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Letter to District: For our dedication, we are rewarded with this?

By the Notebook on Jun 10, 2013 02:25 PM

The School District sent out layoff notices to nearly 3,800 employees last week. The following letter, written to the District, comes from Harvey Scribner, a teacher at Crossroads Accelerated Academy who has been teaching in the District for over four years. He received his pink slip over the weekend. 

Good Morning, Sir,

I received my notice Saturday. I got it early in the morning, so it could stick in the back of my brain all weekend like a splinter in a finger. I got it on a weekend so I could not clarify any of the points or contact anyone who could, at the very least, let me know what the next steps are. I lost sleep, got sick, and generally let it sink in.

The letter mentions to let someone at the School District of Philadelphia know if you are a veteran. I served honorably for 21 years in the Pennsylvania National Guard and have deployed twice in service to my country. I am honorably discharged and hold the status of retiree from the army. I also have a rated Disability for Service Connected Injuries. I successfully completed the Troops to Teachers Program and I have been teaching in the District since January of 2009. I started at University City High School, stayed through the change to a Promise Academy, was forced out due to seniority last year, and was site-selected to teach at Crossroads Accelerated Academy at Elverson for this school year. As you know, this is an alternative education school providing critical intervention to students in the Philadelphia School District. 

Since coming to the District, I found equipment when there was none, I created curriculum when there was nothing, I did without when we needed supplies. I broke up fights. I sent kids to class when they wandered the halls. I worked two summer programs and took the extra step to complete training when the District did not think it was needed. For the last four years, I have struggled, alongside the most courageous and honorable people I have ever worked with, to teach the students, feed the students, clothe the students, protect the students, and lead the students. For this dedication, and for the dedication of my brothers and sisters in education, we are now rewarded with this? A District that lets us go, a union that shrugs its shoulders, a city that sleeps, a state that remains deaf, a federal system that demands more and offers less. The real crime is to the neighborhoods and blocks in Philadelphia that cry out for something better to anyone that would hear, and that sound is lost in the overwhelming symphony of thundering apathy on all sides.

I realize that there are always forces beyond my control, but know that if you break up our team at Crossroads, you will damage one of the few systems in the School District of Philadelphia that is actually working. We are strong because of the integration of our curriculum, the dedication of our small but determined band of educators, and because we have the proper leadership to carry us through.  I understand that every school and employee will claim the same, but we are truly different. If you break us up now, you will lose one small program that is making a profound impact on the fabric of our city.

I am sure 3,800 others are writing this same type of note to you. You must be sick of the whining. I am humble and compliant, but know that when you run all of the motivated teachers like me out of the city, like you did two years ago, you will be doing a huge disservice to those families and neighborhoods who depend on the safe harbor of the school system to help the kids get out of the clutches of poverty, crime, and neglect. I will actively look for work elsewhere while waiting to see if you call me back, but in the meantime, know that you risk losing more than your teachers and staff. Your respect and honor is falling away in light of your decision to let us go. I hope you can live with that.


Sincerely and respectfully,

Harvey Scribner
​Crossroads Accelerated Academy at Elverson

This letter also appears at Faces of the Layoffs, a project by Teacher Action Group.

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Comments (89)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 10, 2013 3:46 pm
That's a shame, but we are in dire economic circumstances. The school district needs to tighten its belt. Good people in the private sector are let go all the time through no fault of their own. You just pick yourself up by the boot straps and drive on. No job is, or should be, guaranteed for life. Find another position elsewhere and get on with your life. That's what we do.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 10, 2013 5:19 pm
Unfortunately, I think you miss the point. The district will not and can not function without these people! It's not about hard economic times; it's about educating the future of this city.
Submitted by Michelle (not verified) on June 11, 2013 11:14 am
This is not a fix to the problem. It is a band-aide for 2 months. It was the cowards way out. Yes, some people will not be recalled. That is a fact. The hard road would have been to tell parents that in order to get their house in order they will need to kick in for at least half of the cost of a transpass. IF your child takes a yellow bus you will need to pay $2.00 per week, per child. Lunches will no longer be free. The minimum cost is $1.00. Even if you are not a working parent and collect public assistance, you get an ACCESS Card, buy lunch meat, peanut butter and jelly, quarter bags of snacks and pack your child's lunch. it isn't difficult. People have done it before us. I would gladly pay a portion of my health care in order to keep my job. We no longer live in a world where we can "have" everything "given" to us. Nor should be live in such a world, personal responsiblity. Sustaining ones self.......personal pride in doing it yourself. How are these moves going to benefit anyone? Less taxes being paid to the city due to 4000 people laid off. It will cripple the tax payers of the city with 4000 more people on the unemployment rolls. What were the SRC and all other entities who were involved in this vote thinking.............oh, yes, about themselves. Has anyone heard word one of anyone offering to take a pay cut from the $300K+ a job????
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 13, 2013 10:06 am
Hello, it's time to grow up. You should have had a career long ago. You haven't been working as a teacher long enough to make a difference.
