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February 2013 Vol. 20. No. 4 Focus on A Downsizing District

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Where displaced teachers will land is uncertain

Although the contract offers a “right to follow” students, the reality is more complicated.

By by Connie Langland on Feb 8, 2013 02:59 PM
Photo: Harvey Finkle

Teachers’ union members have been visible and vocal at community meetings about school closings and protests like this one outside District headquarters.

These are days stretching into weeks of uncertainty for hundreds of teachers in the 44 schools slated to be shuttered or relocated under the Facilities Master Plan before the School Reform Commission.

Will their school be closed?

Will they be laid off?

Where will they land?

In recent community forums, Superintendent William Hite stressed that the plan called for “teachers to follow their students” to their new schools. And he estimated that only 37 teachers – a projection based on one teacher per school slated to be closed – ultimately would face layoffs.

“The number of teachers impacted [by layoffs] will be minimal,” he said. With hundreds of new teachers hired each year, he said that any who might be laid off could be optimistic about being reabsorbed somewhere in the system by the start of school in September.

But the District has not shared the analysis behind its projections. And Hite’s remarks came prior to the District’s announcement in January of plans to transfer 2,000 Head Start students out of District-run centers and into community-based sites. This cost-cutting move will impact dozens of certified teachers because many Head Start teachers are also certified to teach elementary school.

“I can’t answer how many teachers will be impacted, and I don’t know how they can either,” said Arlene Kempin, general vice president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. “And now we have those early childhood center closings that are being added to the mix.”

Last year, the District targeted nine schools for closing and ultimately closed six. This year, 37 are slated for closure, with seven more to be relocated. This is on top of about 10 Head Start centers in sites leased by the District that are expected to be shuttered.

“When it affects you, it’s traumatic,” said Kempin. “So many teachers put their lives into their school. They’re part of the fabric of the community, they’ve taught the parents of the kids they’re teaching now. It’s wrenching.” 

Until 2011, the District routinely hired 900 to 1,000 teachers per year. That number dropped dramatically starting in 2011-12, the first year of severe budget cutbacks. And some teachers were laid off last year, although most were hired back as the District ultimately brought on about 350 new teachers last fall.

Principals in the schools slated for closure have been alerted by letter that “they may not be employed,” said their union chief, Robert McGrogan. 

But, he said, because principals have some “bumping” rights, it was an error to notify the principals in the 37 schools that they were the ones in jeopardy. Because of the reduction-in-force rules, if any principals are laid off, it would likely be ones who are still in their two- or three-year probationary period

“I don’t know if the attrition rate is going to match the job loss rate,” said McGrogan. 

Until retirements, resignations, and promotions are all taken into account, many principals’ futures are in limbo just at a time when the District says it needs to invest in quality leadership. 

It all adds up to massive uncertainty and upheaval.

Plus, the principals are being put in the unenviable position of “being asked to advocate for their students while starting the process of closing down the school and protecting its physical assets,” McGrogan said.

“How do they do right by their students and still be obedient to the District?” he asked. The District, he said, is “putting my members in the crosshairs.”

For newer teachers, the question is whether they’ll be laid off … again. And the odds are not as favorable as a few years ago, when veteran teachers retired in droves. Now, according to the union, about 55 percent of the 10,000-teacher workforce has five years or less experience. Under the contract, layoffs generally are based on seniority – last hired, first fired. 

Teachers in affected schools are taking action.

“It’s hard, feeling every year that your job is on the line,” said A.J. Schiera, social studies teacher, whose students – he teaches an urban education class – have become eloquent advocates for their school, University City High, at several school closing forums. He said he and other teachers are taking a “hunkered-down, get-through-the-year” attitude while hoping for the best.

Kristi Taylor, computer teacher at Fairhill School, a K-8 school in North Philadelphia, said she and other teachers have opted to lobby hard to keep the school open, with letter-writing, a phone bank, leafleting in the neighborhood and other activities. “Some people feel it’s hopeless but I sort of see it as a win-win. We will have done everything we possibly could, we will have done our best,” she said. 

About the Author

Freelancer Connie Langland writes about education issues in Philadelphia.

Comments (76)

