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Hite takes a tour with the teachers' union

by Paul Jablow

The Philadelphia School District will ask for additional concessions from the teachers' union because "we're going to ask for concessions from everybody," Superintendent William Hite said Monday. But he spent his morning underscoring his interest in working with the union.

Interviewed before touring Andrew Jackson School in South Philadelphia with American Federation of Teachers national president Randi Weingarten, Hite said bluntly that "if we try to move forward in our current environment, we'll go broke. You look at the balance sheet, and it doesn't take long to see it's gloom and doom. The situation is dire. We have to stabilize it somehow."

In response to questions, Hite said that he did not, however, see the recent report by the Boston Consulting Group as a guide to the District's future. The report, released in August, proposed closing dozens of schools and taking other steps that assume an ever-increasing proportion of students attending charter schools.

"It provided us with useful information," Hite said. "Other things, in my opinion, were not that useful." 

Hite repeated that he plans to release his own plan on Jan. 2 and that he would also "advocate forcefully with Harrisburg and the city and the mayor" for increased resources, although he was not optimistic they would be forthcoming. He also said his style would emphasize "engaging individually with many of the neighborhoods," which he said can be more productive than large meetings where residents "get two minutes at the mike."

Whatever happens moving forward, Hite said, he hoped it would be in cooperation with "my good friends Jerry Jordan and staff." Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, had a testy relationship with the last permanent superintendent, Arlene Ackerman, but both he and Weingarten predicted a changed atmosphere.

The fact that Hite joined the tour of the K-8 school "is a signal about wanting to work together," said Weingarten, who has made a similar tour in each of her four years as union president.

Weingarten said in an interview that the tour was also her own signal about the importance the union places on Philadelphia, which she said she had promised to "adopt" at the union's national convention this summer.

"Like Chicago, it's a battle for the heart and soul of public education," she said. On Sept. 18, teachers in Chicago ended a bitter, seven-day strike. Weingarten said that the battle here is with a governor and others  “who don't evidence a commitment to public education and all the children." 

Nationally, she described public education as under attack by "powers on high. ... They talk about teaching to the test. ... They talk about fear and sanctions."

In Philadelphia, she said, “portfolio management,” which is the District’s reform strategy, would “decimate and balkanize the school system.”

"We are working hard with our local office and the community on a plan that will be working for all the children," she said before starting on a classroom tour led by principal Lisa Ciaranca Kaplan. "We have a public school system where we know what works." She was referring to a coalition of groups including the PFT that are devising an alternative plan to portfolio management and massive school closings.

Jordan said that Jackson had been picked by the union as an example of what a school can accomplish when community resources are combined with energetic leadership and programs such as music, art, and all-day pre-kindergarten.

In Robert Malara's kindergarten class, Weingarten, a former teacher, sat on the floor and engaged students as Kaplan asked them to raise their cupped hands to illustrate the school's "PAWS" slogan: "Positive Attitude Wins Success."

On a school balcony, members of community mentoring groups worked with 7th graders on a science experiment about water filtration.

"We're moving, we're shaking and it's wonderful," Kaplan said.

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Comments (27)

Submitted by GetItTogether (not verified) on October 2, 2012 6:58 am

"...good friend Jerry Jordan"? Oh boy. Touring a school, as a superintendent, is a good sign? Oh brother.
This is trouble for the public schools.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on October 2, 2012 8:00 am

I have to give props to Dr. Hite, Randi Weingarten and Jerry on this one. Any leader who is fostering a spirit of cooperation and partnership toward creation of a collective vision and a common mission has my support.

It is time to grow as a community and as a nation and rise above the adversarial processes of an era long gone which destroy the community of our schools and school system. I, for one, have seen enough of the destructiveness of the past decade and the negative leadership practices which have been imposed upon us.

My view, of course, embraces that the PFT will still bargain zealously for a strong profession of teaching that supports teacher rights, fairness and ethical practices. Support for and leadership toward such a strong profession of teaching will benefit our children so much more than destroying it and turning our schools into a factory worker mentality.

I call for a new era of positive, collegial leadership and surely hope Dr. Hite leads by example to rebuild the "community of us all."

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 2, 2012 9:00 am

The members of the PFT needs to fire Jerry Jordan - a vote of No Confidence. Too many people were laid-off in June, teachers, SISL's and nurses. The PFT should have found positions for these people. Penny Nixon's people are still working! These friends of Nixon's Linda Wayman, Ed Penn, Johnstone sisters, Powell-Mondesire, Tamara Smith and others need to go, they don't know how to run schools. Dr. Hite needs to ask for some money concessions from Nixon's appointees. Let's see what Hite's going to do?

Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on October 2, 2012 10:43 am

Are we even allowed to mention Penny Nixon's name? They may shut down all comments.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 3, 2012 5:16 am

Our former CAO was very strategic about saving jobs of the preferred. She would bring them down to "440" on special assignment (maintaining salary) ultimately to "place" them in schools whose budget could support their salary. One of the new principals of Alcorn was from Germantown HS but also a friend of Penny. This is not the first time that the Notebook has taken down comments and won't be the last. The facts remain the same.......Penny Nixon used that office to treat her friends well through salary increases and promotions while others were laid off and took pay cuts. I hope you sleep well at night Ms. Nixon.

Submitted by Anonymous on October 2, 2012 9:41 am

There are way too many cut throat comments being posted during the school day! Hope you're not teaching my kids!! WOW!!

Submitted by Mike (not verified) on June 6, 2014 5:59 am
Teachers are people, just like you and me. It's normal for them to feel persecutated or mistreated, just like me and you! Mike
Submitted by ConcernedRoxParent (not verified) on October 2, 2012 10:05 am

I am Pro Teacher and Pro Union, however the union DOES need to make concessions, just like every other worker in the country. Pension plans are dead. People do not stay in their jobs more than 5 or 10 years anymore. 401 K that can follow them is what they want.

Public education will die completely if everyone doesn't step back and realize that the economy just cannot handle huge pension plans. PFT members do pay a portion of their medical benefits, so I see their point in that....but the pension system must change. On the flip side - administration needs to be cut and it does not bode well when Dr. Hite is creating "new offices"

And Anonymous - I agree, I hope none of the posters posting during the school day are not teaching my kid!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 2, 2012 11:22 am

Half of our state teachers' pension is paid for by teachers during their years of working for a district. The other half is supposed to be paid for by the districts. Many districts for the past ten years have not been meeting their portion of this contract which is why the pension funds are in crisis.

401 Ks mean workers future when they retire is put in jeopardy by putting their pension into the gambling casino known as Wall Street. Just look at Enron and the 2008 banking crisis to see the millions of workers whose retirement was devastated because their 401Ks were eliminated in those crises. 401Ks are only in the profit interests of Wall Street, the banks, and hedge fund managers.

And, since you seem to think you must police teachers' speech on the Notebook, I am a retired teacher and not using my lunch break to post.

Submitted by ConcernedRoxParent (not verified) on October 2, 2012 2:04 pm

The workers pay a PORTION. That's great, if they want to keep paying into that but the district can't afford it to match it or continue to pay into it. It is up to individuals to plan for their OWN retirement. I should not have to pay toward YOUR retirement when I am saving for MY own.

And the 401 K....that came from teachers. Many of whom that I know agree that things can't conitue the way they are and also agree that employees don't stay at anyone job for longer than 5-7 years.

As I said above, I am pro union and pro teacher, but most union people agree with above. You need to protect those who are there now, but those that come in later....it's a whole different ball game. Don't like a 401 K, use a Deferred Comp Plan (which is offered by the district) and you can put your money in a stable asset fund, if you don't want to "risk" your money.

The pension system must go!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 2, 2012 3:23 pm

Silly and Sad Post.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 2, 2012 4:59 pm

If you are "pro teacher," why do you assume teaching is a short term stint? Don't you value experience? Do you want a doctor who changes professions every 5 years? How about a civil engineer? We are professionals - experience counts. I've paid into a pension for over 20 years. The contribution from the School District toward my pension is part of my salary. You aren't paying for my retirement. I'm paying for the retirement for retirees and future teachers will pay for mine.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 3, 2012 12:33 am

The poster didn't say "Change Professions." The poster said "Change Jobs." AKA the same profession but a different employer. Good engineers change jobs very frequently. That's how they get diversified experience. Nice try though.

Pensions are dead. If 401K's are good enough for everyone in private industry, then they are good enough for our civil servants.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 2, 2012 4:19 pm

I don't have a car. Should I complain about my tax dollars going to roads and bridges? I know I get benefits beyond my own immediate needs by us having roads and bridges.

We have no problem spending $700 billion per year on the Defense (really Offense) Department. Look at the bar graph on this page of the top military spenders.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_military_expenditures
We spend more on the military than the rest of the world combined. So please spare us "we don't have the money" routine.