Submitted by Tara (not verified) on June 10, 2013 5:33 pm
This is a manufactured crisis. The SDP continues to spend money - on raises, on hiring new people, and on projects/programs so they are not really "tightening their belt." The administration has mismanaged their finances for years. Yes, teachers did speak up when it was happening. But teachers' concerns and voices were ignored. Charter school expansion has been unchecked. Millions of dollars have been spent on unnecessary testing. These are things teachers do not control. How are schools supposed to build communities of learners and offer supportive environments if staff members are being laid off and shuffled around every few years?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 10, 2013 6:44 pm
you are a shame. i really don't give a damn about the "private sector". teachers are a different. the constant shake-up of teachers and schools is inherently bad for not only students but the community. on the one hand we have plato who details what it entails to educate the entire body. we have piaget who tells us about child development, we have erikson and gardner and we as teachers are extremely afraid of people with attitudes like yours. the city of philadelphia is in dire straights. did ackerman care? no, she only cared about her cronies and money. she created an atmosphere of fear and racism, but she got her money and her cronies made lots of money. does hite care? he talks out of the side of his neck, i've never heard such double talk in my life. he is cut from the same cookie cutter as ackerman. one of the major purposes of education is so that the people making decisions for you, in your old age, are competent. i feel sorry for philadelphia. the people making decisions 20 years from now will be woefully uneducated. philly, because of people like you, is becoming more and more like detroit. maybe philly should just annex itself with camden right now and get it over with. why even bother with standardized tests? they cost money and after hite's reign of terror, students aren't going to be able to pass them anyway. why? because there won't be any qualified teachers in philly, hite got rid of them. i will wager a bet though, he will still have his six figure salary. do you really think he cares? i love when people say that there is more to education than book learning.. if that is true and we take away art, music and gym, enrichment programs, after school programs, and support systems, what do you think will happen? you think things are bad now? just wait, i promise you that things will get worse. i don't know where people like you get off. you make comparisons about the private sector and teachers. i'm guessing you don't have children or you would realize the ramifications of hite's plan. i'm guessing you don't makes lots of money, never went to college, are not creative or a thinker. you are definitely not an artist, talented in a sport, actor or musician. you don't read. you and your friends merely exist and live in fear. you are jealous of anyone who makes more money than you and would prefer to bring them down to your level, rather than see them soar to new heights. i have no sympathy for you and your kind. i am a twenty year inner-city philly middle school teacher. i know what i speak of, you have no clue.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 10, 2013 8:26 pm
Well you should care what happens in the private sector, because we are the ones footing the bill for government. Tax revenues are down because so many people are unemployed/underemployed. Despite your entitlement mentality, that affects you. It's time for some shared sacrifice from the public sector.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 10, 2013 10:41 pm
do my income taxes not mean as much as yours because i am a teacher? entitlement mentality? how are you able to make such a judgement about me without even knowing me? i'm so glad you will never need unemployment, social security, good health care, food stamps, or any other programs that support those who need help, like an elderly person in a bad nursing home or a child with disabilities. keep cutting from education, and watch what happens. keep living in your microcosmic, isolationist, me only world. you think things are bad now? wait until only uneducated or poorly educated rule your world and please don't complain and whine when that happens. you and others who think as you, will have brought it on yourselves. now i am going to make assumptions about you. you are a low educated, never went to college, unskilled blue collar worker who is a republican, and believes in the tea party. you get all of your news from fox news, love rush limbaugh and his ilk, do not read for pleasure, are not into global news, and believe men should choose and make laws about women's health. you say you are a christian, but do not adhere to the teachings of christ, you pick and choose how christian you want to be . you have lived in the same place or area all of your life. you do not believe in helping others. you are a bigot and intolerant of other cultures. how many of the above items pertain to you?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 11, 2013 2:19 am
You pay taxes? Not on the gold plated pension benefits you receive. Those for some reason are exempt from wage tax in Philly and state tax in PA. Most other states in the US tax this as income, as it should be. But the public sector unions managed to work this massive loophole into the tax code in PA. So while you guys are always trying to raise taxes on others, paying 0% is somehow your "fair share". Yes that makes you entitled, with lifetime tax free checks paid courtesy of the actual taxpayers in the private sector. There's $10 billion in city pension benefits accrued (that's $30k for every private sector job in the city), which doesn't even include teachers. If we taxed those benefits at the same 4% we pay in the private sector, we've solved the funding problem. In the meantime, stop pretending that any taxpayer who is sick of your self-dealing scams is some intolerant bigot.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on June 11, 2013 8:02 am
There is enough pain to go around I'm afraid, whether in the private or public sectors. This strategy of using "spectacular" layoffs is so wrong. It is alienating the taxpayers, the teachers and staff, and the parents. It is a nonsolution. We lost Fed Stimulous funding and we lost the partial reimbursement for transfers to charters. This should not have wreaked the havoc we see now. Let's see, could we do without the Regional Assistant Superintendents, if we reorganize into similar strategy schools that can become more self governing/take on their administrative tasks? With fewer students, how about voluntary time-sharing? How about using that 7 mil over 2 years to upgrade the record keeping systems to use personnel time more efficiently? How about using Title I money in the way it was meant, perhaps to establish permanent partnerships with community organizations that can work on the poverty issues through enrichment, also one step closer to community schools? These are real solutions. How pathetic is Philly that politics still rules above all?
Submitted by Education Grad ... on June 11, 2013 5:41 pm
Ms. Cheng, I question your assumption about regional superintendents. The idea of a regional superintendent also exists in other school districts and charter organizations. Mastery has regional superintendents, although Mastery provides these individuals with the title of Regional Director. In hospitals, there is typically a head for each department, such as the Emergency Room (physician), Admitting (nurse), Infant Care Unit, and so on. If there are multiple campuses of a hospital, there is often a manager for each campus. Businesses also have people who oversee particular departments. A large company like Procter & Gamble will have someone overseeing various divisions within the company, such as logistics, human resources, research and development, products for consumer purchase, products for commercial/institutional use, and so on. "Bureaucracy" and bureaucratic positions are not unique to the District or to government, but exist in the private sector as well. EGS
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on June 11, 2013 6:13 pm
The idea is that rather than a geographical, "punitive" director, that you have schools that have similar strategies/student bodies that can make decisions as a team rather than having one individual making decisions based on geography/hierarchy. They could choose their own curriculum for example. Special admit schools though controversial, are pretty well established, for better or worse. It seems they are still needed as long as the neighborhoods of Philly remain inherently unequal. Happy schools = happy students = no need for punitive recourse. My experience with Regional Superintendents has not been positive; "Waste of time" is the best descriptor I can think of.
