Cutbacks: the word from the schools
An unscientific survey of a dozen schools by the Notebook in May found that most have experienced staff reductions in recent years and are anticipating further school budget cuts next year.
Those who spoke of cutbacks uniformly maintained that the cuts in next year’s school budget were beyond those caused by any enrollment losses.
But some schools were clearly harder hit than others.
Patricia Toy, Home and School president at Greenfield Elementary School in Center City, said she was expecting four fewer teachers at the school next year. One consequence of the staffing cut is that the school’s reading specialist and math specialist will be covering classrooms next year, she said. “We were reducing class sizes in the past, but since last year we haven’t been able to continue,” Toy noted.
At McKinley Elementary School in Lower North Philadelphia, Principal Deborah Carrera said her teaching staff would be reduced from 19 to 16 next year, resulting in the loss of one kindergarten, one first grade, and one fourth grade classroom. Class sizes in kindergarten and first grade are expected to climb from 18 or 19 to 30 or 31.
This school year, Carrera lost an assistant principal. Her school has made its adequate yearly progress targets three years in a row, which she attributes to class size reduction and her ability to function in the role of instructional leader. The McKinley principal worried aloud that the positive academic achievement trends at the school would be reversed.
Morrison Elementary School in Olney escaped budget cuts in 2006-07, according to Keith Newman, teacher and Philadelphia Federation of Teachers building representative. Not so for next year. The school will lose its only art teacher, Newman said, as well as a counselor who functioned as a de facto assistant principal. Three SSAs, who tutor children and also keep order in the hallways, lunchroom, and schoolyard, will lose their posts next year, he added.
The School Reform Commission has been regularly hearing school budget cut stories at each of its meetings this spring. One such speaker at the May 16 meeting was Marian McCrimon, president of the Home and School Association at Nebinger Elementary in South Philadelphia, who spoke out about the expected loss of the school’s NTA (non-teaching assistant) and about the pivotal role he plays both in the school and in the community.
McCrimon noted that the school had experienced a number of cuts, “but this one is just too much for the whole community.” The school lost its assistant principal this year and no longer has a reading lead teacher, she said, and she is expecting two-split grade classrooms next fall.