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 5, 2012 5:24 am

The SDP has had the Danielson framework since 2009. While it is more holistic than the previous form, I don't know if all principals / assistant principals understand it. Since many administrators only "professional development" is through the SDP, they do not appreciate the variety of PD available to teachers. There also are a lot of administrators who believe the only type of teaching appropriate is the 7 step lesson / direct instruction. This was drilled down the throats of staff in "empowerment schools." (It is also the model used by Mastery.) While there is a place for direct instruction, even Madelyn Hunter wrote it is not the only way.

I agree, evaluation should focus on recognizing strengths and areas for improvement. I'm very concerned with the new PA legislation which requires public schools teachers' (not charter, parochial/private) ratings to be be based 50% on students' test scores. This is very problematic in high schools where there will be only 3 Keystone tests (Alg. 1, Biology, Eng./reading). Even if a student is rated based on 'growth," comparing 8th grade science PSSA with Biology is an oranges/apples comparison. There may be a way to compare Alg. 1 with grade 8 math and the reading tests but there are still many high school teachers who do not teach any of the subjects. It is also patently unfair in a school district with a heavily tracked / segregated high school system with so many high schools with special admission requirements. Teachers in neighborhood schools with no admission requirements have a lot more to do to get students "proficient."

That said, I'd like to get rid of deadweight teachers and administrators. The problem with administrators is those who are "friends" or in the power organizations in Philadelphia will stay even if they are totally incompetent. Teachers who are friends with administrators, even if lousy teachers, will stay. My children have had a few teachers who received the Lindback Award who do not return emails/phone calls, assignments, can't explain their grading policy, never move from their seat while "teaching," often leave work early, etc. This is because some of the Lindback Award winners are friends of the administrator and / or people "downtown." So, while this is an "outside" evaluation, it is too often dependent on friendships versus quality teaching.

I hope the School District and PFT look for models of evaluation that focus on improving teaching/learning and hold both teachers and administrators accountable. Getting rid of the "who knows who" factor, nevertheless, will be difficult because Philadelphia is a town which honors nepotism.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on August 5, 2012 8:56 am

I have been reading your dialogue with Anonymous about teacher and principal evaluations. I find them very interesting because it is the first rational discussion of some of the issues involved in evaluations that I have read recently.

I have done a whole lot of research and anlaysis of our tenure system because I have had the opporunity to litigate 3 tenure actions in the last 3 years. Sometime in the near future I plan to write an article on how it works because there is a definite lack of understanding of its provisions and rationale.

The more I study the tenure system which was written into the the Public School Code of 1949, the more I respect the "wisdom of our forefathers." It does not protect bad teachers or bad principals at all. Neither do the PFT or CASA contracts.

Tenure only protects good teachers and good principals from being subjected to "unfounded charges" and charges based on political reasons, including retaliatory actions.

All that needs be done to remove "ineffective teachers and principals" is for the administration to do an appropriate and good faith evaluation. For teachers, they must first give them a reasonable opportunity to improve after an initial unsatisfactory evaluation.

After deeply thinking about the "satisfactory vs. unsatisfactory" rating provisions, I still respect the "wisdom of our forefathers" on that issue, too. To do it on a scaled basis as EGS discusses, opens a "Pandora's box" of issues such as subjectivity, good faith, and "basic fairness." Now, as we will see, adding "standardized test based evaluations" and their lack of accuracy and credibility will open a new Pandora's box of equity issues.

Scaled evaluations work well when thinking abstractly, but when they are implemented in concrete situations, they often work out unfairly and do more harm than good.

In every school I have ever worked in, just about everyone knows who are the best teachers, the average teachers, and the below average teachers. They also know which teachers and principals need to be canned.

I say this as a former high school assistant principal who has used the tenure system to "remove a few ineffective teachers" during my time. But I always prided myself in doing it "the right way for the right reasons." I have also "counseled out" a few employees in my time. It is not a diffucult thing to do.

When I removed ineffective teachers, the other teachers always thanked me and respected me more for doing my job.

At all times I treated them with dignity and respect.

The PFT does not protect ineffective teachers. Good teachers do not want ineffective teachers among their ranks, and they certainly do not want ineffective principals leading them or their schools.

The large majority of teachers and principals are very good. The blame for ineffective teachers and principals can be laid squarely at the feet of the administration and management of the school district.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 5, 2012 1:28 pm

Nice, Rich.

As Union member and as a teacher with over a decade of classroom teaching in Philadlphia, I can assure everyone that the first group of people who do not want "bad" teachers around are the "good" teachers. We are in this position to begin with because we love the kids and want to help them learn, the last thing we want to see is an effective, so-called "bad" teacher in a classroom. As a Union member, I do not want to see the "bad teachers around either, because, even though they make up a very small percentage of teachers in the District, they are the ones that the press, politicians and administrators highlight and focus on to justify their anti-teacher attacks and reform plans.