Submitted by Ms. Chips (not verified) on June 11, 2013 5:25 pm
Do you keep the books for the district? Your financial literacy is about like the gibberish the district spews out when asked for numbers. Please √ your pension info: teachers are not city employees & therefore do not take part in city pensions. You are correct that the teacher pension plan is not taxed...until it is withdrawn. It works like this: teachers pay a sizable %age of every paycheck, & then when they retire, it is taxed. The district is bound to contribute to this fund, but I believe was allowed to delay its part and is currently years in arrears. This is hard to verify exactly, because the district keeps real information secret. The other taxes...federal, FICA, Medicare, city and state are the same for everyone. City & state taxes have already been levied. Show me one profession...and yes, while you unfortunately did not benefit from it, it is a profession with requirements, standards and entry tests...that requires an MA for entry and self-paid continuing training that pays so little? The trade off for 20% less salary has been a secure retirement and respect. Do you wonder why so many leave in the first few years?
Submitted by Philly Activist (not verified) on September 15, 2013 12:15 am
Ahhh - do you also rant against corporations who are drilling in the Marcellus Shale and our great (not) Governor Corporate Corbett is not collecting fees nor taxes from them? We have a loophole for corporations and who is ranting about this? Our Governor Corporate Corbett is holding $45 Million dollars hostage until the teachers make $130 Million in concessions. He is not about educating traditional public school childrent; he is about giving welfare to the Corporations. You believe we will solve the funding problem with a 4% tax on pensions and perhaps you also believe in Santa Claus. Do you really believe it will be used to allay the funding crisis? Wake up we don't live in Utopia.
Submitted by Eileen DiFranco (not verified) on June 11, 2013 8:35 am
What happens in the private sector is that businesses get a bye in paying taxes. General Electric, along with many other businesses such as Amazon have not paid their fair share of taxes. Big business, those "job creators" who all magically failed to materialize after the election, had long ago pulled up their stakes and moved away from Philadelphia to places where they could pillage new people with low wages. They devastated neighborhoods when they left. This led to the low tax base, not teachers, who, like me, live in Philadelphia and pay our fair share of taxes. If you are looking for wealth, don't look in my bank account. Check out the coffers of the drillers in the Marsela Shale area who pay NO taxes and make tons of money. This "get the teachers" mentality is a ploy by the governor to make us the whipping boy for the real culprits in this manufactured crises - businesses who lack civic virtue, indeed, who lack patriotism, who are more dedicated to their board of directors than they are to their own country. If they paid their fair share, we would not be in the fix we are.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on June 11, 2013 9:57 am
Exactly. This is a battlefront of a bigger war being fought. This whole "shared sacrifice" is nothing more than political propaganda. It is absurd and dishonest that in America, the richest country in the world, to even say that we cannot afford to provide all of our children with a first class public education and their teachers with a fair standard of living and professional standards which govern them. The present state of affairs is unnecessary, is immoral, and is a result of "the choices" our politicians have made and continue to make. Our politicians let our children, our parents, our teachers, and our local communities suffer while they play their political and self serving money and power games. What is worse is that "all of this" is part of the corporate raid on public education and the money games of those who seek to privatize public education for their personal profit. Those in power need to meet their responsibility to all American schoolchildren and all American citizens. This ridiculousness needs to stop. What a disgrace it all is.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 11, 2013 9:37 am
Those businesses and many individual taxpayers voted with their feet because they were sick and tired of being overtaxed to support overpaid and overbenefited city workers and the corrupt politicians who pander to them for votes.
Submitted by Eileen DiFranco (not verified) on June 11, 2013 10:59 am
Really? Do you know Philadelphia's history? We were once the manufacturing capital of the country. I grew up in Port Richmond where there was a factory on every corner. People made a living wage. The owners of the factories did not want to pay a living wage. They wanted to pay slave wages. So they packed up their plants and left. The companies blamed the union workers. They just HAD to leave b/c the unions were so demanding. What we have left is CVS and Walmart. This mentality affects people's perception of teachers. Why would you begrudge paying the people who teach your children a living wage? Why wouldn't you want to attract the best and the brightest to work with vulnerable children? Why not aim your anger at the people who have really caused this mess - the governor- who has refused to tax the Marsela Shale people.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 11, 2013 11:00 am
Noone is begrudging a living wage for teachers. But 80K+ a year is too high, especially considering you pay zero towards your healthcare costs. That is too much for a K-12 teacher. You don't need six figures with bennies to live in Philly. Tax the shale people? Typical response. Just keep raising taxes and drive them out of the state, too. Just like the city drove out residents and businesses with the highest city wage tax in the nation and one of the highest business "privilege" taxes.
Submitted by Eileen DiFranco (not verified) on June 11, 2013 11:52 am
My son worked for the oil drilling business in North Dakota. The companies invest too much money to "pull out." They just like to threaten and fume. Have you checked out how much oil drillers make? These are people, for the most part, with a high school education. It's amazing. And they live in places where the cost of living is very low and all the shopping is done in Walmart b/c that's all there is. And I don't begrudge them anything. How much do you spend for your cable bill? How much for your cell phone? How much to pay a plumber to fix your sink? Think teaching is easy? Try it. It's like being Jay Leno for 6 hours. As I said in an earlier post, you simply don't know the history of the City of Philadelphia and why businesses left. Quite frankly, I don't know why anyone would give business a bye about anything. Those who run them don't live in or care about the city. The teachers and other union members are your neighbors.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 11, 2013 6:23 pm
The vast majority of Philly teachers are not up in the 80K region. However, why is that wage high? How many jobs that require a college degree and plus a Masters on top of that, pay less? Teachers in Philly are paying their college fees themselves. Nothing from Philly. Compared to the majority of PA districts Philly is one of the lowest paying ones so enough with your whining. Do you really think teachers will go to college, pay for it themselves and then work low wages.I am paying zero on my health? Funny how they keep asking me for my copay. Shall I send them your way?
