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2 North Philly schools to undergo massive staffing changes in hopes of 'turnaround'

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Mar 10, 2014 07:55 PM

Two elementary schools in North Philadelphia will undergo massive staffing changes before the 2014-15 school year in an attempt to transform school culture and student performance.

Blaine Elementary in Strawberry Mansion and W.D. Kelley Elementary in Brewerytown have been selected for what the Philadelphia School District is calling a "District-led Renaissance turnaround."

Teachers at both schools must reapply for their jobs. At least 50 percent of the teaching staff at each school won't be recalled.

The move is designed to give increased flexibility to the schools' principals.

"We basically believe in the autonomy of the principals and the school design teams to develop the transformation plan that they think is going to work best, given the students that are in their buildings," said Paul Kihn, assistant District superintendent.

Kihn rejected the view that this move would cause more tumult and upheaval to an increasingly fragile system.

"We think it's a net benefit," he said, "and parents who have been part of the conversation in these school communities are excited."

The District has the right to exercise this provision based on its contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers; it did not require any new action by the School Reform Commission.

"This is the exact provision that we've used for the Promise Academies," Kihn said.

This model differs from that one, he said, in that the Promise Academy model was a top-down, centrally designed initiative. For this turnaround plan, the District has handed over authority to school leaders.

"We are placing a very high degree of confidence in these principals and their leadership teams," Kihn said. "We are not imposing a transformation model in these cases, but we are allowing it to be designed at a school level."

PFT president Jerry Jordan, who said he doesn't believe the plan will improve school performance, likens it to "just moving the chairs around."

"There is no evidence that by changing the staff at either of those schools that the teachers are going to be able to turn around the building just because the principal brings in a new team," Jordan said.

In his view, teachers at Kelley and Blaine schools are very committed, and "what they need are the tools in order to do their job and the supports that teachers in many other districts have."

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Comments (38)