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on February 4, 2013 12:51 pm
Good job Connie. It is an excellent article.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 8, 2013 4:21 pm
Do Specialist Teachers have the right to follow?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 8, 2013 4:52 pm
What is October 1 going to look like when they realize how many students did not go where they were told to?
Submitted by tom-104 on February 8, 2013 6:15 pm
They know parents are not going to send their children over a mile through dangerous neighborhoods, and high schools students will fear for their safety in schools with mixed neighborhoods. That's why they are opening up more Renaissance Schools. http://thenotebook.org/blog/135600/renaissance-schools-program-enters-it... They will continue to starve the public schools and build up the charters so desperate parents will move their children to charters. It's all part of the privatization plan. Chief of Student Services Lynch said on WHYY's Radio Times Wednesday morning that the school closure plan has been in the works for two years. It is an insult that they hold these community meetings and parents come in good faith that they are being listened to.
Submitted by J.A. (not verified) on February 8, 2013 8:59 pm
I agree with you tom-104. It is an insult that they hold these community meetings without considering the needs of parents. As a former teacher, I've encountered parents who feel their children's schools do not provide a sense of community once they turn into a charter school. Although the community meetings are held, they seem to only provide a forum for parents to vent, rather than have their voices heard as critical feedback. Although these are seemingly back door plans, what is even sadder is the demise of the teacher's unions in so many schools. Teachers are often left with very little time to plan, take a break, or even eat their lunch. Students then are left with disgruntled teachers, often veterans, who wake up before dawn hoping they can still manage their classrooms. Although charter schools bring in new talent and resources and sometimes innovative ideas, what they fail to do is truly partner with parents and the community in which they newly harbored.
Submitted by Jim (not verified) on February 8, 2013 11:03 pm
The situation is laughingly appalling.
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on February 9, 2013 4:40 pm
The caveat is that MANY charter school teachers are barking louder and louder about work conditions, salary and benefits. Sound familiar??
Submitted by the interlace (not verified) on June 11, 2013 4:33 am
Timeless European-inspired architecture marry contempo design and amenities offers its resident a truly alluring abode to call home. the interlace
Submitted by fight the power (not verified) on February 9, 2013 1:43 am
The Allegory of the Farm And now, I said, let me show in a figure how far our nature is enlightened or unenlightened: --Behold!Sheep scattered on a barn, or maybe cows, no, better yet crabs in a barrel; what ever the critter you get the point; dumb, harmful really just to their own kind, and only really are necessary to provide the raw material goods they produce, yet in and of themselves they are just animals. The old farmer had done most of the sheering, and kept the sheep in their place properly disposing of them when they were of no more value. There was never a need to feed them that well, or provide them with adequate grazing pastures, cause the sheep only knew of what they had. However, some savvy young and wealthy farmers got smart and came to the old farmer with a plan to lease some of the sheep from him, for they found a way to garner wool, or fleece the masses of sheep cheaper and more efficiently than the old farmer could. It would cut down the old farmers cost to feed the sheep, and really the farmer was just getting to old to be running after those sheep anyway. So, the savvy young wealthy farmers lured those better sheep away with the promise of greener pastures, and made it more glamorous like all entities do by touting its virtues and limiting accessibility to it, for only a few sheep were chosen every so often with the promise of greener pastures. Well, what poor old sheep could refuse the prospects of greener pastures? Although shepherds from the northern lands of Cambridge had come and found that the grass really isn’t at all greener, than the old farmers pastures. However, sheep don’t read, especially reports in peer reviewed shepherds journals, so the sheep remained dumb and hopeful that they would one day graze on lush grass beside the still waters. Well, one day the old farmer, snuck out with his new earnings from the savvy young farmers and lost all his money gambling in a game called “swaps”, and didn’t even have enough money to tend to his old sheep anymore. Well, the man who owned the land, a shrewd land owner like most in his profession had been waiting for an opportunity like this, and he knew this was his lucky break. He saw how easy it was for those young savvy farmers to take the sheep off the old farmers hands and how dumb those sheep were to think there was such thing for them as greener pastures; for the land owner owned all the land and knew, the truly green pastures and still waters weren’t ever for sheep to occupy. But the landowner said to himself; now, I could give the old farmer the money to hold his sheep over till he gets back on his feet, or I can let him starve, make him sell cheap and start divvying up his farm land and make myself and my farming partners rich. After all what did God make sheep for but to get fleeced, and he created those like the land owner to always live upon the greenest pastures. He knew there was no sense in that old drunk farmer keeping all those sheep tied to himself. Besides, he wasn’t taking that good care of them anyway. So the land owner withheld any help to that old farmer. The old farmer figured he was never a good farmer anyway. He might as well sell all these remaining sheep and retire to the rolling hills of Wynnefield which lay at the south gate of the land of greener pastures and still waters. These of the greenest pastures were the lands of Radnor and Merion where all the land owners and their savvy farmer friends and family lived. Now the old farmer was weak and didn’t have to much energy to corral all those sheep. As a matter of fact, all of those years as a sheep farmer, and being a sheep himself, he came to distain the very smell of them and didn’t want much else to do with sheep anymore. So, he called an old shepherd, a great sheep Herder from Prince Georges County to come round up the remainder of his sheep so he could go and sell those remaining to his land owner and retire. Now the shepherd from Maryland was efficient and had a “Master Plan” for closing up the old stables and rounding up the sheep for the farmer so they could be sold to the land owner. Soon, he thought; the new farmers will come and divvy up all the remaining sheep in the few remaining stables and sheer them and feed them for less money at a profit. Now, one might ask; what happened to all those sheep so long ago who left the fold, who thought the grass was greener? Well, the newly purchased sheep joined them, crowded the stables once again, and now they’re all getting fed half the rations, and some must walk twice the distance to get fed. The old farmer retired and thanked God he never had to smell the scent of sheep again. The savvy young farmers consolidated and made one great stable and lowered their sheep provisions cost even further, and the land owner remains perched in the green green pastures keeping an eye out for any tragedy he might turn a profit on. In the end all things were as they always were. Landowners continue to buy and sell the land, farmers continue to reap from it, and the sheep? Well, we all know sheep are born to be fleeced.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 9, 2013 8:13 am
Do not get regular charters confused with renaissance schools. The regular charters are being slowly squeezed out, as well.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on February 9, 2013 9:05 am
Yes, and therein lies the rub.
Submitted by Annoy (not verified) on February 9, 2013 11:46 am
We have a concentration of charters - KIPP, Mastery, Universal, Aspira, and the new groups formed last year out of Phila. Charter School for Literacy and Phila. Performing Arts Charters. Rather than stay neighborhood schools, they are becoming corporations. How many administrators work in their central offices? Soon, Mastery will have as many staff as the School District in its central offices. They are creating what Boston Consulting Group, Inc. called for - school districts within the city of Philadelphia. They are not innovative - they are adding to the multiple layers / tracking within the city. This is why those of us who believe public schools are essential for every nation fear what will be left in 20 years. What will be left for our grandchildren?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 10, 2013 5:19 pm
