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Philly schools open with big concerns, big classes

By the Notebook on Sep 10, 2013 11:23 AM

by Holly Otterbein for NewsWorks

Philadelphia's public schools opened Monday with larger classes, missing programs, and 3,000 fewer employees. The School District is facing an unprecedented budget crisis after years of state and federal cutbacks, combined with rising pension and health-care costs.

District officials reported no major problems Monday. But on the ground level, the tight budget was already being felt throughout the city.

As upbeat middle-schoolers waited for class to start at the Feltonville School of Arts & Sciences, swapping summer stories in all-blue uniforms, teacher Amy Roat told them that this year was going to be different.

"We're not opening the doors today till 8 a.m.," said Roat, an English-language instructor. "And we're not going to have breakfast anymore in the cafeteria. You're going to eat it during your advisory period."

The kids groaned.

And that was just the beginning. A sign Roat hung up outside of the school building outlined the staffing cuts in English and Spanish: From a guidance counselor to two math teachers to two science teachers, many will not be returning. A full-time music teacher and three part-time instrumental teachers won't be here this year. A school office staffer, an assistant principal, and four safety employees are missing. Plus, students will lose 45 minutes of math instruction per day.

Parent Shahida Hicks knew about the School District's budget problems. But she wasn't expecting this.

"Math teachers? Science?" asked Hicks. "These are the most important things. Philadelphia has lost sight of what these kids need for their future."

Ray Porreca, a special-education teacher, said his students would also feel the pain. The Feltonville School of Arts & Sciences used to place children with disabilities into classrooms with other kids. But now there isn't enough personnel to do it.

"It's almost like we're re-segregating in a way," said Porreca. "We're telling these kids, 'You have this special-ed label, and you need to live with it.'"

Inside the building, a long line of parents waited to register their kids for school and make other first-day requests.

Some said they had tried to call the school over the summer, but no one answered the phone. Budget cuts had left principals stranded during part of the break, with no secretaries to take calls.

Parent Ernell Meredith was dropping off paperwork Monday at the front office, which she said was clearly understaffed.

"They're all running around like chickens with their heads cut off," she said.

A similar story played out in schools across the city. Many were missing full-time guidance counselors, assistant principals, music teachers, librarians and nurses. Others had to do without Advanced Placement classes. Some didn't have enough desks.

