Heather Marcus transcript of testimony to School Board on July 9, 2018

Click on timestamp 38:48 to view Heather’s testimony.

Hello.  My name is Heather Marcus.  I was born and raised in Philadelphia and I attended public schools. My parents were both teachers in the Philadelphia public schools.

I currently live in South Philadelphia and work as a school counselor at Masterman where I serve approximately 400 students in grades five through twelve. It’s a large range of ages for students with quite varied needs.

I last spoke at an SRC meeting in March of 2017.  It was a pointed and fiery speech. I was angry about several things that were happening in the District and I felt that they were not listening to the input of counselors.  And by the way, one of the things I was, and still am, extremely upset about is coming to fruition this fall- the change in deadline date for high school applications from mid-November to November 2, one day after the Early Decision college application deadline for my seniors.  Anyway, speaking to the SRC was like speaking to a wall.  There were no questions during or after testimonies, and no follow up phone calls or emails from SRC members with additional inquiries. It made me feel that no one was truly listening and no one actually cared about the concerns of school staff.

I’m here today because I hope that the new Board of Education will do things differently. Communication and transparency should be at the forefront. Communication involves an exchange of ideas, not just top-down management.  I hope that the new School Board will have a dialogue with school staff and actually make decisions based upon our input.  We’re the experts with Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctorate Degrees in Education.  We work directly with children on a daily basis.  It’s not theory for us, it’s practice.  Be transparent- when the District administers a survey, publish the results.  For example, it would have been nice to see the results of the survey about changing the school start date to August. When the School Board makes decisions, send emails to staff with explanations so we know what’s happening and the thoughtful reasoning behind it.  That would help staff members to feel included and valued.  And we’ve all heard that appreciated employees perform their jobs more optimally so it’s a win-win for students, families, staff and 440.

Many educators feel that it’s “us vs. them” when dealing with 440.  To say there is animosity would be an understatement.  I assume that you want something different for our District.  I hope you can bridge this divide and we can all work cooperatively to support our students.

While I’m here today I must also highlight the dire need for more school counselors.  The current ratio in the district is 500 students to 1 counselor. The American School Counselor Association recommends a ratio of 250 students to 1 counselor.  Our students need support in a variety of areas, from those experiencing trauma to those who need help with college planning and so many things in between that I don’t have enough time to list.  If you want our students to overcome obstacles and experience success, read on grade level, and graduate college and career ready, make it your priority to hire more school counselors so we have manageable caseloads and can make a difference in our students’ lives.  Feel free to contact me through my District email if you have specific questions regarding counselors.

I thank you for serving on the new School Board and working to make the District better for the sake of our students and their futures. Many educators are ready to work with you. Please make that happen.

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