How are they not neighborhood school? The stats show that a higher percentage of children start going to these schools AFTER they become Ren Charters and the catchment area is strictly the same, much more restrictive than traditional city wide charter.
Submitted by Annoy (not verified) on February 10, 2013 6:16 pm
True for Mastery, Aspira and Young Scholars but NOT Universal. Universal was give Vare after losing it. Universal has not track record in "turning around" schools. Universal has political connections (Nutter, Archie) - it certainly isn't "progress" at their schools. (Universal also was given Audenreid, a brand new building, and Vare for free last year and this year pays $300,000 instead of the nearly $1.5 million it costs the School District to keep the schools open and clean). Even is Mastery and Young Scholars are improving test scores, at what cost? Are students being prepared for more than taking a test? Mastery's curriculum is very narrow and test driven.
Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on February 11, 2013 2:31 pm
I spent over 100 hours at one of Mastery's schools. With regard to the curriculum, particularly reading, writing, and math, it's not all teaching to the test. Mastery is very data-driven and their students take benchmark tests every 6 weeks. These tests are essentially mini PSSA tests. There is a scope and sequence which dictates the content on the benchmarks and in instruction. This scope and sequence is based on state standards. So I would dispute the claim that the curriculum is narrow in these core subjects or reading, writing, and math. I saw students learning content typical of what other students would learn at a certain grade level. The format of the questions on classwork and homework often is similar in format to what is on the benchmarks, but not always. Teachers teach students how to think in ways that are important for test taking, such as knowing what words or phrases indicate if a question is asking you to solve an addition or subtraction problem, if it's asking you to round, etc. But, learning how to know when a question is asking you to add, subtract, round, etc. is a skill that students need to do for homework also, so it has utility beyond test-taking. The format of Mastery's lessons is do now, direct instruction, aligned scaffolded practice, independent practice. During the week before and after the benchmarks, teachers have more flexibility because they don't have to use the DN-DI-ASP-IP format. At the same time, Mastery teachers at the elementary level don't have a defined curriculum in the way that District teachers use Everyday Math and Harcourt Trophies. I have heard many teachers complain about Everyday Math, which has a constructivist approach and is supposed to promote higher-level thinking. Students at Mastery read real children's books, not just nonfiction or fiction passages. Also, many students at the Mastery school at which I spent time were below grade level, some were 2 or 3 years behind. So it would be hard to do inquiry-based instruction with many of the students. Teachers had a genuine interest in making sure that their students became good readers, writers, and competent in math. It wasn't all about test scores. However, there was focus on topics that teachers said were "all over the PSSAs." A lot of the teacher-directed nature and direct instruction focus comes from the fact that, at least at the elementary level, Mastery doesn't kick out students. Due to behavior problems, the tight control over instruction intertwines with the tight behavior management policies. For the most part, the behavior management policies were very good. There was a lot less yelling at students from teachers than I saw at District schools. There was an expectation that teachers not yell at students, but be authoritative. Everyone at the school was on the same page in terms of expectations for behavior. So this takes away autonomy for classroom management is many areas from teachers, although teachers can supplement school-wide policies with other techniques, e.g. bucket filling. Mastery has deans, social workers, and school counselors at its schools to help support students. Students have a special class every day, such as art, music, P.E., or Spanish. Where narrowing does take place is with math and social studies. In the younger grades, students receive social studies for half of the year and science for half of the year. What Mastery does well is that it emphasizes social and personal skills. Some students receive Second Step. Teachers encourage students to speak in complete sentences. There is a strong emphasis on peaceful conflict resolution. Where I have issues with Mastery's approach is in the workload for teachers, the emphasis they put on standardized testing, and the lack of emphasis on equity issues. In 10 years, I will be interested to see how many teachers at Mastery have been in their network as teachers for 10 or more years and what their pay is. How is balancing work-family life for these teachers? The principal at the school where I spent time was excellent, and was a teacher. What happens at a school where the principal isn't so supportive, approachable, and professional? The focus on standardized testing was heavy. Students received awards for achieving proficient or advanced on their benchmarks. Students learn differently and not everyone does well on tests. Many students are below grade level and the content of the benchmarks is too difficult for them to score proficient or advanced. I also didn't see much emphasis on students learning to love learning or enjoy reading. The emphasis was more on benchmark performance. There was also some emphasis on the need to know math, reading, and writing so that students could go to college. But let's face it, not all of these kids will go to college. College at Mastery always means 4 year college. There wasn't emphasis on vocational school, although this may change in high school. But for elementary students, the focus is on 4 year colleges. However, there weren't to my knowledge any meetings for parents to learn how to start saving for college. So there is a detailed, long-winded summary of some of my first hand experience at one of Mastery's schools. I've also gone into even more details in posts on other articles. EGS
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 11, 2013 2:01 pm
What you've described is a test prep factory - rigid, benchmarks, praise for benchmarks (versus love of reading), questions modeled after benchmarks / PSSA, limited exposure to more than math/reading, etc. While the SDP has tried to emulate this approach, starting with Vallas and his administration, it is still test prep. This is not what happens in the private schools attended by Pres. Obama's daughters, professors from Penn and the Scott Gordon's of this world.
Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on February 11, 2013 3:49 pm
Vallas left before Mastery started expanding, so I don't know how he could have implemented an approach like the one I described as taking place at Mastery. I totally agree with your point that "This is not what happens in the private schools attended by Pres. Obama's daughters, professors from Penn and the Scott Gordon's of this world." At the same time, the private school approach doesn't work with some children in public school, e.g. those in foster care, students with non-engaged parents, students with parents who don't value education, students whose parents don't read to them at home or check their homework. So even if there is less emphasis on test prep, children who come from poverty AND don't have parental support present unique problems with which more affluent districts and private schools don't have to deal. Schools in high-poverty, distressed neighborhoods need more supports--social workers, deans, a positive behavior intervention and support (PBIS)--because many children in these schools come with more issues and their families have fewer resources. EGS
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on February 11, 2013 3:57 pm
You would think that "drill and kill"/rote learning is to be avoided; however, I have seen this approach help. It makes sense if you think about the kids that are struggling with vocabulary/a different culture, as many of the poor children here are. They are very much like ELL, and a certain amount of consistent repetition does help them. Of course it must be done not for its own sake, but to reach the next goal, abstract thinking skills. Of course I agree, "teaching to the test" is counterproductive, but a certain amount of rote drill is required for any memorization, and not necessarily "teaching to the test".
Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on February 11, 2013 3:40 pm
Ms. Cheng, I agree with your point, and I think that's why some of what Mastery does isn't exclusively teaching to the test although they do some teaching to the test. EGS
Submitted by tom-104 on February 11, 2013 5:37 pm
Speaking of Paul Vallas, he is very controversial in Bridgeport, Connecticut where he is now Superintendent: Paul Vallas’ No Bid Contract with the Public Consulting Group from Wait, What? “It is a familiar tune.