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on March 10, 2014 9:45 pm
Were the parents informed about this transformation school idea. What is a transformation school anyway? When did the community have a chance to speak up about what they need and want in their schools? When did this happen????? Are the teachers the problem or is the lack of support staff a problem? Or could poverty be a factor? Duh!!! How and why were these schools selected? Why are schools with students from previously closed schools being subject to this churn when they already have had their communities decimated in the previous closings? Is this happening in the main line? Run PSP out of this town now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is going to get uglier and uglier as people become aware of what is happening.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 10, 2014 9:00 pm
The SDP won't stop with those two schools. Jerry ,Jerry, Jerry, get off your hump and challenge the District on something,anything. Now abruptly the SDP wants to abide by the contract ,so they say, yet when it comes to step increases, and a host of other binding contract clauses the SDP won't adhere to it. The band played on as the PFT looks the other way, once again, as the District does what they want,when they want with who they want. Email Jordan and inquire what else is coming down the pike.We aren't waiting for that lame,scripted meeting on March 19th.Let your member knows what's going on,behind all that fruitless table talk almost daily.
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on March 10, 2014 9:44 pm
The PFT didn't exactly look the other way when HR announced to the teachers that a minimum of 50% will not be rehired at Blaine and Kelley schools. The PFT was standing right there!! All PFT members should be at the March 19 meeting. Another joke-considering it is being held in a room that hold no more than 700 seats. I say let's spill out onto Broad Street in the thousands and block the street. Do not miss this meeting!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 10, 2014 11:49 pm
Right the leaders of the PFT were there and silent as usual looking in awe. Just being there isn't doing anything.Jordan should have told the rank and file, we will for a change, take action vigorously and court action, if needed. We promise (even though that's a new concept for us) follow through with it -not just spew shallow words out of our mouths. We will shock and awe everyone and start showing the District we aren't a bunch of limp wusses. Emails of AFT/PFT officials:
Submitted by Lisa Haver on March 10, 2014 9:09 pm
"In the run-up to the closings, the district approached PSP about distributing grants to a few of its receiving schools. PSP agreed on the condition that turnaround provisions would occur." Why does Kihn say two paragraphs later that there were "no strings attached"? This was fait accompli when the parents and teachers were told. What happened to all of Hite's talk about "community partnership"? Why is there an office, staffed with high-paid employees, of Community and Family Engagement" when the district has abandoned the idea of community engagement in the future of their schools? This is a blatant attempt to shut out the community from making any decisions about public schools. You just call a Promise Academy something else, pass the resolution last year under the guise of helping a school absorb students from closing schools, and the SRC will again rubber-stamp the wishes of the people who are really running the district: PSP.
Submitted by Annonym. (not verified) on March 10, 2014 9:13 pm
Yes, Phila. School Dictatorship is calling the shots. Do the principals realize they are aligning themselves with the champions of privatization? Last year, three high schools were opened with Dictatorship money (SLA at Beeber, Workshop, Hill Freeman - all with admission requirements). The 3 new high schools for this year also have Dictatorship money. Where are all the so called "progressives" running the schools with Dictatorship money?
Submitted by Workshop School (not verified) on March 11, 2014 11:20 am
The Workshop School has zero admission requirements.
Submitted by Annonym. (not verified) on March 11, 2014 1:20 pm
The Workshop school is NOT a neighborhood school. The Workshop DOES NOT have to accept all students in a catchment. Students must apply and "fit" with the program. Are you going to deny your acceptance of funding from the Phila. School Privatization Dictatorship too?
Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on March 11, 2014 2:20 pm
The Workshop school operates like a charter. Apply through a lottery. Do not have to accept students throughout the year or in a catchment. Students have to "fit" with the program. Can get rid of students who don't "fit." Read David Lapp's critique of the inequity in charters versus neighborhood schools. The Workshop, and the 3 other proposed charters, have advantages neighborhood schools do not. It is not an equal playing field. (Plus, the Workshop, like some charters like Mastery, get enormous funding from companies and right wing supporters or privatization.) -
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 10, 2014 9:03 pm
It's obvious that the 440 punks are setting up public schools to fail with their lies and withholding supplies and personnel. It's time to shut these clowns down and strike. Either we get as much time to present our views as the SRC without the "submission" nonsense and time limits. They don't have to do, neither should we. Why is no one talking about how the administration is skipping on substitute teachers? They are merely dumping them into other classrooms regardless of the grade and expecting that teacher to suddenly teach somebody else's kids. This saves the district even more money to give as raises to Hite's pets because the slack is being taken up for free by the teachers. It's funny how some schools tell teachers the absent teacher will be out all week and to expect his/her kids to be in your room all week too. How do they know already no sub will take the job? Because they aren't bothering to call them. Just one more way the district is making teachers jobs even harder while making money off their lies. This would be a perfect time for Nutter, Bill Green, Corbett and the SRC klan to step up to the plate and show us how to teach. Obviously they don't think we can. Step into class and sub under the same conditions we have to teach under. Betcha can't!
Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 10, 2014 9:38 pm