Submitted by Education Grad ... on June 11, 2013 6:51 pm
No, 80,000+ is not too high. For young teachers, the District's pay is quite competitive. However, for veteran teachers, the pay is much lower than in many suburban districts. Teachers in some suburban districts make $100,000+, yet have to pay less out of pocket for supplies and have children who are less needy. Behavior problems are considerably less of an issue in many suburban districts. I have spoken with a director of human resources for an affluent suburban district in the Philadelphia area who stated that during interviews, suburban districts don't need to hear a lot about classroom management from candidates because classroom management is not that big of an issue. Rather, the HR people in these districts want to know more about how you differentiate instruction or use cutting-edge technology. Younger teachers and PFT members do pay toward their health care costs. I believe that it would be beneficial for all PFT members to start paying toward their health care benefits at a small percentage, such as 5%. If anything, this will help public perception. At the same time, not having to pay for health care is a part of the overall compensation. My understanding is that not having to pay for health care has been an incentive for some new teachers to come and teach for the District. Personally, I would prefer receiving more salary and paying into my healthcare (at a level commensurate with other school districts in the area) than having a lower salary and not having to pay anything for health care. Perhaps paying into health care benefits gives an employee a stake in the cost of one's health care, and may provide incentives for healthier behavior in order to keep down costs. I don't know if this is the case, but would be interested in look at research to see if paying for/not paying for health care affects people's behavior. In terms of taxes, I oppose raising taxes on small businesses. Many of these are mom and pop businesses and the profits are not particularly large. However, there need to be higher taxes on large corporations and large nonprofits. EGS
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 11, 2013 6:06 pm
When you consider that Philly wants to cut even beginner wages 5% and the city wage tax, all the supplies the district bullies teachers into buying, and the constant headaches of rude children and vindictive administrators Philadelphia is no bargin for beginners or veterans. The public perception is based on a false image promoted by privateers and politicians. I'll gladly pay some of my health care like the suburban teachers when you pay me wages like they get. I DO pay part of my health care with copays. Health care is a benefit in a district that often fails to supply teachers with necessary material and lower wages. The public thinks teachers should return to the school marm that works for a pittance and gets fired once she marries. The basic problems of this school district have little to do with who pays for health care. Don't stress your teachers continually and you will have lower health costs.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on June 12, 2013 9:04 am
Healthcare costs are a big part of the reason that concessions are being sought from teachers, that is, they are a big part of the "cost" to the District. It is not your wages that are unaffordable. Keep this in mind when the PFT goes to the table. Get those concessions from the Healthcare Industry, not your wages. I would say the Healthcare Insurance industry is one of the hidden villains in this scenario. The unaffordable premiums and dwindling membership means that those still subscribing have been hit with huge increased costs annually. This has probably not been figured into the "doomsday" budget, but needs to be written in, if any concessions are given: When the Affordable Care Act goes into effect next year, any savings in premiums over what is calcuated in this budget, whether in initial cost or rebate (and by law the Insurers must rebate unused premiums) must be returned to the teachers to offset any cuts to wages. Our family pays over $400 per month deducted from our wages for health insurance, close to what we pay in wage and real estate tax combined, and we are one of the lucky ones who's employer offers this "benefit". Imagine if we could move these $ to classroom costs.
Submitted by Jennifer (not verified) on June 11, 2013 11:26 pm
I think any teacher in this economic time would be understandable about paying towards their health care like everyone else, but they shouldn't be asked to take a 13% paycut and then pay another 13% towards their health care. Plus, its only the most senior and certified teachers that make the highest end of the pay scale and you would want to reward those teachers that have continued with their own education and are sharing it with their students and if you spend anytime in a school you will see that they earn every penny. so many of their students have horrible home lives, or have learning disabilites, or overcrowded and under supplied classrooms, and put out money from their own pocket that what they make isn't nearly enough. These are the people who are helping to mold young minds and what? we should do that on the cheap side? I think if we can pay hundreds of millions to athletes and actors, we can provide a satisfactory pay to the guardians of our children's educational futures!
Submitted by Education Grad ... on June 12, 2013 9:22 pm
Jennifer, Asking teachers and other PFT members to take a 13% pay cut and pay 13% of their health benefits is ridiculous and disrespectful. The PFT should make absolutely no concessions on pay. The District is completely unreasonable to ask PFT members to take a pay cut after central office employees received raises for filling positions with greater responsibilities. I believe that a small amount like 5% is reasonable to ask PFT members to pay for their health benefits. As a new hire and PFT member, I pay 5%. Asking members with higher salaries to pay 5% for their health care benefits is reasonable. Teachers and other employees do spent quite a lot of money out of pocket on supplies and this needs to count for something, especially since the requirement that the District supply adequate supplies and textbooks is in the PFT contract. EGS
Submitted by Jack (not verified) on June 10, 2013 6:43 pm
You are exactly what is wrong with this country. Someone loses his job, tough you know what. That attitude starts in Washington and is picked up by every Fox News watching nut case in the country. When people lose jobs through no fault of their own, like inept management, shouldn't we question that and expect better? Or should we just accept it like the lemmings our esteemed members of Congress expect us to be? This district was ruined by past SRC members and the state and they can walk away without being held accountable. and guess who is left holding the bag? The people on the front lines who do the grunt work. No, I will not accept that and Harvey shouldn't accept it and neither should the 3700+ people who will lose their jobs. We must demand better and the movement is starting. So maybe you, as a loyal teabagger, should move on and get on with your life watching Fox News 24/7.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on June 10, 2013 8:17 pm
Troll--Ignore it.
Submitted by H Scribner (not verified) on June 10, 2013 11:17 pm
By the way, man up and use your name or shut up and stay out of it.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 11, 2013 9:33 am
Quit feeling sorry for yourself and go out and find another job.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 11, 2013 10:30 am
Judging by your picture, you look like you could use some belt tightening yourself. It might be good for your health to be pounding the pavement looking for a job.
Submitted by H Scribner (not verified) on June 11, 2013 10:21 am
Thanks for your anonymous concern. You seem to be looking for a way to incite a fight online instead of truly caring for the problem at hand. Anonymously posting personal attacks is not exactly what I would call honorable, but free speech is everyone's right, even people without the guts to stand up and be recognized. I am not worried about having a job. I will always be gainfully employed somewhere. As for getting angry, I know how to fight, when to fight, and how to win. Anger helps no one's cause. I never shy away from a fight, but cooler heads will always prevail. I am standing my ground here and taking the high road. You should do the same.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 11, 2013 11:26 am
You might want to take a look through the posts again. YOU are the one who started with the personal attacks. But then again, that is expected from someone who is losing a debate.
