Barbara Dowdall – SRC testimony – October 15, 2015


Barbara Dowdall

Good evening. My name is Barbara McDowell Dowdall. I am a retired English Department Head, former facilitator for the Governors School on Improving Literacy in Career Technical Education, eight-time Fellow in Yale National Initiative/UPenn Teachers Institute seminars, former substitute teacher and member of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools.

To pay a corporate charter school entity thousands of dollars to provide staff development for a school system, profoundly disrupted by the inexorable — though never acknowledged — march toward privatization since December 2001, is simply to wield one more brush from a seemingly bottomless box that paints your professional employees as incompetent, undeserving of resources or respect — yet simultaneously expected to be energetic, loyal cheerleaders for these machinations.

There are hundreds of teachers working here in Philadelphia in traditional public schools not yet in Mark Gleason PSP crosshairs that could provide invaluable, scintillating and effective staff development at a fraction of the cost of this proposed contract: the entire faculty of Masterman for starters!

In April I offered suggestions for improving substitute coverage that would very likely have a cost far below $34 million.

“If insufficient substitute teachers is a concern, hire more by eliminating the freeze; restore the practice of auxiliary teachers in each building; bring back home school preference [which provides the benefit of familiarity for both teacher and students]; and permit experienced teachers with sufficient related coursework to teach outside their area of certification. Value qualified veteran teachers. Unless the goal is simply the elimination of qualified, unionized, adequately paid teachers. In that case, the alternative of privatization would be more in line with your intentions.”

However, as is almost always the case, the intention to implement was already fixed, the cadre of veteran retirees (those hired before the inexplicable hiring freeze) already providing the service were cast off (some of whom are still in shock from being blindsided), offered diminished wages, no benefits and no protections. And now they are asked “to consider returning to the classroom to support students who need you.”

Answer this call? Urge our family and friends to sign up? Like the District on Facebook?? Really?

Attached are two articles explaining the value of professionally staffed school libraries. Equally likely that ours will be restored anytime soon.