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Desperate times for schools in the City of Brotherly Love

By the Notebook on Mar 28, 2014 01:55 PM
Photo: Jessica Kourkounis/Education Week.

An unfurnished administrator's office on the first day of school this year at Science Leadership Academy at Beeber.

by Benjamin Herold for Education Week

Balloons rained down from the balcony. The 11th graders gathered in the auditorium screamed in delight.

And I couldn't help but feel profoundly sad.

Such is life in Philadelphia, my adopted hometown and former professional stomping grounds, where hundreds of public schools and tens of thousands of children have been left largely on their own to forage and fundraise for the basics of modern education.

Earlier this week, Academy at Palumbo High in South Philly received some welcome news: As part of consumer-technology giant Samsung's annual Solve for Tomorrow competition, a team of 15 students and two teachers won more than $140,000 in desperately needed technology for their school.

But it took just two days for the heavy black clouds hanging over the beleaguered 131,000-student district to return. Thursday night, District officials announced that in the six weeks since their last dire projections, the deficit they will carry into next school year has doubled, to $29 million. That's on top of the $200 million the skeletal district needs just to avert further emaciation next year, and not counting the $220 million that Superintendent William Hite says he needs to begin implementing some basic reforms.

And still, the grown-ups responsible for this mess are busy pointing fingers.

Student-led solutions

Other winners of Samsung's STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education contest were G.W. Carver Middle School in Miami; Montana's Sunburst Junior High; Oliver Street School in Newark, N.J.; and East Valley High School in Yakima, Wash. Students at each school used technology to develop innovative solutions to pressing problems in their immediate communities. (You can check all the projects out here.)

But for me, this one was all about the team from Palumbo, whose effort offers a glimpse into what those in the City of Brotherly Love's public schools have endured this year.

For starters, look at the project itself.

The teenagers at Palumbo felt they could best help their community by building a tool that would help city children — thousands of whom were displaced this year after two dozen school closings in 2013 — find something they should be able to take for granted: a safe route to and from school.

"Our algorithm assigns values to each [possible route] based on the likelihood of danger from past crimes," explained senior Alex Wallace. "The Philadelphia police release crime maps, and this is just relating that data to technology."

In other words, Path A might be a more direct route to school than Path B, but if there's a history of shootings or robberies or assaults along the way, the tool envisioned by the Palumbo team will suggest that students take the scenic route.

It's an ingenious response to a problem that grown-ups, not children, should be competing to solve.

That points to the bigger problem in Philadelphia, where too many adults have either abandoned efforts to help the city's public school students or themselves become casualties of the ongoing budget cuts.

Five years ago, when I was reporting for the Notebook, I spent a year following three 9th graders, including a bright Academy at Palumbo student named Corey White.

Each morning, the 14-year-old was out the door of his Southwest Philly rowhome at 5:45 a.m. Corey liked to arrive at Palumbo an hour early each day so he could sit quietly in the algebra classroom of then-20-year veteran Stuart Kryzwonos, getting a little bit of extra tutoring and a lot of informal life lessons.

"He's goofy, just like me," Corey said of the man he called Mr. K. "And he doesn't sugarcoat anything."

Later during that 2008-09 school year, I spent time with Corey in his English class, taught by Latoyia Bailey, then a 10-year veteran with a Ph.D. in African American history.

"I really can't describe it," Corey said of the strong impression Bailey was making on him. "It's just a feeling I get when I look at her. I just automatically feel natural."

Both Mr. Kryzwonos and Ms. Bailey are still at Palumbo, dedicating themselves to a new generation of Corey Whites. Teachers Susan Lee and Klint Kanopka, who gave hours of unpaid time to guide Palumbo's prize-winning STEM team, are clearly doing the same. And so is principal Adrienne Wallace Chew, who told me with a smile on Tuesday that Corey recently graduated from Palumbo and joined the armed services.

But while the survivors at Palumbo are doing all they can, their ranks have been thinned dramatically.

Back in 2008-09, not long after it opened, the school had just 240 students, compared with 814 this year.

But today, Palumbo has just a single counselor and only a three-day-per-week nurse, same as five years ago.

There's just one secretary at the school — that's one less than five years ago.