Submitted by Krys Belc (not verified) on June 10, 2013 3:58 pm
Hi Harvey, I didn't know you well when we briefly worked together at University City, but you struck me as one of the most dedicated and downright friendly staff members we had. I wish you luck in this tough time. Krys Belc
Submitted by JMH (not verified) on June 10, 2013 5:38 pm
Hang in there buddy!!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 10, 2013 5:00 pm
I wish there was a way to hire Harvey Scribner to our school, but the union's seniority rules leave in place a cruel, ineffective teacher who terrorizes sixth grade children. Parents speak up, but the outgoing principal says his "hands are tied." There is no justice.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 10, 2013 6:21 pm
"terrorizes" The seniority rules in place are not simply "the union rules." In PA teacher code, our past legislators recognized the need to provide protections to teachers as they gain more experience and more salary to prevent the arbitrary dismissal of teachers. If said "ineffective teacher" needs to be removed, the principal of your school needs to initiate the proceedings; however, everyone, including teachers, are entitled to due process for removal. If you are an actual teacher, I would cite your inability to spell or proofread your writing as indicative of possible intervention in your professional aptitudes. If, as I suspect, you are merely a Hite plant or "school reformer" posing as a teacher, I suggest you seek the justice by seeking more revenue to hire this exemplary teacher and place him back in front the students who need his expertise.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on June 10, 2013 11:21 pm
Anonymous, Seniority is important. If there were no protection for seniority, the District would lay off teachers based on their salaries. With regard to the cruel, ineffective teacher to which you refer, it is not simply the seniority rules that protect the teacher. There are other factors that come into play as well. The process for removing a teacher isn't as onerous as people make it out to be. It involves the principal rating the teacher unsatisfactory. The teacher receives a year to improve, and then, if the principal deems him/her unsatisfactory and provides justification, my understanding is that the removal and grievance/due process procedures can begin. Other readers, please correct me if I am wrong about this. That said, there is a code of silence by which teachers and other PFT members protect each other. (This is also present for other employees, such as janitors and building engineers, SEIU members, as well.) I speak from my brief experience as a student teacher and SDP employee (support staff position). I am a current PFT member. I am a strong supporter of unions. Unions provide necessary opposition to the interests of corporations in the political sphere. Unions help ensure that people can earn a living wage and support a family. Unions help ensure safe working conditions and serve as an important buffer against unbridled capitalism. At the same time, I believe that certain policies and practices of the PFT undermines its credibility and hurts students. The code of silence is an example. Ask or converse with any teacher in private and they will tell you about their colleagues. Most teachers, especially those who have spent at least a couple of years in her/his building, know who the great, good, average, and ineffective teachers are. In my experience, teachers are well aware of the ineffective teachers, the teachers who are the "weak link," the teacher that any teacher wouldn't want their own child to have. Teachers walk by each others' classrooms. They know which teachers, year after year, have terrible classroom management. It's not just one "rough" class, it's a consistent, ongoing pattern of poor classroom management. You see them doing paperwork or IEPs during instructional time, and their students have nothing to do or are doing activities such as coloring, rough-housing, playing cards, and so on. Some of them can't write a respectable IEP. Fortunately, this is the minority of teachers. But depending on the school, there can be one or two or several. These teachers are noticeable. On the other hand, the best teachers have the respect of their colleagues, even if their colleagues may have personal disagreements with them. These teachers are experts at their craft. They help their colleagues improve. They manage their classrooms well and care for their students. Other teachers would happily approve of their own children having these great teachers. With regard to teachers who don't do their jobs well, I've heard a union rep say, "I can't say anything, I'm the PFT rep" to a parent when a parent complained about her child's teacher. (This parent was complaining about one of the teachers who shouldn't be teaching---poor classroom management year after year, frequent screaming and berating of students, lack of engaging instruction). I've also heard a PFT rep try to justify a teacher's shortcomings and breach of professional duties (no lesson plans, for example) because he/she is in a new school, has a "tough" class, or because the person complaining is "inexperienced" or has never taught. Or, the PFT rep will say that it's a "PFT issue," even when what's going on in that teacher's classroom is to most observers, wrong, unprofessional, and detrimental to students. Even other teachers will, in private, acknowledge that the teacher shouldn't be teaching. Teachers and other members observe this code of silence for a number of reasons. There PFT is under attack right now, no doubt. Teachers live in fear. There's a feeling that we're all "in this together" or we have to have "solidarity." If you speak up about another teacher, even when everyone else feels the same way, it's almost like "snitching" or "ratting out" someone. In my experience, it takes courage to speak up on behalf of kids or yourself if doing so involves criticizing or making a complaint about a fellow teacher or PFT colleague. Authentic solidarity and unity occurs when there is genuine buy-in from everyone in a group. Authentic unity comes from holding each other to high standards, demonstrating a concern for the health of the profession and the children in our care. This unity is lacking in the PFT right now. This is for a variety of reasons. Our union is under attack and we need to stand up together. But we also need to make sure that the words of "doing what's best for kids" isn't just lip-service. When there are clear breaches of professional duties, these issues need to be addressed openly with the teacher, in a meeting facilitated by the building rep, and/or brought to the attention of one's principal, not swept under the rug or kept under wraps because it's a "PFT issue." Sweeping things under the rug does no good because it allows these issues to fester, and this hurts children and the profession. Parents and students aren't dumb. They know who the teachers are who shouldn't be teaching. Other teachers and PFT members know who these teachers are, too. I know from speaking with other PFT members that the protection and code of silence surrounding the ineffective teachers erodes the credibility of the union. How can the PFT be about students when building reps and other members won't take seriously the presence of teachers who are ineffective, unprofessional, and who should not be teaching? It may not be a loud conversation, but people are talking about it privately. I know I will take a lot of flack for what I am saying. Ultimately, being proactive and dealing with teachers who lack the professionalism, skill, and desire to do their jobs to a high standard is good for everyone because it bolsters the status of our profession and is in the best interest of our students. EGS
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 11, 2013 2:10 am
It would be fair to all workers that layoffs affect people of all seniority levels proportionately. Older teachers shouldn't be targeted. But protecting older teachers who aren't very good, who are burned out, while firing strong teachers for being young- well the PFT earns its reputation as a destructive force for students here.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 11, 2013 5:06 am
