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Protesters rally at Vare-Washington over loss of teachers, services

By the Notebook on Oct 23, 2013 03:03 PM
Photo: Isaac Riddle

Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, addresses a crowd of protesters at Vare-Washington Elementary. 

by Isaac Riddle

About 50 parents, teachers, students, and community members joined Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan in a protest about budget cuts outside of Vare-Washington Elementary School on Wednesday afternoon. 

The group gathered to voice concerns over the latest loss of programs and services at the South Philadelphia school and to talk about the impact the District’s leveling efforts will have on a school already hurting from staffing shortages brought on by districtwide budget cuts. 

With leveling, every fall the District aligns staffing projections with actual student enrollment. This often means having to shuffle teaching staff from one school to another to keep student-to-teacher ratios in line with contract requirements. With the District in the middle of a funding crisis, leveling has become a potentially devastating process for many schools in need of every available staffer. 

Protesters at Vare-Washington said that as a result of leveling -- which the District is expected to complete next week -- the school anticipates the loss of six teachers, a dean of students, and a teacher-leader who guides and assists school staff. 

“The loss of six people is going to have a profound effect on these children,” Jordan said.

“I don’t think my child is going to get the special education she needs with 33 kids in one class,” said Vania Jimenez, a parent of a kindergartner and 1st grader at Vare-Washington.

As mandated in the District's contract with the PFT, now expired, classrooms cannot exceed 30 students in grades K-3 and 33 students in grades 4-12. 

Destiny Tiquin, an 8th grader at Vare-Washington who admits that it is hard for her to focus, said she is concerned that a reduced teaching staff will mean she won’t get the help she needs. The teacher who has been providing Tiquin with academic support is one of the teachers who the school expects to lose at the beginning of next week.

“We need all our teachers and staff,” Tiquin said.

Parents and teachers are also upset that the school has a guidance counselor on site only three days per month.

At the rally, teachers and parents handed out complaint forms they intend to send to the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

“Thirty-four kids in a classroom is not acceptable; children being moved again is not acceptable,” said Kathleen Kramer, the PFT building representative at Vare-Washington.

“Our kids have been through enough.”

Isaac Riddle is an intern at the Notebook.

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Comments (22)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 23, 2013 4:27 pm
Jordan would you stop with these pathetic ,no one cares rallies and protests.At this point ,you need to be showing your face in a courtroom fighting the ACT 46 or massive violations of the contract. The strategy of those lame protests is not working at this time in the game. Like teachers submit lesson plans-let's see the plan you have for all the breaches the SDP is doing now or to get a fair contract. Don't say you are filing grievances ,because all they do is collect dust without executing them in a timely fashion. I know since you been at 1816 chestnut St for so very long you may not be in tune with the reality of what is going on with members and schools. Obviously, you didn't get that wake-up call yet. Email PFT officials ;
Submitted by Anonymously Anon (not verified) on October 23, 2013 6:17 pm
We have no contract. We serve at the pleasure of the District until we have one.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 24, 2013 11:50 am
True their is no contract,but it then falls under "status quo".Basically, this means everything should remain the same (under old contract) until a new contract is settled. Many districts have done this with generally no problems.However, the SDP is imposing all these new working conditions, compensation, due process and waiver of seniority before a contract is negotiated,unlike other districts. Neshaminy School District (NSD) was under "status quo" for almost 6 years ,(btw,NSD is the only suburban school district affliated with the AFT the PFT's national affliate) and NSD didn't encounter the impositions the SDP implemented ,even though it took a long time to settle.
Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on October 24, 2013 10:23 pm

The difference is ACT 46, the basis for the SRC's suspension of the parts of the school code governing layoffs, recalls and teacher assignments.  The law only applies to Philadelphia.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 24, 2013 11:06 pm
You are correct Act 46 is only targeted for Philadelphia however, this should have been explained fully by Jordan and Teti at the Sept. 2 meeting that the District could and probably would impose their own rules ,due to Act 46, before everyone went back to work.Many did not understand how it was going play out.The PFT lead members to believe everything was "status quo" and will remain unchanged. We all see how it is actually playing out. The PFT should have got an agreed contract extension to avoid the confusion.Members won't ever get back what they lost the last couple of months ,like back-pay,the appropiate appointment when transferred, layoffs,recalls,(due for infringing on seniority) and other lost compensation, working conditions and due process.
Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on October 25, 2013 12:46 am

Don't see anyway the District would have agreed to a contract extension.  Why would they and what leverage did the PFT have to make them?  It is possible that PFT members could get back what they have lost, at least in part, if the PFT greivances are upheld or if the courts find that the SRC did not act legally when they suspended the relavant sections of the code.   