And now, Palumbo has no assistant principal, no librarian, next to nothing for extracurricular activities, a dramatically reduced budget for supplies ... the list goes on.

Add it all up, and what you get is not nearly enough to provide Palumbo students with the basic supports they deserve, such as algebra tutoring, or friendly advice, or medical care, or college guidance, or the assurance of a safe passage home.

"What I do have is a wonderful team of teachers that act in those capacities," said principal Chew, determined to put a positive spin on the situation, no matter how many different ways I asked about the systematic evisceration of her school.

That optimism persists even after the District's governing School Reform Commission last week forced Chew and her fellow principals to swallow a roughly 15 percent pay cut or face having new contract terms unilaterally imposed upon them.

'Of course every school has a library'

Since I joined Education Week last summer, it's been challenging for me to watch the slow-motion train wreck that is public education in my city.

More money alone isn't going to fix the Philadelphia District's problems, and no one should be arguing for a return to what amounted to business as usual five (or 10, or 20) years ago.

But the current situation is untenable, and it should be unacceptable.

Except for even in my own sadness and anger and outrage, I periodically realize that I, too, have begun to normalize the totally abnormal conditions in Philadelphia schools.

Last week, for example, I was covering a national conference, and an education official from Texas made an offhand remark. "Of course every school has a library," he said.

I winced, wondering anew how I, too, have become complicit in allowing my city's school system to devolve to the point where only two of its high schools have certified librarians — both of whom are being paid this year by an anonymous donor.

Academy at Palumbo?

The school's library is shuttered. When Palumbo lost its librarian, it lost its library, too.

Superintendent Hite is trying to rewrite Philadelphia's epic tome of loss and deprivation, investing money he doesn't have in efforts to expand the number of innovative high schools in the city. But the superintendent, too, has been presented with a series of impossible choices.

Borrow the money that has been allotted to today's kids in order to make a down payment on the future?

Or forget about tomorrow in order to make sure the 131,000 students in the District at least have something right now ?

As if the future and the present were mutually exclusive.

Leaving something behind

Perhaps the saddest reality of all is the lack of fight: Too many in the city now seem resigned to wait a year or more in the hope that a new governor or a new mayor might muster the will to eliminate what officials describe as a $300 million annual structural deficit.

Fortunately, the students at Academy at Palumbo suffer from no such lack of urgency.

As Tuesday's celebration wound down, the members of the prize-winning Palumbo team gathered in a small room to tell their story to reporters from Education Week and the Philadelphia Inquirer.

It turns out that last summer, on top of all the budget cuts and school closings and labor strife that gripped Philly schools, dozens of laptops were stolen from their building.

For months, no one could find the money to replace the missing computers— including senior District officials who apparently declined last fall to follow Hite's example and take 10 percent pay cuts, as promised.

Rather than throw their hands up in despair, the Palumbo teens decided to go out and win a prestigious national competition, beating out more than 2,300 competitors from across the country in the process. In doing so, they succeeded where so many of Philadelphia's adults have failed, bringing a much-needed influx of new resources into their school.

"Seeing a lot of what we had here go away was depressing," said senior Steven Geiger. "It feels good to be able to leave something behind for the students who are younger than us."

If only those who are responsible for the mess that is public education in my adopted hometown were so resourceful and committed.

For the latest news on ed-tech policies, practices and trends.



This is a reprint of a story that originally appeared at Education Week.

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Comments (51)

