Reasons for Lack of Teacher Retention

School District of Philadelphia Board of Education Action Meeting Testimony

September 22, 2022

by Kristin Luebbert

Good evening. I’m Kristin Luebbert, teacher, member of Racial Justice
Organizing, PFT member. As I promised at the meetings in June and July, here is
part 3 of my teacher retention testimony: In part one, I talked about the fact
that you are not really using the deep well of knowledge that exists in the PhlEd
community. In part 2 I said that “there are too many SDP principals who lack the experience and temperament to truly lead a school. Some principals demonize and target teachers before trying to mentor and work with them.” Tonight I would like to expand on this a little. I have said many times that teachers don’t leave schools, or students, or neighborhoods—they leave bad bosses.

Teachers are over-supervised in this district, and principles are woefully
under-supervised. Just in the last two weeks–at the very beginning of our school year–when teachers and paras should be building a supportive classroom environment with and for students– many teachers across the district have been observed and given zeros and ones as their “score”. This is not the way for an “instructional leader” to foster a collaborative and supportive school culture. Of course, admins should be popping into rooms to meet students and check-in,but full-blown observations are counter-productive at this point.

Another practice that seems disdainful is principals using School Resource
Officers (aka School Police) to deliver disciplinary memos to teachers DURING
CLASS TIME! This is an egregious abuse of both power and resources. Not to
mention it interrupts instructional time.

Onerous “record-keeping” busywork tasks are another issue that
contributes to teacher overwork and decisions to leave the SDP.

In looking at the retirement/resignation list both tonight and in August, I
see that there are 26 upcoming vacancies in teacher/para jobs. This growing list
of vacancies cannot be stemmed by a new ad campaign or pretty rhetoric on
a webpage. Until certain working conditions created by certain administrators
are examined and remediated, the district will continue to lose instructors.