Deb Grill – SRC testimony – October 15, 2015

Good Evening,

My name is Deborah Grill. I am a retired teacher and school librarian and a parent of a Philadelphia public school graduate.

I am concerned that you are outsourcing the screening of principal candidates to TNTP. This is an advocacy group founded by Michelle Rhee, a vocal advocate of corporate education reform policies.   TNTP no longer admits to being founded by Michelle Rhee and now states on its website that it was founded by teachers. However, only 6 of their 18 member leadership team are former teachers and 5 of those six were TFA teachers— in other words only one has substantial classroom experience.   TNTP’s research, funded by the Gates Foundation and the Walton Foundation among others, and on which TNTP bases their teacher and principal training is questionable at best.   You are using an organization to district to screen principal candidates that supports the policies that have driven most of your experienced principals out of the school district.

I am concerned about your other outsourcing decisions. You have outsourced teacher coaching to a charter school. Are you unaware that you have experienced people within the system who are capable of performing that function?

You have outsourced substitute service to Source4Teachers, a company that guaranteed a 75% fill rate on the first day of school, but hasn’t been able to fill more than 20% of the District’s vacancies, many of which they knew about in June.   Your determination to outsource public services to private companies focused on profits has put a strain on your already over-burdened and under-resourced schools. And, who suffers from this decision the most? The students who are subjected to the chaos and instability created by this debacle. Now you are asking retired teachers to apply to be substitutes and rescue this incompetent company—the same experienced teachers whom you drove into retirement.

The policies that have driven many experienced teachers into retirement are also responsible for you current inability to fill teaching vacancies. The Office of Talent recently sent a message to all District teachers asking them to help you recruit candidates to fill these vacancies. In that message you say that you are “putting every effort into finding and retaining high-quality’ PA certified educators.”   Your actions, however, say the exact opposite.

You have done everything possible to make teaching in Philadelphia an unattractive position. You cancelled the teachers contract in a legally questionable move. You have offered teachers no raises over the past 3 years. You have eliminated step salary increases and increases for graduate degrees.   Meanwhile, you continue to spend untold amounts of money appealing the lower court rulings on the contract cancellation while teachers are forced purchase their own teaching supplies.   You have cut nurses, counselors, and the support staff that teachers need to effectively meet with their students needs.

You create employment instability by requiring teachers to reapply for their jobs stipulating that no more that 50% can be hired back every time you transform or redesign an existing school.

You create employment instability, as you plan to do again this year, by outsourcing teaching jobs when you convert public schools to Renaissance charters. More importantly, you are outsourcing children to charters and abdicating you responsibility to them when you hand public schools over to charter organizations.

Your policies and so-called reforms have created so much churn and insecurity within the system that qualified candidates won’t even consider applying.   Are you deliberately attempting to destroy public education in Philadelphia or are you just grossly incompetent?   In either case, the children of Philadelphia suffer. You should resign.