What is a "school design team"? It would be nice to see the District implement a more democratic model of governance in schools in which there is less power distance between the principal and teachers. Some principals believe in this kind of governance and see themselves as partners with teachers. Does a teacher need a good talking to sometimes? Of course! But the principal might need a good talking to herself/himself sometimes also! No one is perfect and no one has all the answers. A school is not a principal's school, but a community's school. In organizational studies, there's the top down model of governance and then there's a flatter model of governance. I believe that while the District should be empowering principals, this empowerment should go hand in hand with empowerment of teachers, staff, and community members. There should be a TEAM of people overseeing the "turnaround" at the school. This includes other staff members as well as parents and community members. No one is perfect and no one has all the answers.
Submitted by anon (not verified) on March 10, 2014 10:18 pm
don't think for a moment that these two principals will be making any decisions on their own. they've been selected because they have shown a willingness to be molded into whatever shape is desired. "The principals jointly agreed to hire the school turnaround firm Public Impact as consultants." check out public impact's website. they're spouting every reformer cliche you've ever heard. their big thing is to blend a few "effective" teachers with technology, maybe videotape some lessons so they can greatly reduce staff. who needs teachers when kids can get their lessons online. they'll be calling the shots for the principals and taking their direct marching orders from gleason. jerry sure did negotiate a swell contract last time opening the gates for all this. imagine getting played by arlene ackerman. nice legacy, jerry. "Kihn said many specifics – such as if the schools will extend the day, week or year – are not yet known because they're "still in the middle of their design year." If Powell and Coleman advocate for changes that would have implications to the district's budget or its labor contracts, "that's something we'd have to come back to the table to discuss," said Kihn. "A lot is contingent on what happens with our current PFT negotiations."
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on March 11, 2014 5:39 am
"Powell (the principal from Blaine) says she is working with seven teachers who agree that massive staffing changes are needed." What I would like to know is, who are these seven brown nosing scabs who are throwing their colleagues under the bus?
Submitted by anon (not verified) on March 11, 2014 7:32 am
how many union jobs has jerry lost while he idly sat by and spouted his platitudes about what makes a good school?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 11, 2014 9:37 am
Jerry Jordan personally is responsible for many lost SDP union jobs by his lack knowing what a union leader does -represent his members and being a wimp to the District leaders for years. All the jobs Jordan lost by not getting it in writing to make sure all Renaissance schools were union jobs. PFT would have had no layoffs if Jordan didn't give up Renaissance schools to non-union jobs. One of the article's stating this below. April 15, 2010 | Filed under: Latest News | Posted by: editor @pr BY TONY WEST/ The Renaissance Schools plan Jerry Jordan got isn’t the plan he was expecting. " The president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers was notified last summer of the School District’s campaign to shake up several poorly-rated schools. However, he said, when Superintendent Arlene Ackerman announced the official fate of 14 schools on Mar. 30, it was far more drastic than he had been led to believe. “We were told all along that 14 schools would be ‘Renaissance-eligible,’ but that the School District intended to take on only three or four schools the first time around,” Jordan said. “We were told all these schools would follow the ‘Promise Academy’ model, administered by the School District, and none would become charter schools just yet.” In fact, Ackerman chose to take over all 14 schools. Five of them will be made into Promise Academies, with new administrations and staffs, and special flexibility in programming – but staying under Ackerman’s control, with PFT’s teachers. But the other nine will be outsourced to “turnaround teams” – outside managers, some who have made public-school interventions in other cities and some who have started charter schools here in Philadelphia. All those teaching jobs will fall out of PFT’s jurisdiction now. If Jordan had known his union would take such a big hit, he stated, he would never have negotiated the labor agreement in January 2010 which permitted it." Email Jordan and let him know to wake up and stop the hemorrhaging with union jobs in the SDP.
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Submitted by sparky (not verified) on March 11, 2014 7:35 am
Good question. Are these teachers willing to come out publicly and explain selling out their colleagues and fellow union members? Why don't they write an article in the Notebook and tell us why they schemed with administration and PSP rather than support their co-workers? They should be exposed and shunned.
Submitted by Annonym. (not verified) on March 11, 2014 9:27 am
Principals at Kelly and Baline are being given dictatorial power - union power has been lost. The principals - Coleman and Powell - will select their "yes people" and slash the rest. No surprise since this is orchestrated and financed by the Philadelphia School Dictatorship.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on March 11, 2014 10:17 am
Yes, but neither Principal will have ANY REAL say in anything of consequence. They'll do exactly as told or be replaced and CASA will do nothing to support them. They're pigeons on a wire waiting to shot off at the whim of the shot callers.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 11, 2014 11:33 am
Exactly. The same process happened at one of the high schools last year when it was "transformed" into a Promise Academy. The Principal slashed almost every single veteran teacher (including A.P's., Department Chairs and Deans) who had the strongest classroom management skills and the greatest connections with the students, but who also would respectfully disagree with decisions he made and offer alternatives. Instead, he kept all of his young "Yes" people", and inexperienced teachers (5 years of teaching or less), with a few "Token" veterans thrown in for appearances sake. The result was total chaos as a rash of violence and fires swept through the school, and the upkeep of the building deteriorated to the point of two entire grades having to be moved out of the building completely. A former A.P. at the school had to be brought back in as Principal (one who the former Principal did not want) to "right the ship" and repair the damage done. An entire year's worth of education lost to those students due to the power given to one person who only wanted "yes" men and women around.