Submitted by Eileen Duffey (not verified) on March 28, 2014 3:40 pm
My colleagues. My students. My school. I do not always agree with you Ben, but this article is a welcome balm for me to close an otherwise dismal week fighting for our public schools I am so proud of our school community. Thank you to Klint Kanopka and Susan Lee and our students. Thank you Ben.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on March 28, 2014 3:31 pm
I disagree with my soul mate, Ms. Duffey !!!! Shame on The Notebook for such drivel. Tell the truth. Tell of the flat out abuse being perpetrated on the kids of Phila. so the corporations can make money off their backs. Tell of the intentional starvation of the real schools and the direct and personal harm being done to the poor, predominately people of color. Tell what you SEE, not what you feel compelled to report to stay afloat.
Submitted by Eileen Duffey (not verified) on March 29, 2014 10:15 am
Thanks Joe K. Your comment unsettled me and had me spend quite a bit of time thinking about cognitive dissonance and the degree to which all of us are willing to lie to ourselves in order to make sense of the idea of competition for basic goods/services in the sphere of education. Corporate America depends on our willingness to be complicit in this. Keep keeping it real Joe K.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on March 29, 2014 9:46 pm
Joe, you and Eileen are both right on this one and you two are indeed soul mates because both of you care and are outraged and outspoken, like Ben really is on the inside. You bring up a very serious point which I, too, have been concerned about. True to form, I really like our youthful reporters, and the older folk, too. However, I find that the local "press" is remiss in the way they always sugar coat the "going ons" and fail to address the crucial questions and issues which are placed before the SRC and the press time and time again. What we need, at this time in our history, is incisive reporting which is brutally honest about the truth. A "free and zealous press" is essential for a well functioning democracy and is a necessary part of its process. Journalism, and public discourse, should be a "zealous search for the truth." Especially when Philadelphia's schoolchildren and the public welfare is involved and is being harmed every day. The passivity of our press is tacit approval of the immorality of what is happening. I find that "our press" in Philadelphia in general avoids the real issues which everyone knows are lurking behind the scenes and behind closed doors. They are raised over and over again at SRC meetings and the supposed "public engagement" meetings around the city. Yet, I never see any of our reporters, except at times Dan Denvir, addressing the issues with cold and brutal honesty. I agree with Ben, in his pang of guilt, that, when we know that the distress of our schools is a man-made and intentional distress, and we agnostically act as if it is not the root cause behind the present state of affairs, we too, as Ben says "become complicit in allowing my city's school system to devolve to the point where only two of its high schools have certified librarians — both of whom are being paid this year by an anonymous donor." Sadly and disturbingly, we, as a school community, have devolved in many many ways, and we all should be outraged and outspoken -- less we too, are complicit.
Submitted by gloriaendres (not verified) on March 30, 2014 8:06 am
Rich, all or most of the comments here are sincere. We are all numb from the relentless attacks on Public Education by the oligarchs. Nothing less than our American democracy is at stake here. It is always heartwarming to hear a "Rocky" story about one of our schools, where kids overcome the odds to achieve in spite of obstacles. It happens a lot because dedicated teachers and parents make it happen. But we cannot rely solely on that support while the governor and the SRC play violins. We cannot let the philistines win.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on March 30, 2014 11:56 am
Rich---NEVER associate me with one Eileen Duffey !!! When I called her a soul mate, I meant cell mate and was deliriously drunk at the time.
Submitted by Eileen Duffey (not verified) on March 30, 2014 4:25 pm
Delirious perhaps but hilarious for sure!
Submitted by Lisa Haver on March 28, 2014 4:27 pm
I think I'll just second Eileen's comment.
Submitted by Ms. Chips (not verified) on March 28, 2014 4:07 pm
Thank you, Ben. You are doing important work in documenting the tragedy that used to be public schools in Philadelphia. The citizens' silence, and I do not mean education activists, who cannot be louder or clearer about what is going on, is inexcusable. The Federal government's complicity in allowing this theft of education funding to continue, and the re-segregation of schools to occur indicts us all. If we are accepting this state of schools, we are guilty.
Submitted by MBA to M'Ed mom (not verified) on March 28, 2014 4:44 pm
This article was hard to read, and I share your pain as well as pride at what the students at Palumbo have been able to acheive, and the shame that we as adults have not been able to do it for them.
Submitted by Smart Notebook (not verified) on March 29, 2014 9:53 am
There is a proverb goes that, education is the backbone of a nation. So, if anybody steals laptop from a school. I think they should understand it, he is breaking their nation's power.
Submitted by Nancy Goldschmidt (not verified) on March 29, 2014 9:57 am
How ironic that the destruction of democracy is happening before us in the city that signed our republic into existence. What other place would an "oversight committee" be allowed to assume even greater power after 13 years of continued growth of a deficit? Sad to say it's Philadelphia. We owe our children their future, not sustained political corruption!
Submitted by Annonym. (not verified) on March 29, 2014 10:43 am