When Superintendent of Schools Paul Vallas arrived in Bridgeport, he quickly signed a series of no-bid contracts.
 One was with the Public Consulting Group (PCG), a company that he had done business with when he was the CEO of the Chicago School System and again when he was the CEO of the Philadelphia Schools.  In fact, PCG even features the Chicago and Philadelphia projects on its website.
" http://jonathanpelto.com/2013/02/11/paul-vallas-no-bid-contract-with-the...
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 11, 2013 7:29 pm
Hope the schools in CT hide their artwork before Paulie comes strolling down their halls.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 10, 2013 9:02 pm
Neighborhood schools MUST take EVERYONE...even the behavior issues...the Charters like Mastery, KIPP, Universal, etc can push those students out. Neighborhood schools MUST also take ALL SPECIAL EDUCATION students and it has been shown that some, not all, but some of the charters refuse or push out special education students as well.
Submitted by Mister Tibbs (not verified) on February 9, 2013 12:42 pm
The list of Renaissance Schools for the up coming school year will be posted on February 11th. All staff members from soon to be Renaissance schools will become forced transfers. Renaissance schools are not charters but will be managed by charter organizations like Mastery, Aspira, Universal, etc. Reading about Philadelphia’s Renaissance Schools Initiative will shed light on where we are going. This report highlights 4 charter organizations who will be in the running to manage new Renaissance schools. School SACs will be allowed to "select" the charter organization that best fit their school community. http://www.researchforaction.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/RFA-Renaissa...
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 9, 2013 2:58 pm
Kristen Graham tweeted yesterday that the release date of the Renaissance Schools list has been moved back to Feb. 19th (from Feb. 11th). I wonder if that change has anything to do with the meetings that have been scheduled for next week...
Submitted by Madam M (not verified) on February 9, 2013 12:23 pm
My school closed last June. I was force transferred and was told I would get to pick my new school at the end of June. That meeting was canceled, and I had to wait till the end of August to be assigned to a new school.
Submitted by fight the power (not verified) on February 9, 2013 12:17 pm
What is the purpose of these meetings? If they have been planning this for 2 years and they begin to meet with us in the final 2 months, what does that tell you? They get payed to be at these meetings; you, on the other hand must sacrifice time with your children, spouses, leisure and all the other things you could be doing. This is nonsense. The rich/upper middle class must have no competition for college or the job market. The poor must be kept at bay; guided either to menial, welfare or prison, with some recruited to contain the next generation of poor, or provide them services. This is the system, this is capitalism. If you really want to stop this nonsense, boycott. Get the sanitation workers to stop picking up trash, and get the kids and teachers to refuse to enter the school buildings and I promise you you will have whatever you ask. Every one on here get your circle of influence to prepare to boycott. We the people control this, not them.
Submitted by tom-104 on February 9, 2013 2:31 pm
If you want verification that these school closing are part of a plan two years in the making, and the community meetings "for input" are therefore a sham, go to this Radio Times link: Interview with Malik Aziz, facilitator and trainer with the National Gang Crime Research Center, Ben Herold, WHYY’s education reporter, and Karyn Lynch, Chief of Student Support Services for the Philadelphia School District. from Radio Times at WHYY (Click at at 45:00 to hear Karyn Lynch, Chief of Student Support Services for the School District disclose that “the plan” has been in the works for two years.) Listen: http://whyy.org/cms/radiotimes/2013/02/06/school-closures-and-safety/
Submitted by fight the power (not verified) on February 9, 2013 12:41 pm
Teachers boycott!!!!!!!!! get you kids too. refuse to teach collectively.
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on February 9, 2013 2:46 pm
As bizarre as your remedy seems, it is likely going to go that way. Clearly they won't close 37 schools but I bet at least 22 bite the dust. That way everybody can save some face. Next year another 15 will go bye bye. For those who are upset by my racial remarks, I'm sorry but it's the truth that you don't want to hear. Ask Louis Farrakhan what he thinks of black mayors like Nutter----don't worry, you won't have to ask twice. Nutter is no better than Corbett because he's doing Corbett's bidding. Extraordinary problems call for extraordinary responses. Nutter's selling these kids out for money and security and that's the name of that tune.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 11, 2013 12:37 am
"Boycotting" teaching (whatever that means) kids who are already behind in life. Sad and pathetic. Appealing to Louis Farrakahn for moral authority. Funny. And you wonder why so many people have a negative opinion of the SDP when you can work in a, "it's all about the kids" between these two genius thoughts.
Submitted by fight the power (not verified) on February 11, 2013 2:04 am
I generally refrain from debating with other posters on this site because I presuppose that we all on here want the future citizens of our country(our school children) to become functional, productive, and caring people. However, short of assuming the role of the blog police, I cringe at the idea of anyone on here downing other peoples attempts to solve the issue at hand. Disagreement can be productive, but meaningless sarcasm, snide remarks, and attacks on figureheads to whom you might not necessarily agree with seems to be the worst solution to the problems at hand. We all are informed, and motivated by different knowledge bases, therefore, we must all contribute. Yet, the most important part of this whole process is that we allow for "all" to contribute. As to my epistemological mode; I speak from one informed by: urban studies, theology, ethnomusicology, sociology, social and evolutionary psychology, physics, classical studies, and philosophy. I have used all of these disciplines in surveying the issues, surrounding our school system. This does not mean I have the right answer, but I have presented those disciplines which inform me when I contribute to these types of discussions as a source for the collective body to draw upon, and I am eager to hear also what other disciplines have to say on these matters. So, I'm interested; how do you know what you know? What knowledge bases are you pulling from when you criticize Farrakhan; a man who has contributed tremendously to the social well being of people of color? When you criticize "boycotting" as a method to get the attention of society in general; what in Alabama, Mississippi, Egypt, India, South Africa, Tunisia, Libya, and Yemen did not impress you? Again, I do not wish to argue with any of my fellow brothers and sisters in this fight, but I seriously question the motives or identity of anyone who comes on this site sniping at others suggestions, especially in regards to such a serious matter as this. Justice is never given; it is exacted- A. Phillips Randolph
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 11, 2013 4:44 pm
yeah and its better to die on my feet then live on my knees.......
Submitted by Anonymous on February 9, 2013 3:48 pm
Joe you may be right about less than 37 schools closing, but be sure that at least 20-30 schools will go by way of Renaissance. Either way there'll be @ 1,000 employees force transferred across the district (teachers, counselors, secretaries, nurses, building engineers, building cleaners, assistant principals, and principals) and hundreds will face lay offs. One of many goals related to the sweeping changes---a financial savings via a reduction in the workforce.
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on February 9, 2013 4:01 pm
Of course, everything you posted is likely correct though I doubt the full impact will be felt next school year. Down the road, I agree and not far down the road, within 3 years would be my guess unless we all grow a collective pair.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 9, 2013 4:24 pm
Where do you get those numbers (20-30 Renaissance schools) and do you mean this year? That is beyond belief.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 9, 2013 4:29 pm
Let's not forget that the long-term plan is to close 64 schools by 2017. Lisa Haver
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 9, 2013 5:56 pm
How do the Renaissance schools get such good results overnight? How do they get students who were behavior problems and multiple grade levels behind to be proficient and orderly in a matter of months? Is it that we in the public schools are just that bad or is something else going on? I really don't get it, especially how they transform discipline issues.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 9, 2013 8:33 pm
