Teachers’ Union Head Rejects District’s $100M Contract Offer

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Photo | Jeff Fusco

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers has reportedly rejected a $100 million contract offer from the School District of Philadelphia.

The Inquirer reports that PFT president Jerry Jordan won’t take the contract to his membership. The PFT says the deal doesn’t include retroactive pay or cost-of-living adjustments. Philadelphia teachers have been without a contract since August 2013 — a total of 1,187 days.

As a result of not having a contract, district teachers have not received raises in four years. The contract offer, per the report, would not retroactively move teachers up in “steps” that guarantee teachers higher pay. It would not give teachers increases for earning advanced degrees — instead using $32 million in bonus pay to help fill positions at difficult-to-staff schools. Read more »

Philly Police, Schools Investigating Creepy Clown Threats

Clown Threats

Photo Courtesy Graeme Maclean via Wikimedia Commons.

Halloween might be right around the corner, but Philly’s schools and police aren’t clowning around.

The PPD and the School District of Philadelphia released a joint statement statement informing the city’s residents that they’ve opened an active investigation into a series of “scary clown threats” made on social media.

Read more »

Philly Schools Adopt Policy Protecting Transgender Students’ Rights

Philadelphia school district Superintendent William Hite speaks during a news conference Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015, in Philadelphia. Mayor Michael Nutter discussed efforts by My Brother’s Keeper Philadelphia, part of a national initiative created by President Barack Obama to address inequality targeting men and boys of color. Nutter told reporters Wednesday he hopes to build on the momentum of the program and laid plans for it to continue beyond his administration, ending in January. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Philadelphia School District Superintendent William Hite. | Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

The Philadelphia School Reform Commission adopted a policy Thursday night that immediately broadened the rights of transgender and gender-nonconforming students in the city’s schools. The new guidelines allow students to use their bathroom of choice, be referred to by their names and pronouns of choice, and participate in gender-segregated groups that correspond with their gender identity. Read more »

School District Cutting Ties with Sorely Underperforming Sub Contractor

William Hite, Superintendent of Philadelphia Schools, in the Pennsylvania Capitol meeting with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and state legislators seeking funds for Philadelphia Schools during state budget talks Sunday, June 29, 2014, in Harrisburg, Pa. AP Photo | Bradley C. Bower

Philadelphia School District Superintendent William Hite | Photo by Bradley C. Bower/AP

The Philadelphia School District is parting ways with Source4Teachers, a private group hired in 2015 to supply substitute teachers for classrooms, the Inquirer reported on Friday.

The decision to outsource substitutes was criticized from the start by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, whose members used to fill in for absent district teachers. But the district was confident that privatizing that service would pay off. It agreed to pay the Cherry Hill-based firm $34 million for two years. In turn, Source4Teachers agreed to fill 75 percent of vacant classrooms on the first day of school last fall and 90 percent by the beginning of this year.

It failed in spectacular fashion. The Inquirer reported in September that the firm only filled 11 percent of classrooms on the first day of school. In February, Newsworks reported that the fill rate had barely climbed above one-third by the end of last year. A substantial number of schools had single-digit fill rates, and some schools have practically gone without substitutes, according to the Newsworks report.

“I am committed to resolving the substitute teacher staffing challenges long facing our schools,” Superintendent William Hite told the Inquirer. “Our effort to improve substitute coverage this year fell woefully short.”
Read more »

Bill Green: I’m Taking Tom Wolf to Court Over SRC Ouster

Bill Green | City Council Flickr

Bill Green | City Council Flickr

Update: Governor Tom Wolf has responded to Bill Green’s claims that he lacked the authority to unseat him as chair of the SRC. A statement issued by his spokesman Jeffrey Sheridan reads:

“Governor Wolf used his authority, as provided by statute, to appoint the chair of the School Reform Commission and to bring new leadership to the school district, which has been devastated by education cuts. Even now, after the governor has fought for greater investment in education at all levels and started to restore the funding Philadelphia lost, the district is in dire financial straits and our children are at a disadvantage. Due to misguided and poor decisions made by Harrisburg politicians, the district has been forced to lay off educators, cut important programs and slash transportation, security and other vital services. Governor Wolf will continue fighting for more funding for education and to provide a new path forward for Philadelphia’s schools.”

Earlier: Last spring, after the School Reform Commission he chaired had approved five new charter schools in Philadelphia, Bill Green was removed from his role as chair by Governor Tom Wolf and replaced with fellow commissioner Marjorie Neff.

Wolf was said to not want any new charter schools approved. Neff had voted against the new charter applications. At the time, Green, a former Philadelphia City Councilman, had said he planned to challenge the governor’s authority to make such a move. Then some time passed, and that challenge never came. Fast forward one year, and Green, in an oped in today’s Inquirer, says his challenge is coming now.  Read more »

Wait, How Many Public School Students Are Truant?

Photo | It's Our City via Flickr / Creative Commons

Photo | It’s Our City via Flickr / Creative Commons

There was a moment during Monday’s marathon City Council hearing on youth gun violence that could have been punctuated with the jarring sound of an old record being scratched.

First Assistant District Attorney George Mosee told City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson and other members of Council’s Committee on Public Safety that on any given day, almost 50 percent of Philadelphia public school kids aren’t in school.

The district has roughly 134,000 students. If that number were accurate, the city’s truancy problem would be indescribably bad, even by Hunger Games standards.

Karyn Lynch, chief student support officer for the School District of Philadelphia, testified that Mosee’s estimate was wrong — like, dramatically wrong. The council members repeatedly quizzed both Mosee and Lynch about truancy, exposing a simmering tension between the School District and the D.A.’s Office over how to drive down the number of kids who skip school.

We tried to sort things out today. Read more »

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