Submitted by Christa (not verified) on March 11, 2014 6:16 am
Is Kevin aware that one of these schools is where the child who testified at Green's first SRC meeting is from. There was a middle school age young man who got on the microphone at Green's first meeting and told him that he had no idea what his school was like, Green said he would come visit. Green did and now the school is being "turned around"
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on March 11, 2014 7:04 am
Green is clearly manipulating this family to appear to be responding to their concerns. He is clearly out of his league here. The student who spoke so eloquently was NOT asking for what is about to happen at Blaine. PSP- get out of Philadelphia.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 11, 2014 8:23 am
I wouldn't say he's manipulating the family. All you have to do is look at the quote of Dawn Hawkins at the end of the Inquirer article. Green is using them for cover of this illegal takeover. This is the ultimate in cynicism and as Dawn Hawkins says, "A slap in the face."
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 11, 2014 8:25 am
I have to agree with you after giving this a few minutes thought. I hope her son is safe, both physically and emotionally. These people are dirty and when money is involved anything can happen. Why again, is Green willing to do this "volunteer" job?
Submitted by Kevin McCorry (not verified) on March 11, 2014 9:56 am
Christa, Yes, I'm aware. This process started well before that student's interaction with Green at the SRC meeting, and these decisions were made well before Green's visit. -Kevin
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 11, 2014 7:19 am
How much longer to we, PFT, wait before we fight back?
Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on March 11, 2014 8:34 am
Now when the SRC breaks the contract and changes the rules at a school the PFT does not even whimper. We are paying how much is dues?? For what???
Submitted by tom-104 on March 11, 2014 10:47 am
Take a look at this tweet from PSP: RT @PhillyDailyNews: 2 N. Philly schools create new turnaround models w/ $1.5M grant from @PhilaSchoolPart So this is a "new turnaround model". They plan many more if we let them.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on March 11, 2014 10:57 am
So far, you can replace the "if" with an "as." Yes, it's another divide and conquer strategy, pitting teachers, likely all part of the PFT, against one another. Until WE shut it down, it will only get worse. Hopefully, Jordan is trying to galvanize the troops by allowing all this to piss folks off for the sake of solidarity.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 11, 2014 11:04 am
Joe: You hit the nail on the head here. Turnout at PFT rallies and meetings is so pathetic that Jordan does not have many options. It's hard to "Stand Up' and "Grow a Pair" when you know that if you do, the District will respond with "you and WHAT ARMY?" and Jordan has to look around and see 1,500-2000 (on a good day) out 14,000 members standing behind him. The PFT Leadership gets all complaints, but little actual "Boots on the ground" support from its membership and the District knows that! If we were to strike, how many members would even bother to show up?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 11, 2014 10:21 pm
Unfortunately, the rank and file in the PFT is apathetic and does not stand their ground like they should by showing up. The main reason is because Jordan the PFT President is extremely weak, does not back his members, communicate with members, answer emails or phone calls to his office or staff,execute grievances, fight back on many, many breaches of the contract, will not take complaints to arbitration/court ,disrespects members when they attend meetings with his manipulative agenda and puts plants in the audience when meeting are held,will not take suggestions of members seriously and implement, if possible, and many other reasons. Ultimately, after all this is done to an individual you get fed up at the leadership.Membership feels powerless,disgruntled,tired, and union almost useless currently,since the organization that is supposed to represent them sits idle as they get crapped on by the District and and union simultaneously. Jordan may be a very nice guy but very bad union head and caused this bad attendance and the ability to rile his troops up. A good leader would be able to do that as was done in Chicago, Portland,and other cities with their members. Teachers and other members of the PFT are worn out with all the inaction by Jordan, Kempin, Harris, Gordan Phillips, Kirsch, and Weingarten,among other PFT officers seeing , hearing the same old sorry empty words and promises in addition to staying silent as members get screwed all over the place. If PFT leadership would guide their members and have a strategy (he should of had a strategy in place ten years ago and implemented it each year -nope never happened)- the rank and file would be right behind them .However, they don't have anything , just winging it along the way .More importantly, they need to be stronger and stand up and fight (when was the last time they did?) , be friendlier,communicate with members often, be more cooperative to members,as well as treat members with respect -solidarity would prevail in bigger numbers. The bottom line is Jordan is not the person to do it.It's almost too late for him to fire up the base it went on so long under his tenure . Jordan's legacy will be known as, while under his watch, the PFT union was dismantled through his ineffective, inaction, and condescending ways towards his members and complacency to the District for a long time. I
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 11, 2014 10:03 pm
I think Jordan is taking orders from Randi Weingarten. Her favorite word is "collaboration". She has been friends with Gates and Broad for years. (And yes, I know she just stopped taking money for the AFT Innovation Fund. I think it's just churn to take the heat off of her.)
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 11, 2014 10:19 pm
It took Randi Weingarten all this time to detach the union from a top private school "reformer" aka as Bill Gates. See below condensed article. The American Federation of Teachers, to date the recipient of more than $11 million in Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation largesse, will no longer accept Gates funding, Politico has reported, citing increasing criticism from members. AFT officials said the union's President, Randi Weingarten, made the announcement at the Network for Public Education conference last week in Austin, Texas. NPE is an advocacy group begun by Diane Ravitch and other critics of so-called "corporate education reform." Tell (email address below) Randi Weingarten that her job is to listen to members and stand up to districts and stop the "collaboration" (buzz word for giving in to districts-screwing members over) strategy that is all one - sided and that one- side is usually in favor of the districts .Her definition of "collaboration" is detrimental to her members. Ultimately, AFT union members are stuck with a lousy contract and work rules with Randi's paws all over the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement).