There are also incompetent, ineffective "young" teachers. You assumption that anyone with experience is "burned out" is wrong. There are "burned out" "young" teachers too. A problem is when administrators are friends with teachers and do not do their job. An administrator might complain but do nothing about it. We also have many incompetent, ineffective administrators who can not more handle a classroom or create unit plan than some teachers.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 11, 2013 11:56 am
Sure. Of course there are good and bad at all ages. I don't assume that ANYONE with experience is burned out. I assume the average older teacher is probably better than younger teachers. BUT NOT ALL OF THEM. The PFT line doesn't follow that no older teacher should ever be laid off until every younger teacher. Seniority as the only factor in layoffs is unfair and stupid. Surely you know those veterans who are burned out, who stay on only because they've reached the point in the pay scale and pension vesting where there is little way they could make anything near what they earn teaching.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on June 11, 2013 5:31 pm
Anonymous, You are oversimplifying seniority. In the current PFT contract, pp. 12-16, there are three kinds of seniority for teachers: school system, location, and departmental. I believe that departmental seniority refers to bargaining unit (e.g. teachers, paraprofessionals). One question I have is regarding the issue of certification and layoffs. Every time I have checked the District's HR page, there is always a statement indicating a need for dual-certified secondary math and science teachers. Other areas of high need or shortage in the SDP are secondary math teachers, secondary science teachers, and bilingual teachers who speak certain languages (e.g., Spanish, Mandarin, Khmer). My question is: Since the District has a shortage of teachers who possess certain certificates, does it make sense to layoff these teachers in areas of shortage simply because of seniority? My own thinking is that it makes sense to take certification in account when determining seniority, and therefore, when conducting layoffs. If there are not enough dual-certified math and science teachers or bilingual teachers, it doesn't make any sense to lay off these teachers in the first place. And yes, I personally know teachers who want to retire because they are tired and "can't take it anymore," but they are staying for the time being. For a couple whom I know, this has to do with reaching a certain age or years of service threshold, such as age 62, 25 years of service, or 35 years of service. The pension, salary, and benefits provide a strong incentive to stay. These teachers are expensive and other districts and charters won't hire them as teachers. My understanding is that the pension has a particularly strong pull. I do think that there needs to be discussion about this issue. It's hard to design a system/process that can decipher the older teacher who really should retire from the older teacher who the administrator is targeting (for salary, union activity, opinion, etc.). Even if there is evidence that could support a teacher's termination during due process hearings, what if the teacher is a building representative? What if the teacher doesn't get along with his/her union representative? What if a teacher is close with the principal, effectively shielding her/him from even being written up or considered for termination? My understanding is that these processes can be political. This doesn't mean that the processes are totally invalid, but it should give one pause. I would be interested in hearing about ways that one might be able to "counsel out" an older teacher who wants to and needs to retire, but who is staying due to the monetary incentives (e.g., pension). Perhaps, there should be some sort of process for helping teachers transition to education related-careers, such as professional development or instructional coaching with the District or the private sector, which may be a better fit for them at this point in their lives, but still provide them with a steady income and health benefits. EGS
Submitted by Education Grad ... on June 11, 2013 4:51 pm
This is very true. Some younger teacher may experience "burn out" because of balancing teaching with family responsibilities, such as raising young children, or balancing coursework for a master's and family responsibilities with teaching. With older teachers, "burn out" may come from the fatigue that comes with age, the fatigue of dealing with the school system, adapting to new techniques and trends in teaching (RtII), and so on. At the same time, I have also read other perspectives on burn out, such as Rich Migliore, who said in a comment on another article that burn out is an organizational health issue. Burn out can also be an issue for administrators and support professionals staff persons (e.g., nurses, parapros). EGS
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 10, 2013 5:10 pm
I wish there was a way to hire Harvey Scribner to our school, but the union's seniority rules leave in place a cruel, ineffective teacher who terrorizes sixth grade children. Parents speak up, but the outgoing principal says his "hands are tied." There is no justice.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 10, 2013 6:01 pm
It's not the seniority rules that leave that "ineffective teacher" with a job. The principal has to do their job in order to get rid of bad teachers. There is a system in place. I've seen many teachers fired or coached out of a job.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 10, 2013 6:34 pm
Then the principal is lying to us. Many, many parents have complained and nothing has happened. There is a long email trail. What should parents do?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 10, 2013 7:26 pm
Parents should gather all their email and compose a letter to the SRC and to Mr. Hite, asking why this principal has not done his/her job and responded to this situation. Make the principal accountable. It is very easy to blame a faceless, anonymous union but it usually a cover up for the truth. Good luck to you.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 10, 2013 7:40 pm
They don't care. They were given orders from Zogby and Corbett and they are doing what they are told.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 10, 2013 7:19 pm
To the 21 year middle school teacher - it's a shame they didn't let you go. No wonder our city children can't read or write. I'm glad my children didn't get a teacher like you who demonstrates clearly she cannot compose a simple sentence!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 10, 2013 9:45 pm
i'm always amazed at posters who can point out typos, misspellings and grammar issues while missing the point of what the person is saying. it shows true intelligence. i could call you names, but i won't. a person who equates how i write an email to my teaching abilities always makes me laugh. i write ala e.e. cummings in emails for a reason, but i can write a perfect letter if need be. maybe i should just write posts like james joyce. i'm sure you understand that reference. i prefer creativity and the ability to think outside the box to solve problems. i'm glad your children take after you and speak and write formally and correctly at all times. do you teach them to make judgements and name call also? do they also have a comprehension problem like you? you know, nitpicking the stupid stuff and ignoring the gist? kudos to you my friend and i hope you have the means to provide lessons and experiences for your children if they are artistic, musical or kinesthetic 'cuz they won't get those things in a philly school.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 10, 2013 11:55 pm
There's no point to be made - your writing skills demonstrate your level of intelligence - limited! Stop whining about what you are doing. If all teachers are doing a great job why are less than fifty percent of the children in city schools proficient in reading? I'm just sick of awful teachers preaching about all they do with poor results of their work (student achievement) then boasting unity in red. Where's the unity when it comes to supporting a child that has lost a years academic growth as a result of a poor teacher?