Quick, grab the pitcher. The Kool-Aid is wearing off!!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 9, 2013 8:35 pm
Good principal, good school...bad principal, bad school. And by the way, a good principal is one that chooses their own staff. It's really very simple.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 10, 2013 8:24 am
And a good staff is one which chooses its own principal. A good school is one where the parents and teachers choose its principal through a TEAM approach. Then the selection TEAM chooses its new teachers. It is called collaborative leadership. Time to move into the 21st century.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 10, 2013 9:53 am
I don't understand where this notion is coming from.....I have seen plenty of bad people come through site-selction.....teachers and administrators....We all know that it's a very political process....Just because a Principal or a "team" chooses the teachers or the administrators doesn't guarantee success....just because people come in through the seniority based or free choice process doesn't mean those people are ineffective.....the bottom line is we need effective leadership in our schools....not leaders who fail to make ayp for years and end up in leadership positions downtown....we need accountability for everyone not just the teachers....
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 10, 2013 10:43 am
The failure to make AYP for years has more to do with the fact thast those schools which do not make AYP have a high percentage of children who come from poverty. The other issue with AYP is that in the last ten years both principals and teachers have been forced to teach the one size fits all test preparation curriuclum imposed upon them by the superintendents the SRC has chosen. The failure of schools can be traced to their lack of "collaborative processes." What you are referring to is, "How do we remove ineffective principals?" The answer to that question is "term limits" which require that all principals be reselected after a period of time. That is how you filter up good school leaders. It is called the "inclusionary process." It is not a new idea in education at all as, prior to the state takeover, all principals and AP's in Philadelphia were supposed to go thorugh the site selection process for prinipals. That is how just about all of the high performing suburban school districts choose their principals. Through a collaborative process. If a principal is ineffective, they are simply, not retained.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 11, 2013 1:50 am
Good points. The larger the bureaucracy, the more political the process- the easier it is for lowgrade people with good political skills to negotiate. A person can be highly ineffective in a big organization, but if he/she latches onto someone who is effective, or someone else who is a good bs'er, or someone who plays the same loyalty game higher up the chain, well that person can go far regardless of competence. Potentially doing a lot of damage on the way. It's not just the SDP, but the nature of big organizations. Big organizations have more rigid rules (many inapplicable to routine scenarios). Rigid rules offer excuses for inaction or failure and lower the importance of personal judgement. So one can advance without exercising personal judgement- think of the admins who have expelled 8 year olds for bringing squirt guns to school because of some zero tolerance policy. How did the senior admin blessing such a decision get to a position of authority with such little common sense? In a smaller organization (like a single school or a few schools), the administrators are closer to the decision- more informed and have to live with the consequences. All of these political exercises- building teams of toadying loyalists or figuring out how to game the system or complying with stupid rules that have negative impact- they are less useful. Not as likely to promote ones success. Despite the implication here that charter schools are a solution, I have some sympathy for unions, especially in big districts, for the same reason- they obviously have to protect themselves against bad decisions that come from a big organizations.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 10, 2013 6:17 pm
Ren School get rid of behavioral issues.. Ren schools cao class size
Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on February 11, 2013 3:39 pm
At one of Mastery's elementary schools where I spent time, there is a very comprehensive set of policies around school culture. This encompasses classroom management, uniforms, bathroom breaks, reinforcement, suspensions, fighting, etc. At this Mastery school, there was not tolerance for fighting. The school didn't kick out students who were fighting or put their hands on each other. Rather, during arrival and dismissal, administrators made clear to parents and students that they need to resolve conflicts peacefully. This emphasis on nonviolence is made clear by deans and teachers. There is an assistant principal in charge of school culture. Mastery doesn't transform discipline issues, but they do a better job of dealing with these issues than District schools. The expectations are different. Mastery sweats the small stuff. Uniforms have to look a certain way, e.g. color, shirt tucked in. (A few kids won't tuck in their shirts in order to be defiant, but the teacher at least asks them to tuck it in.) There are procedures for going to the bathroom and out of classroom timeouts. There are standards for walking in the hall (HALL position or HALLs), sitting at your desk (STAR position or STARs). I think that STARs is overkill, but HALLs is very appropriate and important. Teachers and administrators follow up with parents. Teachers and administrators interact with parents before and after school and teachers have to make sure every student has someone sign out the student at dismissal. It doesn't always happen, but teachers do their best. Teachers can't leave at dismissal time. Students who aren't picked up within 30 minutes go wait at the front desk. As necessary, students are referred to the social worker of school counselor as necessary. Recess is structured, e.g. students run races, play a game. Teachers supervise recess. (I disagree with the approach to recess because I believe students need unstructured play, but that's what the school does.) For fighting, kids automatically go to in-school suspension and the school calls the parent. So fighting is taken seriously and not just seen as something that happens. When I student taught at a District school, I shared about my experiences at the Mastery school. Most teachers at the District school figured that Mastery kicked out the problematic kids. This is a common misconception. I saw many occasions when particular students in elementary school were disruptive and made life hell for teachers at the Mastery school. Mastery didn't kick out these students! Mastery works with the kids and the parents! Teachers and administrators document incidents and try different interventions and approaches for students who are particularly difficult or disruptive. I don't know what happens when a kid brings a weapon to school or some other level 1 offense that is grounds for expulsion because I didn't know of this happening when I spent time at Mastery. However, for fighting, property destruction, cussing, insubordination, touching other students, these students do not get expelled. In-school suspension happens and sometimes out-of-school suspension. With one kid, the dean asked the parents to come in and sit with the kid in class when possible in order to help the teacher. Sometimes administrators were usually helpful, but other times they weren't helpful. At the same time, Mastery has many adults in the building so there is more support for teachers than what I saw at District schools and another charter school. There is a lot of research supporting positive behavior interventions and supports (PBISs). Mastery has a comprehensive PBIS at each school, which the Assistant Principal of Culture oversees. Compared to what I saw at the District school at which I student taught and at another charter school, Mastery does the following: - Consistent expectations throughout the school and adults who are on the same page about behavior management and school culture policies. - They have better systems in place for handling discipline problems. - Insist that teachers and administrators use an authoritative approach, e.g. no screaming at students. - Have more adults to help manage the kids with behavior problems. - Do a better job holding parents accountable and engaging with parents. - They don't tolerate violence and physical aggression. They make clear that conflict resolution has to be peaceful. They work with kids to help them resolve their conflicts. - Administrators hold teachers, deans, and each other accountable for implementing policies. Teachers who are struggling may receive help from a teacher coach or frequent checks from a dean (I saw both of these actions happen). In sum, I believe that the Mastery has a better structure for handling behavioral issues. They don't take fighting lightly. Teachers are expected to implement policies but there is also support for teachers who are struggling, especially if a teacher has a particularly difficult class or if the teacher is new to Mastery. If Mastery can teach the District anything, it's how to implement an authoritative school culture and PBIS. In my experience, Mastery did not kick out elementary-aged students, but worked with these students and their parents. EGS