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on March 11, 2014 1:26 pm
It's a chicken and egg thing to be sure but Jordan is the PFT Leader not just a guy/gal. What I know for sure is the "reformers" and what a joke that word is, will END ALL worker rights and the unions if they can get away with it. None of this is new but this version started with 9/11 and The Patriot Act and all the rest of the "cover your head" tactics emanating from that time. The ruling class in all societies has always tried to limit or even destroy the rights of the masses and that's what's going on now in the USA. We need to beat them back as we have in the past for the most part. People of a certain age and those who are younger but READ, understand all this. Those who don't are being played big time and may as well wear tin foil hats.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 11, 2014 7:15 pm
Another concern I have about the "transformation" at these two schools is how the changes in the school staff will affect the students who have disabilities. Looking at Blaine, in particular, there are Life Skills Support classes and Autistic Support classes. W. D. Kelley also has Autistic Support classes. These Complex Support Needs programs are in addition to Learning Support services. Students in LSS and AS classes---students who have intellectual disability and/or autism---benefit from structured environments and familiarity. There is a learning curve when a teacher has an entirely new caseload. It means he/she has to acquaint himself/herself with all of the IEPs and then implement them. If a teacher has the same class year after year (e.g. K-2 AS), yes, there wil usually be some change in the students in the class/ caseload each year, but the teacher is familiar with some of the students. Sometimes, students in MDS, AS, ES, or LSS classes may have the same teacher for 3 or 4 years. Teaching students in the Complex Support Needs programs---MDS, LSS, and AS---requires teaching from a different curriculum than that used in general education. The IEP goals and objectives reflect the curricular domains of the District's Life Skills Curriculum. In other words, teachers need to have knowledge and skills that are specific for working with students who have more significant disabilities. I don't know how many LSS classes and AS classes there are at Blaine (it says here on the school website that there are 3 of each, but I don't know how current the listing is: I hope that the students with disabilities are considered in all of this transformation. Students with disabilities are almost 25% of the student population at Blaine (23.5% to be exact):
Submitted by Anon, anon, we must go anon... (not verified) on March 11, 2014 8:46 pm
EGS---you KNOW they are not worried about your very excellent points! They will just ship out the Special Education classes to the remaining regular non PSP'd schools with part time counselors and no extra funds and then crow about the great "transformation" that took place when they got rid of the teachers!
Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 11, 2014 9:04 pm
Anon, My assumption when I wrote about the special ed issues was that Blaine and Kelley will be maintaining the existing special education classes and services. I would be surprised if the District moved the LSS and AS classes and here's why. First, the District opens new AS classes every year because the population of students who qualify for Autistic Support is increasing each year. People at the Office of Specialized Services who are "in the know" about AS programs, as well as teachers of AS classes, know that the District is opening more AS classes every year. It makes no sense for the District to move students in AS classes. Second, parents already sued the District over moving students with autism from school to school. It looks as though Blaine has 3 AS classes and Kelley has at least 2. Third, it takes a lot of planning and logistics to move 3 AS classes. This involves finding classrooms in another building, moving all of the materials, and the Office of Transportation putting each child on an appropriate bus route. The District must also consider caseload sizes as well as staffing. Each AS class has a teacher and a classroom assistant. If the caseload size exceeds 8 students, the District is supposed to hire a second assistant. In addition, many students in AS classes have TSS workers or SDP 1:1 assistants. In other words, moving 3 AS classes is not an easy process. For LSS classes, most of what I said about AS classes also applies. The caseload size is higher. One issue with LSS classes, especially K-2 classes, is the use of bathrooms. It is ideal for a K-2 LSS class to have a bathroom in the classroom or right next door because many students in the K-2 LSS classes have personal maintenance IEP goals and objectives related to toileting and hand washing. I don't know if Blaine has classrooms with bathrooms for LSS students, but some schools do have this set-up of a classroom with its own bathroom. The issue with the bathrooms also applies for AS classes. People at 440, from Dr. Hite and all around, especially in the Office of Specialized Services, know that the District is THE primary provider of special education programs and services for children with significant disabilities. Most charter schools can't support and don't support programs for students with significant autism, intellectual disability, and multiple disabilities. There's a reason why the District hasn't signed onto the universal enrollment system---the UE system flat out WILL NOT work for many students with IEPs and will make the District prone to more LAWSUITS! I could be wrong, but my gut feeling is that the special ed programs and services will remain largely the same at Blaine and Kelley. Educator of Great Students
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on March 11, 2014 10:32 pm
EGS----I have to say it again---------You're so lucky that you're so nice !!!!!!! Somehow, you always find a potential silver lining and focus on it, replete with faith, hope and charity. On the other hand.................No, I can't go there with you because you're so nice.

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