Submitted by Eileen DiFranco (not verified) on June 11, 2013 8:06 am
I've made this comment before, but I'll make it again for those who didn't hear it. Philadelphia has the BEST public schools in the State of Pa; Central, Girls', Masterman, Carver, etc. The students in those schools score well above average in every subject area. The kids who don't make it into the magnet schools attend the comprehensive high schools. Consequently, these kids, almost by definition are NOT going to score very high in standardized tests. Of course, there are many exceptions. This does not mean that the schools have "failed." It means that the kids - and the teachers- are doing the best they can. So, please, exercise some clarity and charity before making statements like this.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 11, 2013 5:12 pm
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 10, 2013 7:53 pm
I think you need to call the union. I can't believe that they are laying off teachers with over 4 years in the district. If it is accurate, I am really sorry that this is happening to you and to all the others.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 10, 2013 8:20 pm
I have 4 years in and so far haven't received any layoff notice! Should I still be worried?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 10, 2013 7:36 pm
How does the Comptroller's office get a 42% increase in staff next year? What happened to the School police contracted raise and the CASA raise? Oh it went to a select few at 440. These people have no shame. Yeah, it is for the kids.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 10, 2013 7:44 pm
How does the Comptroller's office get a 42% increase in staff next year? What happened to the School police contracted raise and the CASA raise? Oh it went to a select few at 440. These people have no shame. Yeah, it is for the kids.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 10, 2013 7:21 pm
Hi, I am a parent of two children with GIEP's at a magnet school in Philadelphia. I am not a fan of the SRC or the present or last few Superintendents, all of whom come to Philadelphia through Eli Broad. I'm the one complaining about the ineffective and cruel sixth grade teacher. I'm not alone. We have lobbied our outgoing principal and he is the one who is saying there is nothing he can do because his "hand are tied." (By the way, please tell me what I spelled wrong in my previous post). I do wish Harvey Scribner luck in his future endeavors. We need more teachers like him.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 10, 2013 7:42 pm
Principal's hands are "not tied" - especially at a magnet school. The principal doesn't want to do his job. This is epidemic in the School District. Dedicated teachers want principals to do their job - a weak teacher makes the situation worse for everyone. You need to go above the principal to the Regional Superintendent (I don't know the current title), The Regional Super. is the principal's boss.
Submitted by Tara (not verified) on June 10, 2013 9:08 pm
I would be concerned that a principal is discussing a teacher's employment status with others or even agreeing with a parent that a teacher is ineffective. The same principal could be telling the teacher that there are pushy and overbearing parents complaining. It is very easy for a principal to talk out of both sides of his/her mouth. However, if what you say is true, and multiple parents have spoken to the principal, then the principal needs to investigate. There is a process that teachers are entitled to have followed. There are even ways for teachers to improve before they are fired. The principal should not be discussing with parents their personal dealings with the teacher. The principal's hands are not tied by any means. Either the principal doesn't want to deal with the teacher, the principal doesn't believe you, or the teacher has a high-level connection the principal wants to avoid offending.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on June 10, 2013 11:54 pm
Dedicated teachers want principals to do their job - a weak teacher makes the situation worse for everyone. THANK YOU, Anonymous! Weak teachers make the situation worse for everyone, but a shoddy principal makes the situation even worse because dysfunction trickles down from the top. Some principals don't like it when people go "over their head." For some principals, though, the "going over his/her head" needs to happen more often! EGS
Submitted by ConcernedRoxParent (not verified) on June 12, 2013 9:50 am
I would find out who the Regional SUperintendent is for that school and send him/her copies of all emails and what steps have been taken so far. Keep sending it up the chain if you don't get a response, however in my experience the Regional Superintendent won't want it to go farther than him'/her and will take action.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 12, 2013 1:34 pm
Schools are pretty afraid of getting tickets from 440 for parent complaints, if the super holds them accountable.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 10, 2013 7:43 pm
THANK YOU!! I will spearhead the effort to collect parent emails! Thank you very much!
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on June 10, 2013 8:12 pm
Harvey---STOP whining, STOP feeling sorry for yourself. Be mad--you have a right to be mad. Corruption is why you have lost your job. FIGHT BACK Dude!!! Take all your sorrow and hurt feelings and turn your passion into Anger and Action. WE ALL need to fight and, yes, that starts with the PFT. Solidarity, massive and hostile and "with much vigor" as Kennedy used to say. I feel your pain, Harvey, I really do BUT what is needed is a massive reaction(s) not wallowing in self pity. That's what they're counting on. And please, don't join these well intended but incredibly naive and week kneed picture takers. Think Chicago Teachers and compare them with us. If that alone doesn't make you crazy mad, you're already dead.
Submitted by H Scribner (not verified) on June 10, 2013 11:57 pm
No self pity here. I will soldier-on. I am frustrated like everyone else and thought a letter with the right tone needed to be written and sent. I don't need to get angry. I have been gainfully employed since I was young. I will be ok as I know there is always a plan. I meant every word of what I wrote and I wallow in nothing. If that's what you heard instead of the solemn praise for those I have served with here in the district, then you are hearing the wrong thing! I hope we all get to keep teaching these awesome and deserving students. In the event that I don't, I always survive and come back better from adversity. You do the same. Respectfully, Harvey
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 11, 2013 8:43 am
Harvey, You were too gracious to that hard a** Joe K. I think you will be called back, and thank goodness, because you were a ray of sunshine at UCity! Miss ya!