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on February 11, 2013 4:26 pm
Good One !!!! You had me going for a minute !! Obviously, when you're the "decider" as George Bush used to stammer, you get to say anything you choose, based on no evidence. In short...............b.s. It's all nonsense, of course, loaves and fishes stuff.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 10, 2013 1:11 am
Only 37 teachers will face layoffs?? Who are they kidding!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 10, 2013 7:14 am
The distinct normally hires a thousand new teachers each year.
Submitted by Jim (not verified) on February 10, 2013 4:10 pm
Yeah, that hasn't happened in years. Please...
Submitted by Jack (not verified) on February 10, 2013 4:14 pm
Actually it's not too far from the truth. At least a few hundred are hired each year.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 10, 2013 2:15 pm
So site selection is how renaissance schools turn kids around in a few months? Why can't the other charters do this? They choose their own and get to pick students too.
Submitted by Annoy (not verified) on February 10, 2013 5:51 pm
First of all, it's only the best charter schools that even qualify for the Renaisance process and have to have a history of turning around schools. We can all complain about how charters don't perform any better (myself included), but there are a handful of charters that do outperform district schools by leaps and bounds. You can say what you want about Mastery and Yong Scholars, but if they opened another 20 schools each, the district would be in much better shape. Secondly, Ren schools are soooo bad that you can only go up from there.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 10, 2013 6:05 pm
Your info is incorrect.. The best charter companies do not get Ren. School - Universal case in point! Universal does not have a history of turning around schools yet it continues to be able to grab schools for the taking. There are a handful(small handful) of charters outperforming public schools - but lets compare students to students at public and those charters - let's look at who the charters have let go - to go back into public. Second, Ren Schools are not soooo bad that they need to go. It comes down to what schools charter like and then they figure out how to make it a Ren. - just my opinion
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 10, 2013 9:09 pm
Wrong on all counts.
Submitted by fight the power (not verified) on February 11, 2013 2:50 am
One of the major compaints as to school quality has been teacher quality, and the impossible task of getting rid of bad teachers. If Charters take over, wouldnt it be better that one could now apply pressure to teachers to perform or lose their jobs to effective teachers?
Submitted by K.R. Luebbert on February 11, 2013 7:58 am
It is really not impossible at all to get rid of incompetent teachers. There is a system in place (even with union due process), that can lead to the firing of teachers who cannot do their jobs. The problem is that administrators (principals) refuse to do their part in this process. They are supposed to observe teaching---they may only get two "formal" observations per year, but they are allowed to be in any classroom any day or time as much as they want. They can then bring concerns to a teacher's attention, discuss with the new teacher coach (or dept. head, etc..), recommend the teacher get coaching or PD, and re-observe and go from there. If there is no improvement, the teacher can be let go. HOWEVER, the principals MUST do their jobs. The problem is they often will not do it--they think it is "too much work". This refusal to participate in the process is their failure, not the failure of teachers.
Submitted by Annoy (not verified) on February 11, 2013 7:09 am
Too many principal rather "recycle" poor teachers - they either give them "duties" to keep them away from students (which is often seen as a reward) or they cut the position (high schools) to sent them to another school. A principal should either honestly help someone or tell them they are not cut out for teaching. Of course, there is a lot of middle of the road teachers - do the minimum - but I assume those type of employees are everywhere.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on February 11, 2013 9:39 am
Thank you for speaking up about the "myth" that it is difficult to remove ineffective teachers. It is not. I have close to 15 years experience as an assistant principal in Philadelphia and close to 20 years as a PFT member and many of those as a PFT Building Representative. I often joke with Jerry Jordan that I have done more for the professionalization of teaching in Philadelphia as an administrator as I ever did as a PFT representative. Now that I have retired and began practicing as a lawyer, I have had the opportunity to write several briefs on Pennsylvania Tenure Law. The tenure law does not protect ineffective teachers at all. It only protects good teachers and administrators from, in the words of the PA Supreme Court, "being subjected to unfounded charges." Part of that legal rationale is to protect good teachers from interference or retaliation based on their political beliefs and activity. Tenure only provides a "due process" which requires that there is a sufficient "rational basis" for removal or demotion of a tenured professional employee. The tenure laws emanate from the "due process clause" of the 14th Amendment of the U. S. Constitution. That clause of Our Constitution requires that no citizen can be deprived of "life, liberty or property without due process of law." Every citizen and every public school teacher has a "property interest in his or her job" and a "liberty interest" in his or her professional reputation which is protected by the 14th Amendment. The PA tenure law requires a professionally based evaluation and an opportunity to improve. It requires 2 consecutive unsatisfactory ratings to remove a "tenured teacher." A teacher does not become tenured until after 3 years of satisfactory performance and satisfactory ratings. A teacher can be removed immediately for persistent negligence, willful violation of School Laws, and immorality. During my time as an administrator I was viewed as very "teacher supportive" and "trustworthy." We were taught, and I believe, all good administrators should "be visible" and be in and out classrooms every day as much as possible. That should be done in a supportive and non threatening way. You are there to "help and enable teachers" to do their job better, not to criticize. In every school I ever worked, everybody knew exactly who were the best and who were the worst. Teachers do not want the less effective teachers holding them down and want the principal to remove them. Over the years, I have "counseled out" of our profession many teachers. Most of those teachers came to me "in confidence" lamenting their inability to "reach" the students and wanted my good faith advice about whether they should leave the profession or not. As always, I gave them heart felt advice and an honest appraisal of what they did well and what they did not do well. Some stayed, most left. I also have simply explained to several teachers that they need to find a new profession. There is a prewritten agreement that Labor Relations has for a teacher to "agree to resign." I have only had to go the full two unsatisfactory ratings route a very few times. That is because the teachers who can't teach know they can't teach and quit long before the formal process takes place. I believe that tenure is absolutely necessary for a strong and vital teaching profession which serves our children well. The issue is do we want our teachers to be "professionals" or do we want them to be "factory workers?" The General Assembly of PA has enacted the tenure provisions of the Public School Code of 1949 because they wanted our children's teachers to be "professional employees." I have the utmost respect for the "wisdom of our forefathers" in enacting the tenure laws. It creates "the profession of teaching and learning."
Submitted by reformer (not verified) on February 11, 2013 10:40 am
i believe your resume makes it impossible for you to be a disinterested party. you were a union teacher and now you're a union administrator. your perspective is tainted. most teachers don't get "counseled out," yhey leave for better jobs. that leaves those who should have been advised to look for a new career to become senior teachers and assistant principals.
Submitted by Frank Murphy on February 11, 2013 12:33 pm