Congratulations to Palumbo staff and students. That said, Hite may be "trying to rewrite Philadelphia's epic tome of loss and deprivation, investing money he doesn't have in efforts to expand the number of innovative high schools in the city," but he is also depriving neighborhood high schools of any attempts at "innovation." Neighborhood high schools take ALL students - unlike magnets like Palumbo that are highly selective, charters that select through multiple barriers to entry and then dump students who don't "fit." The "new" high schools - including the Workshop - take students who "fit." They are NOT neighborhood schools. Just like Vallas, Hite's goal may be to give up most of the neighborhood schools to charter corporations like Mastery. There will need to be a few neighborhood schools left for the students Mastery won't take - remember the "by any means necessary" contract? - and Mastery will dump. The students with the most needs - whether students with multiple disabilities or students who don't know English - will need a school. Wake up! Hite is determined to sell the School District to Gleason and the Philadelphia School Dictatorship. The PSD - the Phila. School Dictatorship - is calling the shots.
Submitted by anon (not verified) on March 29, 2014 12:59 pm
agreed. puhleeease, members of the media, let's stop this charade of characterizing superintendent hite as some kind of courageous crusader who's operating with his hands tied, keeping him from doing good. it is abundantly clear to anyone even remotely paying attention to the goings-on in the district, who exactly, is pulling the puppet strings.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 29, 2014 3:42 pm
Amen: Come on, folks, Hite, like Ackerman before him, is doing EXACTLY what the SRC hired him to do! Turn the neighborhood schools into juvenile detention Centers for the kids that the Charters and Magnet schools (and the politicians and corporations that run/sponsor them) do not want.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 29, 2014 6:27 pm
anon, Thank you. Dr. Hite CHOSE this job and knew that he was coming into a mess. Instead of investing in the schools that are already here, he's opening three new "innovative high schools." How about opening these new high schools as academies in pre-existing neighborhood schools? By opening these new schools, it takes away from the savings that Dr. Hite said the District needed from closing schools. If Dr. Hite really cared, he would have sued the Commonwealth for underfunding the District. Dr. Hite treats teachers with disrespect, asking us to take cuts in our salaries and benefits while also working a longer school day. He has continued to hire high-priced administrators. Stop talking about how tough of a job Dr. Hite has. He TOOK the job!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 29, 2014 6:56 pm
More About Broad in Philadelphia
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 29, 2014 11:19 am
Things may be dire for education, but there are even more important hardships being imposed. Children are young and can adapt. The real horror is what may happen in 10 years to our cities most precious commodity- 48 year old gas workers collecting a full pension from Philadelphia's sky high gas rates. Not to mention all the idiot relatives of our ward leaders and council members who will have one less place to collect a salary for nothing. $1.9 billion, $440 million net to the city pension fund. But we don't need THAT money. Because the pension fund will be funded by the sales tax increase. You say the schools need that money? Well kids better be kicking back to the machine like PGW workers. It is sad. City pols could provide more funding, but they choose not to because children are more sympathetic victims than most of the waste they control. Seriously, why would anyone else in the state think we need a penny when our pols have $440 mm to squander mismanaging a gas company. The cities priorities are so screwed up.
Submitted by MBA to M'Ed mom (not verified) on March 29, 2014 12:06 pm
"children are young and can adapt" to what...poverty, ignorance and being unsafe...I don't want my young child to have to adapt to a basic American right to a decent public education.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 29, 2014 2:21 pm
That was sarcasm. But it is as good as any explanation you will get from Marian Tasco or the stooges on council for why they should prioritize keeping PGW under the stooges thumb instead of funding schools.
Submitted by MBA to M'Ed mom (not verified) on March 29, 2014 2:27 pm
whew..'my bad' thanks : )
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 29, 2014 12:08 pm
You say the Gas Works is mismanaged? New SRC member Farah Jiminez's husband, David Hyman, was Board Chairman of the Philadelphia Gas Works from 2000-2007. He is the lead lawyer for the Nutter administration promotion of privatization of the Gas Works! Google it!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 29, 2014 1:35 pm
Nice try appealing to ignorance. Rhetoric over fact. Pgw was mismanaged since the 70's. RIzzo created the 48 year old retiree program. Wilson goode stopped collecting bills. In the 90's a string of corrupt ceo's drove it further into the ground requiring taxpayer bailout. Only in the 2000's did the city clean it up slightly so it could be sold. The legacy cost of decades of mismanagement is still a real cost, but without the board in the 2000 and knudsen, pgw would be a liability- the city would be getting $0 or less instead of $440million. Likewise, if they would get rid of badly designed welfare gas programs, providing regular support that works in every other big cities, and give normal union compensation, the city could prob get $1 billion for it. But these interest groups are the cities priorities- not education. If that is the case, why should the state pay more for this status quo? Freeing up cash from pgw is within the cities control, yet all the education advocates are mute. Facts are tough things to deal with, arent they?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 29, 2014 2:35 pm
Exactly the same thing corporate ed reformers say about the public schools. Welcome to the Milton Freedman Ministry of Propaganda.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 29, 2014 3:16 pm