Your Ayn Rand dog eat dog philosophy is what is on the way out. Romney's statement about 47% of the population being sunk him like a lead balloon with the general population. The American people are not interested in your fake free market fantasies. Millions of workers and and middle class people are expected to quietly accept descent into poverty while the banks and corporations get corporate socialism. What a bleak vision of the future you have!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 2, 2012 7:34 pm

And workers in the private sector also pay a portion, usually with a match from their employers. The fact is that nobody can afford to retire on a 401k. Think about it. If you saved a half million dollars, which is tough, and your cost of living did not go above $50k, you could afford to live for maybe 10 years on 401k money. They were not designed as sole means of retirement income. They were designed to supplement pensions.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 3, 2012 12:44 am

BS. 401K's were designed to replace pensions. If you max out your contributions into a 401K, you will have millions of dollars by retirement time. That is age 65 in the real world.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 2, 2012 3:41 pm

You've bought into the Tea Party nonsense. America is NOT broke--far from it. Wall Street is better off now than ever before. Explain that, if you can even after Wall Street's greed lead to the economic collapse so to speak. Now, workers and even the poor, are being told to make concessions. What a crock !!!

Submitted by Philly Activist (not verified) on October 3, 2012 8:24 am

If people are posting, it would be from their phones and during their break! I am sure most of you who work, do have a break at some time or other during your work day! I guess in this day and atmosphere of negativity concerning teachers they aren't entitled to a break either!!!
I am not a teacher, but I really would like to question, why is there always a negative comment of some type when it concerns teachers???
It seems to me that people have drunk the Kool Aid when it comes to consistently and constantly "bashing teachers." Wake up and think for yourselves!
The state of Education is what it is because the Business and Corporations are running education, not educators! The resources are not being placed in schools that need help - they are being closed and turned over to charter schools or the buildings being sold to the highest bidder for redevelopment!
Personally you couldn't pay me enough to be a teacher in this negative atmosphere today!!!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 14, 2012 11:44 pm

Thank you! Finally a teacher's advocate. I work for a charter school and I am trying really hard to get out. They are corrupt and are manipulating the tax payers into thinking they are the best thing since sliced bread. I am embarrassed at this point by my misguidance over charters and would never recommend a new teacher enter one. They are like little cults, teaching children to be mindless drones and not to ask critical questions. Most of them are pro-Republican (although they would never say that) as true democracy and the democratic process is not being taught. Sit down, shut up and learn math & science so we can pull more money from the school district and make our administrators fat and rich. And if the teachers get out of line or start actually thinking for themselves and try to form a union...we'll just fire them, and get younger cheaper ones....because we can.

Submitted by tom-104 on October 2, 2012 11:14 am

It is now official. When Jerry Jordan makes only token opposition to Corbett's education cuts and mounts only token opposition to the Boston Consulting Groups privatization of many of Philadelphia's public schools, he is following the direction of the national leadership of the American Federation of Teachers. Randi Weingarten's favorite word for a number of years has been "collaboration". When union officials collaborate with management against their own rank and file, the union has become a company union.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Company_union

Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on October 2, 2012 11:38 am

You guys all know that Mitt Romney's first job out of Harvard was with the Boston Consulting Group. So Charterization is a Bipartisan affair.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on October 2, 2012 12:29 pm

That is true and is certainly not the type of collaboration I support. Randi needs to address that issue.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on October 6, 2012 4:48 pm

Randi has successfully dodged that question for a few years no.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 2, 2012 3:07 pm

Randi has been a tool of the corporations for many years now and I've posted this before. Jerry is following along and we are all doomed unless we get a grip like the folks in Chicago. Yes, we are "Ground Zero" because we have Jordan calling the shots here. He's not a union leader but rather a follower of the flavor of the day. Like Nutter, Jerry knows where his bread is buttered.

Submitted by Janice Kitchen (not verified) on October 2, 2012 7:38 pm

To "ConcernedRoxParent" you must be a republican as you are making statements without knowing the facts. Teachers participate in 403 B accounts not 401 k's. Also, teachers do not participate in matching pension contributions. They participate in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Public School Employees' Retirement System.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 3, 2012 5:57 am

Dr. Hite, spend some time with staff below Deputies and Deputy Chiefs if you want to know what really goes on. Take a stroll through 440, shake hands, ask questions, engage us in a conversation you will be surprised what you will learn.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 10, 2012 8:41 pm

Fixing Philly public schools is not an easy task, but lets remember that ultimately the children are the ones that suffer. Teachers are paying for their own supplies now to follow the Core Curriculum guidelines. Elementary schools lost full-time security officers due to budget cuts. If a teacher devotes her professional career to teaching students, she/he deserves to have a good pension when retirement comes! To the Rox.Parent, you need do something better with your time than to criticize teachers and what they make. If you truly are pro-teachers etc. you would not be making the comments you have made. Get a life!

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