The public has a twisted view of what Tenure really is. Tenure, as you pointed out so much better than I could, very simply means that teachers, college professors etc, cannot be ceremoniously fired without "just cause", it means that the Dstrict must prove ther claims (what makes the teacher an ineffective or "bad" teacher) and give that teacher a chance to improve or defend themselves against a charge (if that is the case) before the teacher can be fired. It protects teachers from being fired because a Principal just dosen't like them (we have all been in a position where the Boss just didn't like us), the teacher speaks up about a situaton going on at the school (whistle blower) or against a District policy or because some district official, politician or administrator has a relative who needs a job.

That is all Tenure really means. No one wants the "bad" teachers out of the profession more than the "good" teachers, Tenure just protects the "good" teachers by making the District justify their reasons for letting the teacher(s) go.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on August 5, 2012 3:10 pm

Thanks. I think you explained it pretty well yourself. Tenure is about making and keeping teaching as a "profession." Teachers, under the Pennsylvania School Code are, by law, "professional employees."

That is "regular public school" teachers are by law professional employees. The Charter School law excludes charter school teachers from the tenure provisions of the School Code.

That in itself raises some serious legal issues. It could very well be an "equal protection clause" violation of our Constitution.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 5, 2012 7:55 pm

Thank you Rich for your insight. A lot of people do not truly understand what tenure is.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 5, 2012 6:45 pm

If parents, principals and fellow teachers think you suck, then there is an extremely high likelihood you actually suck. Sure the union provides some defense against bad principals or administrators making arbitrary decisions. But why is s there no mechanism to weed out the worst teachers.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 5, 2012 7:39 pm

Obviously posted by someone who does not know what they are talking about.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 9, 2012 1:50 pm

There is a clear mechanism for weeding out the worst teachers. Administrators evaluate teachers several times per year (or more frequently if it seems like there is a problem). If the teacher is not performing his/her job, then appropriate steps are taken to remove that teacher from the classroom. This past year, a teacher with a fair amount of seniority at my school was put through this process. I personally observed her arriving to work fifteen minutes late each day, and the chaos going on in her room seemed to indicate that she had little control over her students. Moreover, students of hers often complained that she didn't know what she was talking about in class and couldn't teach. Administrators observed and evaluated her. By the end of the year, she was either counseled out or fired (I'm not sure which it was, but I know that she is no longer with the district). When administrators identify an ineffective/unprofessional teacher, they can get that person out of the system without objection from the PFT if it is done correctly.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 9, 2012 3:56 pm

Administrators, as per the contract only have to observe a few times per year, and as seniority goes up, observations go down.

The problem isn't with getting rid of blatantly unprofessional teachers (i.e. ones that show up late every day, have no control, etc.). That's easy, because it's really easy to prove in a hearing (and the PFT won't waste lawyers time defending such cases). The difficulty is with those who dot their i's and cross their t's with paperwork, attendance, etc., but are not good at instruction, for whatever reason (whether it's effort, lack of content knowledge, rapport with students, etc.).

And the difficulty with "counseling out," in this economy, is that many teachers can't afford to quite a full-time job with a professional salary and full benefits. I know of two teachers in my last school who the principal thought he had "counseled out," when they submitted resignations in April (and he thus didn't follow through with the process for making a case for termination) but who un-resigned in June (which the Contract allows, as long as it's before June 30) because they couldn't find other jobs.

I don't think that total at-will employment is an good idea, either. But when someone who shows up late every day, doesn't know the material, and has no control is help up as an example that it's "possible" to fire a teacher, that's the problem. You shouldn't have to be blatantly unprofessional and incompetent to be dismissed from teaching.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 5, 2012 2:59 pm

I wonder if they'll be asking the PFT for a 10% pay cut also. That's a tough pill to swallow, but I don't want to go back to working in the private sector. I love the six hour days and the summer off!

Submitted by Barbara (not verified) on August 5, 2012 4:53 pm

The PFT needs to give NOTHING back and strike if need be. Screw the one sided law and see how they'll deal with 10,000 teachers walking out. With all this corruption and the make believe financial crisis, we need to mobilize and fight.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 5, 2012 7:35 pm

Your right!! However, next big vote---All teachers need to show--each teacher in every school should have their colleagues present.