Like I said, facts are tough. If you actually care about schools, finding solidarity with PGW is idiotic. I do understand that the simpletons who latch onto your rhetoric have a difficult time understanding any nuance. Like education is a core function of government. Running a gas company is not. Or the difficulty of opportunity costs- the obvious fact that if the city turns down $440 million for PGW, there is less to spend on other things, that $440 million more has to come from the budget to the pension fund (unless we do a Detroit style restructuring). Your magical money fairy who could conjure half a billion for both schools and a PGW boondoggle done left town long ago. Fact is, no other big city in the US runs a gas company. Fact is, because Philadelphia does, we all pay 25% more than PECO for transmission. Fact is, this differential is ENTIRELY due to city mismanagement, corruption, and special interest favors. Fact is, it is another indirect tax on Philadelphia. Fact is, PGW was the same private company that served the suburbs before the city took it over. Fact is, the city gas network is cheaper to operate due to its density. In fact, that was part of the rationale for the city to take it over. Then the public sector ran it into the ground. The only shock doctrine here was perpetrated on Philadelphia's tax/ratepayers. Since Wikipedia seems to be your primary information source, why don't you look up PGW. But I think your brand of ignorance really is incurable.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 29, 2014 4:44 pm
Let's go, Anon. Divide and conquer.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 29, 2014 6:45 pm
No, you're right. Better to team up and screw the people of the city.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 29, 2014 8:39 pm
Who are you talking about? I am a person in the city (live and teach here). So are many of my co-workers. So are people who work for PGW. So are the small businesses that we patronize. On the other hand the possible future private owners of PGW are not persons in the city. They don't give a damn about the city and its workers. They are interested in profit only, which can be only achieved on the backs of the workers, which will lead to reduced salaries, which will lead to reduced purchasing power and tax base. (I realize that this is not from Milton Friedman textbook, so it's probably hard to comprehend, but try)
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 29, 2014 9:08 pm
The gas workers will still be in the city. If anything some management patronage hacks will eventually get laid off with a nice severance. Which is justice. Profit can be achieved other than on the backs of workers karl. Getting into a new line of business for example something that pgw under council is utterly unqualified for. Why do you think the construction unions want it sold? It is holding the city back. High costs to fund waste are good for noone. Everyone in this city is paying a huge premium every month so city council can mismanage the gas works. I've lived elsewhere and am appalled at the costs here compared to'greedy' private companies. Hundreds of dollars a year extra i spend along with everyone else so some connected guy can get a patronage job? So who is the city serving? Not consumers! I want education funding but am fed up that the city is so stupid and corrupt it can't do the easy right thing. Sure tax shale gas too. But that doesnt justify this pge stupidity. The point which is inarguable is that the city can either sell pgw, or it can raise taxes by that amount. And that is part of the reason council won't even give the sales tax to schools. It would rather keep pgw than fund the schools. Quite frankly we'd all be better off if the city gave pgw away for free. $440 million is gravy.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 29, 2014 11:45 pm
You are hopeless. Not that everything is fine in the way this city is run. But your solution? Let's take everything we've got and give it to a rich guy, and then rely on his benevolence, hope and pray he does not lay off half of the workforce and make another half work for half pay, pray and hope that he does not double our gas bills, pray and hope that he does not use the profits he makes off the city to buy himself a few politicians to give him tax brakes and public money to build a downtown skyscraper.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 30, 2014 4:41 am
If you are a teacher, no wonder the district is a mess. Can't fix stupid.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 30, 2014 8:07 am
No, it's your sister's fault.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 29, 2014 9:37 pm
Btw my sister is a teacher. Public, not charter. Go where the money is, where your power can get it. Unfortunately that is not from the state. Even when corbett is gone, no one has any sympathy for Philadelphia. And if you, the pft, are fighting to keep pgw under the machines thumb neither do i. Where the money is not- with Philadelphia taxpayers.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 29, 2014 6:31 pm
You really should stop talking to yourself while looking in the mirror.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 29, 2014 1:22 pm
<< "Superintendent Hite is trying to rewrite Philadelphia's epic tome of loss and deprivation, investing money he doesn't have in efforts to expand the number of innovative high schools in the city. But the superintendent, too, has been presented with a series of impossible choices." >> I don't want to hear any excuses for this man, he is a key figure in the destruction of our schools. He has ties to the Governer and the SRC but he "can't find any money"?
Submitted by Veteran of the WPHS "Renaissance" (not verified) on March 29, 2014 2:56 pm
Thanks for this, Ben. The Philadelphia situation is heartbreaking and I am reminded once again by the courage and persistence and idealism of the youth in our city. I think your article also shows that there are so many hardworking and caring teachers and professionals who persist despite the incredibly inadequate conditions in Philadelphia schools. Those who have the power to do something about it are either using the wrong metrics to make decisions or have interests that are served by starving the public schools. We have to do whatever it takes to change and expose that misuse of power.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on March 29, 2014 3:53 pm
And guess how to expose it all and it ain't by meandering around in circles nor bitching on this site.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 29, 2014 6:18 pm
So why are you here every day?
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on March 29, 2014 6:46 pm
As agile as I am--and I remain firmly in my prime--I can only carry 1 torch and 1 pitchfork, comrade. This isn't a loaves and fishes operation but thanks for inquiring.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 29, 2014 6:43 pm