What exactly does “disinterested party” mean?  

Are you suggesting that an individual shouldn’t be a school administrator in order to have an unbiased point of view regarding teacher supervision?  

I too, like Rich was a long-term teacher (18 years) and administrator (17 years).  I worked in some of the most under-resourced schools in the School District of Philadelphia.  Many of my staff were first year teachers fresh out of college.   A majority of the young men and women I supervised became excellent teachers.  They were smart, enthusiastic and committed to serving their students well.   I along with my leadership team, provided the long-term support and resources these inspiring teachers needed in order be successful. 

At times, when I encountered individuals who were not cut out to be teachers, I did counsel them to voluntarily leave the profession. This was a more preferential course of action than formally pursuing their termination.  I was not interested in handicapping a young person’s chances for other career opportunities by placing them in the difficult position of having to account for why they were fired from a teaching position. 

In some cases, it was necessary to take an ineffective teacher all the way through the dismissal process.  This only happened a few times in my career with individuals who were clearly in denial of their lack of instructional proficiency.  When this course of action was required, I never hesitated to do what was necessary to protect students from the ill effects of an incompetent teacher.

It is easy to judge leaders and the actions they take when you have no responsibility for the well being of others.  For the person in charge, however, attending to the duties at hand is not as simply executed as this “reformer” would suggest.

How principals attend to their supervision responsibilities is a topic that deserves thoughtful consideration.  It should include the voices of those who have first hand experience with this topic.  Let’s have an enlightened conversation as opposed to creating just another nasty name-calling thread.   

