Editor and director of the Notebook since 1999, Paul was one of the Notebook’s founders in 1994. He came to the Notebook as a public school parent with a long history of involvement in public education and other social justice issues. His children both graduated from Philadelphia public schools. He has been an active Home & School Association member and served as a parent representative on a School Council. Prior to becoming editor, he worked on education issues for the National Coalition of Education Activists and the American Friends Service Committee.
Responding to calls for a formal inquiry into the Sept. 25 asthma-related death of Bryant Elementary student Laporshia Massey, who apparently became ill at school, the School District released the following brief statement on Friday, saying it is investigating -- and cooperating with other investigations:
The School District is concerned about the death of any student, no matter where and when that happens. Especially when a child is dismissed from school and dies several hours later, we take it very seriously out of concerns for the child and his or her family and for our students and staff. Because we want to ensure the safety of all children, it is paramount that we find out what happened to cause this tragic death. We are doing what is necessary to investigate what happened, and we are cooperating with all involved city and state agencies, as we always do, upon the death of one of our students. From our review to date, we are certain that our staff at Bryant are not the cause of the student’s death, and we will continue to address all concerns arising out of this tragedy.
The School District's staff has shrunk by 3,000 since June, with 17,144 employees (full-time equivalents) now on the payroll. That's a 15 percent staffing cut. The District has not yet released information about how many of those eliminated positions were teachers.
But when schools open the doors to students on Monday, classrooms will be feeling the pinch from reduced staff in a few different ways.
Talks are continuing between District negotiators and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers on the eve of Labor Day observances and a mass union membership meeting. Both parties released similar statements saying they plan to keep talking until they reach an agreement.
The teachers' contract expired Saturday. Teachers are expected to report to work on Tuesday.
Sunday evening, a District spokesperson emailed, "The talks are ongoing. It is our intention to continue to meet until we have an agreement."
The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and the School District's bargaining team returned to the negotiating table on Saturday, the day the union's contract is set to expire.
Neither side has reported progress. Union spokesperson George Jackson said the PFT "plans to continue negotiating through the weekend," but also said the District has not offered any kind of contract extension.
As the School District secured the first installments of desperately needed new revenue this summer, one of the first steps taken was to rehire one secretary for each of the 213 schools -- a recognition of the vital role they play in school operations. The cost was $17.6 million.
As schools prepare to open for staff members on Tuesday and for students on Sept. 9, those secretaries are back on the job. The District has estimated that three-fourths of schools saw the return of one of the secretaries from last year.
"It’s based on seniority," said Robert McGrogan, who heads the principals' union, CASA. "The most senior got to stay at their home school."