Kudos to these kids who went out and got them on their own, however I'm counting the number of schools I've worked in where he computers were stolen over the summer. In one school they were taken by subcontractors who were working on the school, but did the principal want to hear it? They don't want to know for fear that their school might end up in the news or be gossiped about at their meetings. How patheitic is that?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 29, 2014 10:34 pm
Ben, Since your somewhat new to the city, Palumbo is just one more of the special admit schools that took the best and the brightest from the public high schools. close all the special admits and require the students to attend their neighborhood schools. Use the dollar savings to restore the comprehensive high schools. Magnets were the ruination of the public schools, not the SRC, not charters, not Hite, Magnets! Additionally the SDP was broke in the early 70's when staff were paid in script. Broke in the 80's when Mayor Bill Green refused to pay the teachers their raise, the beginning of 0% contract raises, and broke every decade since. Past School Boards, SRC, City mayors not collecting taxes, and corrupt politicians sucked the SDP dry.
Submitted by Morrie Peters (not verified) on March 30, 2014 1:08 am
Lack of fight? let me tweet away from some far off tower of drivel...we fight every day to save this sinking public education, no democracy, no democracy. no America...
Submitted by Darnel X (not verified) on March 30, 2014 11:22 am
Oh please, stop all of this bickering. The bottom line is that the State has cut funding too much. I can't say that I blame them however because the people who run the district are lacking in know-how and really are not trying to solve this problem. When the preface each announcement on how poor they are, they are already defeated. They're GET-UP-AND-GO has GOT-UP-AND-WENT! They need a new outlook and need to make it work on what they have. Basically what we have now is an organization of malcontents. I seriously doubt that this condition is reparable with the current 440. We need to clean house. With all of that, I can't understand why SDP headquarters at 440 N. Broad still exists. They need to move out of that expensive beheamouth, move into more austere conditions like a vacant school, and adjust Non Union salaries to a more realistic level. DId anybody see the Over $100 K salaries on SDP that were published in the INKY? It's the all telling absurdity! I have worked in the schools and at 440 and in my opinion, there is a very casual work ethic there. Lots of waste, fraud and abuse for sure. It starts at the top. Go way back to the Paul Vallas Administration. Towards his end, there was a lot of revealing testimony and griping about Vallas' TOO HIGH salary. Next, we were all shocked to see how much they paid Arlene Ackerman to start off...and then as the Ackerman years quickly ended we all learned about the secret incentives that actually boosted her salary. We saw that as a deliberate "hidden from reality" act created by the SRC. Did they learn they're lesson? NO! Hite was given Ackerman money too. You have to wonder why. Then you look at all of those staffers in the $100,000 PLUS club, and you understand why. The Boss has to make more than the workers. Some are even Assistant Principals. WTF? I know those people at 440. One in particular only had a 1970's 2 year secretarial college degree and was publicly outed for making very costly errors, and had unsound judgement yet she remained on the payroll and was actually later promoted. WTF? I know her, her biggest daily decision is where to go for lunch. She is a professional meeting goer. She treats her staff like she treated her children, very mom like and unprofessional in my view. This is just one example of the misfits - there are many. They get paid top dollar for substandard work. Vallas, Ackerman, and Hite are merely the temporary face of the School District. Hired guns... Carpetbaggers ...With short shelf lives. These long term 440 staffers are the real problem. They are lifers, in it for the long game. They have limited vision and are extremely aversive to change. They stay with the status quo. As an example, one of my mangers once told me about my ideas to increase efficiency and save money. Darnel ," you are going to think yourself out of a job". That manager was the first person to step on every one of my ideas without even giving them a chance because she knew that the status quo is the soup de jour on the School District of Philadelphia menu each and every day. Believe me, they have a lot of old fashioned backward inefficient every day procedures there. Despite all of the budget cuts, 440 is little still works on the "Let Them Eat Cake" attitude. The students take the brunt of the austerity hits and they are just going on with little fundamental change. It's appalling. They once again are just using the students to preserve they're phony baloney jobs.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 30, 2014 12:51 pm
The whole period you review the School District has been under state control through the School Reform Commission.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 30, 2014 7:08 pm
Yes, and there are some 1000 fewer employees in admin since the src. That os a good thing. The downside- council doesn't care about funding education unless they can overstock the bureaucracy with unneeded 'workers' and their idiot supporters. But that is not really the states fault, is it? What amazes me is funding has doubled since state takeover, admin has dropped 1000+ and still we have crisis...
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 30, 2014 12:38 pm The state is starving public education anywhere you find a majority of poor folks. Charter schools are like am implosion of political hacks who normally would be living off the general tax funds but those are running out, too. They are not educators, not certified, are politically connected, and have realized that education was the last untapped tax funded bonanza since the end of the cold war. The people who survive at 440 are not educators, for the most part, have to certification to maintain, and are merely opportunistic. Eventually, they too, will be contracted out. Every last one of them.
Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on March 30, 2014 1:38 pm

