Galeet Cohen SRC testimony transcript June 16, 2016

Galeet Cohen 6-16-16 pic

Galeet Cohen- Central High School teacher

Good evening, Dr. Hite and SRC commissioners:

A few minutes ago, my students were honored for their tremendous accomplishments in science research and I am so ridiculously proud of them and the work they’ve done. I didn’t feel right coming here, however, without also speaking to you about the context of these accomplishments

The students honored tonight represent only 9 of the 29 students participating in this year’s program at Central High School. The cohort collectively won 81 awards over 5 competitions and explored topics such as the genetics of plant development, urban air pollution and cryptocurrency security. They will be future STEM leaders working toward cures for cancer, spinal cord injury, stroke, infertility, and diagnosis of sickle cell anemia.

Central’s science research elective was cut 3 years ago when we lost our mentally gifted program in addition to 4 of our most effective teachers, all of our secretaries, all of our counselors, NTAs, and vice principals. Some of those positions have since been restored, and after a year’s gap, the administration was able to bring back the research position through the financial support of our Alumni association. We are in a unique position to be able to sustain enrichment programs like Research because of our alumni.

I feel conflicted, sitting here before you because I know that not far from this room – contract negotiations with the PFT have resumed and that your opening offer was to ignore years served since step increases were last frozen. For me, that means next year I will be paid as a 7th year teacher despite my 11 years with the district. It’s a difference of $11,341- the cost of childcare, house repairs, financial security, educational growth and most damagingly, my dignity as a dedicated and valuable professional. If time really stood still in the way you are proposing, the student accomplishments we just celebrated couldn’t have occurred.

I need you to know how demoralizing it is for a teacher to face a fourth year without the financial acknowledgement of growth, and I need you to know how hard it will be for me to continue putting personal resources of time, expertise, and energy into a program like this, when I now have to take on extra jobs just to recoup a small fraction of my with-held salary so that I can meet my own family’s expenses. Especially hurtful are Bill Green’s comments that the SRC would not settle with the PFT because we we were not there for Philadelphia’s children. Who has been mentoring these kids all this time, then, despite not being given fair compensation promised when hired? In all of your efforts to recruit new talent to the district, there doesn’t seem to be any effort to keep, let alone nurture and develop, the talent you’ve already got.

While I am proud to see this ceremonial recognition of our science research program, I want to clarify that recognizing achievement is NOT the same as SUPPORTING that achievement.