I was dismayed by Commissioner Green’s misrepresentation of school culture and Philadelphia teachers at a recent Parent Congress, sponsored by the Philadelphia School Partnership -supported Education Opportunities for Families and the Philadelphia Community of Leaders, some of whose members have business before the SRC. He extolled the virtues of new teachers, and made the unfounded, and frankly incredible, claim that he heard their PFT reps discouraged them from working past 3:15 because it made the other teachers look bad. He never said at which schools this happened.
I taught in the Philadelphia schools for 34 years, all of them in those under-resourced schools that corporate ed reformers and Commissioner Green like to label failing. At no point in those 34 years did I ever hear a PFT rep tell a teacher that he or she shouldn’t work late. As a new teacher, I was supported by the experienced unionized teachers in my building. As an experienced teacher, my colleagues and I did everything we could to support new teachers. So, it was clear to me that Commissioner Green was trying to drive a wedge between parents and unionized teachers.
I found it ironic that he encouraged parents to support their new teachers, when, in reality, the SRC doesn’t support them. You, as a body, have been unsuccessful in advocating for funding to give them the resources they need to be successful teachers. You spent money that could have gone into classrooms defending your unlawful cancellation of the teachers’ contract. You throw money at unproven technology and new district networks. Meanwhile your new teachers, that Commissioner Green claims to cherish, have had to buy classroom supplies out of their own pocket. They have had to deal with their students’ trauma without the support of full time counselors or nurses. They have had to give up the one prep period they had a day to cover classes because of your failed experiment in outsourcing substitute services. They have had to struggle to pay off student loans and mortgages because you have cancelled all step increases and raises. In the end the working conditions that the SRC has created for these new teachers is what truly discourages them, not the actions of PFT members.
During that same meeting, Commissioner Simms sister, Quibila Divine, referred to failing neighborhood schools when, in truth, the SRC is failing these schools. You fail to provide students with a stable teaching staff because of inadequate resources and unsupportive working conditions, and because of the constant churn of school “turnarounds.” Then you throw up your hands in dismay when schools don’t improve, and absolve yourself of responsibility by closing them or by turning them over to a charter company.
As SRC members and representatives of the district, you should be trying to build bridges between your teaching staff and parents, not creating chasms. Last October I asked you if you were deliberately trying to destroy public education in Philadelphia or if you were merely incompetent. It is looking more and more that the answer is the former.