"Perhaps the saddest reality of all is the lack of fight: Too many in the city now seem resigned to wait a year or more in the hope that a new governor or a new mayor might muster the will to eliminate what officials describe as a $300 million annual structural deficit."

Recognizing there will be no substantive change without a shift in political power is not the same thing as "a lack of fight."   In fact taking the fight to the ballot box will demand hard work.   One hundred people on Saturday went out in the rain to get voters to pledge to vote for candidates who support fully funded, quality schools for all children, charter school accountability, ending the school to prison pipeline and returning our schools to local control.   

But Ben is right that it's not about hoping a new Gov or Mayor will set things right.   It's about building a bloc of education voters who will hold them accountable and provide a mandate for change.   

Don’t mourn, organize.    

Submitted by union member (not verified) on March 30, 2014 5:50 pm
...a bloc of education voters... Who would have the money and resources to do that? Who has had the money and resources for years but still hasn't organized itself into a bloc of education voters?
Submitted by Morrie Peters (not verified) on March 31, 2014 8:40 am
Weingarten and the AFT are 100% complicit...
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on April 1, 2014 11:42 am
Yes, Weingarten is considered by many to be less than honorable even though she holds a position of power with unions. I hope it's unfounded but some of her actions make me bang my head against the wall. Maybe that's the cause of my continual headache.
Submitted by Paul Frank horloges (not verified) on April 1, 2014 9:47 pm
Very good article, I disagree with this statement.

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