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Countdown, Day 10: Citywide, number of school secretaries is down by 30%

by Paul Socolar on Aug 30 2013 Posted in Countdown to calamity?

As the School District secured the first installments of desperately needed new revenue this summer, one of the first steps taken was to rehire one secretary for each of the 213 schools -- a recognition of the vital role they play in school operations. The cost was $17.6 million.

As schools prepare to open for staff members on Tuesday and for students on Sept. 9, those secretaries are back on the job. The District has estimated that three-fourths of schools saw the return of one of the secretaries from last year.

"It’s based on seniority," said Robert McGrogan, who heads the principals' union, CASA. "The most senior got to stay at their home school." 

But in all, only 218 secretaries have been rehired districtwide. Five of those are at schools that used discretionary dollars to pay for a second secretary position. Last school year, there were 306 secretaries districtwide, so 30 percent of those still have not been brought back.

One reason more secretaries are not back at their original school is that the District used to have two different categories of secretaries: Secretary I and Secretary III. But none of the 47 higher-paid Secretary IIIs were recalled. Schools that had only a Secretary III did not get their former secretary back as a result.

Besides planning and overseeing the work of other secretarial personnel, only Secretary IIIs were authorized to handle certain "approved information." McGrogan said some Secretary IIIs handled payroll and other administrative tasks for their schools, tasks that otherwise have to be done by the principal.

The procedure for the callbacks was negotiated with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, which represents school secretaries.

McGrogan said that the secretary recall process did not make provision for schools where there is a need for bilingual secretaries.

Even before this year's financial crisis, some schools had already reduced their secretarial ranks in the budget cuts of recent years. For instance, former Roxborough High principal Stephen Brandt, now at Bensalem High School, told the Notebook that he had whittled down the number of secretaries from four to one during his tenure at the school, trying to protect classroom positions and “preserve the integrity of the academic program.” 

Dale Mezzacappa and Paul Jablow contributed reporting for this article.

The School District of Philadelphia faces an unprecedented situation – uncertainty over whether it will be in a position to open safe and functioning schools in September.

This feature, appearing each weekday, is an effort to highlight developments and motivate action as we get closer to the beginning of the school year. We encourage readers to send us information about both concerns and breakthroughs to

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Comments (17)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/30/2013 - 17:20.

What about all these Assistant Supers he's put in place for each region? Where did the money come from to pay them? Check your district e-mail we all received an email from Hite. I want to know how we can afford them and not secretaries or counselors!

Submitted by Education Grad ... on Fri, 08/30/2013 - 19:00.

Weren't there already assistant superintendents? I'm not trying to defend Hite or anything, but maybe he was filling vacant positions. But as far as students go, the counselors are more important than assistant superintendents.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/30/2013 - 19:09.

I didn't get that email.. The last email I got from Hite was on Aug. 8.

Submitted by iorgos (not verified) on Fri, 08/30/2013 - 17:28.

My thoughts on charter expansion and why we are in such a financially poor state of affairs here in Philly compared to many of the suburbs

Submitted by anon (not verified) on Fri, 08/30/2013 - 17:31.

Why can't the secretaries III take a cut down to the lessor position if they have seniority and they want to do that? This is a sad thank you to the people who have worked so hard and so long to attain the better position.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/30/2013 - 20:25.

The SRC gave over $100 million in new charter school seats last year to charters when it wasn't their turn (renewal process) to get new seats.

The state and city failed to provide their total $180 million request from HITE.

That is why I don't understand why the unions have to come up with $133 million of concessions. Maybe $24 million at most if everyone had performed properly. $100 +$180 +$24= $304 deficit.

Submitted by Lisa Haver (not verified) on Sat, 08/31/2013 - 12:34.

Just last month the SRC approved 3 more Renaissance charters. A few months ago, they awarded a $15 million contract to an outside provider to start a cyber charter.

And they still get away with saying they are broke.

Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on Sat, 08/31/2013 - 13:14.

Stop trying to find something good about the motives of The SRC, Hite and Nutter------Face the FACTS, they're trying to kill The PFT and all things PUBLIC. They're in it for the money.

Submitted by Education Grad ... on Fri, 08/30/2013 - 21:21.

If all Secretary IIIs were laid off, why is there a job posting for Secretary III on the District website? See it here:

The only explanation I have for this is to hire less expensive Secretary IIIs or bilingual Secretary IIIs.


Submitted by Joan Taylor on Sat, 08/31/2013 - 09:32.

Not hiring back the Secretary III's is like laying off Senior Career Teachers first and hiring them back last. It is a disgrace. Mr. Hite should be ashamed to show his face in Philadelphia. Perhaps he should return to Maryland and put the finishing touches on the debacle he created there.

My prediction: Mr. Hite will leave Philadelphia in two years. He will have churned the system into a disaster area, bolstering the arguments of his education-for-profit sponsors that only a private, profit-driven takeover of public education will work. Mr. Hite will move--or should I say, ascend?-- to another urban district, where for even bigger bucks, he will recreate the spectacular demolition job that he perfected in Philadelphia. Then he will be hired, at an even larger salary, to be an educational consultant. He will be well-dressed, fabulously pensioned, and smug as hell.

A few years after that, we will begin to recognized the damage we've done to public education. The architects of this destruction will be happily redecorating the vacation homes they've acquired at our expense.

Submitted by PC Game And Apk (not verified) on Sat, 08/31/2013 - 10:11.

I found the information interesting and hopefully your site is getting clothes and growing

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/31/2013 - 13:33.

Apparently people are getting called back today. My principal indicated he was able to call people back that were laid off, but that also means our roster will be changed again.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/31/2013 - 14:12.

Any social studies teachers called back and what is your seniority date?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/31/2013 - 15:33.

This is disgusting. Let's let the students suffer with lack of general services and safety and have people laid off who don't know how they are going to provide for their families while politicians figure how to best keep their pockets lined while getting what personally suits them. Who holds them accountable? Certainly not the people because they seem to have a deaf ear towards the people they should be listening to. These people would be fired anywhere else. They have failed and won't have any consequences because the rest of us are paying them. Makes me sick. Thanks for nothing Governor and Mayor.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 09/03/2013 - 18:12.

You really have to be in a public sector union to think it makes sense to switch around school secretaries based on seniority.

Completely idiotic policy that only works in an organization like the SDP that can continue to fail over and over and still get more funding. As usual, still zero regard for contributing to an effective or productive organizational environment.

Submitted by Free Download Pc Games Full Version (not verified) on Fri, 12/27/2013 - 21:57.

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Submitted by Free Download Pc Games Full Version (not verified) on Fri, 12/27/2013 - 21:58.

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