Invest In People

School District of Philadelphia Board of Education Action Meeting Testimony

December 15, 2022

by Kristen Luebbert

Good Evening, I’m Kristin Luebbert, I have taught in the district for 21 years. Most of the school climate and safety  issues currently in the news stem from chronic disinvestment in our neighborhoods and schools. 

I have advocated in this and other public spaces for restorative and trauma-informed practices. I have spoken out in favor of fewer out-of-school suspensions. I truly believe in that.

However, what those in charge refuse to fully understand is this: All of these practices require PEOPLE. Actual people whose ONLY job is to work IN SCHOOLS with our students.

A classroom teacher, a counselor, even climate staff and admins, (all who have a bunch of other duties) cannot always be expected to troubleshoot these crises as they happen. We need people whose ONLY job is to deal with in-crisis students.

Yes, we can (and do) implement morning meetings, advisory, and restorative circles. We build relationships with our students and families.  All of these practices benefit school communities. HOWEVER….  

In a moment of crisis, or rage, or despair…when a student does something harmful to either themselves or others, these practices give classroom teachers–at best–a few moments to assess and react. This is when we need other people.

 We need these other full-time people (not a patch-work of interns and volunteers) because, when these crises occur, we are still responsible for the 30-something other students in class. The ones we are supposed to be teaching, STAR testing, preparing for Keystones or PSSAs, supporting in college and career readiness…..etc….etc… 

So, we need other people who are free to come and get the student, have a conversation, assess the issues, and take appropriate action. This requires more staff….and that means $$$. Money for people. In-school people. Not contracts and computer programs.

Platitudes don’t help. Telling teachers to “build better relationships” doesn’t help. Labeling schools that you don’t support as “off track” during Goals & Guardrails doesn’t help.

The ONLY answer is to get more people who can help students in our schools. People who can support student needs in a real way. 

This board needs to stop contracting out for specious services. Stop thinking one more computer program, test, or spreadsheet will help anything. Invest in People–people to work in our schools with our  students.