Read the rest of this story at NewsWorks

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Comments (43)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 10, 2013 12:38 pm
Let's keep it positive, folks. We don't need Chicken Littles right now.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 10, 2013 1:40 pm
Thank you for your input, Mr. Corbett.
Submitted by Nancy Hatfield (not verified) on September 10, 2013 1:47 pm
We need the truth. Not "anonymous" cover-ups to promote Corbett's agenda. What good are positive lies? Tell the truth. Over crowded classes, no arts, teachers told to submit useless paper work lesson instead of quality teaching time.
Submitted by Nancy Hatfield (not verified) on September 10, 2013 1:39 pm
We need the truth. Not "anonymous" cover-ups to promote Corbett's agenda. What good are positive lies? Tell the truth. Over crowded classes, no arts, teachers told to submit useless paper work lesson instead of quality teaching time.
Submitted by Headstart teacher (not verified) on September 10, 2013 7:29 pm
The truth will set us free, or at least it will clear my conscience about this disgraceful and dangerous situation we are living with.
Submitted by Joan Taylor on September 10, 2013 9:18 pm
I think Mr. "We Don't Need Chicken Littles" ought to take courage from that story and reveal his identity. Come out, come out, wherever you are! Surely his own personal example in the face of staggering cuts to services for kids would be an inspiration to many of us who are actually picking up the slack.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on September 10, 2013 1:12 pm
"Phila. has lost sight of what kids need for their future," NO------They haven't lost sight because they don't care at all about your kids. This is all a contrived crisis designed to kill Public Ed. in Philly for the rich shot callers far above Corbett and other Tea Party Nazi Types. Your mayor, hite etc. are peons being told what to do and they're doing it to your children. Get a Grip, none of this is accidental or based on incompetence. It's ALL based on money for the super rich.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 10, 2013 3:05 pm
All of the Spanish speaking staff at our 97 percent Latino school were laid off. Communicating with families has become a nightmare.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on September 10, 2013 4:36 pm
AND, of course, that was all by design too. Throw in some fights with police involvement and Hite, Nutter, The SRC, and Corbett will even be happier. Trying to end Public Education in Philly is the goal and anybody who gets hurt or worse, too bad. I am NOT exaggerating and things just this have happened lots of times in the past just not here in Philly. It's now our turn and our choice is to accept it, replete with throwing up our hands in frustration or turning that dismay to ANGER and ACTION. These Gibronies mean our city so good. LOOK at the FACTS, good people.
Submitted by Taxpayer (not verified) on September 10, 2013 5:00 pm
Yes. It's all one vast, far reaching conspiracy to undermine the PFT. The president, the governor, the mayor, all of city council, all the taxpayers and of course those evil, despicable corporations are all complicit. Everyone outside of the PFT is the enemy. Workers of the PFT, unite!
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on September 10, 2013 5:27 pm
I think this is also "Go Eagles" but I'll play along. ALL of the inner cities are under attack, not just Philly. Yes, big money has enormous power and Jefferson, Eisenhower and several other Presidents, warned against the power of corporations to control "the common man" to the extent that the people will lose their natural rights. Ignore Fox News and its rhetoric--------------Look at the facts of who Nutter, Hite and Corbett are and their BEHAVIOR in life situations. Do yourself a favor and Google The Koch Brothers, ALEC, and Eli Broad. Read more.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 10, 2013 5:11 pm
Most of the taxpayers are on the teachers' side. We talk to them every day.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on September 10, 2013 6:30 pm
You are right. I believe taxpayer is a troll name go eagles who plays on this site.
Submitted by Go-Eagles (not verified) on September 10, 2013 9:56 pm
Sorry Joe, I will swear on the Bible and my mothers grave that I am NOT Taxpayer. Having said that, I do agree with their post.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on September 10, 2013 9:03 pm
Go Eagles---I apologize. Dude--It ain't that deep; No need to take it that seriously. Chill Out.
Submitted by Go-Eagles (not verified) on September 10, 2013 10:32 pm
Apology accepted. No problem on my end. I'm cool. On serious note ...... A close relative of mine was just hired as a social studies teacher for a cyber charter school here in PA. Yes. I'm being serious. It good news that he has a job. Unfortunately, it's bad news to me. I'm not a fan of cyber charter schools. I understand that cyber schooling is good for some kids, but the funding formula for cyber charter schools is unacceptable, their is no accountability and the results are sub-standard as compared to bricks and mortar schools.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on September 10, 2013 10:47 pm
I think all of it is dangerous as it takes money from the traditional Public Schools and yes, there is little or no REAL accountability and that's by design and approved by the crooked pols. For example, I wouldn't trust Kenny Gamble to tell the truth even if his life depended on it. He lies for the fun of it ; For practice.
Submitted by Go-Eagles (not verified) on September 10, 2013 11:39 pm
Joe - I don't have a problem with the brick and mortar charter schools, but I do have a problem with the cyber charter schools as stated above.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 10, 2013 4:59 pm
Nutter Press conference at 10 am tomorrow. Any predictions on how he will "dropthemic?"
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 10, 2013 5:39 pm
About the schools? Interesting that JJ has had nothing to say.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 10, 2013 5:08 pm
JJ has for the most part said very little since their little "summit" took place. No information whatsover about their meeting. now we get a press conference from Nutter and no one seems to know the details.
Submitted by Martha McNugget (not verified) on September 10, 2013 6:12 pm
Has any other name been attached to this "announcement"? Hite? Jordan? Anyone. Or is this to "announce" that there was a smooth opening day, he is proud of this city, and all is well. Move along? We showed the world what Philadelphians are capable of. Blah Blah Blah
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 10, 2013 6:38 pm
Postcard from union. Admission to ratification vote,?? Sold down the river?????
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 10, 2013 6:53 pm
Are people really getting ratification postcards? What is going on here??
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 10, 2013 6:17 pm
Yep, in mail today. Admission postcard for meeting/ratification vote. Day and time TBA
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 10, 2013 7:45 pm