Submitted by reformer (not verified) on February 11, 2013 2:02 pm
i did not call you a name. what i meant by disinterested party is someone who has no stake in the outcome or the answer. you have a stake. we're talking about your work. you can't be objective. i will say that i don't believe the principals should be unionized. unionized management is not a good deal. unionized workers are always on the clock and that makes for bad management. btw, don't make assumptions about my experience. i have none in the district, but i do have plenty of school management experienece. and when i was ay underresourced schools, i went out and found more resources. i also felt is was my duty to support developing teachers, but to exit nonperformers as quickly as possible. i might have patience for those teachers, but the students need to have quality teachers and they don't have much time. so yes, i am being judgemental. if your experience is solely in goverment-run schools, i don't think it is of much value in this conversation.
Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on February 11, 2013 3:22 pm
Reformer, With all due respect, in order to be knowledgeable, one will more than likely be a party with interests. If one is a disinterested party, then will that person even be knowledgeable enough to speak on the issues involving education? Reformer, you clearly have an interest, you have worked for a school management company and not in the SDP. What is your experience specifically? For what organizations/companies have you worked and in what roles did you work for them? Where were these underresourced schools? What kind of school management experience do you have? How is you opinion of value if you don't have any experience teaching in District-run schools in Philadelphia? EGS
Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on February 11, 2013 1:38 pm
Rich, I think the following statement you made is very true: "In every school I ever worked, everybody knew exactly who were the best and who were the worst. Teachers do not want the less effective teachers holding them down and want the principal to remove them." One issue that arises is with senior teachers who have close to 30 years, but these teachers do not have the energy to teach well anymore. They may have been excellent at teaching at one time, but now, due to kids coming to school with more needs than in previous decades; changing teaching practices, such as having to differentiate instruction; implement specially designed instruction from IEPs; and the like, the quality of teaching from this teachers has declined? During my short time doing student teaching and other field experiences, I saw a couple of older teachers who everyone at the school knew just didn't have the energy to teach anymore? Teaching is a hard job to do well, and a hard job to do well for 30 or more years. Another issue about teaching and teachers in general is that in our country, we put too much emphasis on teachers and not enough emphasis on teaching. I came to this realization after reading a great article called "Teaching, Rather Than Teachers, As a Path Toward Improving Classroom Instruction" by James Hiebert and Anne K. Morris from the University of Delaware. See the link here: http://jte.sagepub.com/content/63/2/92.abstract. I would encourage anyone with access to the Journal of Teacher Education through a school district, university, or library, to read this article. The focus on teachers is a double-edged sword. It allows people to praise the best teachers and to target the worst teachers. The focus on teachers also allows school reformers to target teachers and design policies to get rid of tenure and promote TFA-like programs that promote putting talented individuals without a background in education into schools serving underserved students. I welcome your comments of both issues that I have raised. Education Grad Student
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on February 11, 2013 8:46 pm
Rich-----Please stop showing off, a lawyer too !!!! Do you also practice medicine?? Enough already !! My jealousy can't take any more. Have some mercy !!
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Submitted by Works with Kids (not verified) on April 19, 2013 2:34 pm
Don't be too quick to solely blame principals for teacher incompetence. PFT protects the "rotten apples" very well. Tenure usually dictates the amount of times a teacher should be evaluated. Non tenured teachers require more than two formal observations. Agreed.. Principals must do their jobs and most do. I don't know many principals who want to keep lousy teachers or supportive staff at their schools. The new Teacher Effectiveness System Formal Observation will indeed help administrators rate staff more effectively. Let's see how the future union negotiations go.. I have a feeling it will be easier to get rid of those who are not doing their jobs.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 11, 2013 9:48 am
many of the charters and renaissance charters have new or first year teachers. several use tfa. i have seen good teachers fail to turn around classes with two or three problem kids. I still don't understand how schools with large numbers of problem kids are turned around in less than a year with inexperienced staff. What is the formula and why can't we all get a taste?
Submitted by reformer (not verified) on February 11, 2013 9:30 am
i agree. if it works, we should all use it. the idea of turning around neighborhood high schools in a year may stretch credulity. i don't think tfa is the problem. they seem to struggle in district schools because there's no support. this cannot be done without casualties. that may not be a bad thing. the insistence in on to students who don't want to be students is the bane of the district. save those who want to be saved first. do that and what's left will be easier to handle.
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on February 11, 2013 8:34 pm
Reformer--- Me thinks you be a troll. Just saying. "To handle"---These are children, we're discussing here. Plus, this still happens to be the U.S., not Nazi Germany. Either you're trolling or you seem to not understand the gifts you have received here through no effort of your own. Be careful not to be so cavalier and dismissive about the rights and needs of others, apparently far less fortunate that you.
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on February 11, 2013 8:08 pm
Reformer--- Me thinks you be a troll. Just saying. "To handle"---These are children, we're discussing here. Plus, this still happens to be the U.S., not Nazi Germany. Either you're trolling or you seem to not understand the gifts you have received here through no effort of your own. Be careful not to be so cavalier and dismissive about the rights and needs of others, apparently far less fortunate that you.
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on February 11, 2013 8:50 pm
Reformer--- Me thinks you be a troll. Just saying. "To handle"---These are children, we're discussing here. Plus, this still happens to be the U.S., not Nazi Germany. Either you're trolling or you seem to not understand the gifts you have received here through no effort of your own. Be careful not to be so cavalier and dismissive about the rights and needs of others, apparently far less fortunate that you.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 11, 2013 10:32 am
And exactly which schools are you talking about that have been "turned around" with large numbers of problem kids? You can't get a taste because there are no such cookies. There is no miracle formula. That only happens in mythology.
Submitted by reformer (not verified) on February 11, 2013 10:21 am
correction: insistence on holding on to students who don't want to be students.
Submitted by fight the power (not verified) on February 11, 2013 2:26 pm
I hear the arguments, and I think they're all naive. There is no systematic problem with the teachers, students, or administrators. The source of all our problems comes from the aristocracy, and the general American pursuit of comfort from all societal segmentations. Those who hoard, manipulate and control resources shape the educational system in our country. It is necessarily true that a certain segmentation of our society not aspire to compete with other classes of our country for higher education, careers, and positions of influence and power. This is the dark side of capitalism, and we who of the working class point fingers at each other keep this system in place. If you are truly interested in changing the system for all involved one must sacrifice. One must impede the system as a collective in some way. Anything else is just lip service, twitter muscles, vanity, and complacency. Lets stop beating ourselves up. We are all people who mean well: the teachers, unions, children, parents, but we all are victims of the manufactured scarcity of resources which force us to subsist on borrowed time and money. This systematic outcome is no different then feudal Europe, and we all play the role of the peasant order. I took my children out of elite private schools to fight for better education for all. I am of the class who were directly responsible for the deplorable state the school system it is in. I represented that which is worse than "white flight", I was part of the mass exodus of educated African Americans; who partake in black flight from the cities every year. If we are to stabilize this system, those of means must live within the system. When the superintendent, the SRC, administrators, teachers, police officers, city officials and judges put their kids within the system, then it shall change(love one another); and by public school I don't mean Masterman or Central. Only pure love, sacrificing love will save lives, and the system. Fight the power!!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 11, 2013 4:52 pm
CAN ANYONE TELL ME WHY JERRY JORDEN IS SUCH A WEAK UNION LEADER,I THINK ITS ABOUT TIME WE TAKE A STAND AGAINST THE S.R.C. ,NUTTER AND OUTSIDE INFLUENCES IN OUR CITY,DIE ON YOUR FEET ,NOT ON YOUR KNEES.ITS TIME TO FIGHT BACK!!!!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 11, 2013 7:13 pm
Jerry Jordan's last election needs to be revoked. A secretary voted for him and he's back in power?!?!? What happen to the rest of us that pay his salary?

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