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on June 11, 2013 9:21 am
I'm sure Harvey is a nice person but this is not the time to play mouse and accept abuse being heaped on him. WE all need to grow a pair and fight for the kids' and our rights in a free society, not play the St. Francis Assisi card to avoid dealing with real feelings. I've done it too, we all have but someone and I took the initiative to tell him the truth. It's not personal. Through no fault of his own, he has lost his craft and that alone better make him angry or he's already dead.
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on June 11, 2013 9:25 am
Harvey--I meant what I said too. You're being abused and there's nothing noble about accepting that and "moving on." Do you think the Chicago Teachers accepted the abuse?? The point is you need to fight for your rights. You deserve them and playing the "I'll be a better person for it" card is a crock and you know that too. You studied hard to learn your craft and it was taken from you by corruption not by happenstance nor anything wrong you did. I'll say it again, you have a right to be angry and a right and responsibility in a free society to fight for your rights. Even Job would be pissed so get past the rationalization nonsense and join the fight for YOUR rights.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 11, 2013 9:02 am
Joe, your advice to Harvey should be pointed at PFT leadership. As soon as they start visibly fighting hard and strong with your kind of urgency, maybe the bullied teachers will more inspired to stick up for themselves as well, in a united voice. Where is our PFT leadership? Oh, in the weekly email.
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on June 11, 2013 9:39 am
I TOTALLY AGREE !!!! However, we are all in this together, even Jordan who apparently, would like to be someone else, somewhere else. Thank You for your post.
Submitted by Eileen DiFranco (not verified) on June 11, 2013 9:36 am
And the poorly attended rallies. We should have enough people to block Broad St. from 440 to City Hall. Jordan is only as strong as his base. If we don't show up, it sends a message. We're all in this together.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 11, 2013 10:31 am
For the high attendance level at the civil rights march in Washington D.C., I believe it was a dynamic and passionate leader who inspired that attendance. We need more visibility and energy at the top. Just my opinion.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 11, 2013 11:26 am
Well, we DON"T have it. We are still loyal PFT members, but we are without leadership right now. We need to lead from the ranks. We need to speak up. We need to grow this movement. All of this makes the struggle all the more difficult. I don't feel that kids without parents need to raise themselves. But WE ARE NOT CHILDREN. We are simply without leadership. We still have only one life, one vote, one chance to make a difference. Let's get moving. To begin we need to honor the PFT members who ARE speaking up. We need to avoid squabbling among ourselves. We need to seek out as much opportunity to present ourselves to the public/media as the professionals we are and work to change misinformed public perceptions of public school teachers. We all have work to do every day in this effort. We should not take this lying down. I agree with Joe. Someone referred to him as a hard***. We could certainly use a few more Joes right now. His toughness masks an intense respect for Philadelphia kids. One cannot simultaneously be protective, caring AND laissez faire while watching the future be ripped from the very charges one cares about. Righteous rage is what is called for.
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on June 11, 2013 12:11 pm
Amen--Thank You but don't call me lazy or laissez.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 11, 2013 1:12 pm
You read too fast Joe- What I meant was you AREN'T laissez-faire- because you cannot be. You are righteously angry as you should be.
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on June 11, 2013 2:18 pm
No, I know. It was my feeble attempt at humor. And don't call me righteous !!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 11, 2013 2:15 pm
Ha Ha! Righteous!!! Hilarious. :)
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 11, 2013 1:08 pm
what is standing on a step and yelling going to do? Until Jerry Jordan grows a set of ba**s nothing is going to change! Wouldn't be surprised if they have a cushy six figure job waiting for him after he complys by letting the union collapse! Open your eyes! YOur leadership stinks. If I was paying his salary I'd ask for my money back!
Submitted by teach34181 (not verified) on June 11, 2013 1:27 pm
If the JOB you are referring to was from the Bible, I believe he said something along the lines of "Tho He Slay Me, Yet Will I Trust In Him..." think about it....
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on June 11, 2013 1:02 pm
You forgot the question mark, dude.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 11, 2013 12:14 pm
Hello, I want to *sincerely* thank everyone who took the time to respond to my concerns about the sixth grade teacher and the principal. Each response gave me inspiration to take the next steps. Thank you!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 11, 2013 1:55 pm
Than is what we need to do, keep talking with each other. There are solutions/ options already available. Most teacher bashing from the likes of Michelle Rhee is rooted in corporate agendas. Parents like you who may have legitimate complaints need to trust that there are avenues to get responses/results. When these avenues are exhausted with no results, you have a right to push higher up the ladder and demand results. Rarely, is it the fault of the other teachers who may agree with the parent about said teacher who may be underperforming. We are not the teacher's rating officer. I hope you get some satisfaction. No PFT teacher wants to see a child in a class like that. It demeans the profession.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 11, 2013 2:23 pm
Harvey for Governor :)
Submitted by H Scribner (not verified) on June 11, 2013 3:20 pm
Put Me In Coach!
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on June 11, 2013 3:00 pm
If I could, I would. I don't even know you but I worked at Uni for 20 years from 1976 through 1996 and it was a really a cool school with really cool teachers. Seems like you fit the mold of a dedicated teacher who is in it for the kids. A Nice Guy, too. Don't worry, if you are a Uni teacher, you can deal with anything! Great teachers are needed everywhere! And guess what -- We actually did go on strike back then and Jerry Jordan actually did lead the strike at Uni as the building Rep. We, and my family, sacrificed for your rights and don't you dare give them up without a good and noble fight my man. We always had a saying in the district -- you just do what you have to do.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 11, 2013 2:39 pm
$400 million for two new prisons. Really Corbett? Go Harvey!!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 13, 2013 10:38 am
Grow up and find another career. This is life; people who make a difference are people who have invested years. You are too old to act childish.
Submitted by H Scribner (not verified) on June 13, 2013 11:43 am
Actually, I had a very lucrative career in sales prior to deploying in 2008. I always wanted to teach. I love teaching. And I will continue to teach at all costs if possible. I am not naive, I have been gainfully employed since I was young, and I am sure I will have a job somewhere before the end of the summer. I can return to sales anytime if I need to. Thanks for your concern for my future though, it sounds very heartfelt! (Yes, I am being facetious.)

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