IF... it's a new contract, it doesn't matter if Jerry tells us we each get a raise, pay less into healthcare and get a better pension. If we don't have time to read it, VOTE NO. Read the contract FIRST. Don't vote on something you haven't read. PLEASE.
Submitted by Headstart teacher (not verified) on September 10, 2013 7:19 pm
I understand your concern but we will not be given time to read this and I am sure we will be "handled" like last time. It will be approved regardless, IMHO.
Submitted by Teachin' (not verified) on September 10, 2013 10:08 pm
This time we can't let that happen. When the motion is made, go up to the mike and state that you want to speak on the motion, then motion that membership not to vote on any motion until several options have been discussed. Urge membership not to allow itself to be "handled." I'll do it if I can get to a mke first, but the odds of us succeeding are better if as many people as possible are committed to doing it.
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on September 10, 2013 8:20 pm
Vote NO -unless you are informed. Advise veryone in your school do do the same.
Submitted by Jenna (not verified) on September 10, 2013 9:07 pm
You are all jumping the gun!!!! We need to show solidarity!!! I have faith in Jerry Jordan!!!!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 10, 2013 9:15 pm
You have faith in Jordan? you must have never contacted the PFT or Jordan to seek their help.After you need to do that sometime, post back and see if you have the same sentiments.Doubt you will.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 10, 2013 9:08 pm
Email Jordan, jjordan@pft.org, and demand he let the members know the key points of the contract that will be voted on. More important ,don't disrepect our intelligence and shove and attempt to handle members like he did in 2009 vote and on sept 2, 2013.
Submitted by Teachin' (not verified) on September 10, 2013 10:51 pm
This is the primary problem and the biggest impediment to unity: That Jerry Jordan doesn't respect his own rank and file enough to allow them to express themselves in public and make their own choices. By intentionally overriding the contract vote in 2009 (which led to this current contract catastrophe - we gave them the inch that allowed them to take a mile), ignoring the overwhelming majority "no" vote after refusing to give us time to read the contract, he created more disharmony and disunity than Tom Corbett or the SPD could have. He received backlash for this, but chose again to "handle" us on Sept. 2. You can't do this to an educated membership without engendering distrust and a sense of disenfranchisement. Jenna, I WANT to show solidarity, but our leadership's paternalistic attitude and refusal to learn from his mistakes, from beliving Father (Jerry) Knows Best without giving any credit to about 10,000 people with advanced degrees and lots of common sense and creativity (how can you survive as teachers without having these characteristics?), has alienated thousands of us. I feel that Jerry will never be able to learn. We're going to have to find new leadership soon. Jerry Jordan most likely thinks he is doing what's best for us, but he's completely opted us out of the process. When he does present a contract, he'll expect a rubber stamp. He probably won't allow us to vote against it, as he coopted the "no" vote last time. How can we feel proud to be a part of that sort of union?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 11, 2013 2:08 am
"Teachin", very well said about the PFT and namely Jordan. Don't tolerate what Jordan does,email him ,jjordan@pft.org, or call his office,215-587-6738, and demand he tell members what is going on and what members might be voting on and not at the ratification meeting. Jordan runined the PFT union and will never change under his leadership.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on September 11, 2013 12:21 am
It's not just class sizes that are large. CASELOAD sizes for special education teachers are also large! I know this first hand!
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on September 11, 2013 8:57 am
EGS----Glad to see you're still hanging in there in good shape. You're 100% back in my will.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 11, 2013 1:23 pm
I just read an a article about teachers receiving a Master's Bump salary of 10 % when they receive a masters degree. They really know how to bleed the system. Oh, I forgot they are doing it for the children!!!!
Submitted by Mike (not verified) on September 11, 2013 4:12 pm
I also read that article! Those teachers also received a yacht! And for those who earned 30 credits past the master's, they received a private jet AND either a maid or butler for life! Boy, those teachers are rotten sons of bitches. They earn a little education and pass it on to the future generations and expect a fair wage to accompany it. They are rotten to the core!!!!!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 11, 2013 5:56 pm
10% increase for a masters. 10% of what, did the article say what that was? It sure isn't $100K or even 80 or 60 Did the article also state that 24 credits of a masters is required to keep you teachers certification? and that must be completed within the first 3-6 yrs of teaching. Here is it, right from the PA dept of ED website - " teaching in Pennsylvania on a Level I certificate for 3-6 years of satisfactory service and have earned 24 post-baccalaureate credits, you can apply for a Level II certificate. It is the responsibility of each certificate holder to obtain the Level II certificate before the service life of the Level I expires. Failure to do so will result in a lapsed certificate and the certificate holder will be ineligible for employment." Who wouldn't complete a master's with 24 credits completed? Did it also state that a master's cost each teacher approx. 24K. and not a dime is reimbursed from the district. I know that for a total fact. Well maybe someone could correct me on that, but they would have to know someone to get the dime.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 11, 2013 10:07 pm
Why not post the link to the article if you really read what you claim? Oh that's right it's hard to type when you're a horse's backside! What have YOU ever done for the children? The system was set up by the 440 posse, not the teachers and we have to pay for our Master's without any help from you or the school administration. Even with the pay increase it takes years to pay off the courses required for a Master's.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 11, 2013 3:17 pm
Uh, except that the teachers were pressured relentlessly by "the system" to get master's degrees (and more) and had to pay for it themselves, putting themselves in debt for a significant number of years. It was suggested in most cases that teachers who didn't get a master's degree would be somehow terminated. If anyone is being bled, it's the teachers,
Submitted by シャネル 香水 メンズ (not verified) on November 1, 2013 12:30 pm
Develop your family tree シャネル 香水 メンズ
Submitted by シャネル 香水 メンズ (not verified) on November 1, 2013 12:46 pm
Develop your family tree シャネル 香水 メンズ

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