by Sarah-Whites Koditschek for NewsWorks
In late September, a Bryant Elementary School 6th grader died from asthma complications. Her parents and Philadelphia school administrators have offered conflicting accounts of the incident.
In the wake of the child's death, asthma educators are concerned about the impact that reduced staffing will have on medical emergencies that occur at school.
Any 4th graders going back to David Hensel’s class in Taggart Elementary School to retrieve something they forgot might have seen an odd sight last year: “Mr. Hensel” on his knees poking at a wall outlet with tweezers.
“I was trying to pull out the phone jacks,” Hensel said. “I was told there was only one person in the District who could do it. The Internet was down in my classroom all last year. It was really frustrating.”
While today’s news headlines talk of massive budget cuts making schools almost unrecognizable when they open, teachers and administrators at several schools say that the last two or three years are already an object lesson in what happens when schools try to operate with a skeleton staff.
Two parents and two employees of the School District have begun a hunger strike in response to the recent layoffs of 1,202 noontime aides, MSNBC reports.
The strike, called “Fast for Safe Schools,” began Monday morning on the steps of the governor’s Philadelphia office. The activists plan to drink only water until the state and city have the funds to rehire aides.
It is very sad for me to read the article "Nothing worth saving?" in the October edition of the Notebook. This is but another example of a good teacher being ousted in favor of "the process" that is supposed to lead to better and more grand things for education. The sad thing is that this story represents so very much the state of public education in the country and especially urban areas.
UPDATE: District statement
The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers is alleging that the School District is violating the school code and endangering children because it has ordered untrained school personnel to administer medication in the absence of nurses.
The District laid off 47 nurses in December, and the ratio of student-to-nurse now exceeds the recommended ideal. As a result, many schools have nurses on site only one or two days a week.
The intrepid band of protesters was undeterred by the cold.
For nearly an hour Wednesday afternoon in below-freezing temperatures, they carried signs and listened to speakers decry budget cuts and layoffs at the School District, especially the termination of 47 school nurses.
American Teacher, the high-profile documentary that profiles four teachers and their everyday travails, will air at WHYY’s Hamilton Media Commons on Wednesday, November 9.
Hosted by Need in Deed, a local nonprofit dedicated to developing service-learning curricula, the screening will culminate with a panel discussion.
A year ago, some warned of an impending "tsunami" in the 2011 budget process when the School District would be buffeted by the loss of federal stimulus dollars and by rising costs.
The tsunami is here.
The District has prepared a budget that eliminates more than 3,800 positions – nearly one of every six jobs in the system.
According to this May draft budget, spending must be reduced $428 million, or 13 percent.
Budget cuts would eliminate all funding for:
Class size reduction in grades 6, 8, 9
Common planning time in neighborhood high schools
Reading Recovery in empowerment schools
Empowerment support teachers
Other programs facing deep reductions:
Special education liaisons – 77% cut
In-school suspension programs – 62%
Emotions were high for parents and teachers at Theodore Roosevelt Middle School in Germantown as they faced the first school day after allegations of test manipulation came to light over the weekend.
Teachers interviewed were split about the allegations in the Sunday Inquirer article. One said he didn't believe that the school principal and some teachers conspired to cheat on state PSSA tests, and that the charges were intended to make the school staff look bad. But another teacher said he thought the article was accurate. Neither teacher was willing to be quoted by name.
The Inquirer article cited several Roosevelt teachers who said school leaders encouraged teachers and students to review PSSA test materials days before the test was to be given, in violation of test taking rules. Teachers wrote answers to questions on blackboards and students were seen carrying test booklets prior to the test period, according to the article.
This story continues on the NewsWorks website; it is a product of a reporting collaboration between the Notebook and WHYY.