Submitted by TeacherT (not verified) on August 5, 2012 5:57 pm

Now why would a troll like you want to try to ruin a perfectly beautiful summer evening with a smarmy comment like that? Of course, you're just what the Governor and his cronies across the country have ordered.
I teach in an elementary school, usually arrive in the building between 7:15-7:45, leave @ 6:30-6:45,and take classes over the summer to get better at what I do. Those 8:30-3:30 teachers are few and far between.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 5, 2012 6:33 pm

Don't waste your time or get aggrevated by idiots like this. They have no clue what they are talking about and he only way for them to get their "jollies" in life is by sitting alone in their underwear, eating TV dinners and poking at decent hardworking people through annonymous blogs.. . .it's the only life they have. Pity them, not justify them with your attempts to explain something they do not, nor want, to understand. So, sad.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 5, 2012 9:33 pm

I, too, am an early raiser, getting to school at 6-6:15am, not one day a week, but every school day. I love to be there before my peers to leisurely get my copies made of materials, make certain that my pencils are sharpened, get my morning work written on the board, look over materials, sometimes, sweep my classroom floor, set up my students work on their desks before they get to school. I am there after school closes, outside keeping a watchful eye and encouraging students to go home and not linger around the school. I go back to my classroom, clean up, put things away. I leave school between 4:30pm and 5:00pm, although, have been known to be in my classroom working on IEP's up to 6pm. When we have after school activities, I am there working. I come home, grab something to eat (I try to prepare meals on the weekend so that I can just heat up my food in the microware. I am returning phone calls from parents, marking papers, writing IEP's, entering test data on my home computer because there aren't enough computers to do it at school nor is there the time to do that at school. I try hard to get to bed by the latest at 10am, because I get up at 4am to prepare for my workday.
No, there aren't many teachers like myself who have a schedule like mine, but there are teachers who are at work by 7am and stay until 6pm daily. With all that is required by teachers, I believe that there are very few how just keep an hour school day--they work from home.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 7, 2012 8:54 pm

No offense but, you need some type of outside activity. Anyone spending their ENTIRE life dedicated to the Philadelphia School District should do a reassessment of their life. I'm there at 7 and leave by 4 or 4:30. That's plenty for me. I can get whatever I need done within those hours. Getting there at 6 and leaving at 6 would lead one to believe that some obsessive compulsive nature is at work. How many times have you won the teacher of the year award?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 7, 2012 11:36 pm

No obsessive behaviors here, just like the peace and quiet and I like to take my time when I am working. I have as much outside activity as I need, which might be different from someone else's needs. Just letters of commendations. Have a great school year!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 5, 2012 9:36 pm

In Philly you work 6 1/2 hours a day as required by the school district, but then there is all the work you end up doing before and after school. I doubt that anyone, once they finish calling parents, running their own detention because Philly refuses to do it, copying materials for next few days, writing out lesson plans, etc., does less than two more hours per day, at least. My life is mostly school work from Monday through Friday. On the weekends I have more school work to do, but I can occasionally do things unreleated. The above letter sounds like just another plant to bully teachers into giving up even more. You're getting a bargin as it is so enough with the guiilt trip. The private sector has its faults, but the stress level is nothing like it is in the Philadelphia School District. Alot of that is down to the shoddy lack of support the administration gives to teachers.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 5, 2012 9:27 pm

High school teachers work 7 hours and 4 minutes with a 30 minute lunch. Elementary teachers have a shorter day (but get paid the same as high school).

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 5, 2012 9:04 pm

Ever wonder why none of the other kids in the neighborhood wanted to play with you? Go outside and play, find a girlfriend, get a life.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 5, 2012 6:27 pm

Ok Joe (aka CleanUpPhilly)
Trying to rile up the masses are we?
A wolf in sheeps clothing

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 6, 2012 11:09 am

This is Joe. I am not Cleanup Philly whoever that is. What did I say that is so wrong?? I am likely more pro union than anybody who posts here. I don't feel confident that Jordan is up for the fight and I admit, I am also not confident he is NOT complicit with Weingarten. I do believe the financial crisis is made up and I don't believe Obama has been much of a help to working people. Show where I'm wrong.
By the way, I do believe all this charter foolishness is a right wing strategy to make money for the rich while decimating the middle class and unions and OUR elected officials have sold us out for kick backs. I wouldn't trust Nutter a little especially because he and Gamble are best buds.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 5, 2012 6:10 pm

The TROLL is CleanUp Philly,
He is commenting under different names trying to sound like a union member.
Just ignore him. He is on every comment board on

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 5, 2012 7:19 pm

I just stroll on by when I see his posts. The guy obviously has no life so whatever he posts in made up with a Fox News mentality.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 5, 2012 9:45 pm

The seiu guys have a 20% absenteeism rate. and 6.5mm a year in workmen comp expense.

What a bunch of slugs. Only in Philly. And we wonder why the district is bankrupt and now trying to strangle property owners w 2% tax rates.

Submitted by Taxpayer (not verified) on August 5, 2012 9:41 pm

So they call out sick one day out of five? They should all have been fired and their jobs privatized.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 6, 2012 3:09 pm

On average. There good employees in SEIU who don't max sick out. So the laziest ones must be even worse than the 1 in 5.

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