[Updated, 6:00 pm] The School District and Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) have just announced a 60-day contract extension, which both sides say will permit them "to focus on a successful and smooth opening of the 2009-2010 school year." The contract was due to expire next Monday.
The extension doesn't come as much of a surprise, given that there is still no state budget or firm sense of how much money the District will have to offer the teachers.
Here we have, in embryo, the nub of the differences between the School District and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers:
“During the previous five years, the District had been offering an excellent education to some but not all Philadelphia students. Although incremental progress had been made in terms of student achievement, a large percentage of students still do not complete high school within six years and persistent participation and achievement “gaps” remain between students of different ethnicities, home languages, areas of residence, and program placement. At the same time, adults within the District were not always held accountable for protecting the core mission of the District – providing every student with an excellent and high-quality education."
--Arlene Ackerman, message on strategic plan
“...As teachers, we are held accountable for reaching and teaching all children, regardless of the myriad of factors that influence their academic success or failure. We, and no one else, are held accountable for raising test scores in classes whose sizes we can’t control, in schools that are falling apart, without enough books or computers and too often without the support of families.”
--Jerry Jordan, May issue of Reporter
The plot thickens.
Gov. Rendell has recalled the name of Joseph Dworetzky as his nominee for the School Reform Commission, the governor's spokesman confirmed today.
But, he added, Rendell intends to resubmit it.
"He has not yet been resubmitted, but it is the governor's intention to do so," said spokesman Gary Tuma. "He still has the governor's full support."
It's the old familiar refrain: "Oh, you're a teacher? It must be nice to have those summers off." Or, the more sneering version: "You know, those of us in the adult world have to work the whole year."
Although these comments are frequently dripping with condescension, I'm personally more offended by their sheer untruth. I personally didn't know a single teacher on my 7th grade team who truly had the summer off. We were all either teaching summer school, leading youths on service learning projects in Costa Rica, participating in professional development sessions, or, in my case, coaching new teachers.
The Notebook was first with the week's big news about Heidi Ramirez' resignation from the SRC. Other coverage of the resignation:
Here is a video of the announcement from Al Día:
I wondered, in the wake of Heidi Ramirez’ resignation, whether state law is at all unclear about the respective roles of the SRC and the superintendent.
The 2001 takeover law, quaintly entitled “Distress in school districts of the first class,” is actually a sledgehammer of a statute, designed to place broad powers in the hands of the newly-created SRC. (Inconveniently, the takeover law isn’t readily available on the web – in fact, none of Pennsylvania’s statutes are – but you can find it by going to a law library and asking to see 24 PS § 6-696, or by contacting me.)
Among other things, the law says flatly that the SRC shall be responsible for “the operation, management and educational program of the school district of the first class” -- about as sweeping a provision as could be written.
The Philadelphia Inquirer has been doing some interesting investigative reporting, trying to flesh out the story of how a highly regarded School Reform Commissioner, Heidi Ramirez, came to an unexpected decision to resign this week.
Lost in the hubbub yesterday caused by the resignation of School Reform Commission member Heidi Ramirez were signals from Superintendent Arlene Ackerman that she is taking a more conciliatory tone in negotiations with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.
Heidi Ramirez announced her resignation from the School Reform Commission Wednesday. Over the last two years, Ramirez has been the most active of all the commissioners. At SRC meetings she has continually asked tough questions about the budget, the strategic plan, and hiring practices. These questions often put her in conflict with Dr. Ackerman.
I believe that asking tough questions is a responsibility of SRC members. This is not because I have a problem with the administration.
A letter sent today to Gov. Rendell by eight local Latino leaders in Philadelphia urges the governor to ask Heidi Ramirez to stay on the SRC. The letter was sent from the Norris Square Civic Association and signed by directors of organizations including Youth United for Change, ASPIRA, and Esperanza
Heidi Ramirez resigned from the School Reform Commission late this afternoon, at the close of a four-hour meeting, declaring in a prepared statement that her expectations about the oversight role of the body were not shared by others and that she felt she could do more "to improve teaching and learning for our most needy students" from work outside the SRC.
We've received confirmation that Commissioner Heidi Ramirez will resign during the SRC meeting taking place this afternoon.
Updates will be posted as they become available.
While there are not yet any public comments from officials on this news, a number of education advocates have expressed consternation at the report of Heidi Ramirez's expected resignation from the School Reform Commission.
"This is a terrible loss for both the School District and the citizenry of Philadelphia," said Shelly Yanoff, executive director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth. "Heidi was the best appointment that anyone could remember."
Sources inside and outside the District have informed me that School Reform Commissioner Heidi Ramirez will announce her intention to resign from the SRC. The announcement is expected this afternoon when the SRC convenes.
The announcement follows months of Superintendent Arlene Ackerman’s public critiques and complaints about Ramirez’s inquiries into areas such as the budget and contracts. It also follows Gov. Rendell’s decision in the spring to put Ramirez’s re-nomination in limbo and open angling by Harrisburg legislators to get Republican representation on the SRC. One can only guess that Ramirez, whom Governor Rendell once praised as “the most qualified” member of the SRC for her education background, got little backing from state or city officials.
And that bodes poorly for future oversight of the District.
3:10 p.m. District spokesperson confirms Commissioner Ramirez will resign soon during today's SRC meeting.
6 p.m. Fighting back tears, Heidi Ramirez resigns, saying her educational vision is now "inconsistent" with that of the District. Superintendent Arlene Ackerman notably waited to be the last person to stand in acknowledging Commissioner Ramirez and rolled her eyes before standing. Read her resignation letter and the text of her public statement.
But the story continues. State legislators and the Philadelphia City Controller held a news conference today stating that shutting down the Safe Schools Advocate office is illegal. They say the office is legally mandated and, by closing the office, the Pennsylvania Department of Education is in violation of the law.