Submitted by Taxpayer (not verified) on October 23, 2013 5:34 pm
These people should have brought their checkbooks with them. If they want more teachers, cough up the dough. And who are all these people protesting in the middle of the afternoon? Why aren't they at work?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 23, 2013 5:18 pm
Mr. Righteous "Taxpayer" it wasn't middle of the day .It was before school started. Just because you say you pay taxes does not mean you are the least bit informed. Write a check to the to the City of Phila. revenue dept.-telling you think you need to pay more taxes to help the schools. Since you are so excited you're a "taxpayer" -why not? It may keep you busy.You seem bored most of the time.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on October 23, 2013 7:36 pm
Taxpayer is a troll. Ignore it and move on.
Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on October 25, 2013 12:57 am

Actually it was the middle of the day.   Early dismissal for students.   Not that justifies anything the infamous Taxpayer says.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 23, 2013 6:36 pm
They would be, but they've been laid off.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 23, 2013 5:57 pm
Again, the union cannot fight Act 46 in a court of law unless or until the district imposes working conditions. It was attempted, and the courts threw it out. Hite will surely impose in the not too distant future. Then the PFT can take them to court. In the meantime, there's not much the union can do.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 23, 2013 5:29 pm
Wrong SDP they already imposed a violation of working conditions, compensation,due process, and job security/ seniority. Don't know what you are talking about? How much more you got to impose?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 23, 2013 6:57 pm
pay cuts will win overturn in court
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 24, 2013 5:33 pm
Bring on the pay cuts!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 24, 2013 5:39 pm
the guvna's in process of picking new src chair to do that....
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 23, 2013 5:27 pm
Leveling ,seniority and transfers are working conditions and the SDP is not following the CBA. Stop enabling the PFT to take no action. You could just bring it before the court for discrimination. So SDP doesn't have this constant gun to the union's head. The PFT gives you that crap about they can't do anything -beacuse they don't want to.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 23, 2013 8:29 pm
If 50 people were there 46 of them were teachers. The union has very little parent support. Even parents who are union members. Reason? The parents have to live in Philadelphia. The teachers don't.
Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on October 24, 2013 10:44 pm

The PCAPS Full Funding Friday Campaign is in its 7th week.   As of tomorrow we will have had rallies at almost 40 schools.   While teachers have made up most of the rally participants, all have had some parent participation and some have been parent led and turned out large numbers of parents.   The focus has been talking to parents and providing them with information about conditions in the school and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.   Our canvassing this summer, which reached thousands of residents in working class neighborhoods also showed strong support for teachers.   Finally the recent PEW poll showed that by huge margins Philadelphians blamed Corbett, Nutter etc.   Only 11% of residents blamed the union.  


Dismissing this work as inconsequential is a serious mistake.   While frustration over the current impasse is understandable, the efforts by PFT, PCAPS, Parents United and other advocates have changed the conversation about education and created a context where, if a strike occurs, there will be substantial support.   Without public support in the current toxic political and legal environment a strike would be an uphilll battle to say the least.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 24, 2013 4:45 pm
Whoa!The protest is over .PFT did it's work for the week. And guess what red shirt Friday is tomorrow. These strategies are not strong enough for the cold-blooded, non abiding, non-caring District. What does the PFT have in store next week. Let's see more protest, rallies, red shirt day and talk, talk, talk -- but no action. The PFT leaders are paid to service their members. But little of that service is done. Would most people put up with shoddy, crappy service if they were paying someone to fix their car, for home repairs, buy items at a retail store, and so on. Of course not .You would demand they do what was described or expected, get a refund, get work done properly, etc. Why don't members hold the PFT leaders accountable like that and make more demands they service members and get things done. They need to quit the pussy-footing around. Contact info. below: 215-587-6738
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 24, 2013 6:01 pm
Agreed!!! What are the PFT attorneys of Deborah Willig and Ralph Teti waiting for????
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 24, 2013 11:41 pm
1. The District imposed working conditions last year before the contract expired. 2. Many teachers live in Philadelphia. Many have lived here our entire life. Our last three superintendents have not. 3. We serve at the pleasure of the District. The politicians serve at the pleasure of the citizens. Show up in droves at the polls next month. 4. Some teachers are poor. Most are smart generous, talented, and very very dedicated. Pssa tests are a very limited measuring tool. Most teachers and students deserve better treatment than they are receiving lately. 5. My parochial school had an average of 50 students per class but it had a full time nurse every single day. Every single day..... And not one student died.

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